Abraham Hulk (1813-1897) was a Dutch nautical painter who did fantastic work, and his paintings hang in the museums of Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Haarlem and Enschede. Wikipedia has a good write-up on him here. Hulk works routinely go for just $2,000-$4,000 at auction. Sometimes, though, they blow the lid off the top of the expected range and bring in $30,000.
Sailboats on a rough sea in a slightly cloudy sky is up for auction at Nagel’s in Stuttgart on January 28. The expected price is 2,500 euros ($2,732):
Boats on rough waters is slated for the Christie’s London auction, January 20. The midpoint of the expected range is $3,600.
Personally, I think the first is the better picture. That said … this piece below, Sailing Ships at Dusk, is clearly better than both of the above. It was expected to go for $8,000 but brought a hammer price of $27,000 in November, 2015, at Lempertz in Cologne, Germany. There’s something about these sun-breaking-through-the-clouds pictures that really appeal to bidders. I see it repeatedly. This one was also very big: 72cm x 105 cm, which probably helped.
I’ve inquired with Nagel as to the cost of buying, insuring and shipping a piece from Germany to the US. I suspect it would be quite a bit. Start with a 25% premium to the hammer price, then probably $200 for shipping and $100 for insurance and perhaps another 15% for VAT. So, if one got it for a hammer price of $2,800, the final bill would be nearly $4,000. Then, when you went to sell it, the reverse would apply: If you got a $2,800 hammer price the net to the seller would likely be around $2,100. That’s nearly a 100% bid/ask spread. Yikes!
That said, a big reason these works go so cheap in the first place is precisely because of these gargantuan spreads. Without them they’d probably go for more.
By the way, I first became interested in the Hulk family of painters (there are about four of them) when I saw a Hendrick Hulk nautical work down at the Flagler in Palm Beach. It looked very profound so I assumed it would be a $250,000 piece. Nope. More like $2,000. That floored me and piqued my interest in this question of the gap between hammer prices and quality.