Stanford Fine Art
6608-A Hwy. 100
Hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon-Sat.
For information, call 352-5050
It happens almost every week on Antiques Roadshow. Someone shows up with a painting they picked up at a yard sale for a few dollars, and it turns out to be worth a bundleeven though most viewers have never heard of the artist. In reality, such yard sale bonanzas are rare. “I get five or six calls a week from people who want to find out if a painting is worth something,” says Stan Mabry, owner of Stanford Fine Art. “Most of the calls turn out to be nothingeither the work is actually a print rather than an original, or it’s not by an artist whose work is valuable.”
Mabry has been dealing in works of considerable value at his Nashville gallery for more than 15 years. Though he hesitates to use the term “investment-quality art,” he admits most of the art he handles is likely to increase in value. “That’s because my artists are listed in reference books, have exhibited at major museums and galleriesand are deceased,” Mabry says. Stanford Fine Art specializes in works by American Impressionists, many of whom are the sort of artists you’d expect to hear mentioned on Antiques Roadshow. In other words, you’ve probably never heard of them.
Take Ben Foster (1852-1926), for example. Hardly a household name, yet the Maine artist’s paintings hang in major museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Parthenon’s Cowan Collection. A Maine seascape by Foster is included in the summer exhibition at Stanford Fine Art. “We try to do seasonal shows,” says Mabry. “So in the summer we feature seascapes like Foster’s or ‘Summer Fishing’ by Hilda Fearon, a British artist.” Fearon (1878-1917) is known among collectors for her lovely Impressionistic depictions of ladies at leisuresome of which are included in such prestigious museum collections as the Tate in London. Also in Stanford’s summer show is a beach scene by Frederic Grant (1886-1959), an Iowa-born artist who studied with William Merritt Chase, the influential American teacher and artist.
“Impressionism seems to be the bulk of my business, but I don’t want to pigeonhole the gallery as strictly late 1800s and early 1900s art,” Mabry says. To that end, he has recently broadened his offerings to include abstract art by living Nashville painter Anton Weiss, who studied with the late German artist and teacher Hans Hofmann, and works by key Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas (1898-1979), whose murals grace Fisk University’s administrative building. “This past spring we showed a prototype for one of the murals and also works from his ‘Emperor Jones’ print series,” says Mabry. The gallery also occasionally hosts shows for local and regional artists, including the Cumberland Society, a group of Nashville artists who paint in Impressionist and other traditional styles.
This summer, when Cheekwood presents “A Century of Progress: 20th Century Painting in Tennessee,” with works by 50 artists who painted in Tennessee during the past 100 years, Mabry’s gallery will present a small exhibition of works by some of the same artists. The difference, of course, is that viewers will be able to purchase the paintings at Stanford Fine Art. “We’ll have pieces by artists like Gilbert Gaul and Willie Betty Newman,” Mabry says. Gaul (1855-1919) is best known for his Civil War and frontier genre paintings, which hang in the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. Newman (1863-1935) is the Nashville Impressionist just accorded her first major retrospective at the Parthenon this spring. The Cheekwood show opens July 13, with the Stanford show of Tennessee artists opening at about the same time.
A North Carolina native, Mabry headed to New York City to work at Sotheby’s 23 years ago after earning a degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina. Art connections brought him to Nashville, and he decided to stay and open Stanford Fine Arts in 1987. The gallery moved from its original location on Woodmont Boulevard to its current location on Highway 100 two years ago.
Though the market for American Impressionism and other 19th and early 20th century American art has been consistently strong for years, Mabry has noticed a few new trends recently. “For whatever reasons, people are interested in more expensive paintings lately, perhaps as a reaction to the uncertainty of investing in the stock market. It’s also interesting how things have changed because people now have access to art information on the Internet,” he says. “Most people don’t come in blindly anymore.” Still, there is the occasional Antiques Roadshow experience, even for Mabry. “A couple came into the gallery this spring with a little Dutch genre painting they had been given by someone whose barn they had cleaned,” he recalls. “I looked it up on the computer, and it turned out to be worth about $3,000.”
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Wonderful! We're hoping Knoxville puts something like this together, too. It's a fantastic concept!!