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"I own a Vernon Kerr painting. How much is it worth?"
PLEASE NOTE: The Kerr family does not appraise, authenticate, sell or buy paintings.
We also do not have a searchable database of Vernon Kerr's work from which to draw additional information about your painting. This website comprises the majority of the information we have.
Generally, we urge you to contact an art appraiser in your area. However, below is some basic information on how to authenticate your painting and some possible contacts for appraisals.
Vernon Kerr completed a massive amount of work in his relatively short life. Not only are there thousands of original paintings, but over three dozen of his paintings went into print reproductions, and have been distributed internationally. The Kerr family has spotted at least two Vernon Kerr prints on the sets of prime-time TV shows. Vernon Kerr's prints have been seen hanging in casinos, hotel rooms, banks offices and even thrift stores and yard sales. Prints and paintings appear on eBay.com often.
Painting or print?
So the first thing you must determine is whether your work is a painting or a print.
One way to determine a print is to look closely at the work with a magnifying glass. If you see the colored and black dots, arranged in a pattern, you have a print. If you look at a magazine photo with the magnifying glass you would see a similar pattern.
Some Vernon Kerr prints have been hand-textured to appear like a painting. This is a coating of gesso, applied by hand with a paintbrush, following the brushstrokes of the artwork. As a teenager, I sometimes helped my father hand-texture prints. He also did many of them himself, or other family members helped. This makes the print look more authentic, but with the magnifying glass you will still see the dots.
Prints are generally only worth a small amount, but there may be some worth more. In many cases, the frame cost more than the print itself! Vernon Kerr released a limited series of signed and numbered prints that may have some value, but certainly nowhere near the value of an original. Some of these prints are still available for purchase. (photos are below) See Purchase info for online dealer links.
Above: Limited edition signed prints by Vernon Kerr.
Left to right: Crystal Silence, Invitation, Pervading Spirit, Venture to the Sea
Some Vernon Kerr landscape prints available through online dealers.
Left to right: Autumn Reflections, Desert Magic, Desert Spring, Grand Tetons
Vernon Kerr florals available through online dealers.
Left to right: Especially Yours, My Happiness, Sweet Memories, Tender Promise
Yes, my painting is an original.
If you know you have an original painting, the next step is to see if it is a completely original work signed by the artist.
There are a few paintings that have a "Certificate of Authenticity" on the back, signed by Vernon Kerr's ex-wife and former executrix of his estate, Norma Jean Kerr. (see photos below) These paintings were likely unfinished works she retained after his death in 1982. As she, too, was an artist, she told the family of her plans to complete the unfinished paintings herself, and sign Vernon Kerr's name, and then sell them. The Kerr family did not authorize these paintings to be released.
The certificates I have seen have been signed and notarized in the County of Alameda, Calif., in 1988, attesting to their origin as a Vernon Kerr painting. It is certainly true that the composition and probably most of the painting, was executed by Vernon Kerr. But these paintings were not finished or signed by the artist himself. If you look closely, you will see the following handwritten words up the right hand side of the certificate: "Finished and signed by NJK." [Norma Jean Kerr]
It has been postulated by at least one art agent that the existence of these paintings, and their low selling prices, have contributed to the undervaluing of Vernon Kerr's work in general.
But whether or not a painting is completely original, it is likely still being enjoyed and appreciated.
The Certificate reads:
"As his widow, and former business manaager, I hereby certify to the authenticity of
the attached painting, [TITLE], size X, medium oil, description [SUBJECT MATTER] which was created and executed
by VERNON KERR, internationally known California artist, who died in 1982 at the age of 44.
Signed, Norma Jean Kerr, date 8-13-88
Above signature notarized by Gonzalo S. Manalus, Official Seal, Notary Public California, County of Alameda"
Note the handwritten words up the right hand side of the certificate: "Finished and signed by NJK." [Norma Jean Kerr]
Above is an authentic Vernon Kerr gallery sticker used in the mid- to late '70s.
The No. assigned refers to the year (1975), the painting's sequential number, the "S" for seascape.
Above left is the handwritten title on the same painting (handwriting of artist's wife Norma Jean)
Right, the artist's signature on this same painting.
Above is an early signature from 1955, showing the different signature style the artist used in his earliest works.
If you now believe you have a completely original Vernon Kerr painting, you can research what similar paintings are going for by checking out recent sales prices. I have some information from time to time about private sales of Vernon Kerr paintings, but I cannot assign your painting a final value or suggest a price to you. That is where you may want to contact an art appraiser in your area, or make a rough estimate based on what prices you collect in your research. Art auction houses have been a good source of online price information. John Moran Associates has its catalogs on-line via askart.com (they require a fee to access its auction listings.)
On-line auction prices seem to be at the low end of the price range. You will see occasional Vernon Kerr paintings on ebay.com. Over the years, Vernon Kerr paintings have been had for incredibly low prices! An office co-worker of mine got a 24x36 seascape in 1999 via on-line auction for under $1,000! But a 16x20 landscape auctioned by John Moran Auction House went for almost $5,000 in February 2001, which is the record auction price so far (John Moran's previous Vernon Kerr auction listings do not reflect such high prices). Because of this discrepancy, accurate price information cannot be had unless you contact a professional art appraiser.
Two galleries that sell and appraise Vernon Kerr art are Poulsen Gallery and Jones Gallery. They have been helpful in gathering price information for some Vernon Kerr art owners. You will also be required to pay an appraisal fee if you require an accurate appraisal for insurance or other purposes. Butterfield & Butterfield offers free photo appraisals online, or at its locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Vernon Kerr is included in Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide. He is also included in Edan Milton Hughes' Artists in California 1786-1940.
Some other pricing information: The Kerr family retains mid-1980s appraisals for paintings that were in the Vernon Kerr Estate.They may not be of great significance, but are interesting. Seascapes were valued higher than other subjects. One 24x36 seacape was valued at $5,000 in 1986. (These appraisals are no where near the low amounts I have seen bid in the auctions.)
Interest is growing in "Early California" and "plein aire" art. Vernon Kerr may not have worked early enough to be a true "early California" artist, but certainly he was inspired and influenced by this movement, and studied and painted with countless artists in Southern California in the late '50s and 1960s. He was indeed a "plein aire" painter, heading to the great outdoors and painting on location with his French easel and perhaps with a friend. He could capture the luminosities of a landscape, the "see-through" wave. I fully believe his works will gain in value and are a fine investment in viewing pleasure.
I sometimes add paintings to the on-line gallery from e-mails I receive through this site. The addition process can take a very long time, as my time to work on this website is very limited. If you want to e-mail me with your painting information, be sure to include a good photo of the front and back of the painting. I also like to know its size, and its provenance. But remember, I cannot appraise your painting.
If you have any other questions, please contact me.
Grace A. Kerr
(Eldest daughter of Vernon Kerr)
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