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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another Day in the Art-Detective Agency

Joan Hoffman’s September 2011 Newsletter just arrived, which tickled a number of thoughts that I’ll share here. She mentioned our correspondence with someone asking about a piece of art he had uncovered in a garage/estate sale. Holling did so much commercial work that it’s difficult to identify every item he illustrated, but this is the back story to one find:

I received a letter from Glen Webster stating, “I recently unearthed what appears to be an original HCH illustration. During my research I found your blog and hoped you might be able to help me identify it.”

The job was beyond my abilities, so I forwarded Glen’s letter to Joan Hoffman with a cc back to Glen to keep him in the loop.

Glen responded that he “purchased it in a garage sale in Oklahoma City. The illustration is framed, approximately 14 x 17” in size, with an actual image of 13 x 8”. It appears to him to have been drawn with a black felt tip pen or ink and colored with watercolors. Glen had begun his own research, and reported, “I’ve only been able to find one auction result in a 1997 Davenport’s Art Reference of $300 to $700.”

Joan cautioned, “A large part of Holling's work was commercial art, particularly in the 1930s, and that is the least known fact about his life for most people.” She judged it was a pen-and-ink illustration with watercolor. The subject details and signature also confirmed Holling. But a date would be a valuable clue since Holling’s life is pretty well dated and he legally changed his name — to Holling Clancy Holling — after 1925.

The signature style is a clue to the date, but Holling was creative in many ways, including his signature. It’s sometimes very plain and often needs to be hunted for. In one oriental painting, the signature resembled oriental characters.

On a few occasions, Holling painted a piece to be framed and sold. One documented case was a rodeo in winter when Holling made cowboy pictures for sale. He sketched and Lucille, his wife, filled in the watercolor. End of story, except for the serendipitous discovery of another Holling painting.

Subsequently, Joan mentions she has acquired the June 1933 cover of Child Life with a marionette scene by Lucille Holling, Holling’s wife and career partner. Holling also contributed art to the Century of Progress Exposition Official View Book of 1933. Joan says, “I never expected in my senior years to be surfing eBay for Holling items or in my worst nightmare trying to outbid someone on an auction item. But sometimes you just do what you have to do, and it has paid off.”