This painting by Santa Barbara artist Barnaby Conrad (1922-2013)was chosen this month for its local connection. Our reader bought the piece in May 2009 in Carpinteria, California. With an asking price sticker of $800, our reader was able to negotiate the price to $450.
Best known as a writer, Conrad lived an extraordinary life. Born in San Francisco, he studied Yale, University of North Carolina, and the University of Mexico (where he began bull fighting). He was a friend of Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, William F. Buckley Jr. and Ray Bradbury, many of whom he painted. His portraits of Alex Haley and Truman Capote are in the National Portrait Gallery.
This whimsical painting entitled "Fish Diary" is watercolor, oil and collage. Conrad has playfully signs his name in the fishing license section of the painting, giving it a personal touch. This is an example of a trompe-l’œil painting, meaning “trick of the eye.” The style is meant to create an optical illusion where the subject appears in 3-dimensions. A popular style in 19th century Europe, the style is still used by contemporary artists.
Unfortuntately, Barnaby Conrad has virtually no auction market. With only two auction records that could be located, his paintings have sold at auction for $200-$300. An auction specialist would likely suggest a very low sales estimates of $100-$200 and hope that interested buyers would bid up the price.
Conrad’s most common and strongest market appears to be in the regional gallery market of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. The Palm Loft Gallery had an exhibition of his work in 2006. Currently, no galleries are selling his work. In valuing artworks, appraisers often consider the regional market of a certain artist. For instance, California impressionist paintings tend to sell for more in California, as one might expect.
Since many people knew Barnaby Conrad, his values would be higher in this area than in the general art market. He recently passed away which also tends to up the values of an artist’s work. Collectors would pay slightly higher retail prices than the auction records reflect. If this piece were appraised for Insurance, it would likely have a Retail Replacement Value of approximately $500-$600, which is close to what the buyer originally paid.
Retail Replacement Value is defined as the highest amount in terms of US dollars that would be requireda 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. 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.