Several weeks ago, John Buell was looking around his grandfather's attic in Weston, W.Va., when he came upon a 5 foot by 7 foot painting covered in dust, and asked his grandmother about it. She said it had been in the attic since the 1930s, and said his great-great-grandfather painted it.
Buell contacted several art museums, and ended up calling Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, who specialize in the sale of valuable art.
Turns out, the painting that sold Nov. 20 through Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, for $334,600 was indeed painted by John Buell's great-great-grandfather, Henry Arthur McArdle. In 1901, depicting the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, and had been missing for nearly a century.
It was painted five years after McArdle painted a larger mural of the same scene that still hangs in the State Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol building today. Turns out a Texas art patron commissioned McArdle in 1901 to paint the 5 foot by 7 foot painting. But McArdle kept the work after the buyer failed to pay him the full price of $400. McArdle died in San Antonio, Texas, in 1908. and his widow (Lacy Dunnington) McArdle returned to her native Weston, W.Va., bringing with her the painting.
Researching the life of artist McArdle, I found he was born in Belfast, Ireland, on June 9, 1836. When his parents died, he came to America, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, to attend art school. After his first wife's death in 1871, McArdle married Lacy Dunnington from Weston, W.Va., with whom he had a daughter and four sons. In later years he suffered from financial hardships. Nineteen years after his death, the legislature of Texas paid to his heirs $25,000 for the painting of "Dawn at the Alamo" including the "Battle of San Jacinto," the original painting painted in 1898, not the alternate version found a few weeks ago in Weston, W.Va.
Thanks goes out to Heritage Auctions and John Buell for returning my phone calls to write this article.
Readers, in next week's column will be answering many of your letters. See you back here next week, you hear?
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life. Send letters to Treasure in the Attic, c/o The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane, Marietta 45750; or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. When writing, send a complete description of the item, along with size, color, any markings on the item along with condition the item is in, and how the item was obtained, and any other information. If possible, send a photograph. Letters will be answered through this column.