Long-forgotten paintings to be auctioned in Warren

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Paintings by one of the foremost African American landscape artists of the 19th century recently turned up in an area home and will be auctioned Sunday in Warren.

The paintings, including two by Edward Mitchell Bannister, were recently uncovered in a Seekonk attic by relatives of a couple who had purchased a home in the early 1900s. Though they died in the 1940s or 50s, family members have remained in the home ever since, and just recently started looking through a large amount of material that had been stored in the attic, and elsewhere, for years.

The Bannister pieces were a surprise," said the Barrington Antiques and Art Auction Company's Ken Shaw, who estimates that the works alone will fetch $60,000 to $80,000.

"These things, when we found them, were just laying there," he said. "It was amazing; you could barely tell what they were, they were just covered with soot and dirt. It was like treasure hunting."

Mr. Bannister won first place for his painting in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, but was nearly stripped of his prize when it was discovered that he was not white. He was co-founder of the Providence Art Club and was known for romantic scenes. His work hangs in the Smithsonian, Boston and RISD museums, and many other public and private museums.

The auction will include much more than the paintings. It will be held in two sessions, at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, at the auction company's gallery at 91 Main St. in Warren. See www.artsinri.net for a full catalog.

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