Monday, March 25, 2013

Key West Watercolors mystery

"Key West Watercolors - Back street", unknown, 12" x16", watercolor on rag paper

    This was a $10 thrift shop find. I had forgotten to take my jeweler's loupe with me that day and was convinced that I would find this was a print, at best maybe a very good quality lithograph, when I got it home. It is in a good quality 20 x 16 wood frame, deep enough to accommodate a canvas, so figured it was a good purchase. I was amazed to discover that it a was an exceptionally well executed watercolor on high quality rag paper, and probably about 50-60 years old. There was a framing shop stamp, verso, that dates the painting to the 1950s. The framer, Helen Ritter appears in several Peoria, Il city directories during the 1950s and the 5 digit telephone number in the stamp supports this date range. The two girls in the image appear to be holding a hula hoop, which was "invented" in 1958 and became a huge fad in 1958 and 1959. There are few other clues, though, as this painting is not signed. There is a lightly pencilled notation in the lower right corner of the painting that appears to be 144, or possibly the initials of the artist. The back of the mat bears the notation "Key West Watercolors Back street". My guess would be that the title of the painting is "Back street", but I am not sure what the significance of "Key West Watercolors" is, besides perhaps indicating that this is the location of the scene. This is obviously the work of a talented artist, but as it is solidly glued to the mounting, if there is any more information verso, we will never know. It may be that the framer copied information from the back of the painting to the mat, prior to laying the painting down. The mat was also glued to the backing and a bit of the mat stuck to the painting when I separated them. Any help in identifying this artist is appreciated.