Treasures: Turner Sketch Lower in Value Because of Subjects

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have a Marjorie Turner pencil sketch. I know she was known for painting dogs, but this is a sketch of a girl and an older woman dated 1913. Paper is watermarked “M” and “France.” Can you suggest a value for this piece?

Thank you,

P. M.

Dear P. M.:

Sometimes it is difficult to answer questions such as this one because in this case, so little is known about the artist.

We have no idea where she worked or exactly when she was born or died, and that is very frustrating. We know she must have been working in 1913, but we also know that she was working much later because one of her iconic images features three dogs watching a television set (in an earlier version, other dogs were listening to a radio).

Turner is perhaps best known for her “Gallant and Dopey Pages From A Dog’s Scrap Book,” which was published in England by Raphael Tuck. It is a fairly hard-to-find book, but it is charming and shows the adventures of two dogs — a black Scottie named Dopey and a white Westie named Gallant. No publication date was given.

Right now, refrigerator magnets with images of Gallant and Dopey are available on the internet. Turner’s original works can be found in charcoal, chalk and watercolor. She is generally thought of as being an illustrator.

This drawn image of an old woman with a charming young girl is rather unusual for Turner, but does the unusualness of this non-dog or animal image mean that the particular piece in today’s question would be of more or less valuable to collectors? Unfortunately, the answer is a definite less.

At American and English auction companies, Turner’s work tends to bring between $170 and $950. Turner’s adorable animal images are her most desired subjects, but in general the art-buying public — if it is buying pictures of people — prefers pictures of young children. Mostly the preference is for young girls as opposed to representations of young boys.

Images of attractive young women and men follow in that order. Representations of older men come next in the value scale, with images of older women being last. We guess there are exceptions to this rule, such as “Whistler’s Mother,” but as a general principle for the scale of interest in artistic representation, this ranking works.

This week we visited an estate and the owner had lined up images of dour-looking older women. They were all relatives from the late 19th and early 20th century, but we passed on discussing these other than to say they have very little monetary value in the current marketplace. To be sure, a picture of great-grandmother wrapped in her shawl scowling out at the viewer has value as a piece of family history but little in the marketplace unless the artist was someone like James McNeil Whistler.

The drawing belonging to P. M. is pleasant and by a recognized artist, but its value is only in the $250 range because of the subject matter.

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