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Fine Art/Reproduction or original by a repro artist?


A piece caught my eye yesterday hanging in the display window of a frame shop.  Approximately 2' x 3' oil on canvas framed by a plain, thick, rounded-edge frame stained mahogany, it's a street scene captured at sunrise or sunset.  The sun is centered horizontally, a red-orange-yellow smear seen between an office building and the barren trees lining the street.  The street runs at perhaps a 30 degree angle to a line drawn between the sun and the POV (which is set at pedestrian eye-level).  A late-model sedan is perhaps 20 feet away from the POV, driving away with brake lights lit.  The coarse, wide brush strokes resemble Van Gogh's in "Starry Night."  The vivid sun and sky contrast starkly with the darkness of the street and the trees.

The placard said that it was an original oil on canvas by "Maestro Vollmer."  I didn't ask for details.  A search on Google turned up three hits for "Maestro Vollmer," two of which were eBay listings for  the seller "canadaartworks."  A perusal of this seller's other auctions reveals colorful works by other likewise unknown artists (and a few people who would probably be surprised to know they had done oil paintings of European landscapes), one of whom I recognized as having painted knockoffs of Max Hayslette's "Fields of Provence" suite.  A few other clues leave me with no doubt that "Maestro Vollmer" is a cover name for a repro artist (some of the other cover names are equally unlikely).

Even knowing the source, however, I would still consider buying it.  The picture is very much to my taste.  I'm not going to touch the $1200 sticker price.  What would a reasonable price for a reproduction of that size be, framed?   Could it be an original as advertised, perhaps based on a photograph rather than a painting?  It's a small shop in a small Midwestern city.  Could the dealer not know that the artist is fictitious, or is he dishonest?

Jim--last things first:  there is no way I can know or would assume the dealer is dishonest.  As to value, the worth of reproductions and works by unestablished or unknown artists, is quite simple:  it is what the art is worth to the buyer.  Just as one person thinks $200 is too much for a Broadway Theater ticket, others think it is a bargain.  Same for rock and roll concert tickets.  And the visual arts, as well.  That piece is worth the pleasure you think it would bring you, hanging in your home.  I would determine that, and offer whatever that number is [or less, to negotiate and compromise] and not pay a penny more.  Good luck.  Alan Klevit.

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Alan Klevit


I can provide sound advice on buying, collecting & understanding fine art, especially original works by 20th century masters and leading contemporary artists. I can also explain techniques used to create original works and offer tips on how to tell whether or not a piece is an original work of art.


I have been active in the art world for twenty-seven years. I owned and operated four galleries and a wholesale showroom on both coasts. We specialized in original works by 20th century masters and emerging artists. I have been an art consultant, artist's representative, lecturer, auctioneer, and curator. I had a radio show for two years, "Today's Art World with Alan Klevit" [Washington, D.C.]; hosted two television shows on the arts for six years [Los Angeles Area]; have written for numerous local papers and international art magazines; and currently write a syndicated column, "The Art Beat." I conduct art auctions for charities throughout the United States, and am a frequent speaker/auctioneer on upscale cruise ships, and at civic organizations and local television shows.


Undergraduate and graduate degrees from Georgetown University and The American University

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