Popular Early 20th c. Prints
by Michael Ivankovich
R. Atkinson Fox... The "Fox Hunt" Continues

Relatively little was known about the early 20th c. artist R. Atkinson Fox until the early 1980's. Led by Rita Mortenson (who authored the 7-part "Fox Hunt" series) and a small group of Fox collectors, a considerable body of knowledge came forth by the mid 1980's on the work and background of this versatile artist.

Born Robert Atkinson Fox on December 11, 1860 in Toronto, Canada, Fox studied in Canada and Europe prior to arriving in America. He eventually went on to become one of the early 20th century's most popular, most diverse, and most reproduced artists of his time with his work appearing as art prints, calendars, advertising pieces, ink blotters, candy and handkerchief boxes, jewelry boxes, magazine covers, children's books, newspaper inserts, postcards, thermometers, and a myriad of other forms.

Once considered the step-child of Maxfield Parrish collectors, Fox collecting has blossomed into one of the most interesting and challenging forms of any early 20th c. collectible. It's true that many collectors gravitated to Fox collecting after the price level of Maxfield Parrish collectibles began to increase beyond the levels of many collectors. And it's also true that R. Atkinsion Fox was at times called a "Parrish imitator" because of the similarities of many of his most popular works. Yet many other artists of the time also attempted to capitalize upon the idyllic and romantic style popularized by Maxfield Parrish in their attempt to give the public what they wanted.

However, few other artists of his time went on to provide the volume of work and diversity of subject matter as R. Atkinson Fox. What makes Fox collecting so interesting to so many collectors? Let's narrow it down to six specific reasons before getting into the area of values.

#1..They Are Diverse and Attractive During his lifetime Fox produced more than 1000 works of art. Rather than concentrating upon one or two specialty areas as did so many artists of his time, Fox was a generalist. He could paint basically any assignment given to him by a publisher, usually painting from a photograph or from memory. His subjects included enchanted gardens, landscapes, countrysides, cottages, animals and pets (Fox was generally regarded as a leading painter of cows); lovely women, Indians and Indian maidens, the wild west, historical & contemporary themes, hunting & fishing scenes, adventure, ships, and much more. And it is this diverse subject matter that makes Fox prints so appealing to so many collectors. Some collectors collect anything Fox-related, others collect only specific categories. But for collectors who like the work of R. Atkinson Fox, there is a broad spectrum of prints to choose from.

#2..They are Fun and Challenging to Collect Collecting most Fox prints is fairly easy because he signed many of his works R. Atkinson Fox or R.A. Fox However, a considerable number of Fox prints are either untitled, unsigned, or signed with someone else's name. These typically fall within 4 categories:
a) Pseudonyms Occasionally Fox produced works which he felt weren't up to his personal standards. More often, he was directed to sign his work with a "pseudonym" by a publisher who wanted to present the image to potential clients that their company carried the works of a larger stable of artists than it actually did (at times Fox may have been the only artist in their employ). In all, Fox used more than 25 different pseudonyms, sometimes with a variation of his own name (R. Atkins); more often with a totally different name (John Colvin, Arthur DeForest, Dupre, Elmer Lewis, and Chas. Wainright just to name a few). Usually a Fox pseudonym is just as collectible as a Fox-signed print.

b) Untitled Prints Although Fox probably had a mental title for every work he created, apparently he failed to keep a master written list. And even if he titled a picture, that title was often changed by either the publisher who originally commissioned the work, or a subsequent user authorized by the publisher to re-use the print. Some prints were cropped differently, and other prints were used on multiple forms (art prints, calendars, advertising pieces, etc). Unless Fox collectors are 100% certain of the print's title, it will be called an "Untitled" print. Signed-untitled Fox prints are as collectible as signed-titled Fox prints.

c) Fox Maybe's Fox collecting can be so confusing at times that Fox collectors have established a category called "Fox Maybes". Unless a picture thought to be a Fox can be confirmed with a 100% degree of certainty, it falls within the Fox Maybe category. As a general rule, Fox Maybe's are not as valuable to Fox collectors as certified Fox prints.

d) Other Fox Prints And if Pseudonyms, Untitled, and Fox Maybe prints are not confusing enough, two of Fox's nephews, G.B Fox (also known as Garnet Bancroft Fox) and W. Gordon Fox, were also painters in a manner very similar to R. Atkinson Fox. And to complicate things even further, they too used pseudonyms.

Like we said, Fox prints are challenging to collect but to most collectors, it's well worth the challenge.
#3..They Are Still Extremely Affordable Unlike other collectible areas where prices often run in 4-figures, quality and unusual original Fox prints can often times be found under $100, under $50...and sometimes even for less. In our travels, the magic dealer number seems to be $125. That is, if a dealer has something signed R. Atkinson Fox, and they are unsure of the actual value, they price it at $125. Unless it is a better piece, it usually sits, which makes it much more negotiable in price.
Probably the best bargains lie in the area of Pseudonyms, Untitled, and Fox-Maybe prints. Most dealers recognize that the "Fox" name has value, but relatively few do enough research beyond that to recognize the value associated with these related categories.

#4..There Is A Minimal Reproduction Problem Unlike many other collectible areas, Fox reproductions have been minimal. Although laser reproductions are constantly surfacing, they are relatively easy to detect. And because of the affordable nature of Fox prints over the past 10-15 years, we are aware of only approximately 10 Fox titles which have been commercially reproduced, and those in fairly limited numbers.

#5..There Is A Growing Body of Fox Reference Material Available The more knowledgeable the collectors, the stronger the collectible area. The latest book to cover the work of R. Atkinson Fox is The Collector's Value Guide to Popular Early 20th c. Prints, a book was justed released in August, 1998. Authored by me, the Fox chapter was co-written by our friends and nationally renown Fox collectors Barry & Beth Mroczka. This book includes the most current Fox pricing information available anywhere. Other excellent Fox reference books and reference materials include:
* R. Atkinson Fox: His Life and Works, by Rita Mortenson (Bk 1)
* R. Atkinson Fox: Volume II, by Rita Mortenson (Bk 2)
* R. Atkinson Fox: Identification & Price Guide, by Pat Gibson
* Vintage Illustrations, by Rick & Charlotte Martin
* #6..The R. Atkinson Fox Society is the national organized collecting body of Fox collectors. The RAF Society publishes a quarterly newsletter, holds an annual convention, and actively works to promote the ongoing research into and the works of R. Atkinson Fox. For details on joining this group, contact Barry & Beth Mroczka, 8 Blackmore Court, Camp Hill, PA 17011, (717)-732-6798.

Now, most importantly, what determines the value of Fox prints. Basically here are four primary areas to consider:

* Subject Matter: Certain Fox prints were extremely popular and sold tens-of-thousands of copies, making them quite common today. This would include many enchanted gardens, landscapes, cottages, and countrysides. Others prints were produced in relatively limited numbers or in a very limited time frame and they are generally regarded as fairly rare today, including indian maidens, animals, historical or contemporary themes, etc.

* Condition: All Fox prints were machine -produced. That means that all started looking exactly the same. Yet over the past 60-100 years, various factors have impacted their current condition. Tears, stains, cropping or blemishes all tend to reduce the value. Color is extremely important. The sharper the color, the higher the value.

* Size: Bigger is usually, but not always better. Fox prints can range in size from 1.5x2.5" to 20x40". Logic would dictate that the bigger would be more valuable but how many 20x40" prints can the normal collector fit into any house today?

* Miscellaneous Factors: Type of frame, signature, pseudonym, untitled, or Fox-Maybe all contribute to the ultimate price and value.

So, the Fox Hunt does indeed continue as we approach the year 2000. Overall, the Fox market has been somewhat stagnant over the past several years but all of the key factors seem to be in place for a rejuvenated market. The next time you hear someone saying that R. Atkinson Fox was a "Parrish Imitator", you can kindly inform them that R. Atkinson Fox was indeed one of the most versatile and prolific artists of the early 20th century.

Recent R. Atkinson Fox Prices:
An Old Fashioned Garden, 18x30", Bk 1-Fig #180, R. Atkinson Fox...$105
Garden of Rest, 10x18", Bk 1-Fig #196, R. Atkinson Fox...$105
Garden Realm, 10x20", Bk 1-Fig #203, Unsigned...$110
Majestic Splendor, 18x30, Bk 1-Fig #214, Unsigned...$302
Nature's Beauty, 10x20", Bk 1-Fig #201, Unsigned...$88
Nature's Treasures, 18x30", Bk 1-Fig #207, R. Atkinson Fox...$99
Poppies, 18x30", Bk 1-Fig #221, R. Atkinson Fox...$182
The Answering Call, 8x12", Bk 2-Fig #460, Unsigned...$66
The Buffalo Hunt, 7x10, Bk 1-Fig #281, Unsigned...$60
1938 Calendar (complete)-On a Trail, 6x8", Bk 2-Fig #612...$99
(Note: Bk # relates to Mortenson Book #1 or #2, Fig # is the particular image within each book. All Fox prices are actual Auction prices, include the 10% Buyer's Premium, and are from our March '98 Pennsylvania Early 20th c. Print Auction)

One early 20th c. hand-colored photographer whose work appears to have been geographically limited is Royal A. Carlock. Born on the banks of the Wabash in southern Indiana, little is known of Carlock's early life. We do know that he was an honorably discharged World War I veteran who served in Europe. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1918, he decided to remain in Washington DC to reproduce and sell photographs of what he called "...the art & splendor of The City Beautiful"
Fascinated by the architecture and national treasures found in our nation's capital, Carlock focused his photographic and hand-coloring skills on subjects found in-and-around Washington DC and was the only know photographer in his company. His black & white photographs were hand-colored in oils and sold to the multitude of tourists visiting our nation's capital during the post World War I era. The most common subjects collectors will find are the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

We have seen Carlock pictures identified in three distinct manners:

1) Matted pictures signed "Carlock" on the lower right corner beneath the picture, with or without a title lower left

2) Un-matted, close-framed pictures with "Carlock" being embossed on the lower-left corner of the actual picture

3) No marking on the picture or matting, but simply a "Carlock" picture label on the backing
Carlock pictures are still relatively inexpensive with most we have seen falling with the $15-$45 range. Although we are not aware of any Carlock Collectors Club or anyone exclusively collecting Carlock pictures, their low price, good quality, and interesting subject matter will probably continue to make them collectible. The next time you see a Washington DC picture in a shop or show, take a closer look at it. It will probably be a Carlock hand-colored photograph.

Recent Carlock Prices:
Carlock, Japanese Cherry Blossoms, 8x10...$28...MA Show
Carlock, Jefferson Memorial, 8x10...$35...MA Show
Carlock, Lincoln Memorial, 8x10...$35...NH Shop
Carlock, Washington Monument...8x10...$45...PA Shop
Carlock, Washington Monument, 7x10...$15...MA Show