Alden Mason (1919-2013) was an American painter from Skagit, Washington known for both his abstract and figurative works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic paints. His best known series include Burpee Garden, Squeeze Bottle, and Big Heads. Besides his work as an artist, Alden Mason taught as a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Art for over 30 years, where he inspired and influenced many young artists.
- Alden Mason Biography
- Are Alden Mason Paintings Worth Much?
- Famous Alden Mason Paintings and Artwork
- How to Sell Alden Mason Art
- More Artists Like Alden Mason
Who Was Alden Mason?
Alden Mason (1919-2013) was born in Everett, Washington on July 14, 1919. He grew up on a Fir Island farm on the banks of the Skagit river, where he spent much of his childhood outdoors birdwatching, fly fishing, and catching insects. In middle school, Mason would sell muskrats he trapped to purchase art supplies. He was particularly interested in comics at the time.
After graduating high school in 1937, Mason enrolled at the University of Washington intending to study entomology. However, after a year at university, he switched to taking drawing and painting courses, and graduated with a Bachelors of Fine arts in 1945. During this period, he was particularly inspired by the natural beauty of Washington’s landscapes and wildlife, and often incorporated natural scenes from his childhood into his work. Mason continued his studies at the University of Washington, and received an MFA in 1947.
Mason married his wife Donna in 1947, and in 1949 they had their first child, Roger. That same year, Mason returned to the University of Washington as an instructor in the art department, where he would continue to work until 1981. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Mason took several influential trips to Mexico and Guatemala, where he studied local architecture and indigenous art styles. During this period, his work became increasingly colorful and abstract, and he began shifting from watercolor painting to large scale oil paintings, the most notable of these being his Burpee Garden series. In the mid 1970s, the pace of his work, and the large quantities of varnish fumes he was exposed to began affecting his health, and he experienced frequent fainting spells and shortness of breath. His doctor suggested he stop oil painting, and Mason began the process of learning how to paint in acrylic.
In 1981, Mason quit his job at the university to devote himself full time to painting. This same year, he and his colleague Michael Spafford were commissioned to each paint two giant panels to be displayed in the Washington state senate chambers. After the murals were completed and installed, a few senators took offense to them and demanded they be removed. After a decade of legal disputes, Mason’s panels were finally moved to a permanent home at Centralia College, which Mason found to be an unsatisfactory resolution.
Mason continued to paint into the mid 2000s, when he began experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Eventually confined to a wheelchair, he died in Seattle, Washington on February 6, 2013 at the age of 93. He was remembered for his generous, sociable nature, and his unflagging love for art, travel, and the natural world.
- Born/Died: July 14, 1919-February 6, 2013
- Nationality: American
- Art Mediums: Watercolor, Oil paint, Acrylic paint
- Related Artists: Arshile Gorky, Milton Wilson, Chuck Close
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What is the Artist Alden Mason Known For?
Alden Mason is known for his abstract paintings in watercolor, oil, and acrylic. Initially drawing inspiration from the natural beauty in Washington state, he later traveled extensively in Europe, Latin America, and Oceania, where he studied a variety of local art styles and incorporated elements of them into his own work.
Burpee Garden Series
The Burpee Garden series was a collection of abstract oil paintings Alden Mason produced between 1972 and 1977. Named after the Burpee Seed Company magazines he would read as a child in Skagit, Washington, these paintings erupt with the vibrant colors and shapes of a garden in full bloom. These paintings were a major break from the more earthy and subdued colors and forms typical of the Northwest school of painting at that time, and they are still considered some of Alden Mason’s greatest works.
Squeeze Bottle Paintings
After his constant exposure to toxic fumes while oil painting began to affect his health, Alden Mason turned to acrylic painting. Mason was inspired by indigenous yarn paintings he viewed while traveling in Mexico, as well as by a visit to ceramics artist Robert Sperry, who showed Mason how to use a squeeze bottle to decorate a ceramic pot. Alden abandoned using a paintbrush during this period, instead laying thickened acrylic paint on a canvas using a squeeze bottle to create layered, textile like compositions.
The Alden Mason Foundation
The Alden Mason Foundation was founded in 2017 to celebrate Mason’s legacy and support young writers in Washington. The foundation is currently employing several artists and writers in creating a comprehensive monograph detailing the life and work of Alden Mason. After publication is complete, the foundation plans to establish a grant for deserving artists as well as a scholarship in Mason’s name through the University of Washington’s School of Arts.
What Mediums did Alden Mason Use?
In his early career, Mason primarily used watercolors and oil pastels before moving on to oil painting in the early 1970s. While his oil paintings won him much attention and acclaim, health issues forced him to abandon their use by the end of the 1970s. He then turned his attention to acrylic painting and developed his signature squeeze bottle technique to apply the paint. He also produced several large scale murals in the 1980s and 90s.
How Much Are Alden Mason Artworks Worth?
Today, Alden Mason’s Burpee Garden paintings remain some of his most popular, with one piece from this series selling for $150,000 at auction in 2022. For smaller Alden Mason paintings, prices between $1,000 and $6,000 are more typical, although larger, high quality pieces occasionally sell for far more. For instance, his 82’’x70’’ abstract acrylic piece “Sweet Encounter” sold at auction in 2022 for $189,000. His acrylic squeeze bottle paintings also remain in relatively high demand, and typically sell for between $5,000 and $20,000.
- Average Estimate for Prints: $100-$1,000
- Average Estimate for Paintings: $1,000-$20,000
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What Determines The Value of Alden Mason Art?
Alden Mason experimented with a variety of styles and mediums throughout his art career, with some periods of his work being considerably more sought after than others. Some important aspects to consider when determining the value of an Alden Mason painting are size, medium, and artistic style.
- Size: As is true of many artists, Alden Mason’s larger scale works tend to be more valuable. Mason’s most valuable works tend to be a minimum of 40’’ wide, although some pieces were considerably larger.
- Medium: Mason’s oil paintings tend to be the rarest and most highly sought after of his works. His acrylic paintings, especially those produced in the 1980s and early 1990s are also quite popular. His watercolors are generally the least valuable, but may still sell for a few thousand dollars.
- Style: The colorful, abstract painting style embodied by Mason’s Burpee Garden series tends to be his most popular, followed by the highly textured acrylic squeeze bottle paintings he produced later. His figurative and pop art style works tend to be less valuable in comparison.
The Values of Alden Mason Paintings
Here is an overview of some of Alden Mason’s most popular series and individual pieces, as well as a recent sale price at auction.
Alden Mason, Orange Goofer
This large oil on canvas piece was produced in 1974 as part of the Burpee Garden series. It combines brightly colored abstract forms, with many orange and yellow hues dominating the piece.
- Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
- Result: $150,000
Alden Mason, Jim
This predominantly black and white oil pastel on paper piece was produced in 1985, during Mason’s “Big Heads” period. During this time, he experimented with showing characters with large, abstracted heads in various mediums.
- Estimate: $2,000-$4,000
- Result: $6,875
A large oil Burpee Garden abstract painting from 1974. This piece combines a variety of colors, especially reds, blues, and beige. It sold for 3,150% over estimate in July, 2022.
- Estimate: $2,000-$4,000
- Result: $130,000
Alden Mason, Gum Ball Tower
This brightly colored acrylic painting of a gum ball tower from 1965 is an excellent example of Alden Mason’s pop art work. It was exhibited as part of the “Fly Your Own Thing” exhibit in 2021, the first comprehensive exhibit of Mason’s work since his death in 2013.
- Estimate: $13,500
- Result: N/A
Alden Mason, Nocturnal Bo Peep
This 1984 acrylic squeeze bottle painting combines colorful, thin stripes and abstract forms into a tapestry like painting.
- Estimate: $9,000-$12,000
- Result: $22,500
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How to Identify an Alden Mason Signature
Alden Mason typically signs his work on the verso in all lowercase cursive, and often adds the year the piece was produced. He signs his pieces as “alden mason” or occasionally “alden M!”.
How Can I Sell My Alden Mason Painting?
Alden Mason produced hundreds of paintings in watercolor, oil, and acrylic spanning from the 1950s to the early 2000s. He was an innovator who was always on the lookout for new styles and techniques to incorporate into his art. Because of the wide variety of artwork Aldem Mason produced over the course of his career, determining the value of your piece can be challenging and confusing. Bringing your piece to a trusted auction house for authentication and appraisal is the best way to determine the potential value of your Alden Mason painting. Speaking with an auction house will also help you learn about the options for selling your art at auction.
Revere Auctions Sells Your Alden Mason Art
Revere Auctions has expertise in selling Alden mason paintings and prints at auction for competitive prices. Our experts at Revere Auctions are ready to help you with any stage of your art journey, whether you are looking for an estimate of value, a USPAP certified appraisal, art restoration, or an effortless way to sell your art. We advertise our sales on more auction platforms than any other auction house in America, and regularly achieve record prices for our objects. If you are interested in selling with us, please reach out for a free online appraisal of your piece today.
Discover Works From More Artists Like Alden Mason
Here are a few more artists with styles similar to that of Alden Mason:
Arshile Gorky was an Armenian-American artist who had a large influence on the American Abstract Expressionist movement.
Milton Wilson was an American abstract painter from Oregon, Washington, he worked with many artists in the Northwest.
Chuck Close was an American artist who produced both photo realistic and abstract portraits. He was a former student of Alden Mason at the University of Washington.