As curator at GMHS I have been compiling a complete Melchers database for years, 38 to be precise. Over 1650 individual items have been catalogued, everything from thumbnail sketches to major easel paintings. Just when I think I’ve identified everything of the artist’s output, new works surface. This spring has been no different.
May saw the sale at Hindman Auctions (Chicago) of a 14 x 18-inch watercolor entitled St. Lucia, circa 1928, housed in its original Whistler-style frame, a painting previously unknown to me. It is a lovely near-duplicate of another Melchers view of that Caribbean island gifted by the artist’s widow with the rest of the Belmont collection. The presale estimate for the Hindman example was given at $2,000 to $3,000, and, not surprisingly, the breezy, jewel-toned landscape sold at over $11,000.
The Stevedore, an oil painting measuring 33 x 21 inches and painted about 1906, has just come to light. It is a classic Melchers character or vocational portrait that has been missing for decades, quietly passing down through the descendants of an important Michigan family.
The model for the portrait was a favorite of Melchers, Albert Wijker, a native of Egmond aan Zee, Holland, a North Sea fishing village where the artist drew much of his greatest inspiration.
The owner is considering the painting for the auction block.