Friday, January 22, 2010


(Once a month our appraiser, Alissa J. Anderson, does an online art appraisal for one of our readers. Submit your art.)

When we asked readers for submissions for this month’s ART FIND art appraisal of the month, we got some interesting artworks. As an art appraiser in Santa Barbara, I have special interest in appraising California art of the mid-century. So when I was asked to help appraise this 1949 painting by California landscape painter Robert Rishell, here's what I found….

Our reader acquired this Rishell painting, “Birds on the Horizon” from a California friend who was traveling through Texas 15 years ago. He traded the painting to her as payment for a project, and told her it was similar one his father had owned in San Anselmo, California.

Robert Clifford Rishell was an artist born in Oakland, California in 1917 and spent much of his career in the Bay Area. As a young artist, he won a scholarship to the California College of Arts and Crafts. Rishell studied technique and color, and his early paintings consisted of meticulously painted still-lifes. While at art school, Rishell became a pupil of Mexican muralist Xavier Martinez, someone whose work would profoundly influence Rishell throughout his life.

Robert Rishell became an important California artist. He helped organize the first showing of the Society of Western Artists at the California Garden and Home Exposition. Robert Rishell was also instrumental in founding the Oakland Art Museum in the Bay Area.His paintings are held in a number of private and public collections, including the University of Chicago, Oakland Public Library World Trade Center, SF; Oakland Museum; Bank of California, Oakland; Palm Springs Desert Museum; UC Berkeley.

In his 20s, Robert Rishell began traveling beyond California to paint the landscapes of Texas, Utah, and New Mexico. While exploring the deserts of the Southwest, the allure of the nature entranced Rishell. Like many artists of the period such as James Swinnerton, Lockwood DeForest, and Peter Ellenshaw, Rishell became fascinated by the magnificence of monumental sweeping big skies, desert bluffs, and dramatic shadows.

It was while traveling in 1949, I suspect Robert Rishell may have painted, “Birds on the Horizon.” This painting of wild marshlands has an illusive quality present in many of Rishell’s artworks. Rishell’s subjects often focuse on the exotic dichotomies of the natural world, a place where parched landscapes can coexist with thriving beauty. For Rishell, the simplicity of an elegant bird, a simple slice of sky, or an unadorned brush conveyed something simultaneously aloof, yet strikingly beautiful.

In my art appraisal, I found that collectors of Rishell’s paintings tend to pay higher amounts for his well-known California and Western desert landscapes -- but the scarcity of Rishell’s work still makes “Birds on the Horizon” of a high appraised value.

While the painting appears to need cleaning, the painting is in good condition. A competitive demand exists for Robert Rishell’s paintings and the painting’s quality, technique, and brushwork. This artwork is well painted, composed, and executed – making my appraisal of it in the mid-range of the market for Rishell’s work.

At auction this painting would be appraised to sell between $3,000-$4,000. A treasure indeed!

Please submit your painting, drawing, or sculpture for next month’s ART FIND appraisal. To be considered, mail a photo and brief description to:

©2010 Alissa J. Anderson. All Rights Reserved. None of the contents of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanic, photocopy, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of Anderson Shea Art Appraisals, and the appraiser’s signature.)