Thursday, February 16, 2012

ArtFind: Appraising a California Landscape

Charles R. Williams "Untitled California Coast" c. 1940

For this month’s ArtFind we found a lovely painting by California artist Charles Raymond Williams.

Our Santa Barbara art collector's grandparents, who lived in Pasadena for 60 years, acquired the painting in either Pasadena or Laguna Beach in the 1940s.

The artist, Charles R. Williams (1877-1950) was originally born in England. As a young man, he moved to the United States and eventually settled in California. Like many artist in the 1920s, Williams was drawn to the artist enclave of Pasadena.

Williams painted throughout California, capturing scenes the desert, coastline, and rolling hills of our Western landscape. His paintings are held in collections throughout California as well as the The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma.

This painting of the California coastline was likely done toward the end of Charles R. Williams’ career. It is likely a scene in or around Laguna Beach, since that is where the collector's parents acquired the painting. The bold colors, unique composition, and large size (18” x 23”) would make it highly desirable to collectors of early California paintings.

Charles Williams is considered a listed artist and his paintings have sold at auction, with sales in the $700-$1000 range. A similar painting entitled, “Stream in Landscape” recently sold at auction for $1,074.

As an appraiser I would say the painting appears to be in good condition except for some possible abrasions to the paint near the lower section. While the damage is minor, condition is very important to the value of a painting. Collectors in the market expect some slight aging or craquelure, a fine pattern of dense cracking formed on the surface of paintings due to aging on old paintings.

When buying at auction or in a gallery, collectors want to buy artworks in near perfect condition. These art market conditions effect the outcome an appraisal. Any signs of restoration, in-painting, or repairs decreases the appraisal value of even a highly desirable artist.

As an art appraiser specializing in California art, this painting by Charles Williams is one of the strongest scenes I have seen for sale on the market. While minor condition issues would slightly decrease value, it is well composed, painted, and executed. When appraising the value, these qualities place it in the high-range of the market for his work.

A growing demand exists for early California paintings of good quality, as pieces become more rare. If this painting were to be sold in a gallery, it would likely have a retail price between $3,500-$5,000. This Santa Barbara art collector has a treasure indeed!

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