Photos courtesy Anne Childs
Anne Childs of Little Rock, Arkansas, is a talented and popular contemporary folk artist. Her watercolors—done in a folky Americana style—are so good that unscrupulous people have removed her signature monogram and put her work in the marketplace, leaving no indication that it is new work and not antique.
Childs’s most recent discovery of her work in the antiques marketplace in August was by accident.
“I was at New Hampshire Antiques Week shopping, and we were standing in line to go into the main show on Thursday [the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association show],” said Childs. “There were complimentary magazines, and I was glancing through Antiques and Fine Art, and there it was in an ad.”
This eagle with flag banners was painted by Childs in 2011. Here it shows her signature, which was removed before the work reentered the marketplace.
“It” was an approximately 9" x 6" watercolor painting of an eagle with American flag banners, faux-dated 1835, that appeared in the half-page color ad for Peggy McClard of Weare, New Hampshire.
After shopping the NHADA show, Childs went to the nearby Antiques In Manchester show, headed to McClard’s booth, and asked to see the painting. McClard was not in attendance, and Childs was told that the eagle painting had sold from the ad before the show.
This faux-dated 1810 painting of a man and horse had its signature removed and was consigned to Freeman’s in 2012.
A piece in Childs’s personal collection that she based the eagle painting on.
“I have some bad news for you. I painted that,” Childs told McClard’s husband. Her signature was missing from the eagle painting, which was painted on an old book cover.
McClard has fully refunded the buyer’s money, paid for shipping both ways, and reimbursed the collector for his framing costs.
“I called the fellow and told him that it was new and that someone had scratched off her signature,” McClard said. “I gave him his money back, and I got it back. I’m going to use it as a teaching tool now.”
“It looked good to me,” said McClard. “It was glued to paper on the inside cover, and you can’t see the back. You can’t see if there’s ghosting or paint has run through. It’s on old paper.” McClard had bought the eagle from the estate of a dealer friend.
Childs said she painted the eagle in 2011 and sold it, along with two other paintings, to a North Carolina dealer at the Fiddler’s show in Nashville, Tennessee. The paintings were all unframed and all on book covers. She sold the eagle for $95.
In 2012 Childs found out that one of the paintings she had sold in Nashville—a painting of a man and a horse—was sold at Freeman’s in Philadelphia. Looking at the online image, she noticed that her signature had been removed from the painting. “I knew immediately it was mine. It was inspired by something [of the period] but still very different,” she said.
The 4¼" x 7" fraktur drawing, faux-dated 1810, sold at Freeman’s on November 14, 2012. Like the eagle that ended up with Peggy McClard, the fraktur drawing was affixed to old heavy paper board. Estimated at $800/1200, it sold for $1125.
When Freeman’s became aware that the drawing wasn’t old, the sale was promptly canceled, and the funds were returned to the winning bidder, said Lynda Cain, head of Americana at Freeman’s. “It was incredibly appealing,” she said.
A third example of Childs’s work in the marketplace—this time with her signature intact—occurred in February 2011 when auctioneer Ken Farmer offered a folky watercolor on board of Adam and Eve.
Childs, however, intervened before the sale.
“It was a coincidence that we were in Virginia” when the Farmer sale was scheduled, Childs said. She said she was set up at a show, and a man entered her booth and asked her where she copied her mark from. Her mark is a little inkwell with her initials. “I told him I made up the mark,” she said.
The man told her that there was auction the next day in Radford and that Farmer was offering a painting with that same mark. “He said, ‘They are all excited about it because they think they have discovered a fresh-to-the-market mark that they have never seen before,’” Childs recalled. “It so happened we were going by Radford, so we stopped before the auction took place.
“I told Ken Farmer about it, and he was such a gentleman and so nice. He was disappointed because he had absentee bids on it. He asked me to stay and introduced me at the auction. He said there were a lot of people there to bid on it, and he didn’t want them to think he pulled it from the sale for no good reason.”
This painting of Adam and Eve was scheduled to be sold by Ken Farmer in 2011 when Childs intervened.
Childs’s signature in the Adam and Eve painting.
Farmer had estimated the Adam and Eve piece at $400/1200. He withdrew it from the sale. “If I had it estimated that low,” said Farmer, “it must have given me the willies.”
When Childs had sold the Adam and Eve, it was in a frame. The frame had been removed when it was offered to Ken Farmer.
Walter C. Newman covered the Farmer sale for M.A.D. In the May 2011 issue he wrote, “Childs stated that she could not recall when or to whom she had sold this particular painting, since she creates many items that are very similar. She was certain, however, that when this one was sold, it was in a frame. She added that her folk art work is a craft, and that she does not attempt to deceive anyone as to the age of the watercolors.”
“I don’t want people to get fooled,” Childs recently said. “The whole reason I started this was so I could have that kind of thing in my home. Then I started mixing them in with my antiques. I would take them to shows and was very clear about what they were. I have a lot of people who collect my work. It’s a pleasure to meet the people, and it’s been fun. It’s a big thrill to know somebody wants to hang something on their wall that you made.”
There are plenty of Childs’s artworks out there. She did a show in Zoar, Ohio, this summer and sold 62 works. “I’ve been painting like this for a long time, and I’ve sold a lot of paintings,” she said, noting that she has sold about 1700 since she began.
“I sign each one of them, but I paint them on old paper and frame them in antique frames—with the only intention of fooling the eye,” said Childs. “I do my signature in permanent ink, and I usually use old paper, which is thick and you can get through it, if you’re real careful about it.”
“Most of the pieces I frame. I sign the painting, but I also sign the back of the frame and date it. Sometimes I sign the back of the work, but in the case of the one [Peggy McClard] bought that’s impossible because I don’t want to mess up the leather,” she said.
When asked what people could do to help identify her work, Childs said, “When they sand it [to remove the signature], I think you could look for a little whiter area” on the paper, which she sometimes artificially ages. She stated that she always signs her name in the lower right corner.
Childs has a photographic record of all her work sold over the years. “If people are in doubt, they can e-mail me,” she said. She may be reached via e-mail at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Other examples of Child's work.
Childs’s signature—an inkwell with her initials—has been removed from some of her works.
Originally published in the December 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest