Treasure hunt

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1:50 a.m.

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: Can you tell me anything about these paintings? I have not been able to find anything about them [only one is shown here] and would appreciate any help you can give me.

-- L.A.J.

DEAR L.A.J.: This sort of research can be very difficult. The first and most important thing that has to be done is to read the artist's signature.

We hate when all we have available to us is a photograph of the scrawl with no interpretation from the owner. That person has the piece right in front of him or her and can make some sort of visual interpretation up close and personal. But we decided to give it the old college try, and somewhat to our surprise, we had some success.

After taking a few stabs at the name, we settled on the last name being "Ubina," but we thought the first initial might be a "J." As it turns out, luck (and a smidge of training and experience) was with us.

We discovered the initial was really an "S" and the artist was Senen Ubina, a very well-known Spanish/American artist, who was born in either 1921 or 1923 and died on Aug. 23, 2012, in New York.

The only substantive information we could uncover was his obituary that appeared in The New York Times. L.A.J. can access that information online now that she knows the name to search. According to the obituary, Ubina was born in Santander, Spain, but immigrated to the United States in 1955.

Before coming to the United States, Ubina was reportedly a successful artist and continued to work in his New York studio until his death some five years ago. The signature L.A.J. chose to photograph is dated '56, which indicates it was painted perhaps the year after Ubina reached the United States.

Ubina's early work tends to be figurative, but as the artist grew more mature, his paintings became more abstract. Both of the works belonging to L.A.J. are in the artist's style from the 1950s.

One of the paintings depicts a mother and child. We found a very similar work (also dated '56) that sold at Gray's in Cleveland on June 25, 2014, for $500. We have no idea what size the painting owned by L.A.J. happens to be, but the example sold at Gray's was 28 by 20 inches. Please remember that in art, size does make a difference.

The other painting in today's question [not pictured] appears to show a matador in a monochromatic suit of lights (traje de luxes) holding a red cape over one forearm.

Ubina's work is in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York as well as the Madrid Museum of Modern Art in Spain's capital city.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. If you have an item you'd like to know more about, contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, Tenn. 37917, or email them at treasures@knology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for this column, please include a high-resolution photo of the item.

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