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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ruth Duckworth's Organic Creations & Philosophy

Everyday art appraisers examine a variety of objects from a variety of time periods and genres. From an appraiser's unbiased point of view, it is more important to understand a particular genre and not whether or not it fits your particular taste. Although I greatly enjoy modernist pieces, I understand that not everyone is of a similar mindset. Therefore, I would like to visually examine a notable piece of modernist sculpture, discuss the possible creative philosophies of the artist who made it, and explain why I appreciate it.

The above sculpture, currently at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., was created by Ruth Duckworth. She was born in Hamburg Germany in 1919, but fled Nazi Germany for England at the age of 17. Duckworth began her formal art training at the Liverpool School of Art, then studied at the Hammersmith School of Art, and finally went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. Eventually Duckworth would move to Chicago to teach at the University of Chicago, which she did until 1977. She is known to still live in the Chicago and continues to sculpt.

Beyond the facts of Duckworth’s life, what I find interesting about her work is that she produces pieces that are entirely unique to both the art world and to the broader genre of everyday objects. What I mean by this is that her work is removed from common visual forms and preconceived notions of what a ceramic, bronze, or clay object is suppose to look like. Instead Duckworth’s sculptures only attempt to be just what they are, nothing more. In her work, she does not attempt to depict people, animals or bowls; they simply are what they are, art objects. Furthermore, what makes Duckworth’s sculptures interesting is that they are unique extensions of the artist herself. Meaning that although Duckworth has gone through many creative phases processes, in which she has used varied materials, the underlying tie that binds her creativity, appears to be the organic creation of her pieces. In the artists own words “I don’t want to think. I want it to happen by itself, to flow up.” She is creating works that for the first time exist in the world through her intuitive feel for the materials she uses.

The Duckworth sculpture, currently at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is an example of the organic creative methods that the artist uses. This ceramic stone ware and mixed media work consists of two long and rounded pieces in the center that converge at one side, but remain open at the other end. Each extremity emerging from the central torso has been extended gracefully by the artist, so that there is a seamless flow throughout the work's entirety. This particular sculpture is a fine example and testament to Ruth Duckworth's creative philosophy with its unique appearance and organically sculpted limbs.

For more information or acquisition inquiries on this newly restored Ruth Duckworth sculpture, please contact MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. in Chicago at (312) 814-8510 or email us at

-MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Resources Consulted & Further Reading:

Hales, Linda.”Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor.”Washington Post (Sept. 4, 2006): C01,,1127401.html

Stair, Julian.“Duckworth’s volumes and planes: a traveling retrospective examines the 60-year career of sculptor Ruth Duckworth, whose reductive vessels and blocky figures reflect the coolness of international modernism.”Art in America (Dec., 2005),

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meissen Porcelain: A Testament to Timelessness, Superior Quality

With the current unpredictable economic situation it is difficult to comprehend that any market is succeeding. However, evaluating recent auction results have proven that the value of Meissen porcelain remains financially promising. An October 21, 2008, auction at Christie’s New York boasted sales at 95% for its Meissen lots; including 17 of 18 of these pieces exceeding their estimate. This success is a true testament to Meissen’s timelessness and superior quality.

Meissen is the epitome of European porcelain. The finery’s tradition began in 1710 with the discovery of hard porcelain and the subsequent establishment of the Meissen foundry in Germany. One of the greatest appeals to owning a piece of Meissen porcelain is that every piece is processed and decorated by hand; making all works, whether a table-top figurine or a serving tray, artistically unique. While every piece is essentially an original, Meissen remains true to its traditional form by utilizing the same painting methods for the past three centuries.

The prestige of acquiring Meissen as a symbol of wealth also makes these pieces highly desirable. During the first two centuries of the porcelain’s existence, aristocratic members from every county accumulated Meissen to prove their societal status through culturally-significant items. Popularity of the artistic creations in the upper class caused a shortage of Meissen to the middle class who desired to own the same pieces their heads of state. As a result, the foundry began recreating their earliest examples at a more reasonable cost. Both the 18th and 19th century originals, as well as, the more contemporary recreations are highly collectible.

Need to Authenticate
Inevitably with the high demand of Meissen, an attempt at imitation was sure to follow. As early as 1718, one of the foundry’s own employees tried to counterfeit the porcelain. Due to this attempt, and countless more to follow, a trademark was a necessity. From 1720 until present day, all authentic Meissen bears “Crossed Swords” within the blue underglaze. Many forgeries have attempted to duplicate this trademark and some have succeeded in convincing collectors; inundating the market with highly-believable fakes. With this fact in mind, it is essential to have any piece of Meissen in your collection evaluated for authenticity. Only authentic Meissen porcelain retains its historical significance and monetary value.2010 will mark the third centenary of the porcelain factory’s founding; making today the perfect time to acquire an astounding piece of Meissen. Please contact us regarding any Meissen we are currently offering or with any questions regarding Meissen in your own collection.

-MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Inuit Art: Expressing Both Contemporary & Traditional Culture

Research shows that Inuit art dates back to ca. 1700 B.C., the Early Paleo-Eskimo era, with the discovery of an ivory maskette found on Devon Island in the Inglulingmuit Inuit region northeast of the Northwest Territories. However, what can be considered contemporary Inuit art dates back to the late 1940s, and while much of comtemporary Inuit art embraces traditional community values and traditions, a lot of their art conveys the individualistic experience of the artist, including many contemporary socio-economic issues. Furthermore, contemporary Inuit art has become an integral part of the Inuit community’s economy as a result of the Canadian government purchasing and selling it on a large scale.

Traditional Inuit life involved survival in a semi-nomadic society where men hunted and women tended to life at the camp. It has been noted that the Inuit lived in houses made of snow known commonly as igloos and hunted seals and whales, using their skins in order to make warm clothing and footwear. For entertainment the Inuit people told stories (which are greatly reflected in their visual arts), wrestled and played various hand and eye coordination type games in addition to singing and dancing. Additionally, Shamans were prevalent to traditional Inuit culture, serving as a link to the spiritual world. Shamans as well as ordinary tribesmen wore charms and amulets that were believed to be magical.

Inuit life began to rapidly change in the late 1940s through the 1950s. The Canadian government stepped in and established villages and towns for the Inuit that included missions, schools, medical stations, etc. Western culture has since set in. The Inuit people have incorporated western clothing, and rock and roll music can be heard in many of their communities. As a result, the new settled life of the Inuit is in stark contrast to their traditional semi-nomadic society, and many of the social problems associated with western culture now infiltrate the Inuit community. Problems such as welfare, domestic violence, alcohol & drugs, teenage pregnancy, etc. affect the Inuit community and collectively blend with traditional undertones in much of contemporary Inuit art. Overall, p
roducing art has allowed much of the Inuit community to live a semi-traditional lifestyle with some Inuit artists working full-time while others do it on the side for supplemental income.

Various Inuit stone sculptures, illustrated in the images above can be found at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. and have been researched by our staff.

-MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Works Cited & Further Reading:

Hessel, Ingo. Inuit Art. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1998.

Leroux, Odette, ed. Inuit Women Artist. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1994.

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    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.