November 10, 2010
By ALLAN TURNER
Tucked away in an old house in rural West Virginia, the painting was an enigma coated with a century's dust. Depicting a seemingly obscure battle scene, its presence amid the attic's cobwebs stirred little interest among those living below.
But Jon Buell, who discovered the painting while rummaging through his grandparents' Weston, W. Va., attic last Thanksgiving, was fired with excitement.
He grilled relatives and searched the Internet, soon confirming that the 5-by-7-foot painting was the work of his great-great-grandfather, Texas artist Henry Arthur McArdle. It is a smaller version of McArdle's famed 8-by-14-foot painting, The Battle of San Jacinto, which hangs in the Texas Senate chamber.
Art experts for decades thought the smaller canvas had perished in a 1918 house fire.
"I thought it might be worth $10,000 or $20,000," said Buell, the suburban Washington, D.C., district manager for a hamburger chain. "My grandmother told me to do what I wanted, to see if I could sell it. I thought happy days were here."
Atlee Phillips of Dallas' Heritage Auctions said the painting is expected to bring about $100,000 when it is offered to bidders on Nov. 20. . .
"This is a huge deal," said Texas art scholar Sam Ratcliffe, who oversees the Hamon Arts Library's Bywaters Special Collection at Southern Methodist University.
"Not many McArdles are just floating around," he said. "The ones that do exist are primarily in institutions, mainly the Texas Capitol … McArdle had this whole vision — even making sculptures - of depicting heroes and statesmen of the Texas revolution. This painting is part of that series. It was an ambitious vision, never fully fulfilled."
The smaller battle painting, Ratcliffe said, focuses on the images in the center of the giant version in the Senate chamber, notably Sam Houston leading the charge against Santa Anna.
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