Friday, March 19, 2010

Gertrude Abercrombie – Daryle Lambert's Antiques and Collectibles Blog – Treasure in a small package.

 Gertrude Abercrombie - Thanks to

I think it is time to share one of my favorite artists, Gertrude Abercrombie, with you. She was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth on the north shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Being primarily self taught, with very little formal training at the University of Illinois, it is a great surprise to me that she has become such a prominent and well respected artist.

Somewhat a rebel, she soon turned to the surreal side of art, probably because of her love of the fantasy world that she often found herself in. Her career with the surreal movement started in the 30's and lasted until the 50's. She was brought up in a staunchly religious house and this contributed to her wild side. Besides surreal art, she was also heavily involved in the jazz movement of the day.

You may well be familiar with some of her traveling mates in the jazz community if you are over 50. Just to mention a few, how about Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn and Thornton Wilder. Those were the hot names of the jazz movement and if you traveled in their company, you were somebody. I have only found one book about Gertrude Abercrombie, put out in 1991 by the Illinois Museum. Even it is expensive at $123.00.

But the question is why do I like her work so much? First, it has a mystic feel to it and the style is almost primitive. When I see her paintings, my first thought is that Joshua, my eleven year old son, could do them. But only I wish because her paintings bring thousands of dollars. At those prices you would think her canvasses would be large because usually the larger the piece the more higher the price. This, however, isn't true in her case because a painting on board measuring 8 x 10 inches might bring her highest price. In fact one that size could sell for $20,000 or more today and there are listings on AskArt to verify this.

Let me tell you how I got acquainted with her paintings. It is a story that I almost hate to tell. Having read the Pioneer Press, a local paper which lists house sales, I found a sale that had items of interest to me so, up early at the crack of dawn, I prepared for the hunt. Arriving at the house and being one of the first there, I was soon ushered in and the game began. I quickly browsed all the items in the house and found nothing priced where I thought it should be. But preparing to leave, in the corner of my eye, I spied five little, almost miniature, paintings.

Asking the price and receiving my answer I almost wanted to run out of the house. You see they were anywhere from 4 x 5 to perhaps 5 x 8 inches and they were priced between $2000 and $3500. I did ask who the artist was and the clerk said Gertrude Abercrombie, which at that time meant nothing to me. Getting home I just couldn't help myself but to go to my library and see who this Gertrude woman was. Yes, I raced back to the sale but they were all gone and I figured that little lack of knowledge cost me $20,000.

There is, however, one good story. I later bought one of her paintings for about $3000 and sold it for over $7000. Remember the name, Gertrude Abercrombie, because it is possible that you may run across one of her paintings that the owner thinks is just a kid’s painting and have it priced accordingly at the sale.

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  1. I saw a couple of paintings on board on eBay a while ago, which a Scandinavian seller claimed were by Abercrombie. I was suspicious as I watched them go for about four to six hundred dollars. What's your experience with forgeries of Abercrombie's paintings? Yulia

  2. I personally haven't seen any but that doesn't mean they don't exist.


  3. What do you think about modern ACEO's? I have collected a few, and I find it astonishing that these artists can fit such talet in such tiny spaces - I have about 4 different artists, Stopped collecting them because I am unsure if they will increse in value?
    Vicki H.

  4. Vickie that is what makes collecting so exciting. We never really know what is going to happen in the future. Enjoy your treasures and that can be your reward or perhaps some day they can buy you a new house.

    God Bless