Question: When our grandchildren’s elderly pediatrician died last year, the administrators of his estate held a sale of his office furnishings and equipment. Among several things I bought was a set of ceramic bookends composed of two small children, a boy and a girl, each 6 inches high in excellent condition marked with a stylized “B.” The set is listed as “Hummel TMK 14A & 14B, Bookworm.” I would like to know about its maker and possible value as a collectible. — C.C., Avalon
Answer: The bookends are M.I. Hummel figurines, a pair of children designed by Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel O.S.F. (1909-46), a German Franciscan nun and artist.
Born Berta Hummel in Bavaria, the young woman’s delightful pictures of charming children and babies were initially published on postcards during the early 1930s. Her art soon caught the attention of Franz Goebel, founder and head of W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik, a German porcelain maker. Goebel entered into an agreement with Hummel to produce her drawings of children that would be used by his company to create decorative porcelain figures.
Introduced in 1935, small M.I. Hummel statues of children handcrafted and hand-painted by artists became very popular until production ceased during World War II. When production resumed after the war, military personnel stationed in Germany bought thousands of the endearing figures as souvenirs and gifts to send home.
Eventually, increased interest in the novel, extensive line of M.I. Hummel figures and souvenir plates that were created by post-war travelers attracted American distributors, and an M.I. Hummel market was established worldwide.
Although production of Goebel figurines was discontinued in 2008, demand from collectors for Hummel items remains strong. Recently, a number of two-piece Hummel “Bookworm” sets in good to excellent condition sold for prices ranging from $76 to $124.
Question: I am attaching a photo of an abstract painting I have owned for more than 10 years. It measures 46 by 59¼ inches and is signed “Lee Reynolds.” I would appreciate information concerning its value and whom I can contact about its sale. Any information will be greatly appreciated. — W.E., Marmora
Answer: Your piece is associated with artist and entrepreneur Lee Reynolds Burr (1936-2017). Born in Los Angeles, he founded Vanguard Studios at Beverly Hills in 1964 and was director of the company for some time. Vanguard Studios was established by Burr as a way to provide new and copied oil paintings to folks who could not afford fine art.
Although many thousands of Vanguard artworks sold internationally have the “Lee Reynolds” signature that appears on your item, they actually were created and/or copied by a team of artists who worked for Burr at Vanguard. “Lee Reynolds” was only a trade name attached to numerous Vanguard art and designs, and no “Lee Reynolds” signed art was painted by Burr. Later works actually generated by him are signed “Lee Reynolds Burr,” and some include his thumbprint. Reynolds once stated he had created no more than 200 “original” paintings and sculptures during his lifetime.
Produced for middle-class families, Vanguard Studios decorative art was sold through showrooms, furniture stores and interior decorators. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Vanguard Studios paintings sold internationally bear the Lee Reynolds name. Burr sold his interest in Vanguard Studios in 1974, and it closed in the late 1990s.
Presently, Vanguard Studios art is offered and purchased online. In 2018, several floral pieces sold for $100 to $150 each, and one featuring three cranes fetched $325. This year, birds brought $120, a cityscape abstract earned $200 and prices paid for some European town scenes ranged from $20 to $205.
Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Living section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232. Email: treasuresby firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.