HELENA – When retired Gibsonburg art teacher Marto “Marty” Atkinson was growing up in Hudson, her mother kept a Thomas Moran painting on the wall. Her mother was told over and over by so-called antique experts that the painting was worthless, but her mother insisted the painting had great value.
Atkinson, who now lives in Helena, doesn’t know much about the painting’s history, only that her maternal grandfather somehow acquired it in Philadelphia. When her mother died, Atkinson inherited the painting, and she always wondered if her mother’s intuition about it was correct.
Atkinson legacy painter whose work led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park
In 2005, Atkinson found out her mother was right.
“My friend had tickets to Antiques Roadshow, and she called me and said, ‘Get the painting,'” Atkinson said.
They traveled to Cleveland where Antiques Roadshow was taped, and after staff saw what she brought, Atkinson was invited to be on the show.
“It was amazing to see behind the scenes. We were there all day, and they served us lunch,” she said.
Atkinson wasn’t told the value of the painting until she was on camera, and what they told her fooled her. The painting was worth $50,000 at the time. Today it is worth even more.
“My mother would have been so happy. She knew it had value,” Atkinson said. “It was such an experience. People have these things that they are going to throw away because they think they have no value. They have them in their attic or their basement, and they find out on the show that they are worth a lot.”
Retired art teacher planned to paint to Toledo museum after his death
Atkinson initially made arrangements in her will to donate the painting to the Toledo Museum of Art after her death, but a group of friends had a different idea. Every week Atkinson meets at a coffee shop with Scott Michael, Ernst Hillenbrand, Bruce Hirt and Bob Taylor. As Atkinson sipped iced coffee one day and told them her plans, they gave her this advice: Why wait?
“They suggested that I donate it now while I’m still alive,” Atkinson said.
Moran traveled to Yellowstone with the Cooke expedition
Thomas Moran (1837-1926) was an American painter whose career advanced rapidly when Civil War financier Jay Cooke invited Moran to join an expedition team to the little-known Yellowstone region. Cooke was born in Sandusky and eventually built a summer home, Cooke Castle, on Gibraltar Island in Put-in-Bay Harbor. The sketches of Yellowstone that Moran created during the expedition helped persuade Congress to establish the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872.
When Atkinson contacted the Toledo Museum of Art about the possible donation, they sent an art expert to her home to review the painting. The museum was delighted to accept a donation created by such a distinguished artist. The painting was restored at museum expense, increasing its value from $50,000 to $70,000.
Today, Toledo Museum of Art object no. 2021.16 listed as “Landscape”, an oil on canvas by Thomas Moran which was wax, the collection data reads: “Given by Marto Atkinson in memory of her mother.”
“That’s the best thing. I can go check it out. It was a very good decision to make,” said Atkinson. “It’s so wonderful that it’s hanging in the museum. Who would have thought that would happen?”
Atkinson has visited the museum many times to see the painting that once hung in her family’s home.
“I always think about my mom,” she said. “She was right about how valuable it was, but people didn’t believe her. She would take a picture of it to antique shows, and people would say it was worthless.”
Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at [email protected]