This remarkable and rare work, 25 3/4" by 34" (30 1/2" by 39" in contemporary blue framing behind glass), is titled at lower right "Marseille Le Vieux Port" and is signed there "W. Howard". At first glance one thinks this a print of a Raoul Dufy painting, perhaps an exhibition poster, but upon closer inspection it is seen to be in fact an original watercolor by an obviously highly talented artist. The artist is WALLACE HOWARD (1882-1959). I know this to be the case because it was sold along with a number of obviously much later California desert oils in which the name is fully spelled out. Howard was born in Missouri, and after some time in Chicago, he painted landscapes in California after about the early 1940's. Apparently he spent some time in France, where he might conceivably have made the acquaintance of the famous French artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), a contemporary age-wise. Dufy's paintings of race tracks and scenes in France are executed in this style, and Howard was obviously aware of them either by seeing them directly or in reproductions including posters. The bridge over the harbor was called the Marseilles Transporter Bridge; it was built in 1905 and destroyed in 1945. Unless this was executed from memory or from a photo, then I think it possible that the drawing dates to before the war. There are a few brown foxing marks in the sky, mostly in the right half, but they are not sufficiently noticeable to be of any concern. This is a highly unusual work; I think, a true decorator piece . Your friends will think you went to Sotheby's or Christie's and sprung for hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire a Raoul Dufy, unless they read the signature. Due to the weight and sheer size of the glass sheet, this will have to be shipped without the glass, for safety.
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