(CNN) – It’s an early 1900’s picture of seven guys shooting pool. Jesse Ronnebaum picked it up about 10 years ago at a yard sale in Oldenburg, Indiana.
“I remember it was sitting on the porch with a stack of other paintings that looked pretty ratty too. That one just stood out to me. Don’t know if it was the oldest, rattiest one or what it was. That just jumped out at me. I remember she wanted a dollar for it and being my grandfather’s grandson I talked her down to 50 cents,” Ronnebaum said.
That 50 cent find recently changed dramatically, “Just finally noticed palette and chisel club 1910 at the bottom and that gave me the idea of being able to look it up. So I asked the almighty Google,” Ronnebaum continued.
The Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art is the second oldest artist organization in the country located in Chicago. The seven men in the painting are all well-known artists who took turns painting each other in the unusual work. The primary artist was William victor Higgins. When Jesse started researching the painting he started getting offers, “First couple of people didn’t really believe me. Then I think in one I got three offers $500, $1000 and then $1500.”
Jesse quickly settled on a much more serious Indianapolis art dealer named Curt Churchman, “The story’s too fantastic to not have it be real and he described it well enough it had to be real. You know the weirdest ones are always the real ones and so I was really happy for him. I figure we’ll both be rich here in a month.”
The Higgins is now being restored and will be ready for a may auction back home in Chicago. Jesse’s hoping to do some great things for his kids with the profits, “Years of struggling, doing without, barely making bills, not even able to consider living check to check and the whole time there’s 50 grand hanging over my head, literally.
While no one can say how high the bidding will go on the one of a kind piece Jesse said he was happy to have a hand in the paintings unusual history, “I don’t know if it’s dumb luck or divine intervention but I’ll take it.”
The primary artist Victor Higgins is famous for his landscapes, many of which were painted while he was living in Taos, New Mexico.
Founding members of the Palette and Chisel Club were evening students at the Art Institute of Chicago around 1900. Most of them held day jobs and painted in the evening at the club.
Copyright CNN 2015