PORTLAND – Ruthie Tredwell has privately loved her Edward Hopper painting for a long time. By letting it go, she hopes to share her love with others.
The unsigned oil from Monhegan Island, “Tredwell’s Folly,” will be offered at auction Wednesday night in Portland. The painting shows Tredwell’s grandfather and another man discussing the seaworthiness of a dory at Fish Beach on the island.
Tredwell is selling it for personal reasons, and isn’t dwelling on the emotions associated with letting a treasure out of her hands.
“It’s really a material thing,” Tredwell said of the 8-by-10-inch oil on board. “Maybe it will go to a wonderful place where people can enjoy it.”
The painting has hung in the Tredwell island home since Hopper painted it in 1919, as a gift to Tredwell’s grandfather. Hopper gave Doc Tredwell the painting in return for medical services. It has been seen only by family members and visitors.
Tredwell, who lives in Hampton, N.H., sold the island home last year, and now is offering the painting.
Rob Elowitch of Portland-based Barridoff Galleries said “Tredwell’s Folly” should command $200,000 to $300,000.
“It’s important because new Hoppers do not show up every day,” said Elowitch, who admitted his skepticism when Tredwell contacted him.
“One day she called me and said, ‘I am bringing in a Hopper.’ I said, ‘Well, sure.’ “
But the painting checked out. Elowitch said he confirmed its authenticity with several Hopper scholars, and Tredwell said there is no doubt that it’s the real thing.
“Hopper handed it to my grandfather in 1919, and it was hung in the house ever since,” she said.
While it is unusual to see Hopper art available at auction, it isn’t rare. In September, Christie’s auction house announced that it would offer a finished Hopper oil in November, with a presale estimate of $8 million to $12 million.
The most expensive sale of a Hopper oil painting at auction came in 2006, when Sotheby’s sold “Hotel Window” for $26.8 million.
It’s not uncommon for artists to leave their work unsigned, especially a small oil sketch like “Tredwell’s Folly.”
Hopper spent four summers on Monhegan, and made dozens of small plein-air sketches and paintings. Some were quick studies and others were finished works.
This one appears to be a quick rendering, with thick, gooey oil brush strokes.
Bowdoin College exhibited 30 of Hopper’s finished Monhegan paintings two summers ago. Many were unsigned.
Hopper spent nine summers in Maine over 16 years, from 1914 to 1929. He started in Ogunquit, went to Monhegan, then worked his way around the southern and midcoast, painting in Rockland, Cape Elizabeth, Portland and the Pemaquid peninsula.
Beginning in 1930, Hopper moved his concentration south to Cape Cod.
He became one of America’s most loved painters, and is best known for his 1942 painting “Nighthawks,” which shows customers sitting at an all-night diner.
He died in 1967.
The subject of the painting that’s up for auction gave it its name. Dr. Alonzo Tredwell bought land at Lobster Cove on Monhegan in 1907. The next year, the New York City doctor commissioned a local builder, Will Stanley, to construct a house. Stanley built a solid house, and it was named “Four Winds” as a nod to its ability to withstand high winds.
According to family legend, the builder was less successful at building boats, Ruthie Tredwell said. In 1919, Doc Tredwell commissioned Stanley to build a fishing dory. Hopper captured a scene in which the doctor and the builder debated its seaworthiness, with both men leaning into and over the boat.
Ruthie Tredwell never knew her grandfather. He died before she was born. Her grandmother gave her the paintings as a gift many years ago, she said.
Also up for auction Wednesday is a trove of oil paintings, sketches and watercolors by the Boston-born painter Edwin Lord Weeks, who traveled the world and painted exotic scenes. One of the paintings, “Along the Ghats, Mathura,” has been in the collection of the Portland Public Library since it came as a gift from the late Gov. Percival Baxter in honor of his father, James Phinney Baxter.
The painting has hung in a library office for many years, said library director Steve Podgajny.
The Weeks painting could fetch $40,000 to $60,000, Elowitch said. The library will use money to create a fund in honor of James Phinney Baxter to care for and enhance its collection.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: