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Fine Art/old oil painting


QUESTION: I have an old painting that has been in our family for some time.  My great Aunt Edith worked as a secretary for the head of Curtis publishing Philadelphia.  Her boss gave her a painting I guess he had in his office and didn't like. My mother always told me it was done my a now famous artist, it was a picture of a woman lying on a bed.  But I guess my Aunt hated the picture so eventually she painted her own over it.  The picture is rather large about 2.5' by 3.5'.  You can clearly see there is another painting underneath, there are thick brush strokes that don't belong in her paining.  Also down in the bottom right hand corner she put some white daiseys that look like they are covering up a signature. I finally decided to look at the back of the painting and was wondering if any of the stuff I found is useful in identifying who painted the one underneath.  ON the back, the frame has the name ADavies in the upper left hand corner. It also has a handwritten note on the frame about trying something new... IT is hard to make out the writing.  The year 1905 is written on the frame in several places.  ON the back of the canvas there is some writing that I think belongs to my Aunt.  In the middle of the picture is a nubmber P4281 in different writing.  Any way to find out who was the original painter and what it was? Does it have any value today?
ANSWER: Dear Donna, The painting may be by an illustrator for Curtis Publishing that would not be familiar to me. It may also be by Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928) a member of the famous group "The Eight", they began the "Ashcan School" of Philadelphia and New York. Davies is the strange painter of the group, he painted many women and nudes, but in a very odd style. The other seven members of the group sell for six and seven figures. Davies sells from $500 to about $8,000. I would suggest you contact a painting conservator for an estimate to remove your great aunt's paint. It should not be difficult or very expensive.

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QUESTION: Thank you I did not know the old paint could be removed.  Just one more question,  what is a painting conservator and where does one find one?

Dear Donna, The covering paint applied by your aunt is newer than the original paint and can usually be removed without damage to the original. A painting conservator cleans and restores older paintings. Contact an art dealer that sells older paintings, he will know of a painting conservator in your area.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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