Ask A Worthologist Question: Charles M. Capps Etching/Aquatint


Ben T., while helping to clear out his aunt’s garage, found a small print he thought might be worth something. By using WorthPoint’s “Ask A Worthologist” service, He now knows it’s an etching or aquatint of a Charles M. Capps print.

Ben T., being the thoughtful and helpful nephew, has been helping his aunt go through all the stuff that has accumulated in her garage over the years. While “stuff” might be a generous term to most of the garage’s content, one item caught his eye. Not wanting to toss out something that might be valuable, Ben turned to WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service. The question was forwarded to me. Here is the question:

“I’ve been clearing out my aunt’s garage, helping her sort out what she calls it “the treasures from the trash.” Most of the stuff appears to be just trash, but seeing how valuable art appears to be turning up in the news a lot, I thought I’d get you to look at this print. It doesn’t look all that old, and is quite small, measures about 5 inches x 9 inches. As you can see, it’s picture of one of those old Kansas-style farm houses, it has a title “Night Silence” and signature Charles M. Capps that looks like pencil below the picture.”

I was able to identify the artist, who is quite well-known. Ben will have to have it authenticated in person, but this is what I was able to tell him: A very nice find, and though it’s not all that old, I’m glad it didn’t get tossed into the trash pile. Based on the images and the size your print, it is an Etching/Aquatint by Charles Capps (1898-1981), but you’ll have to have this piece physically examined to verify it is an original. As for the artist himself, Capps was born in Jacksonville, Ill., and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before moving to Wichita, Kan. He’s best known for his depictions of New Mexico, mainly the adobe architecture of Santa Fe and Taos. Capps, a member of the Prairie Printmakers Society, the Society of American Etchers and the Chicago Society of Etchers, was awarded prizes in 1941 and 1948 by the Library of Congress, which houses his some of his work. Other pieces by Capps are in the National Academy of Design, Swedish National Museum and the Carnegie Institute. Generally, his prints were runs in numbers of less than150—typically 75-100—signed and numbered in pencil. In total, Capps did about 80 different prints. This example, “Night Silence,” dates from 1934 and was part of an edition that ran 75 copies. Such prints would be numbered to indicate their place in the edition, e.g. 34 / 75. The fact it is not numbered could mean it was an “artist’s or printer’s proof.”*



In the current market, copies in this edition and others of similar vintage, subject matter and size by Capps list with galleries in the $1,500-$2,200 range. *The term “artist’s proof” is usually used to describe an impression of the finished print that is identical to the numbered copies. There can also be printer’s proofs which are run by the printer to see how the final image appears, or are copies the printer is allowed to keep. These are generally not included in the count of a limited edition; sometimes the number of proofs could number 10 or more in a small run of less than 100 prints. Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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