FORT WORTH -- Artists Stuart and Scott Gentling were inveterate collectors, some might even say hoarders -- it all depends on how much value you put on stuffed birds, 18th-century shoe buckles, a cast of a dinosaur footprint and a dozen never-used aluminum easels. These are the tiniest tip of the iceberg of oddities that filled the home they shared for over 40 years. Stuart died five years ago, Scott in February, and now it's time for their estate sale.
The house and their collections of pre-Columbian, Asian and African art, their own art prints and books, records and skulls had become legendary. Today, their private lair is open to the public and the collections are priced. And this is just round one, says their sister and estate executor, Suzanne Gentling. The really expensive items such as their original art, studies for their famous bird book and the Bass Hall ceiling, and ancient artworks will be sold later in round two.
In the first few weeks after Scott died, Suzanne began the daunting task of sorting through her brothers' treasures.
"I began poking around, and in one cabinet I found my mother's cremains, a stuffed rattlesnake and two shrunken heads," she said. The heads and cremains are not for sale, but the stuffed snake is, priced at $125.
Included in the first volley are more than 10 folios of the books that put the brothers on the art map, Of Birds and Texas. The oversize boxes of beautiful plates are difficult to find now. Suzanne suspects that these may be the last ones to enter circulation. Some of the editions are signed by both brothers and John Graves (most desirable), others by one or two of the principals.
There are original sketches by both artists and works by other artists, known and unknown. There's a poster of a painting by Andrew Wyeth of two coats. The Gentlings admired Wyeth's work and had sent him the historic garments that he subsequently painted. Their correspondence is one of the things Suzanne has yet to tackle.
She found stacks of prints by Scott and Stuart -- again, some are signed, some aren't. They fill a large flat file in a former bedroom and are marked $50 to $250. There are large rugs from Pakistan -- one 23 by 9 feet, another 11 by 8 feet, and smaller rugs from various countries. There is an African side table as well as the worn side table that was next to Scott's bed.
The 2,500 volumes of art books are marked $10 to $40; some very large or rare art books cost more.
The 400 vinyl records of classical music are a flat $5 each. There are boxes upon boxes of art supplies. Delicate sable watercolor brushes are $20 for a bundle of 10, and tubes of watercolor paint are $2. The unused aluminum easels cost $35 to $85. Rolls of Arches watercolor paper are $70 to $200.
"Stuart was not an astute shopper," Suzanne said as she unwrapped dozens of vials of X-acto knife blades. Rather than buying them in bulk, he bought scores of small packs.
"Thank heavens he never discovered the Internet," she said. "He'd have gone crazy on eBay."
The Gentlings' apparel runs to tricorn hats, a beaver top hat, replicas of Roman sandals, hand-painted Day of the Dead suits, and for your avian friends, raptor hoods. Decorative accessories include Dia de los Muertos skulls, mirrors in hand-carved frames designed by Stuart, Roman spears and a replica Roman sword.
It's not a typical day at the estate sale until you get into the kitchen, where cups and glasses are marked $1 and there are a few pots and pans.
"The boys didn't cook much," Suzanne said.
Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram's art and design critic. 817-390-7113