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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Leroy Neiman's Lincoln

LeRoy Neiman is known for his vibrant art, primarily his ability to capture movement in his depictions of sports heroes and sporting events. However, Neiman’s print of Abraham Lincoln from 1976 is doing something different. The artist’s portrait of the president is sedentary and quiet, yet at the same time the vibrant colors and the movement that those colors create, do to their angular application, provide an interpretation of Abraham Lincoln’s personality that is distinctly unique.

Most portraits of Lincoln that we, as viewers, are familiar with show him as contemplative and strong, if not somewhat anxious. Neiman’s portrait shows these aspects of Lincoln as well with the head tilted slightly upward and a stare that is strong, and eyebrows that are slightly furrowed. But, the bold colors and movement in Neiman’s print add a lightness and activity that seems to coexist with the other attributes depicted. In other words, the print hints at potential undertones to Lincoln’s personality that are rarely seen in other portraits of him.

Recently Neiman’s colorful portrait of Abraham Lincoln was used in the celebration of the president’s 200th birthday. It was most likely chosen as the main image of Lincoln to be used in the celebration because of its similarities to the now famous campaign image of Barack Obama. This is a connection that seems appropriate because both presidents were from Illinois, president Obama was returning to Illinois for the bicentennial celebration, both are symbols of racial equality, and Lincoln is a hero of president Obama’s (he used his bible to take the oath of office)

The campaign image of Obama puts him in the same position as Neiman’s print of Lincoln, with head tilted up staring into the distance with a slightly furrowed brow. Furthermore, the Obama image capitalizes on the use of atypical colors, like Neiman’s print; although in this instance the artist used red, white, and blue as symbols of the American flag and of Obama and America’s diverse background, which blends together in an effort to see past race line. Interestingly enough the bold colors used in Neiman’s portrait of Lincoln also evoke this symbolism due to his role as a president who battled for racial equality.

LeRoy Neiman’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln is a uniquely interesting portrayal of the president in its own right. However, the symbolism of the piece has grown even more because of how it has been linked to the current president, adding a new dimension to Neiman’s print.

For more information on MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. signed Abraham Lincoln serigraph by LeRoy Neiman please go to:


Monday, February 9, 2009

Pocket Watches: Historical Overview & Collectibility

Pocket watches although not inherently common in everyday utility are still a timeless token of the days of old and can make a great valuable collectible item.

The first transportable watches or pocket watches came about in the 16th century. Prior to this, clocks in general were only exhibited on clock towers in town halls or monasteries. By the 16th century, transportable watches could be worn around the neck or carried in one’s pocket, and new technological mechanisms such as the minute hand were introduced to bring about more precision and accuracy.

By the 17th century, the design of the pocket watch became more rounded, and clock manufacturers began to focus not only on the craftsmanship of the watch but the design of the case, tying art into functionality.

The evolution continues into the 18th century. Artistic designs became more intricate and the addition of jewels increased the price and value of a single pocket watch. Maintenance of the pocket watch included the use of oil to lubricate the clock gears, creating easier movement in the clock’s hands with less noise associated with squeaky gears. The second hand was also added, increasing the accuracy of time telling.

The heyday of the pocket watch peaked during the 19th century. The quality of the pocket watch was far superior then ever before, and several prominent clock manufacturers had established names for themselves during this era. The popularity of the railroads in the mid-late 19th century, initiated the widespread functionality of the pocket watch. Train conductors relied on time accuracy, and pocket watches served as tools to keep trains running on schedule as well as avoid conflict with passing train lines.

The pocket watch slowly got replace by the wristwatch after World War I. To this day, the pocket watch serves as a testament to the past as well as a status symbol. The following are examples of 19th century pocket watches:

American Waltham Watch Company:
The Waltham Improvement Company founded in 1859 in Waltham, Massachusetts renamed the company in 1885 to the American Waltham Watch Company. For some 32 years the company made some of the finest pocket watches in the world. In 1907 the name changed again to the Waltham Watch Company, and in 1957, production in the United States ended and the company moved production to Switzerland, changing the name to Waltham International SA. All Waltham business in the United States today is under MZ Berger and Company.

Elgin National Watch Company:
The Elgin National Watch Company, otherwise known as the Elgin Watch Company, was founded in August 1864 in Elgin, Illinois (30 miles north of Chicago) as the National Watch Company. Once they received investments from former Chicago Mayor, Benjamin Wright Raymond as well as a number of affluent investors, the company formed and consisted of a number of former associates of the American Waltham Watch Company and Chicago watchmaker, J.C. Adams.

In World War II, the company worked in the defense industry, producing bombsights, and other precision instruments. The factory in Elgin, IL remained open until 1964, after producing about half of the number of pocket watches in the United States throughout the company’s duration in Elgin, Illinois.

By the late 1960s, the company hand relocated to South Carolina and was renamed Elgin, South Carolina. Later, the rights to the name "Elgin" were sold to MZ Berger, and Elgin-branded watches produced after 1964 have no other connection to Elgin or the Elgin Watch Company.

Identifying Your Own Pocket Watch or Prospective Acquisition:

Determining Manufacturer – The manufacturer or company name can be identified on the watch’s face or dial. If it is not shown on the face or dial, the information could be found on the back plate.
Determining Age – The best indicator for the age of the watch is to locate the serial number which is usually inscribed on the back plate. Once you have obtained the serial number, you will be able to refer to reference books or sites with the appropriate production table listing the manufacturers as well as the years certain serial numbers were produced.
Works Cited:
Shugart, Cooksey and Richard E. Gilbert. Complete Price Guide to Watches, No. 14. Cleveland, TN: Cooksey Shugart Publications, 1994.
Wikipedia. Pocket Watches. .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Erte: Fashion, Modernism, and Fine Art

Personal property appraisers often work with several categories of objects, from sports memorabilia to fine art objects. However, sometimes appraisers come across objects that transcend a single category. These types of objects are often highly interesting and can be highly valuable because they are collectible for so many reasons. A great example is the work of Romain de Tirtoff, better known by his pseudonym Erte.

Erte, known as a graphic artist and dress designer, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, but moved to Paris, France between 1910 and 1912 to explore a career in fashion. He had his artistic breakthrough as a dress designer for the couture house of Paul Poiret. Being a dress designer Erte made fashion sketches for his work. Eventually these creations would take on a life of their own, so that Erte was making prints that portrayed whole scenes in which a fully realized figure would be shown wearing Erte designs within a stylized setting. Erte was able to use his talent as a graphic artist to create works that not only led to fashion designs but were also art objects in there own right.

Erte’s work is, therefore, highly collectible for numerous reasons. They are collectible as fashion items because they show the development of Erte’s designs. For example, some of his early drawings eventually led to clothes that would have been produced by one of the great fashion houses of the early 20th century. His drawings, paintings, and prints are also historical documents because they are linked to the modernist age, and are a prime example of how society was changing, even in terms of dress. This is due to Erte’s connection to Paul Poiret, who is known for liberating women from the restraining corset; and instead designing items that were loose fitting, allowing for greater female mobility. Upon examining Erte’s drawing, shown to the left, you can see this approach to dress. We see a woman, in loose fitting pants, moving in a fluid manner. It demonstrates a style of dress, which allows an active movement. Finally, these drawings are interesting fine art objects. Regardless of the fashion or cultural connection they can stand alone as visually appealing. Each exhibits fluid movement with lines that curve in combination with long strait lines; used in conjunction with vibrant colors and stylized, clearly outlined, shapes.

The work of Erte is very interesting to appraisers because it is collectible on so many levels. It has appeal to fashion enthusiasts, those interested in modernism, and collectors of fine art.
Troy, Nancy J. Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.
Erte [Romain de Tirtoff]. My Life / My Art: An Autobiography. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    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.