The date of January 25th, 2014, couldn’t roll around quickly enough for Earl Henry, Jr., and his wife Marilyn. After all, it had been a long time coming. The year-old idea of auctioning a prized painting by noted impressionist Catherine Wiley to benefit Ijams Nature Center was coming to fruition!
Earl’s father, Dr. Earl O’dell Henry, Sr., accomplished much before his untimely death at 33 when the USS Indianapolis, the ship on which he practiced dentistry as an officer, sank during World War II. His son, Earl Henry, Jr., an infant at the time of his father’s death, has dedicated his life to honoring the legacy of the father he never knew. Dr. Henry, Sr., a dentist from Knoxville, Tennessee, began studying birds at the age of 12 and imitating bird calls of over 60 species. (A skill, Earl says, came in handy as his dad often entertained the crew aboard!) A self-taught taxidemist, Dr. Henry mounted a collection of 87 birds which the family donated for display at Ijams Nature Center. Money raised from the auction will go toward improving and enhancing this exhibit. Currently, Ijams sells bird prints and note cards of selected drawings by the talented (and productive!) Dr. Henry.
Recognizing the need for additional funding for this exhibit, Earl Henry, Jr., and wife Marilyn, developed the idea of auctioning a painting from their collection — Mountain Landscape, by well-known impressionist, Catherine Wiley — with the proceeds benefiting Ijams.
The couple contacted Sarah Campbell Drury of Case Antiques, and the rest is history: the Wiley painting would be auctioned as Lot 181 in the January 25th, 2014, event in Knoxville.
Mentioned by Jack Neely in Knoxville’s MetroPulse (click here) as “one noted impressionist,” artist Anna Catherine Wiley, grew up on Laurel Avenue, attended the University of Tennessee, and studied with long-time artist Lloyd Branson. In a previous Case Antiques auction covered by the Knoxville News-Sentinel (click here), a Wiley painting sold for a record $107,000 to the Knoxville Museum of Art, so the pre-sale estimate of $9,000 to $11,000 seemed reasonable — and would provide quite a boost to the future exhibit at Ijams!
Guests at the preview event on January 24th expressed their excitement — at the number and quality of auction items amassed by Case Antiques ranging from Indian relics to Chinese porcelains to silver to well-appointed case goods. Detailed descriptions as well as the informed Case staff members helped guests learn more about items offered for bidding.
Auction day brought a packed house with limited seating, but pictures of items flashed up on big screens and well-dressed assistants (This was not my usual country auction!) held items up for review.
Case staff listened intently to the voices of phone bidders at home.
Then relayed the auctioneer’s bids. Then pressed the phones to their ears again.
Sold to the bid on the phone said the auctioneer quite often, but also, Sold to the internet bidder! (Ah, technology! We audience folks just held up our numbers and competed as best we could!)
When it was time for Lot 181, the crowd hushed as the auctioneer touted the importance of the Wiley painting. We waited and listened as numbers rose: $3,000, $4,000, $6,000 . . .
Until finally, we heard the auctioneer say All in? Eleven five? Eleven five anywhere? Going once. Going twice. Sold. To the internet bidder for $11,000!!! And it was done.
Earl Henry wiped a tear from his eye. Marilyn gave him a knowing hug. The Catherine Wiley painting had a new home. And Ijams Nature Center is on its way to installing an even better exhibit by the talented preservationist, Dr. Earl O’Dell Henry, Sr.
For more information:
Dr. Earl O. Henry and the Earl Henry prints and cards, click here.
Ijams Nature Center
2915 Island Home Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37920; 865-577-7517; http://ijams.org
Case Antiques Auctions & Appraisals
2240 Sutherland Avenue, Suite 101, Knoxville, TN 37919, 865-558-3033; https://www.facebook.com/caseantiques
To make a donation to Ijams Nature Center for the Earl Henry exhibit, click here.