Goodwill hunting produces Dixon painting; earns $70K at auction

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A painting by Utah artist Maynard Dixon sold for $70,001 on the Internet auction site shopgoodwill.com Monday.

Charlie Stamps, vice president of retailing for Goodwill Industries of Redwood Empire, Santa Rosa, Calif., confirmed the price and said the buyer was from Santa Fe, N.M. A bidding war erupted last week when would-be buyers recognized the painting.

A pair of appraisers confirmed before the sale closed that the 9 1/2 inch by 10 inch painting was by Dixon (1875-1946), a Utah artist known for his Western landscapes and scenes of social protest during the Great Depression.

It’s thought to be Dixon’s Blackfoot Indian, painted in 1917 at an Indian camp near Montana’s Glacier National Park and one of a group of paintings commissioned by the Great Northern Railroad Co. The back of the painting carries Dixon’s signature.

The painting was posted for auction Goodwill Industries, which operates thrift stores internationally and provides job training programs for the disabled and needy. The nonprofit launched the online auction site in 1999.

The record for artwork sold on shopgoodwill.com is $165,000 for a Frank Weston Benson watercolor in 2006.

The Dixon painting was part of a large donation, likely from an estate, said Mark Ihde, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries’ Santa Rosa branch.

“I really do not believe the person (donating the piece) knew the value,” Ihde said.

Bidding on the painting jumped quickly from $2,500 to $25,000, prompting charity officials to remove it from the site and authenticate the work.

As of Saturday, 45 people had bid on the artwork. The top bid at that time was $35,504.

Dixon lived most of his life in San Francisco, but had a summer home in southern Utah’s Mount Carmel area near Kanab. He spent much of his time during the Depression in Zion National Park. After his death in 1946, his ashes were buried near Mount Carmel.

Brigham Young University in Provo has the largest known collection of Dixon’s work. In 1937, Dixon was coaxed by his friend Herald R. Clark, a business school dean, to sell 85 works to BYU.

In a negotiation letter to Clark, Dixon said money was beside the point when it came to his art and that  ” … the fact that the pictures will function, swing the decision,” to sell.

Such principles add significance to the unexpectedly valuable donation, Ihde said.

“I’ve always been a believer that things happen for a reason,” Ihde said. “To have one of his pieces benefit the people he had so much compassion for is part of his legacy.”

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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AP-WS-04-11-09 1955EDT