Treasures: Gruppe painting is a gem


Dear Helaine and Joe:

I live in the middle of Iowa where there is no appraiser anywhere near my vicinity, so I hope you will be able to assist me. I am looking for some information about a marine oil painting signed in the lower right “Chas. P. Gruppe.” It is in the original gold frame and the size of the painting is 35 1/2-by-41 1/2 inches. We think this painting was probably purchased by my husband’s grandparents in the 1920s or ’30s. Hope you are able to help.

Thank you,

Dear A. N.:

This is certainly a dramatic painting! Some may even find the heaving ocean a bit stomach-churning.

Today, the internet can tell collectors a lot about what they own, but it can also lead them down a rabbit hole into a maelstrom of misinformation. It really helps to have a little experience interpreting information gathered online, and always remember to look for a second source to act as confirmation.

Charles Paul Gruppe was born on Sept. 3, 1860, in Picton, Ontario, Canada. His father, Henry W. Gruppe, died when Charles was 3 years old and his mother, Albertina, moved Charles and his brother and sister to Rochester, New York. Gruppe was a self-taught artist and somewhat of a prodigy when at age 12 he became one of the founders of the Rochester Art Club.

In 1897, Gruppe moved his wife and family to the Netherlands, where he worked with the Hague School and also worked as a dealer, selling paintings by Dutch artists in the United States. The Gruppe family returned to New York City in 1913 just before the outbreak of World War I.

Back in New York, Gruppe joined a number of prestigious art clubs, including the American Watercolor Society, the National Arts Club, the New York Color Club, the Philadelphia Art Club and the interestingly named Salmagundi Club, which began its existence as the New York Sketch Class (later the New York Sketch Club).

Other than Gruppe, the Salmagundi Club included such members as N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Louis Comfort Tiffany. It was founded in 1871, and many say its name was taken from a kind of hodgepodge stew that was often served to the members in the club’s early days. But it is really from a French word for “a desperate assembly of ideas, things or people.”

Gruppe had four children, all of whom were in the arts – one a cellist, another a sculptor, another a watercolorist. His son Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978) was also an artist who specialized in coastal and marine paintings like his father. Emile Gruppe was a member of the Cape Ann (Massachusetts) school of artists, and his work can bring strong prices.

A.N. might be interested in knowing she owns a piece by an artist whose work can be found in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the Detroit Institute of Art, among others. Charles Gruppe’s paintings usually sell for between $5,000 and $15,000, and his most desired works feature boats, boatyards, wharves and people.

In our opinion, the painting in today’s question should be insured for $7,500.

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