Crystal River Heron,
Charles Rowe, 16x24, Oil Paint on Panel



History As A Crystal Ball

by: Jim Fitch

As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida, Winter/Spring 2007

Third in a series of articles written to present fine art as a proven investment vehicle and valuable part of any estate, large or small. Previous articles are archived at under Editorial. This issue stresses the value of history in an investment strategy and features Florida artist Charles Rowe.

One day while traveling in Wonderland Alice came to a fork in the road. Not knowing which road to take she cast her eyes heavenward seeking divine guidance. What she saw was the Cheshire Cat grinning down at her. “ Oh, Mister Cat, which road shall I take?”, asked Alice. “Where do you want to go?” replied the Cat.  “ I don’t know, “ said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter” said the Cat.

Fairy tales often contain profound wisdom. If you don’t know where you want to go it probably doesn’t matter how you choose to get there. If, on the other hand you do know where you want to go, it requires a map, a plan, or what I will refer to as a strategy. The sole purpose of these articles is to present Florida regional art as an investment opportunity and provide as many hard facts as I can to substantiate my statements and allow you to develop an investment strategy.

Article #1 was intended to debunk myths and misunderstandings about art. In article #2 I suggested it would be helpful to view art as a commodity in order to gain a fresh approach to considering it. I don’t hesitate to quote the economist Wm. Grampp who wrote the insightful Pricing the Priceless because he offers some practical advice.  “An economic view of art does not replace aesthetics, criticism, or art history. Rather it compliments them. It looks at the activity of art in a way that can be much different, hence it sees different things and if used properly can be informative.”  

Sunrise Over the Bay, Charles Rowe, 14x22, Oil Paint on Panel

Another quote by Eduardo Porter writing in the New York Times News lends support for an economic view of art. “The renewed appetite for art as investment is rekindling interest in developing systematic ways to assess the value of art and is drawing attention to a small number of scholars who have been applying economics to this new asset class.”  

“ Systematic ways to assess the value of art”. You can bet I’ll borrow that phrase often. Debunk the myths, remove the mystery, ignore the hype and move on to developing an objective, realistic and proven strategy for an art involvement that is both aesthetically and financially rewarding.

Developing a strategy is central to investing in art. It will serve as a reference point against which acquisition decisions can be made. Otherwise you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. The premise on which these articles are based and central to an investment strategy is the fact that history repeats itself and can function as a crystal ball. A more scholarly explanation was put forth by philosopher Karl Popper who coined the term “historicity”. He defines it as the laws of historical development. Popper says, “ If known, these laws can be used to predict the course of events.”  To build a workable, successful strategy as presented in this series it’s necessary to be convinced that historicity is a valid tool.


3 Rooker Bar-Back Simmers, Charles Rowe, 16x24, Oil Paint on Panel

Every artist or art movement of significance has been tied to history somehow. Social, political, economic, and religious factors of a period influence the art of that period in a number of ways. Images that reflect the spirit of the time in which they were created increase in value by virtue of their historic significance. By “spirit of the time” I don’t mean that the subject of a painting must be of a historically significant event or person. It must go further than that, and in some way whether by subject, style or method capture the spirit of the time in the same way that paintings by Remington and  Russell captured the glamour, excitement, and challenge of westward expansion. Or…, in the same way the untrained limners left a visual record of the New America, the way the Hudson River paintings present not only the literal landscape but a majestic, pristine America full of vast resources and opportunity. It’s that intangible quality, bestowed by time, that creates value. Down the road we’ll add to that list the paintings of a maturing Florida.

If history can be a crystal ball and if there are immutable laws proven by history we should be able to look back and recognize them. We can do that by studying a (any) historic period, consider the art influenced by the social and economic factors of the period, and track the value of that art in the marketplace. What you will find are immutable laws in action. As an example we’ll use the time immediately following the Revolutionary War. I say “following” because times of strife are not conducive to cultural development even though they provide the material for it.  The New Americans having as yet no artistic culture of their own, were influenced by their cousins in Europe. Portraits were in vogue there so they became desirable in a new and prospering America. There were virtually no trained American artists to paint them. To fill the void, and taking advantage of an opportunity, house painters, sign painters, and self taught artists, collectively known as “limners” stepped forward to fill the need. If you take the time to do some research you’ll find that the portraits and paintings of the period are primitive, maybe even crude. Even so, if you track their value in the marketplace you will probably be amazed. Priceless is an understatement. If they’re primitive and crude why the value? It’s because they have been endowed with that intangible quality mentioned previously. They are history made visible.

Can we use the information presented here to justify investing in the regional art of Florida being created by the New Masters? Yes you can! The trick for the investment minded is to recognize history in the making and buy paintings from serious artists whose work interprets or presents the spirit of the times. Who are the artists and why am I bullish on Florida art in particular? Those are  the topics for article #4.

Morning Shadows, Charles Rowe, 12x16, Oil Paint on Panel

Artists profile 

If Charles Rowe were a writer instead of a painter he would probably write with dragons blood and a goose quill. Although his medium of choice currently is oil on board he has mastered the old and time tested method of painting used by Italian and Flemish masters before the fifteenth century, egg tempera.

Charles ranks among the handful of artists who have focused on Florida’s environment for more than twenty years. A resident of the Gulf Coast, he lives and works close to his subject matter in an idyllic setting on the Weeki Watchee River. Suffice it to say that Charles Rowe has earned his place in Florida art history. The images included in this article say everything about the artist, his skill and the dedication he brings to his work. Prices quoted for paintings by Charles Rowe are based on 2005 and 2006 sales.

12”x14” … $2.000.00 - $3,000.00
14”x20” … $3,500.00 - $4,500.00
16”x24” … $6,500.00 - $7,500.00
20”x32” … $10,000.00 - $12,000.00

Learn more about the artist at 

Predawn - Charles Rowe, 9x14, Oil Paint on Panel

About the author:
Jim Fitch is the acquisition agent for the Florida Masters Collection, founder and past Curator of the Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC ). E-mail him at

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