'Evening Sale' at Sotheby's

July 2 2020

Image of 'Evening Sale' at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's have announced that they are continuing to shake-up their usual calendar of summer sales. On 28th July 2020 they will be holding a special auction known as the 'Evening Sale' where high estimate works across the categories will be sold together in one sale. This includes artworks from Old Masters, Impressionist & Modern Art, Modern & Post-War British Art and Contemporary Art. One imagines that this sale will be held in the manner of their recent Modern & Contemporary Art auction.

Alongside the highly anticipated Rembrandt self-portrait, buyers will be able to bid on works by the likes of Picasso, Henry Moore, Chagall, Kandinsky and Léger. Here is the list of highlighted works thus far, which on the Old Master front includes a P Brueghel the Younger, Bosschaert the Elder, Van Goyen and a Turner. Andrew Fletcher, head of sales, has also just teased a fabulous Frans Hals portrait on his Instagram Account to be included in the sale.

In 2017 Christie's showed that it was possible to sell an old master painting in a contemporary art sale. That was an easy task for a Leonardo, perhaps. It will be exciting to see what happens, and whether the market is truly less concerned about categories as it has been in the past.*

The usual Old Master Paintings sales will be held online between 20-29 July 2020.

More updates as and when they are announced...

* - See this recent post for more background information on this theme.

Gainsborough Letter at Auction

July 2 2020

Image of Gainsborough Letter at Auction

Picture: International Autograph Auction, Malaga

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A rare signed letter by the painter Thomas Gainsborough is coming up for auction later this month. Dated 29th September 1783, the letter written to the artist's sister discusses money matters. Amusingly, it makes reference to Thomas's brother John Gainsborough, whom the painter referred to as 'Scheming Jack' due to his many failed business ventures.

The letter carries an estimate of €6,000 - €9,000. If it makes its top estimate it won't be far off the price made by this original portrait that sold for £12,500 (inc. fees) at Sotheby's in 2010.

Hidden Layers on Google Arts

July 2 2020

Image of Hidden Layers on Google Arts

Picture: MFA Houston

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston has uploaded its 2018 exhibition Hidden Layers: Painting and Process in Europe, 1500–1800 onto Google Arts & Culture. The exhibition focuses on technical analysis undertaken on their collection of paintings. It includes many fascinating x-rays and infrared images that show exactly how painters created, and often modified, their artworks.

Pissarro to be Restituted

July 2 2020

Image of Pissarro to be Restituted

Picture: ArtDaily.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

ArtDaily reports that a painting by Camille Pissarro will be returned to the heirs of the family it was confiscated from during World War II.

France's top appeal court rejected a bid by an American couple who had purchased the painting at Christie's in 1995 for $800,000. It seems that the picture's murky provenance was not established at the time of sale, and the couple had purchased the painting in good faith.

As the report goes on to say:

The Cassation ruling said that even if the Tolls had acquired the picture in good faith "they could not claim to have become the legal owners".

The descendants of Bauer -- some 20 people -- will now be able to take hold of the painting, which has been kept safely at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris throughout the case.

Rhoda Delaval

July 2 2020

Image of Rhoda Delaval

Picture: The National Portrait Gallery, London

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This blog tends to stay away from celebrating #OTD (onthisday) anniversaries. However, I thought this would make for a good exception.

Yesterday Twitter was awash with posts celebrating the birth of the artist Rhoda Delaval (1725-1757). The image above is Arthur Pond's portrait of Delaval at work, owned by the NPG and on loan to the No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum in Bath.

Despite her relative fame, one account pointed out that Rhoda Delaval does not yet have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. This seems like a very good opportunity for a scholar of art history to correct this omission.

For anyone who might like to read more in the meantime, here is Neil Jeffares's entry for the artist in his online Dictionary of Pastellists. Furthermore, here is a link to the three paintings by here on ArtUK. I'm sure there are more pictures by Delaval waiting to be reidentified.

Istanbul's Acquisition of Painting Causes Controversy

July 1 2020

Image of Istanbul's Acquisition of Painting Causes Controversy

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A curious news story has erupted in Turkey this past week. The Municipality of Istanbul had recently purchased the above Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II with a Dignitary by the workshop of Gentile Bellini. The painting, which had appeared at Sotheby's in 2015, was sold again at Christie's last week for £935,250 over an estimate of £400,000 - £600,000

Ekrem Imamoglu, the city's mayor, is said to have bypassed the country's Ministry of Culture and Tourism in order to acquire the work. Critics have expressed doubts as to whether the picture was overpriced or even authentic. Sultan Mehmed II's conquest of Istanbul has been a key part of  President Erdogan's rhetoric used in political campaigning and is celebrated in festivals each May.

Leiden Collection Updates Website

July 1 2020

Image of Leiden Collection Updates Website

Picture: The Leiden Collection

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Leiden Collection, one of the finest collections of Dutch Old Master Paintings, has updated its website with new entries and essays. There is a rather excellent videos section too, offering short multimedia presentations on various topics related to the collection and the artists represented within.

Van Dyck's Charles I Rehung!

July 1 2020

Image of Van Dyck's Charles I Rehung!

Picture: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

One story that got swept away by the virus crisis was the completion of conservation and restoration on Sir Anthony Van Dyck's Equestrian Portrait of Charles I in the National Gallery, London.

News has reached Twitter that the painting was finally rehung in the gallery today. The painting has a new black and gilded frame too. This means that visitors returning to the gallery from 8th July will be able to see the work in all its splendour! For those who can't wait to go and see it, the gallery have uploaded this high resolution and zoomable image on their website.

One of the most remarkable aspects of conservation work was the reinstating of the blue pigments in the sky. The retouching of the sky has really revived and rebalanced the colour scheme of the picture, which harks back to the bright colours of Titian whom Van Dyck admired above all others. Blues are so often lost due to overly-harsh cleaning in the past and general degrading of the various pigment over time. I do recommend watching the videos of the conservation work found on the gallery's website.

Dealer Catalogues Online

July 1 2020

Image of Dealer Catalogues Online

Picture: Karen Taylor Fine Art

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This time of the year is always rather exciting due to the selling exhibitions put on by the various London art dealers. I have a section of my bookshelf that contains an ever growing collection of catalogues produced for this season. These are not only aesthetically pleasing objects to have, but often contain many interesting scholarly material for future reference.

Due to our current times, many dealers publishing and promoting their catalogues online. I thought it might worth highlighting a few interesting examples.

Firstly, Karen Taylor has published an online catalogue entitled British Women Artists 1780 - 1890. It contains a selection of interesting and beautiful works by and of women artists.

Libson & Yarker have produced an online exhibition called In Studio, Academy and Field: Learning to draw in Britain 1700–1850. As always, the works and drawings on offer by the likes of Lely, Lawrence and Romney make me very envious.

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art have published their most recent catalogue entitled Drawn to Nature.

Madrid based Nicholás Cortés have published their most recent catalogue online entitled Seven Centuries of Spanish Art.

Do get in touch if you know of any other examples that deserve a mention.

Museums Reopening (ctd.)

June 30 2020

Image of Museums Reopening (ctd.)

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Details have been released today that the National Gallery in London will be reopening from 8th July 2020. Even better news is that the London-leg of the Titian exhibition, which closed three days after opening in March, will be extended till 17 January 2021.

The BBC reports the following:

Visitors will be asked to follow one-way routes around the building, and to keep to 2m social distancing. The gallery said "higher efficiency filters" have been installed in the air-conditioning system to help the flow of fresh air. Face masks will be "recommended" for visitors.

It seems that free booked timeslots will be required, although no specific details are supplied.

The Wallace Collection have already announced that it will be reopening on 15th July (booking required). The Royal Academy will be opening from 9th July (facemasks required). The Tate Museums have expressed that they will wait until the 27th July to reopen all four museums. The British Museum is yet to release a reopening date.

Further afield, the MET in New York plans to reopen on 29 August; The Louvre in Paris will be reopening 6th July; and the Prado in Madrid reopened on 5th June.

Update This image of the three one-way routes available when the National Gallery reopens has been circulating online. Which one would you take?

The Future of Auctions?

June 30 2020

Image of The Future of Auctions?

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's held three gargantuan online sales yesterday evening. The prices achieved were equally enormous. The Contemporary Art Evening auction made $234.9m (inc. fees); The Impressionist and Modern Sale made $62.8m (inc. fees); and The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale made $65.5m (inc. fees).

The highlight of the three sales was Francis Bacon's Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus which made $84.6m(inc. fees), the third highest price for the artist achieved at auction.

Equally impressive was the way in which these online auctions were broadcasted. Instead of have a virtual countdown, as many of the recent Old Master auctions have been handled, the auction house set up a live saleroom with video links to departments with phone bids around the world. This certainly brings back the excitement of a live physical auction, which can sometimes be lost in the online-only format.

The auction house's website explains further:

During these unprecedented times, Sotheby’s worked quickly to revolutionize its marquee auctions, continuing to present world-class artworks in safe, engaging and new ways. In a dynamic, multi-camera event live streamed around the world, Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker conducted the three evening auctions from Sotheby's London, interacting via video with colleagues bidding in real time in New York, London and Hong Kong. This historic auction capped off a season of digital innovation, as Sotheby’s introduced a suite of new online features that delivered the full auction experience.

Couple Reunited at the Mauritshuis

June 30 2020

Image of Couple Reunited at the Mauritshuis

Picture: Mauritshuis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Wonderful news that a diptych of a betrothed couple has been reunited after a century apart.

Curator Ariane van Suchtelen had spent twenty years looking for the companion to the Mauritshuis's portrait of Elisabeth Bellinghausen by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder (1493-1555). The picture, dated to 1538/9, is actually on a long term loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The companion portrait of Elisabeth's fiance, Jakob Omphalius, was separated from his wife-to-be around a hundred years ago.

Jakob's portrait appeared at auction in 2019 where it was purchased by the De Jonckheere gallery. A curator in Germany saw it and informed the Rijksmuseum, who then alerted the Mauritshuis to its reappearance. The Mauritshuis managed to raise the funds to buy it where the couple has finally been reunited.

The way both portraits correspond in terms of colouring and details is enchanting. Portraits of married couples were often, and sometimes still are, split up. This is especially the case when one of the pair are considered more 'commercially attractive' than the other. But this reunited pair really does make the case for how harmonious it can be when two pictures are presented together as they were originally intended.

Archbishop of Canterbury Encourages Rethink of White Jesus

June 29 2020

Image of Archbishop of Canterbury Encourages Rethink of White Jesus

Picture: Canterbury Cathedral via. The Church Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England's most senior Bishop, caused controversy last week by suggesting that there should be a rethink of the portrayal of Jesus as white. It has been suggested that this might include the removal of paintings and sculpture contained in Churches that depict Jesus as a such. The Church of England owns half of all of Britain's Grade I listed buildings and a significant collection of historic artworks. His statements were made as part of a larger piece which explained that the Church would be reviewing historic monuments to slave traders with an eye for removal.

Press reports have quoted the Archbishop's interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

Asked if there had to be rethink on the white image of Jesus, Welby said: “Yes of course it does, this sense that God was white … You go into churches [around the world] and you don’t see a white Jesus. 

“You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle-Eastern Jesus – which is of course the most accurate – you see a Fijian Jesus.”

Most crucially, it seems that Welby did not go as far as suggesting that all historic depictions should be removed:

“Jesus is portrayed in as many ways as there are cultures, languages and understandings. And I don’t think that throwing out everything we’ve got in the past is the way to do it but I do think saying: ‘That’s not the Jesus who exists, that’s not who we worship,’ it is a reminder of the universality of the God who became fully human.”

Is it time to question the term 'Old Master'?

June 29 2020

Image of Is it time to question the term 'Old Master'?

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian published a story this weekend highlighting that some galleries and museums are increasingly uneasy about using the term 'Old Master'.

The article published a quote from a political magazine Shout Out UK, the self-ascribed 'voice of the next generation', who claim the term contains a “uncomfortable combination of hierarchical, racial and sexist connotations”.

The article includes many voices from the artworld arguing both for and against. Amongst them, the head of Tate Modern Frances Morris expressed:

“I think we should question its use and what it tells us. I would like to see it replaced by something else,”

On the other hand, Victoria Siddall, Global Director of the Frieze art fairs, advocates an expansion of the term rather than its abolition. Siddall highlighted the likes of artist Artemisia Gentileschi as a prime example of an indisputable 'Old Master'.

Attention is also drawn to the upcoming exhibition Women Modern Masters at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, a venture specifically designed to challenge the term. So too is an upcoming exhibition at the Wallace Collection Forgotten Masters, drawing attention to overlooked artists commissioned by the officials of the East India Company.

The auction houses are already ahead of the game in regard to finding suitable replacements. Christie's have been emphasising the term 'Classic' instead of 'Old Master' for many years now.

For what it's worth, I would rather spend my time researching and bringing more female artists back into the light than get too caught up with the imperfect nature of categories. Later this year I'll be finishing off my doctoral thesis which will draw attention to a completely forgotten yet highly accomplished Victorian lady artist and interior designer. I look forward to sharing more in due course.

Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

June 29 2020

Image of Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

Picture: Christie's via. The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News broke last week that the auction house Christie's will be merging its Impressionist and Post-War and Contemporary Art departments. This 'hybrid' sector will be known as '20/21', short for 20th / 21st century art.

The auction house has cited a few reasons for the shake-up. By far the most interesting reason is the following:

“Our clients don’t think in categories anymore,” [Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti] said. “It’s not only about restructuring and reorganizing, it’s because we truly believe there is a continuum in these three parts. I believe that contemporary art has roots in the beginning of the 20th century and that without Monet and Duchamp, we would not be able to understand today’s contemporary art.”

Press reports have also drawn attention to the tough economic conditions experienced by the auction house which may result in job losses. Also cited is the growing dominance of Post-war and Contemporary Art and the 'shrinking' Impressionist market.

It is considered by some to be rather old fashioned to think of art in categories these days. In this respect, perhaps the auction house are following the demands of the market. However imperfect the categorisation system may be, it is surprising that an auction house is risking loosing expertise built over many decades in such a crucial specialist department. Such valuable knowledge is so easily lost and can prove crucial in determining areas such as attribution, skilled forgeries and murky provenance issues.

Canaletto - Spot the Difference

June 29 2020

Image of Canaletto - Spot the Difference

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Contemporary artist José Manuel Ballester has collaborated with the Pinacoteca de Brera in order to raise funds for the museum's reopening. The work (left) took inspiration from his previous series entitled 'Concealed Spaces', which reimagined famous works of art devoid of their figures. In this case he has edited out the figures in Canaletto's View of the Basin of San Marco from the Punta della Dogana held in the museum's collection.

In an interview published in The Art Newspaper the artist explained:

“I’m glad the works can be useful in a circumstance like the current one, although they weren’t created for that purpose,” Ballester says. “One of the virtues of this series is the versatility of interpretations.”

He also hopes the Concealed Spaces work will change people’s perspectives, “so that we can see what is hidden, what is in the background and learn to see the invisible,” Ballester says. “Just as we cannot see this virus except through its symptoms or through medical tests, art can help us visualise aspects of life that would otherwise not be possible.”

The Dealer's Eye Results

June 25 2020

Image of The Dealer's Eye Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Dealer's Eye sales at Sotheby's ended today after 7 days worth of online bidding.

The results are a mixed bag. The London leg of the sale made £1.03m with roughly 48% of lots sold, and the New York leg of the sale made $1.78m with roughly 57% of lots sold.

Several impressive results were achieved, including a landscape by Caspar Wolf that made $250,000 over $100k-$150K; a bird of prey by Carstian Luyckx that made $100,000 over $25-$35k; a picture by Hendrick van Cleve III that made $93,750 over $50k-$70k; a religious picture by Luigi Garzi that made $50,000 over $20k-$30k; a Turner sketch that made £25,000 over £12k-£18k. This extremely fine John Robert Cozens, a picture that might not immediately be considered the most commercial image, made a respectable £150,000. I can't for the life of me understand why this lovely unfinished self-portrait by John Hamilton Mortimer failed to sell.

Overall, these two sales represented a very bold and brave experiment that was worth pursuing during the uncertain times that we are in.

The artworks and dealers involved are all of the highest calibre. It may therefore be a little surprising why the sale didn't do better. Why was this? Firstly, the art market tends to react well to pictures that are considered 'fresh onto the market'. This is particularly the case where incorrectly catalogued 'sleepers' are involved. It is therefore sometimes difficult to shake off the idea that such collaborations represent 'stock-sales', however fine the pictures might be. Many collectors may well have encountered these pictures at several fairs too.

The estimates overall seemed reasonable, yet, it is clear from previous online sales that works that bear the lowest estimates always manage to tempt lots of bidders. No one can resist a good bargain, even in the world of old masters it seems.

One interpretation might be that dealers are struggling during these unprecedented times and auction houses far less so. Let's hope that both manage to survive intact after the worst of the virus crisis is over.

CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

June 25 2020

Image of CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

Picture: Journal18

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Journal18, a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture, have published a call for papers in order to create a rather fascinating online resource 'chronicling the representation and regulation of black bodies in Europe, c.1600-1800'.

Interested participants are invited to submit artworks (submitted either as copyright-free digital images or as hyperlinks) that correspond to this theme. The submitted pieces will then be woven into a large digital timeline for researchers, educators and students.

The above painting, posted on the journal's Twitter page, is Hyacinthe Rigaud's Portrait of a Black Archer (c.1697) in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque.

University of Edinburgh are Hiring!

June 25 2020

Image of University of Edinburgh are Hiring!

Picture: The Independent

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The University of Edinburgh are looking for a Lecturer in Pre-Modern Art (c.500 CE - 1500 CE).

The salary on offer is £41,526 - £49,553 per annum. A PhD is also a prerequisite of the role.

Applications close 23rd July 2020.

Good luck if you're applying!

Stockholm Museum to Restitute Painting to Poland

June 24 2020

Image of Stockholm Museum to Restitute Painting to Poland

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported that the National Museum in Stockholm will restitute a stolen painting to a museum in Poland.

The picture, attributed to the School of Cranach depicting The Lamentation of Christ (with a donor family by the looks of it), had gone missing from a Polish museum between 1945-46. The painting was purchased by the Swedish museum in good faith at auction in 1970. Recent provenance research has traced the picture's history and it will now be returned to the Muzeum Narodowe in Warsaw.

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