Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Andrew Block: A California Folk Artist

Andrew Block "Lions" Oil on cardboard

A reader submitted this unusual painting with an unusual story. He and his wife purchased it as a Christmas present to each other at Morley Byrant & Co., gallery in Los Alamos, California for $400. The folk-art style oil on cardboard by artist Andrew Block (1879-1969) depicts African lions.

After a bit of research, it seems Andrew “Old Man” Block emigrated from Denmark to Solvang in 1914. Block worked as a blacksmith until he abandoned it for painting at 70 years old. Completely self-taught, Block produced over 500 paintings – and painted primarily on cardboard. Influenced by the impressionists and Post-Impressionists, his works are boldly colored and often depict landscapes, seascapes, and small towns.

Block’s style falls into the genre of Primitive, Na├»ve, or Folk Art painting -- a style and period of painting often characterized by childlike simplicity in both subject matter and technique. It describes the work of an artist who did not receive formal education, such as Henri Rousseau or Grandma Moses.

Block’s paintings have sold at auction with estimates of $300-$1,200 depending on the medium, size, subject, and date. In the gallery market his paintings are currently listed for sale between $500-$3,000. “Lions” is unsigned, which decreases the value and places it on the lower end of Block’s values. It is in very good condition for being painted on cardboard, a porous and atypical medium for paintings

Although Andrew Block only has a few auction records, Block exhibited his work at a number of museums and galleries including the Monterey Penisula Museum, San Diego Art Museum, Oakland Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Elverhoy Museum, amongst others. This is important when valuing a work as collectors like to see that major institutions have exhibited an artist’s work.

In the current market, folk art is highly desirable to collectors. The highest auction record for a Folk artist is for Grandma Moses -- arguably the most famous artist of this art movement. One of her paintings sold for $1,360,000 (11/30/2006). Moses’ style and period is similar to "Lions", but Moses’ notoriety sets her values above all other Folk painters. A painting like “Lions” would be desirable on the market -- but sell for much less than considering Block is still a relatively unknown artist.

For Insurance purposes, this painting would have a Retail Replacement Value of approximately $1,000. Retail Replacement Value is defined as the highest amount in terms of US dollars that would be required to replace a property with another of similar age, quality, origin, appearance, provenance, and condition with a reasonable length of time in an appropriate and relevant market. When applicable, sales and/or import tax, commissions and/or premiums are included in this amount.

* This is not a formal appraisal. It is for informational purposes only. An appraisal is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert who has examined the artwork in-person and is paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object. This article is restricted-use and is intended for educational purposes only.


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