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Friday, October 31, 2014

Can I get information about an artist?

“I inherited a Chandler pastel painting. Could you give me more information on the artist?”

Our first step was to find out the artist’s full name. Searching “Chandler pastel artist” in an online search engine brought up Timothy Osha’s Pastel Masters website, which has a section devoted to Chandler and his works. Along with an online gallery showcasing Chandler’s paintings, Pastel Masters also provided a brief biography. The artist’s full name is William Henry Chandler and he lived from 1854 to 1928. He’s known as an extremely prolific pastel artist and, as such, his work tends to vary dramatically in quality. The article also mentioned that Chandler was featured in the book The Power of Pastels, but it seemed to be long out of print and, unfortunately, wasn’t available through any library we could find.

We weren’t able to find William Henry Chandler in any of the reference books we checked, but we were able to turn up a little more information online. The Butler Institute of American Art gave a short biography going a little deeper into his personal life. Chandler grew up in New Jersey where he suffered a hunting injury that left him with a permanent limp. He moved to Chicago to work as a cameo engraver in the button industry, and it was in Chicago that he met his wife. They had three daughters together. Sadly, though, the youngest died when she was only a few months old, and Chandler’s wife died soon after, so he returned to New Jersey to raise his daughters with the help of his sister.

While the Butler Art Institute covered his personal life, appraiser Mike Wilcox wrote an article for WorthPoint that fleshed out Chandler’s professional life a little more. According to the article, in 1887, William Henry Chandler and his brother Frank Chandler established W.H. Chandler and Co. in Manhattan. The company produced decorative art to be sold through gift shops, art dealers, and department stores, but unlike similar companies (such as Currier & Ives), they didn’t rely on mass production. Instead, they had a loft with up to twenty easels set up and artists working on several paintings at a time. Landscapes are the most common Chandler pieces, followed by still-lifes and hunting scenes, with seascapes as the rarest.

Price It!, the library’s database for estimating the values of antiques and collectibles, lists Chandler paintings as having sold for anywhere from thirteen to one thousand dollars. Such a large range makes it difficult to estimate how much something is worth, but fortunately our patron had the name and contact information of a professional appraiser who could price her painting accurately for her.

If you’d like to see a Chandler painting in person, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown has Scene in the Adirondacks in its collection.

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