On an otherwise non-noteworthy trip into a flea market in 1986, a man’s attention was drawn quickly to a large work on paper. The painting’s bold, rhythmic lines showed a river in unusual colors.
He didn’t recognize it, or know the name of the artist – he just knew he liked it. The asking price was just $5, so he bought it. That small purchase turned into a gift for his mother, after which he forgot about the painting altogether.
When his mother died three decades later, he rediscovered his gift while sorting through her personal effects. The artwork was tucked into a cache of paintings, luckily still in good condition.
Alexandre Hogue (American, 1898-1994)
Pastel and watercolor on paper
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
Thirty years makes a big difference. When he purchased the painting, his best recourse to learn about it was to ask someone at the flea market, or if really ambitious, he could have taken his purchase to a museum or art school to learn more to learn more about the painting or about the artist, Alexandre Hogue. Now, of course, the internet changes everything. A quick internet search using the artists name led him to Heritage Auctions, which broke the world auction record for Hogue’s Glen Rose, 1926, an oil-on-canvas from one of the most important periods of the artist’s career that sold for $78,125 in 2017. Not knowing that his flea market find had any value, he was understandably thrilled to learn that it likely would sell for $10,000 or more – not a bad return on a $5 investment in a gift for Mom.
His research and consultation with Heritage Auctions experts revealed that he was in possession of a painting from the period during which Hogue was exploring what he called “Abstract Realism.” He believed that naturalism or true realism is not possible, that by attempting to create a realistic landscape, artists naturally change reality to fit their notions, their interpretations of the subjects. Instead of trying to capture the river as it appeared to his “outer eye,” Hogue has used formal abstraction, undulating lines, dynamic composition and unusual colors to depict this river as he saw it with his “inner eye.”
Hogue’s untitled painting, which was found 32 years ago in an Oklahoma flea market, will be among the most intriguing lots in Heritage Auctions’ Texas Art auction Nov. 10 in Dallas.