The patriarch of the Wyeth family of painters and a prolific Maine artist, N.C. Wyeth, appeared to sign a picture that an antiques fan bought for $4 in a thrift store in 2017. She jokingly suggested that the $4 piece might truly be a genuine Wyeth work. The picture is now anticipated to sell for as much as $250,000 at auction in September, proving that her joke was not to be taken lightly.
The seller accidentally bought the piece at a Savers thrift shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, while looking for frames to repurpose, claim experts at the Bonhams Skinner auction house. According to the auction company, the Wyeth painting was thrown up against a wall alongside several mostly damaged posters and prints.
The woman brought the sculpture home, but a simple Google search turned up nothing about it. She hung the painting in her bedroom for several years before putting it away in a closet.
This past May, while cleaning, she rediscovered the painting. She then posted pictures of the piece on the “Things Found in Walls” Facebook page, which collects “stories of things you have found in walls, dug up in your backyard, or in that abandoned house across from your grandma’s.”
She got in touch with Lauren Lewis after reading comments on the page since Lauren Lewis used to work as a curator and had paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family: Jamie Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and N.C. Wyeth. After physically inspecting the item, Lewis was “99% certain it was authentic,” according to her statement to The Boston Globe.
Lewis told the Globe, “It was in incredible condition considering none of us had any notion of its trip over the last 80 years, although it obviously had some little scratches and it could use a surface clean.
Wyeth frequently created book covers for newspapers and book publishers. One of four paintings he finished for a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson’s book “Ramona,” which was first released in 1884, is the one going up for auction in September. In it, Wyeth depicted the youthful main heroine standing in front of her aging foster mother, with a religious monument looming over them both.
According to Bonhams Skinner, only one other has been found. Auction house experts think the author’s estate or an editor may have received the book from the publishing house Little, Brown and Company.
The collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was auctioned off at Christie’s New York last year. Andrew Wyeth’s 1980 painting “Day Dream” sold for over $23.2 million, more than seven times the top estimate of $3 million, setting a new record for any member of the Wyeth family.