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November 21, 2003
Antiques and The Arts Weekly
PBS Series “Find!” Uncovers Long-Lost Masterpiece by Martin Johnson Heade

AMESBURY – When antiques experts Leigh and Leslie Keno went to off to Boston to film an episode of their weekly PBS series Find!, they had no idea what was in store for them.

In the first segment of the show Leigh and Leslie visited a modest home in the Arlington Heights section outside of Boston. Tipped off by local appraiser and auctioneer John McInnis, the twins were overwhelmed by this veritable treasure trove of antiques and collectibles – everything from a yellow ware bowl valued at $200 to a pair of early – 19th century painted fire buckets valued at between $3,000 and $5,000, to a mid – 19th century rocking horse valued at $800 to $1,200. The biggest find, however, was the discovery of a landscape painting by Martin Johnson Heade, considered to be one of the great American painters of the 19th century. Tucked away in an attic with its face to the wall for the last 60-plus years, the painting is valued at several hundred thousand dollars. During the episode, which is scheduled to air in December on PBS, the twins take the painting to Ted Stebbins, Jr., the preeminent authority on Heade, who has himself identified hundreds of works by the artist. Head of American Art at the Fogg Museum at Harvard and author of several books on Heade, Stebbins was surely the man to authenticate the extraordinary piece. After removing the frame and uncovering the signature “MJ Heade,” Stebbins informed the Kenos that they had found a rare work; one that Stebbins didn’t even know existed. The painting, a classic Heade, depicts a southern river landscape at sunset. But what makes it quite special is the presence of a beautiful small sailing vessel with figures in the foreground. The painting measures 12 x 26 inches and retains its original Nineteenth Century gilt frame. The next scene finds the Kenos and McInnis in the home of the painting’s current owner, completely unaware of the painting’s tremendous value and totally shocked by the results of the Kenos investigation. McInnis will auction off the painting on Sunday, December 7, at his Amesbury Auction House at 11 am. The Find! Crew will be on hand to film the results of the auction for a segment that will air sometime in January. Leigh Keno said, “I’ve known John McInnis for years and have been a client of his at prior auctions, so when we got the call, I knew we had to visit this home. From the start, we dreamed of a discovery like this one and from the moment we realized that we had a special piece until the time that we informed the owner of the painting’s value, it’s just been an absolute thrill.” Leslie Keno added, “We couldn’t have written a better script for our show than what occurred outside of Boston.” From the minute we walked in the door, we realized that we had entered a treasure trove of special collectibles, but couldn’t have imagined that we would have found a work by such a preeminent artist.” Licensed as an auctioneer at the age of 18, McInnis comes from a family of collectors. His father, at age 87 still buys and sells antiques in Florida, and his brother Paul and sister Maureen run auction houses in New Hampshire and Maine, respectively. “Discovering this painting was extremely satisfying,” McInnis said. “And having Leigh and Leslie and the team from Find! there to witness this went was just the icing on the cake.” Practically unknown in his own day Heade (1810-1904) today is widely recognized as one of the greatest American romantic painters, and is unique in having been equally able as a landscape artist and as a master of the floral still life.

With a career that spanned almost 70 years, Heade produced perhaps the most varied body of work of any American painter of the Nineteenth Century. He captured the beauty of nature from Massachusetts coastline to the depths of the Brazilian jungle. Yet in his own lifetime, he was not considered a major artist, and following his death in 1904, he was nearly forgotten. It was not until 1943, with the rediscovery of Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay (1868), that the inventive and prolific artist once again became collected and studied. The December 7 auction at the galleries of John McInnis Auctioneers will also include Chippendale, Queen Anne and Federal period furniture, estate Oriental carpets, centennial, custom and Continental period furniture, a selection of clocks, a collection of 50 eighteenth and Nineteenth Century continental and China Trade fans, paintings,, prints, watercolors, etchings, drawings, estate jewelry, dolls, Art Nouveau period pieces, Tiffany items, sterling silver and sets of leather bound books. In the first segment of the show Leigh and Leslie visited a modest home in the Arlington Heights section outside of Boston. Tipped off by local appraiser and auctioneer John McInnis, the twins were overwhelmed by this veritable treasure trove of antiques and collectibles – everything from a yellow ware bowl valued at $200 to a pair of early – 19th century painted fire buckets valued at between $3,000 and $5,000, to a mid – 19th century rocking horse valued at $800 to $1,200. The biggest find, however, was the discovery of a landscape painting by Martin Johnson Heade, considered to be one of the great American painters of the 19th century. Tucked away in an attic with its face to the wall for the last 60-plus years, the painting is valued at several hundred thousand dollars.

During the episode, the Kenos took the painting to Ted Stebbins, Jr., the

preeminent authority on Heade, who ahs himself identified hundreds of works by the artist. Director of American Art at the Fogg Museum at Harvard and author of several books on Heade, Stebbins was surely the man to authenticate the extraordinary piece. After removing the frame and informed uncovering the signature MJ Heade, Stebbins informed the Kenos that they had found a rare work; one that Stebbins didn’t even know existed. The painting, a classic Heade, depicts a southern river landscape at sunset, but what makes it quite special is the presence of a beautiful small sailing vessel with figures in the foreground. The painting measures 12” x 26” and next scene finds the Kenos and McInnis in the home of the painting’s current owner, completely unaware of the painting’s tremendous value and totally shocked by the results of the Kenos investigation. The painting was auctioned off on December 7 at John McInnis’ Amesbury Auction House in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and sold for just over $1 million to a New York City gallery owner who was bidding for a private collector. Leigh Keno said, “I’ve known John McInnis for years and have been a client of his at prior auctions, so when we got the call, I knew we had to visit this home. From the start, we dreamed of a discovery like this one and from the moment we realized that we had a special piece until the time that we informed the owner of the painting’s value, it’s just been an absolute thrill.” Leslie Keno added, “We couldn’t have written a better script for our show than what occurred outside of Boston.” Practically unknown in his own day Heade (1810-1904) today is widely recognized as one of the greatest American romantic painters, and is unique in having been equally able as a landscape artist and as a master fo the floral still life. With a career that he captured the beauty of nature, from the Massachusetts coastline to the depths of the Brazilian jungle. Yet in his own lifetime, he was not considered a major artist, and following his death in 1904, he was nearly forgotten. It was not until 1943, with the rediscovery of Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay (1868), that the inventive and prolific artist once again became collected and studied. Find!, a new series celebrating the world of design, style, antiques and furnishings, is a production of Find Productions, Inc., an affiliate of Time4 Media and a subsidiary of Time Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. Russell Morash, who has yet to find anything valuable in his attic, is executive producer and director of the series Find! Is distributed to PBS by WGBH Boston. For more information about this program on the internet, go to www.find-tv.com
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