Duncanson painting after restoration. Image courtesy The Eisele Gallery.

Art restorers uncover unknown Duncanson work worth $300K

Duncanson painting after restoration. Image courtesy The Eisele Gallery.

Duncanson painting after restoration. Image courtesy The Eisele Gallery.

CINCINNATI – On the surface, there was nothing remarkable about the dingy, dirty canvas that arrived at Doug Eisele’s Old World Restorations for a cleaning in March of this year. The owner of the painting, a dentist from London, Ky., had purchased the artwork for $900 from an antique shop in Lexington, Ky., and felt it would benefit from a once-over from the expert restorers in Cincinnat

When Doug Eisele saw the painting he remarked, “That’s a nice painting,” which turned out to be an understatement of some magnitude. He thought the work looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t see a signature. As the cleaning progressed, the letters “…son” emerged from the right corner, and Eisele knew he was looking at a previously unknown work by Cincinnati artist and resident Robert Scott Duncanson (African-American/Canadian, 1821-1872). He immediately called the owner, suggesting he insure the painting for at least $100,000 – an estimated value Eisele would later increase to the $300,000 range.

Eisele was familiar with Duncanson’s work, having seen his eight mural works on exhibit at Cincinnati’s Taft Museum (formerly known as the Belmont), the home of Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned the work in 1851. He also had previously restored several Duncanson works.

Born in Fayette, N.Y, Duncason was the son of a Scottish-Canadian father and an African-American mother, which made him a “free-born person of color.” He was raised in Canada by his father to avoid racial conflicts, returning to the United States in 1841. He became a self-taught artist by copying prints and painting portraits. Seeking more commissions, he set up a studio in Detroit in 1845 but returned to Cincinnati in 1846 and focused on landscapes of the Ohio River Valley inspired by works of the Hudson River School. By the early 1850s he was a recognized landscape artist.

Duncanson became associated with the abolitionist movement in 1848 through a commission by Charles Avery, an abolitionist Methodist minister, which established him within a network of abolitionist patrons for the rest of his life. He is considered to be the first African-American to make a living selling art.

Duncanson was noted for painting partly from real life and partly from imagination. Eisele feels this is the case with the work brought in for restoration. He believes the painting is a combination of the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the Hudson River School style and an unidentified European landscape.

But before he could make that judgment, Eisele had to see enough of the painting to identify it, and that took considerable restorative skills. The first task was to remove the layers of smoke, soot, dust and dirt that had accumulated on the surface over the last 140 years. Then the original overlayer of yellowed damar varnish needed to be removed. As that process evolved, the green sky began to revert to blue, but it revealed that significant overpainting had been done at some point during a previous restoration. When the overpainting was removed, using all reversible procedures, the sky returned to its original hue. Old World’s inch-by-inch restoration took nearly eight weeks to complete, but the result was worth the wait.

The owner of the restored Duncnason has placed the work on long-term loan to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., where chief curator Ruth Cloudman said, “It’s a fantastical landscape. When the opportunity came up to have one of his paintings on extended loan we knew that would be very exciting.”

Old World Restorations has been in the art conservation and restoration business since 1978. To contact them, call 513-271-5459 or e-mail deisele@oldworldrestorations.com. Visit them online at www.oldworldrestorations.com.

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Duncanson painting prior to restoration. Image courtesy The Eisele Gallery.

Duncanson painting prior to restoration. Image courtesy The Eisele Gallery.

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles' Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Stray wolf led to woman’s new career as chair caner and weaver

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles' Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles’ Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – The reason Dale Carleo is a chair caner and weaver is because of a wolf.

Thirteen years ago, the animal followed a neighbor home. Then the stray lay down in Carleo’s yard and would not leave.

“That whole day he spent trying to win us over,” she said. The wolf sat in front of the lawn mower, stole her daughter’s sunglasses and stared through the backyard fence at the family that evening. “He was magnificent and skinny.”

Carleo had two dogs already – a golden retriever and a sheltie – but decided that the wolf was not going to the pound.

Later that night, she left the garage door open and set out food and water. In the morning, all her neighbors’ newspapers were in her yard. So was the wolf.

After researching online, she suspected he was a hybrid, a runaway from a rural breeder. His feet were blistered.

She named him Fletcher and forgave him when he chewed through two couches.
Carleo, formerly an X-ray technologist who had thought about resuming work, realized that she had to reinvent herself. Her three children were older, her mother had recently died and she wanted a job.

But Fletcher, it was obvious, didn’t like being alone.

After she wrote about her mother to a childhood friend she had not seen in 30 years, the woman wrote back and said, “I’m a chair caner in Annapolis.” Instantly, Carleo knew this was the work she was looking for.

Carleo went for a visit and, after a weekend of caning, came home and launched her business with a book, her father’s tools and chairs from garage sales. Caning and weaving could be done anywhere. She liked the natural materials. She liked rescuing old furniture. She liked working with old tools.

“She had a basket of these,” Carleo said, holding up a splint basket of wooden pegs used in caning. As she picked up and tossed the pegs into the basket, they rattled back in with soft clacking sounds.

“I just loved working with pegs,” she said, laughing. “I guess I didn’t get enough peg time as a child.”

Today, her business, Wolf Chair Caning & Weaving, draws from local furniture refinishers and restorers such as Craftsmanship by Weathersby in Virginia Beach and Smith Furniture Service and The Strip Joint in Norfolk, as well as clients who seek her out.

The chairs that arrive at Carleo’s often have been refinished, but she prefers the wear and patina on old caning.

“I get some 70-year-old seats in here, and the colors are extraordinary,” she said, calling herself a purist. “It’s a sin to take them out.”

But she does – although she can’t bring herself to throw away someone else’s handiwork. To honor the years of service that old rush or cane has given, she saves and then burns it in her patio chimenea or, in winter, in her fireplace.

“I give it a Viking funeral,” she said, laughing.

She cleans the chairs and rubs in beeswax, especially into places exposed to the light for the first time in years.

“I usually oil the old guys,” she said, patting an oak chair from a barn sale in Rhode Island. “The wood is so dry, and the channel and holes weakened the wood over time. This one hadn’t been fed in years and years.”

She tries to duplicate the material that was originally on the chair, matching the width of the cane or adjusting it to improve a seat’s strength and durability.

While weaving with damp cane, she often thinks of the craftsman who originally worked on a chair.

“You can tell if the person who drilled the holes was a caner,” she said, “if they line up.”
When the geometry is off, the seat was probably a homemade project. Years ago, a lot of caning was done by the blind, a feat Carleo admires.

It is a peaceful task.

As she works, she sometimes listens to a book on tape, sometimes to the ticking of her clock, the soft clunk of wood on wood, the whisk of cane being pulled through holes. Pegs or wedges drop from her hands back into her work basket; a rawhide hammer covered with bite marks thumps in stubborn pieces.

Fletcher, she recalled, loved to chew on the hammer and stole it whenever he could.

“We had him 10 and a half years,” she said. “He was known all over the state in all the soccer clubs where my son played.”

Most people, she said as she worked on a chair with a style of woven seat called “German caning,” want their new cane stained. But here again, she likes to leave the natural color, knowing that over years of use it will pick up a patina unique to the home it’s in.

It takes about four or five hours to do a caned seat. Rush is a little faster. For cane, she charges $2.25 per hole. An average chair seat has 72 to 82.

To extend the life of a caned chair, Carleo advises her customers not to sit on their knees or feet, to keep chair seats out of bright light and, when the seats sag, to wet them with a mixture of glycerin and water, put them in the sun and see if they’ll tighten as they dry.

Over the years, she’s learned a variety of caning and weaving patterns and styles: Danish is a lot of fun, she said, calling the twisted rope seats and nailing technique a whole different ball game.

She keeps a small photo album of chairs she’s caned, patterns she’s woven and materials she’s used in the craft: pegged German cane, flat reed herringbone, popcorn weave, Mexican cattail, twisted cattail, sea grass.

She works in her living room beside a tapestry of a wolf, a reminder of the one who started it all.

More than a dozen chairs of different sizes and vintages wait in the room over her garage. Some are caned, some are woven, all are well worn.

“Every chair is like a person,” she said. “It’s like an entity. Some of them give me a very powerful feeling. There’s such character in them sometimes that they almost make me cry. Some of them must have such good stories. If only they could talk.”
___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, 
http://www.pilotonline.com

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-07-28-09 0843EDT


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE




The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

Straight Up: Helicopter Toys

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

The helicopter is an amazing machine. Pilots who fly them describe it as trying to control 20,000 spare parts flying in loose formation at more or less the same altitude, in roughly the same direction, at approximately the same time.

A helicopter derives its ability to fly lift by rapidly rotating the rotor blades while compensating for the torque from the engine with either a small set of vertically mounted rotor blades at the rear of the fuselage and or an additional set of main blades turning in the opposite direction. Another largely unsuccessful early design used rotor tip jets to power the blades avoiding the torque forces.

An autogiro appears at first glance to be similar to a helicopter, but it uses a free spinning rotor to develop lift and is not capable of making vertical takeoffs or powered landings. It is pushed through the air with an engine-powered propeller. Both machines can land safely without power, using autorotation to control descent.

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In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

WHAM-O: From Slingshots to Superballs

In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

Sixty years ago, two wild and crazy college boys in Southern California launched a slingshot… and, quite by accident, launched a business. Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr may not have realized then that a homemade slingshot would be the genesis of one of the most enduring toy companies of all time—the WHAM-O Manufacturing Company.

Their success is notable; their toys—such as Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Super Ball—are iconic. Few toy companies have as long or rich a history, but one thing remains certain—“There’s a lot of nostalgia over their toys,” said Tim Walsh, author of WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

That nostalgia—including his own childhood fondness for WHAM-O toys—prompted Walsh, a game inventor and toy historian, to track down the dynamic duo and dig into company archives for his new book. “I really enjoy giving inventors their due,” Walsh added.

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Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

Electric Football: Tabletop Touchdowns

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.”  Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players.  Chuck Miller image.

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

Electric football, also known as “miniature football” or “tabletop football,” has returned from the attics and toyboxes of yesteryear to reclaim its position as one of top sports simulation games of all time. Sixty years after its original introduction into the marketplace, the game is now the focus of national tournaments, where grandparents and grandkids can compete on an equal level. Its players can now be found at the craft table of hobbyists, who painstakingly repaint the tiny figurines to resemble the greatest squads in football history.

“Electric football has seen a renaissance of attention today,” said Ira Silverman, whose Silverman Media&Marketing Group promotes the game for Miggle Toys, the company who currently manufactures electric football boards and games. “I think that the people who played the game as kids in the 1960s and 1970s, and those playing today, like the ability to actually control each and every one of your 11 players who are on the field, and I think they like the idea of playing against and hopefully beating another human being, rather than defeating an electronic team on a video game.”

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Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Captain Action: Quick-Change Hero

Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Joe Ahearn first became aware of Ideal Toys’ Captain Action in 1967 when he was 5 years old while visiting an older cousin. Ed Catto simply credits Santa Claus for his introduction to the character the same year. Little did either of them know that some 40 years later that they would find themselves in charge of Captain Action’s destiny.

The character debuted in 1966 into a climate that in hindsight seems almost made for it. G.I. Joe was the top action figure for boys. The Batman TV show was just igniting Batmania and the wave of superheroes that followed him from the printed page to the worlds of cartoons, movies and merchandising.

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