Monday, July 30, 2012

Louis Prang Co., Benjamin B. G. Stone and “HARVEST NORTH CONWAY” Again

Louis Prang Co., Benjamin B. G. Stone and “HARVEST NORTH CONWAY” Again

            Nearly three years ago I posted a summary of Prang’s chromolithograph of Benjamin Bellows Grant Stone’s “Harvest North Conway, White Mountains” autumn interval farm landscape.  One may review that post found under the “Prints” label.  In the post I mentioned that there are “MANY amateur copies” in oil paint copying Stone’s painting and generally using Prang’s print as the source for copying that painting.  I also go on to mention how other print makers copied Prang’s Stone painting too.  Further, I am concise in noting that Prang’s print was Prang’s more… if not most… profitable production, that they owned, as they state on their print label, the original painting and that this original painting was sold by them, is now lost AND that artist Stone was aware of all this.
            Ever after that still popular post and about once a month an email query arrives of someone who thinks that THEY “have the original Stone painting” and “can I”… “help them prove it”.
            No I cannot do the latter.  Further, I advise, one most, most, most probably DOES NOT have the former (the original painting).  I do not advise directly for either.  I am too busy with MY OWN “I FOUND” “could be the original?” Prang – Stone PAINTINGS.
            Is it me or, correctly, it is because my eye is so familiar with the scene that I “see” MANY copies “all the time”.  Prompting this second visit post to Stone and Prang is I… I… finding a FABOULOUS specimen.  Before elaboration on it I state upfront that I do NOT believe it is the “original” nor am I going to “try and prove that it is”.  After lightly reviewing the painting I will add one “food for thought” notice about the “original” Stone painting worth filing away IN ADDITION to being the “best possible scenario” qualifier for THIS COPY that I FOUND.

            My current Stone – Harvest North Conway… has ALL the right stuff… to OOZE the desire to have it be “the original”.  Found by flashlight in a cluttered, closed, dark, dusty and undisturbed upper bedroom of an upper middle grade coastal Maine Victorian …generations and generations single owner always …home… we start off with “great” state of discovery.  Brought home from the estate purchase carefully we have table topped it for a review that shows:
            An oil painting in its original frame UNDISTURBED including the original square nails holding the painting into the frame UNDISTURBED that is a stretched LINEN canvas in place within a …by far better than average “not a cheap one” textured and molded gilt gold on gesso on wood “period” 1860-70’s Civil War era – early Victorian era frame with an old brass wire hanging set, etc. UNDISTURBED.  That the actual painting is TOO, UNDISTURBED with a “never been touched” old dry and appropriately soiled surface showing a very carefully completely accurate and very well painted “identical” “copy” of the Prang print of the Stone painting.  Note the last wording here please; “copy of the Prang print”.  Since the Stone PAINTING is LOST, we only know what the PRANG PRINT looks like.  DID the original Stone Painting look like the Prang Print?  How do YOU know it did; please prove THAT thank you.
            Returning to MY FIND…it’s a great package:  The quality of the painting, the quality of the image, the quality of the construction of the painting, the quality of the frame and the completely undisturbed “OLD” state of all of these… as a package.  “No problem” selling this one to… someone who knows EXACTLY what the bouncy story of this …still very pleasing inclusive of all iota… CLASSIC, HISTORIC 19th century White Mountains view… “is”.  It… doesn’t have to be “THE ORIGINAL” because, as a whole package, “it is great”.

            The food for thought:  Stone, a struggling artist who knew very well that Prang had greatly profited on his painting… was still alive, still painting and… going nowhere financially when Prang’s success happened.  WHAT, historically, have poor painters such as he… especially in New England villages outside of the artist …salons… of Boston… done (artists for example like H. B. Brown and Hathaway in Portland, ME)?  They made pot-boiler copies… beautifully framed… of their “most popular” paintings… ready to hang up and …they sold them.  “Like hotcakes”.  Prove Stone did this with his Harvest canvas… and he most probably did do this… then there may be MANY MORE “original” Stone Harvest paintings around and… MINE could be one.  Right?  And… he wouldn’t have signed them for he didn’t own the copyright; his copies would be illegal without a Prang Co. signed off on legal blessing.
I am NOT going promote or try to prove ANYTHING with MY painting… at all.  All I want to do is go back into ANOTHER old Victorian estate and find MORE paintings.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Two Witch’s Kettles and a Teakettle Too

Two Witch’s Kettles and a Teakettle Too

            It has been three years since the four posts on old cast iron witch kettles (post label: witch) purveyed my practical antiques dealer experience about them… and my romantic attraction to them.  Since then I have… “not had one”; a common dealer expression for “yes I’ve seen a few around in dealer’s stock for either “too much money” or being… “not good enough” as a specimen”.  (Please review the earliest witch kettle post for a “good enough” definition).  Against our norm, we have found no witch kettles … in estate after estate.  Suddenly this summer, from an “old bath house” has come two beautiful specimens AND a colonial era cast iron fireplace kitchen teakettle too!
            Stepping back to the recent “Tote Bag Courtesans Two” post I refer to the there reported James Hutton shop sitting and conversing with two highly regarded rare book dealers and… I mentally filing that away as meaning there is a rare book about.  This file away I acted on promptly by going down to The Gallery when Hutton was NOT there, speaking with the owners about the book dealers Cronkhite and MacKellar and… did they know where they were staying?  Yes they did know where Cronkhite was renting.  I then went directly to that old cottage planning to beat around the bush for a chatter’s minute and then lunge after that rare book or books “What’s up?”.  I’ve known Ferris Cronkhite for a long time so such aggression on my part would be expected by him.
            Cronkhite answered his cottage door, received me and “I haven’t been up your way yet this season”.  We then lapsed into current conversation of local “who in rare books is around this summer” moving to “what rare books are being found” on to more evasive conversation about current rare book action details as… one converser blocked the other while pestering that blockage by pretending there …was no blockage at all.  Cronkhite and I compete directly for we are both “Americana” specialists meaning we relish and hunt for rare American history.  Enhancing the conversation is both of us having decades “at it” and a sixth sense feel-in-the-dark of a “great rare book” BEFORE we “find it”.  Cronkhite spends his wholeness finding absurdly unfound …tiny pieces of the puzzle of American history… and selling them.  I am more “by good chance I found” in my gathering but we both end up at the same doorstep for the buyer’s dollars.  To compete with each other… we do not… either of us… “wish to”.
            Because the rumored rare book through Hutton “is supposed to be a sixteenth century (!) English gardening book” “quite rare” “I haven’t seen it”… Cronkhite was fairly forthcoming for he “is not really interested” and the book “has to be sold in London” making it all “too much bother” for man used to slipping American rare book treasure into a briefcase.  That unnoticed briefcase is one of the finest rare bookstores in the nation.
            As I had found out what I wanted to and… would only lunge after the gardening book should it appear in the local open market, my business was concluded.  That settled us into a conversation of what HE’D been finding countered by what I’D been finding “recently” with both managing to NOT mention “anything good”.  Within the iota of this conversation came Cronkhite’s startling notice that he “just bought some old iron kettles from his cottage rental landlady “she had out in the bath house”.
            “Kettles in the bath house?”
            “I’ll show you.”
            He did.

            We walked from his cottage up toward the landlady’s home but turned before it and walked down between the first cottage and the home to a… “looks like an old garage”.
            “But it used to be the bath house before the cottages had plumbing”
            “Oh.  But it has a garage door too.”
            “An OLD garage door.  The bathrooms and showers are along the side.”
            “They don’t use them anymore.  They’re filled with stuff.  She’s having a yard sale.  I found the kettles in here”.  By this time we were before the old garage door.  Ferris opened one half of it.  There, sitting on the wooden floor were the three old 18th century cast iron sweethearts.  I loved them immediately.  It was hard to believe they were actually there AND Cronkhite’s but they were.  Although there were other “old things” destined for the yard sale stored in the garage too, the three “old iron” were the only “anything good” there.
            “How much?” I said.

            “For sale?” he said.  “Well I just bought them.  I mean:  I didn’t think of buying them to SELL.  I was going to take them home.  But… I suppose I COULD sell them”.
            I was quickly inspecting the three.  The charming little “double fist size” kettle has traces of red paint on it and showed no “used outdoors” exposure.  It was probably used as home decoration “inside”.  The larger kettle has old black paint on it and rust on its inside so WAS “used outdoors” as decoration.  The kitchen fireplace teakettle has a fine old surface and shows no decorative usage abuse so… who knows where that was hidden and how they found it.  With the scarce chain-attached lid too, it is a wonderful find.
            “I guess it would be easier just to sell them.” continued Cronkhite.  “Do you really want them?”
            “Yes.  How much?”
            “Two hundred”
            “There yours.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Woodchuck Wuckins Doc

“Woodchuck Wuckins Doc”

            Lane Cooper has been around a little less frequently these summer days.  That’s because there is a lot of antiques action for him to “stay on top of” (his words).  He came by a week ago and sold me a little painting.  Then vamoosed.  This morning he startled me at the barn door.  When he’s around early it usually means he’s on the prowl to sell me something.  This morning he appeared empty handed. 
And appeared to be considerably less boisterous then usual.  After a few wordless minutes watching me unwrapped a box of hastily packed estate clean out “old china” he spoke up:
            “My wife caught a woodchuck yesterday.”
            “Caught one?” I said.
            “In her heart trap.  Yep.”
            “Little bugger.”
            “Shoot it?”
            “Nope.  Wouldn’t let me.  I’d have to take it off (and release it).  Peanuts.  Caught it with peanuts.”
            “Peanuts?  That’s pretty good.”
            “Yep.  … Handful of peanuts.”
            “Where’d you take him?”
            “Well… That’s the SECOND one she’s CAUGHT.”
            “Got one last week the same:  Peanuts”.
            “You had to take that one off?”
            “Yep.”  Then a silent pause.  Then he says “This one she took off herself.  It was yesterday afternoon.  I weren’t home.  She put it (trap and chuck) in the car.  Took it off to the lake.  Figured no one would see her release it there.  Well… she GOT there, GOT the trap out, got the DOORS open but the damn thing wouldn’t GET OUT.  Beat on the trap:  Nothing.  Soooo she tries everything but it won’t GO.  So she puts the whole rig back in the car and figures to make me do it later.  But going home she see Ricky at his (hot dog) stand.  She fetches him.  He don’t believe it but sure enough he’s shown it.  He says OK but he don’t want the customers to see.  You know:  TOURISTS.  THEY’D want to PET IT.  So he whips that cage over behind the stand and HE opens it all up and the damn thing STILL just sits in there.  So Ricky’s look’en at it.  Then he goes and gets his HOSE.  Sprayed him:  That thing took RIGHT OFF.  THEN they had a good laugh.”

            “That’s pretty good.” I said.  “Bet that made Ricky’s day.”
            “Yep.  Must have.”  Pause.  “You remember last week; I sold you that little painting.”
            “Well, I’d just found that painting you know”.
            “I released that FIRST chuck just before I come down here with that painting.”
            “Where’d you release him?” I ask.
            “Well.  I took him down TOWARD the lake.  Yep.  Let him go.  You still got that little painting?
            “Yes.  Why?”
            “Well.  You see.  I mean.  You DON’T see until I TELL YOU that I tried to sell that painting first to THAT DOCTOR down by the lake.
            “Doctor by the lake?”
            “Yep. … HE’S DOWN there.  So I figured it’s a good enough painting and he’s always talking about buying PAINTINGS to me so I says let’s give THAT a TRY at four hundred.  So I do.  And he don’t buy NOTHING.  Don’t even LOOK.”
            “So then you brought it to me?”
            “Yep.  But before that I let the chuck go.”
            “That was nice of you.”
            “Well… not VERY nice.  See:  I went down TOWARD the lake but that Hurd Road runs off to the right just before the Doctor’s.  Its wooded and swings right back behind his place.  So I turned up there and let Mr. Chuck go on the back side of his place.  That’s because I knew his wife’s got that totally cared for garden of hers.  Puts everyone to shame with her no weeds ever showing off.  I figured Mr. Chuck would be right to home pretty quick”.
            “Why you… really?  That’s a terrorist attack.”
            “Yep.  Worked too.”
            “It did?”
            “That doctor come over last night and wanted me to come down because SOMETHING, he says, is EATING his wife’s GARDEN.  I laugh to myself but I go DOWN.  Oh my God I say.  Eating it.  There was nothing LEFT.  HE says to me WHAT IS IT.  I say LOOKS LIKE WOODCHUCK WUCKINS TO ME DOC.”
            “WOODCHUCK?” he says.
            “So I get home promising NOTHING but he’s looking to me to do SOMETHING.  Right?  And MEANWHILE he comes around in talk to that little painting.  Say he should have bought it after all.  “After all?” I say and tell him “I SOLD IT”.  So he says if I ever get it BACK bring it by”.
            “Now… last night I figured MAYBE for the four hundred over that one seventy-five I sold it to YOU for …we could go one twenty-five for you and one hundred for me.  And I could get out of this”.
            “Get out of WHAT?”
            “Well that woodchuck is gonna EAT the poor guy’s WHOLE GARDEN and it’s BECAUSE OF ME”.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How We Make Lobster Salad At Home In Maine

How We Make Lobster Salad

            In Maine, during High Summer, we eat a lot of lobster rolls and lobster salad that we make at home ourselves.  The high summer season is perfect for cool clean fresh lobster meat, cool crisp fresh salad and just a light touch of dressing.  We use no commercial mayo, no sugar and we make our dressings ourselves.  This post shows how we make our lobster salad.  Serves four.

            The classic Maine lobster salad rule we follow:

Lobster salad is lobster meat with salad.
It is not salad with lobster meat.

            We stopped at Day’s on the way home from Portland and purchased a pound of lobster meat.  Just north of Yarmouth on Route 1 paralleling the 295 highway, Day’s has superior “hand picked” fresh lobster meat always in stock.  They sell it at a separate counter away from the cook and served-to-eat counter so one may get in and out in under three minutes including no standing in line with “tourists”.  This last counts for a lot with year round residents during the summer season “people from away” “state invasion”.  Tourists rarely buy lobster meat so buying a full pound container ($33.00 today) pretty much declares your “local”.

Once home, we select a celery HEART, five carrots and half a red pepper.  I prefer a big leafy heart but today settle for a “sort of one”.  We hand peel and hand grate the carrots, thin slice the celery and red pepper.

Then we pick, shell and add some fresh garden peas.  We put all of these in a medium bowl.

We also have some cold blanched broccoli and asparagus available for garnish.  We keep these fresh made and on hand in the refrigerator during High Summer.

Next we prepare the lobster meat.

We arrange and review the meat on the cutting board. That's the arm meat at the upper left.  Claws upper right.  Six tails at the bottom.

We slice the meat on the board being sure to make varied sizes of meat chunks; small, large, stringy and cubed.  They don’t all have to be cut completely through.  Eaters delight in finding a couple of big chunky tail pieces “still hanging together”.

Add the meat to the bowl and toss.

Garnish and don’t do too good a job of that.  Remember - this is Maine.  Serve….

…with a dressing on the side.  Here we combine the juice of one lemon, twice as much apple cider vinegar, the same amount of best olive oil, a very little salt and “some” black pepper.  Stir with the ladle and add to taste.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Merrymeeting At Brown's Point

Merrymeeting At Brown’s Point

            “Twas just the STONEWARE they knew about.  Looked it up I guess.  LOOKED not very hard though because they FOUND it (got it for free).  THAT they’d hauled up.  The rest I went down after”.  Baxter had pushed his hat back and pushed his hand through his hair after setting the blue bird (robin) decorated stoneware crock on the barn floor.  I put it up on the table and took the photographs.  It’s not a maker’s name stamped at the top edge.  It’s a vender’s or proprietary stamp; appears to be “Kellogg  Boston”.  That’s how it came to Maine; on the train from Boston.  Full.  The maker (the pottery) was probably in Troy or Fort Edwards New York.  Possibly Bennington, Vermont.  Doesn’t matter because the robin is adorable.

            “First they say some sort of this and that.  So I say how come you sing song some crock to me at the (local downtown Bowdoinham country) store and when I come all the way out here you don’t know anything about it?”  Well …one goes to the other “SEE” and then out THAT comes so THERE I BE.  But I didn’t lean back.  Just stood.
            “That?  There it is?”  I say. 
            They look at each other.  “WE KNOW ITS GOOD.  It’s GOT THE BIRD!” they say
            “Oh.” I say and stand there silent.
            So it’s all silent.
            Then… they TWITCH and look at each other again.  And twitch again.
            So I say “WELL… HOW MUCH?
            They both look at me and one says “TWO HUNDRED FIFTY!”.
            SO… I PICK IT UP.
            “OK.” I say.
            They both look at me with their mouths open.  NOT ME; my mouth weren’t OPEN.  BUT I got that money OPEN.  All twenties and a ten.  They took it.

            “So I pick that crock up from the doorway and put it on the grass by my feet.  Then I say “WHERE’D you FIND IT?”
            “DOWN THERE.” one says and points.  I look past the end of her finger.  Nothing but BRUSH.  THEN I see a roof line.  Some building there; down by the water.
            “DOWN THERE?” I say.  “WHAT ELSE IT THERE?
            “Nothing but junk.”
            “Why don’t we go down there and LOOK at the junk.” I say.
            “IT’S JUNK” they say.
            “I BUY JUNK and PAY WITH THIS JUNK!” I say holding up the MONEY WAD.  Well they went to twitching and looking at each other so I say “LET’S GO”.  And we did.  OK?
            “Of course it HAD STUFF.  Some summer shed right on the bay.  Someone stayed there.  They’d STRIPPED the main house (the new owners had removed everything old from the old house)  Doing ALL KINDS of WORK.  Never touched that shed though.  One of ‘em FOUND that crock when they went out there to write POETRY or something.  So I KNOW that its junk to them.  So I say “I’ll buy some of this junk”.
            “Like what do you want?

            “That little table there four dollars” I say and pull the drawer.  Well you see what happened next; “MICE”.  Right?  Going all over the place.  So I say “OK ONLY TWO DOLLARS”
            “You said FOUR”.
            “But the mice”
            “So I give her four”. (The table, although rough and having the mice nest in the drawer is a splendid Maine country one drawer stand; all original with cut corners and a flaking light blue paint over the original old red paint.  Baxter knew all that as soon as he saw it). 

            “Then I bought the rest.  It was easy after the mice.  They didn’t touch anything at all.  I set the stuff outside as I bought it.  Those shutters are good early ones.  Must have come off the house.  Sticking them in that shed saved them”.  There was quite a bit more and the photographs give an idea of what some of it looked like.  Baxter and I did our business.  I asked him, in jest, if he wanted to keep the mouse nest.
            “It’s your problem now.” he said.