We champion the forgotten artist or, the one with no name at all. Anonymous works found at a tag sale and those with undecipherable signatures. What is art, if not in the eye of the beholder?

While the price for major name artists continues to soar, we love finding works that are compelling even if they aren’t signed Warhol or Hirst.

“What strip mining is to nature, the art market has become to culture.”

“What strip mining is to nature, the art market has become to culture,” wrote art critic Robert Hughes, and he has a point. The art market has become more like the stock market, a game of names that hopefully will deliver both cachet and dividends to those able to buy a so-called masterpiece.

At top, a painting by the secretly prolific artist Eric Tucker. Below, a drawing by Egon Schiele which was discovered in a New York thrift shop.

We are always on the hunt for artwork that speaks to us–even if the artist can’t because he’s dead and never signed his work —
or signed it so illegibly that he is de facto, anonymous.

But does that make the work worthless?Does art have to have a pedigree?

That’s really up to you. Throughout the ages there have been many artists who didn’t sign some of their work
for a variety of reasons. Some may have regarded a piece as “unfinished,” or simply had no intention of ever exhibiting it.

There are literally thousands of artworks which are undervalued or overlooked. We’ve seen works sell at auction for far more than their true value simply because the subject matter or technique made it exceptional, regardless of whether the artist ever had a gallery.  We think it’s kind of fantastic because it shows that talent matters so much more than a name. And sometimes talent is but a brief moment in an artist’s life.

Then again, there are those freak incidences where a masterpiece is forgotten somewhere in the back of someone’s kitchen.

Found in the back of a French woman’s kitchen, The Mocking of Christ by Cimabue was painted in 1280.

An early renaissance painting found in la cuisine of a house in France was recently identified to be a work of an artist named Cimabue, however he did not sign the work. Its estimated value?  $39 Million.

Then there’s British artist Eric Tucker, who painted over 400 works in complete obscurity–even his family had no idea. His house had stacks of paintings everywhere. It was only after he died at 86 that his paintings were discovered and he became a critical success.

Like everything, art goes in and out of fashion, and what was let go for $5.00 at a garage sale suddenly becomes retro-cool and worth far more.

At top, a typical work by Bernard Buffet, who’s 1950’s style became practically a cliché of the Paris landscape genre. Below, an abstract painting for sale at Fonfrège.com.

When Midcentury Modernism began its crescendo of obsession in the mid-1990s, certain works by unknown artists began selling at higher and higher prices simply because they reflected the style of the period.

Bernard Buffet for instance, was a wildly popular artist of the 1950’s whose work was so successful that it was reproduced in a variety of reproduction formats. This in turn led to other artists copying his distinctive style of painting. Now, when one sees this style it is not only instantly recognizable as “Buffet” but as typically midcentury.

Our aim with Gallerie 1791 is not just to offer artwork that is fashionable but works we think have artistic merit even if we know little or nothing about the artist. What really matters is that their work can be appreciated for their unique talent and ability to express themselves–without ever expecting to be recognized.

Feature Photo: A painting by Regis de Bouvier du Cachard. Coming soon to Fonfrège.com