Louis Icart was a prolific artist who enjoyed great popularity during his lifetime. He was not the typical starving artist. His popularity was greatest in the 1920s and 1930s, during which time he came to the US to promote his works. Wanamakers, the Philadelphia department store, was a major outlet for many of his sales. For one special promotion, Icart drew one very large pastel of a woman for every window in the store, going all around the block. Those drawings are still available, but difficult to find.
Icart was most famous for his etchings, but he worked in several different mediums, including pastel, watercolor and oil. Before the big runup of prices in all things Icart during the Japanese buying frenzy of the late 1980s, original oil paintings by Icart were available for the price of a good etching, in the range of $3-5,000. Very little was written about his oil paintings and Americans (and most of the rest of the world) didn’t seem to be very interested in them. The Japanese recognized the opportunity and bought them with zeal. After all, paintings are one of a kind, hand-painted by the artist, whereas etchings are limited edition, hand-signed by the artist. The prices of Icart’s oil paintings zoomed up in price and within just a few years prices reached $250,000 for the biggest and the best. Even standard size 13″ x 16″ paintings were selling for $40,000 each at the peak in 1989. When the real estate boom ended in Japan in 1990, and a worldwide recession ensued, the prices of all of Icart’s works tumbled faster than they had risen, but not to the levels seen prior to the rise. Oil paintings became available
in the $10-50,000 range and haven’t done much in the years since.
It won’t take much buying power to move this market because of the limited supply. I’ve seen it happen in many other areas of collecting. Right now there is great opportunity, but I suspect that one day, someone will recognize that and people may look back on this time as a missed opportunity.
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