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NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Bob Singelstad’s new hobby began shortly after he brought home a painting from the “brown tag” section of The Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center.

Whoever gave the framed canvas to the thrift store had attached a one-word note on a small piece of paper: “Norwegian.”

The seascape depicting a boat with a red sail and a castle along a fjord caught Singelstad’s eye because he and his wife, Deloris, have traveled to Norway, the native land of their ancestors.

“When you get something like this, you like to know who did it,” he told the Mankato Free Press .

Over the past five months, the 90-year-old North Mankato man has been picking up detective skills to learn more about his purchase from the thrift store’s antiques corner. His close examination of the back of the canvas has resulted in the discovery of faint handwriting.

Singelstad, who had assumed the painting was unsigned, deciphered the words in cursive spelled out “Betzy Akersloot-Berg.” He shined a black light on the canvas to uncover more clues but came up with nothing.

Singelstad decided to ask for help, so he wrote to a group of curators in Norway. As of yet, there’s been no reply.

His hopes now rest on the results of an ad he placed in The Home Magazine shopper in an attempt to reach someone who’ll fill in some details. The announcement includes a photograph of the painting and a plea to be contacted by anyone who recognizes the work.

One person who is familiar with the painting is Salvation Army volunteer Denny Wahlstrom. He was the one who determined the painting’s selling price of about $175 soon after its arrival in the thrift shop sometime in July.

“I’m not an art expert but I have a feel for it, an appreciation. I looked at that painting for a very long time. It’s a fascinating picture … definitely not done by an amateur,” Wahlstrom said.

The thrift store does not record who donates which items.

Wahlstrom said the artwork was underpriced; however, the thrift store wants to move merchandise to make room for more donations.

Singlestad said he’s not yet found information about its creator.

Jon Swanson, curator for the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, said his art space, which collects works with water themes, does not own a Betzy Akersloot-Berg. Swanson did provide information from an online biography of the artist.

According to the entry, Akersloot-Berg was a Norwegian-born seascape and landscape painter who spent most of her career on a small island in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands. She died Dec. 18, 1922.

Swanson said his museum does not provide evaluations of artworks’ worth.

Aaron Bastian is an appraiser who is an expert at offering advice to people curious about the value of old paintings. He has appeared several times on “Antiques Roadshow.”

“We appraisers volunteer (for the show). It is public television, after all. The appearances help our businesses,” said Bastian, who is with Bonhams in San Francisco.

Most appraisers do not charge a fee for a preliminary look at an artwork, Bastian said.

“The first step is to send a photo of the object,” he said.

Art owners also should include with their correspondence the dimensions of an artwork and, if possible, the name of its creator.

Singelstad’s Akersloot-Berg now hangs above the fireplace in his home.

“I really like the colors and the frame. There’s two little figures in it and they are wearing knickers. I also like it shows a fishing vessel with its mast down,” Singelstad said.

The painting displaced a woven Norwegian scene that had occupied the same spot. His wife is very fond of the tapestry. Where the two artworks will be permanently displayed has not yet been decided by the couple.

Singelstad does not expect a marital rift over the artwork’s placement between himself and the woman he has known since they were youngsters in Emmons. Their shared love for reconstituted dried cod likely has helped ensure harmony.

“We have been to three lutefisk suppers together this year,” he said.

A fitting activity for a couple who appreciates the look of the Norwegian sea and its bounty.


Information from: The Free Press,