ELLSWORTH, Maine — For many Maine art galleries, the winter months can be slow at best.
The Courthouse Gallery Fine Arts, however, has decided to make the most of the seasonal downtime. Gallery co-owners Karin and Michael Wilkes are using the Courthouse’s Web site to drum up new business with an auction of works from the estate of Bill and Emily Muir, two beloved Maine artists who were active painters and sculptors.
The gallery is holding an online auction of four paintings by the Muirs, the rights to which the Courthouse Gallery owns. The Wilkes exhibited some of the Muirs’ works last summer.
The first four works are now up for auction, with a closing date of 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10.
More works will be auctioned off Feb. 5-14 and March 5-14.
Karin Wilkes said earlier this week 25 people had registered for the auction at www.courthousegallery.com.
“We thought this would be a fun thing to try and a good way to generate traffic in the months when we’re closed,” she said. “Maybe it will lead to more.”
The group of paintings up for auction are two painted works from each artist, and all four are Maine landscapes. Bill Muir’s paintings are watercolors, Emily Muir’s are oils.
The bids range from $400 to $600.
“We tried to pick two [paintings] from each and pick things that we could go [with a low opening bid], but we also tried to pick things that would generate interest and excitement,” Karin Wilkes said. “They’re all really nice paintings.”
The Muirs settled in Stonington in 1939 and were active in the communities on the Deer Isle peninsula. Bill Muir was known foremost as a sculptor and then painter, while Emily Muir, who survived her husband by nearly 40 years and died in 2003 at age 99, is best known for her paintings but also sculpted.
Emily Muir is also said to have designed more than 40 homes in the area, and she was also known for her mosaic work, including the mosaic in the entryway of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Emily Muir to serve on a presidential council on the arts. She was the first woman to do so.
She left the couple’s estate to the Maine Community Foundation, establishing the Emily and William Muir Community Fund, which seeks to promote community-based efforts in the Penobscot Bay area. Sales from the estate go toward the fund.
Wilkes said Courthouse already does plenty of business online, with customers looking at the artwork on the gallery’s Web site and ordering pieces. Browsing online isn’t the optimal way to look at art, but as with the Muir work, Wilkes said customers can make appointments in the winter months to look at the artwork in person even though the gallery does not offer regular hours.
“You hate to go there but there are a lot of companies doing it,” Karin Wilkes said of buying and selling on the Internet. “There are opportunities. I understand people all over the country [do Internet searches] for Emily and are interested in her work. Maybe they’ll bid on the Muir auction and be motivated to look at some of the contemporary artists on our site.”
For more information, go to www.courthousegallery.com or call 667-6611.