Mark Twain Noe painting fetches nice price; on display in Greencastle

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Brad Smith hung his latest investment, a Mark Twain Noe painting, at BBS Jewelers. He also has work by another conservation artist on display.

Original paintings of the late Fulton County artist Mark Twain Noe are rarely on the market, but one surfaced in Greencastle recently and will remain in town.

Hurley Auctions sold “Shank Residence” for the estate of Betty and C. B. “Lee” Shank on July 8. Twelve people put in 22 bids to drive the final price to $1,377. Brad Smith, owner of BBS Jewelers, outlasted the others, and has put the signed 45-inch by 33-inch oil canvas on display at his Greencastle store.

The painting was commissioned by the couple in 1982. Noe, of Harrisonville, had been an industrial and advertising artist, and in 1980 opened “The Studio in the Pines” in the Tuscarora Mountains. He went on to win regional and national awards. Recognition came from National Arts in the Parks, National Forest Stamp, several Ducks Unlimited programs and National Wildlife Turkey Federation.

Noe was also commissioned by First National Bank of Greencastle to do 23 paintings for its Gallery of History. He had a painting on display at the Smithsonian Institute. His original works and prints are in private and corporate collections across the country. Noe died in 2012 at age 73.

Smith went after the painting “because of the rarity and beauty of it.”

He was aware of only one other original for sale in the past 20 years. Prints of each painting were still valuable, he added, selling for $100 to $200. One on eBay sold for $680 in June.

Smith knew Noe personally, as the artist stopped in the store frequently as a customer. Parental influence also triggered his attention to the finer things.

“My dad, George Smith, was an artist. He did oils and watercolors,” Smith said.

The public has been interested in his purchase, and several people come in daily to view the painting. It is on permanent display at 102 S. Antrim Way until something unusual happens.

Smith said, “It is for sale but not for sale, unless someone gives me a crazy offer.”

Family history

The Shank family moved into the house at 789 Leitersburg Road in 1960, said son Jeff. It was believed to have been built in the Civil War era. A music room was added by the Shanks. A barn came down when the road went through and they then put up a new garage.

C.B. and Betty commissioned two paintings from Noe in 1982.

“My dad knew him,” Shank said. “He was a big fan of Mark’s work.”

The other painting was of an earlier version of the house, which Shank and his brother Doug decided to keep. Both of the pieces were signed. They have no idea how much their parents paid Noe, but thought “probably not a whole lot. He was a budding artist then.”

Selling an original piece that hung in the family home for 30 years was an eye-opener.

 “No one really knew how valuable they are,” Shank said. “Originals are rarely for sale. Now we know. He’s a great artist.”

Susquehanna Bank retains ownership of the series that features local historical scenes. They were also commissioned when Noe was establishing his home-based career. The set is on display during each Old Home Week.