Ramona by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945): A frontispiece illustration (Señora Gonzaga Moreno and Ramona) BONHAMS SKINNER

A thrift store gem: Woman buys lost masterpiece for $4, later sells at auction for $191,000

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In an extraordinary story of serendipity, a woman in New Hampshire stumbled upon a forgotten treasure when she purchased a Newell Convers Wyeth painting in the mundane aisles of a Savers thrift store in Manchester, New Hampshire. For a modest $4, she purchased a masterpiece that would spend years hanging on bedroom walls and in closet corners. Unbeknownst to her, the canvas whispered the creative echoes of Newell Convers Wyeth, a celebrated artist and illustrator. The rediscovered artwork, which was expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000, just sold for $191,000 at a Bonhams Skinner auction.

The painting, a rich tableau proposed as an illustration for Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1939 novel “Ramona,” survived years of oblivion. Its profound rediscovery was fueled by a spark of curiosity and a Facebook post that reached out to the network of art enthusiasts and experts. The virtual corridors of social media resonated with suggestions and guidance, directing the owner to art connoisseurs and curators specializing in Wyeth’s oeuvre. She was quickly referred to the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, as well as a conservator, who drove three hours just to see the painting in person.

Through a cascade of expert eyes and analysis, the painting began to reveal its authentic aura. Despite the wear and tear of time, minor scratches, and a subtle mantle of dust, the work showed remarkable resilience and preservation. Wyeth’s artistic essence resonated through vibrant colors and striking compositions, telling a powerful story beyond mere brushstrokes and pigment.

The painting encapsulates a tense moment from “Ramona,” reflecting the turbulence of racial complications and societal ills. Wyeth’s mastery unfolds through the powerful use of light and shadow, capturing the deep emotional currents and historical atmosphere of the narrative. A once-lost masterpiece, the painting now echoes the quiet journeys and transitions across decades, ready to embrace the warmth of the spotlight in the esteemed galleries of Bonhams Skinner.

A chronological puzzle accompanies the work, tracing the shadows of an 80-year odyssey from illustrious studios to anonymous thrift store walls. Wyeth’s signature, subtly woven into the canvas’s visual narrative, carries tales of historical passage, artistic vision, and inadvertent hibernation, culminating in a breathtaking revelation.

This story will now join other similar stories of garage sale finds purchased for a few dollars that later turned out to be worth millions, documented in our article Antiques Worth Millions: 9 Masterpieces Found at Flea Markets.