Art appraisal boosts Grannies' fundraiser

Bert Dorpmans of McMaster Fine Art Services holds an previously unknown work by Burford area artist Robert Whale, quite similar to one of Whale's most noted works exhibited at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant. Brian Thompson, The Expositor

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Bert Dorpmans is intrigued by the connections made between people and art.

Dorpmans and some of his colleagues spent the afternoon on March 24 evaluating art and antiques during the What’s It Worth? Appraisal Day at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant. The event was held in conjunction with the Grand River Grannies’ Art from the Attic fundraising sale.

Dorpmans and business partner Lauren Ogilvie operate McMaster Fine Art Services in Dundas, out of the McMaster Gallery. He has spent 42 years doing custom framing and art restoration, but 20 years ago turned his specialization to appraising Canadian art.

Leading up to the sale, Dorpmans pored over more than 600 donated art works with Donna Howell of the Grand River Grannies.

“Donna, this is a thousand-dollar piece!” he exclaimed, showing Howell a small watercolour painting by Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith. “You’d almost miss it, because the signature was quite faint.”

Dorpmans described the piece as a city view of downtown London, England, circa 1897, and valued it at $1,200 to $1,300.

“Remarkably, this small study, under one square foot, fetched $2,100 in the blind auction,” Dorpmans said. “That was the prize. We always hope for a little gem like that to come in.”

The art expert also recalls a client viewing the current Connections exhibit in Glenhyrst’s main gallery. She noticed that the painting of a wildcat by Robert Whale bore a striking similarity to one at her home. A follow-up visit by Dorpmans determined it to be an unknown painting by Whale, likely an earlier work by the Burford-area artist. The piece, depicting a wildcat with its prey, came from the estate of the client’s grandmother, Claira Aulsebrook, who lived in the Bethel community west of Brantford.

“The painting has a little bit of damage on the bottom,” Dorpmans noted. “To get it repaired would cost as much as the painting is worth.”

He valued the painting, in its current state, at between $1,800 to $2,300.

“If you put about a thousand dollars into repair and cleaning it up, particularly the exposure to nicotine, it would be worth $3,000 to $3,500 once restored.”

Dorpmans estimates the value of the larger similar piece from the gallery’s permanent collection, one of Whale’s most noted works, at $10,000.

He said his client agreed to his suggestion to donate the painting to Glenhyrst because it ties in with the gallery’s permanent collection housing the largest collection of works by Whale.

There were a number of other noteworthy items brought to the appraisal day.

“We had a really cool Roycroft desk lamp come in,” said Dorpmans. “It was from the arts and crafts movement in New York in the 1920s and ’30s.”

Bruce Thurston, a glassware and vintage lighting expert from Sheffield, Ont., valued the piece at $3,500.

“The hammered copper shade and base were quite unique,” said Dorpmans, adding that the owners may not have been aware of its value. “That lamp was a highlight of the day.”

Jed Gardner of Turner Chapel Antiques was the jewelery and silver expert at the event. Dorpmans said Gardner was pleased to see a George III silver teapot, and four 2-1/2 dollar American gold coins circa 1850, worth about a few thousand dollars apiece.

Over his career, a particular highlight is a Lawren Harris painting of a scene in Greenland, belonging to a family in Hamilton. Dorpmans estimated its value between $300,000 to $400,000. The piece sold at auction a few weeks later for $2.1 million.

Having framed and restored art works for decades, Dorpmans said he recognizes the styles of various artists. And the Internet has made it easier to valuate art.

“By checking auction house records, you can gauge subject matter, quality, and scarcity to determine value,” he said.

“I love finding treasures when we find them.”

Howell, team leader for the art sale and appraisal day, had high praise for Dorpmans and his colleagues.

“The generous donation of time, expertise and encouragement is such a boost to the Grannies’ fundraising endeavours,” Howell said.

As a result of the art sale and appraisal day, the Grand River Grannies were able to submit $9,500 to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

bethompson@postmedia.com

@EXPbthompson

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