What Happened To Joseph Kleitsch's Valuable Oil Painting From Antiques Roadshow?

When the artist Joseph Kleitsch came to California from Chicago his work dramatically changed. For years the Hungarian-born painter had focused on portraits but the Southern California landscape soon became his main preoccupation. A July 1922 Los Angeles Times article called him "the most cosmopolitan" painter in Southern California who had come to Laguna Beach, "a small village of 400 souls," to paint "with no need or intention of seeking greener fields or newer pastures." Kleitsch would forever be linked to the beach town in its infancy during the 1920s and 1930s and his reputation would only grow after his early death at age 49, according to the Laguna Beach Independent.

In 2014, a 93-year-old woman appeared on an episode of the PBS television show "Antiques Roadshow" in New York City with a Kleitsch painting titled "The Drugstore." Art dealer Debra J. Force appraised the piece at $500,000 during the episode and two years later, the woman sold it for even more money, although neither her name nor the exact price she sold it for are public knowledge. The new owners, Patricia and John Dilks, have loaned the painting to various museums since that time.

A stellar provenance

The 40-inch by 40-inch Impressionist oil painting by Joseph Kleitsch depicts a stand of trees in the foreground and Rankin's drugstore and other of the town's buildings in the background. "This is the most important painting by Kleitsch to have come to light, because of the subject, the size, and its unrivaled beauty," Jean Stern, the executive director of the Irvine Museum, in Irvine, California, told Outdoor Painter in 2016.

On "Antiques Roadshow" the painting's original owner discussed the work and how she ended up with it. "I lived in Laguna Beach then, I grew up there, and this is a picture of the way the town looked at that time," the woman said (via PBS.org). Her parents knew Kleitsch and bought the painting from the artist's widow in 1939. Kleitsch died from a heart attack eight years earlier, in 1931. The woman's parents paid $100 (the equivalent of a little less than $2,200 today). Force was not only impressed with the artwork but with its stellar provenance. "They still had the original bill of sale," she told the Laguna Beach Independent. Soon buyers began clamoring to purchase the painting.

Bought in 2016

After the episode of "Antiques Roadshow" aired, John Dilks, a real estate broker, approached the woman about buying the painting but she was unsure whether she wanted to sell it or not. "She got a lot of calls from other people and that upped the price," Dilks told the Laguna Beach Independent. Neither the Dilks nor Force would say what the final sale price turned out to be when the couple, who lives in Carmel, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii, bought it in 2016. "I really felt connected to that painting," John Dilks said.

Since buying "The Drugstore," the Dilks have loaned it out to several California museums. In October 2016, the Irvine Museum featured the painting in an exhibit titled "Masterpieces of California Art," its first public showing. The painting's most recent public appearance came in September 2023, among more than 70 of the artist's paintings, as part of the Laguna Art Museum's exhibition "Joseph Kleitsch: Abroad and At Home in Old Laguna," per the museum's site.