Previous Posts: June 2011

M F Hussain, 'the Picasso of India'

June 10 2011

Image of M F Hussain, 'the Picasso of India'

Picture: LA Times

The celebrated Indian artist M F Hussain has died at the age of 95. See a brief biography here, and a selection of his paintings here

The last exhibit...

June 9 2011

Image of The last exhibit...

... for our exhibition 'Finding Van Dyck' has just arrived. We open next Wednesday, 15th June.

Every time we do an exhibition I somehow manage to forget just how much work is involved in organising the loans. In this case, I'm enormously grateful to the staff at Manchester Art Gallery for their help.

Now, before we can hang the painting, I need to go and find my light meter. There are strict museum standards for light levels, usually 250 lux max. For comparison, the average office is lit at between 320-500 lux. 

Caravaggio in Canada

June 8 2011

Image of Caravaggio in Canada

Picture: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

If you're in Ottowa over the summer, the National Gallery of Canada's new exhibition Caravaggio and his Followers looks to be worth a visit (17th June - 11th Sept). And if you're in Ottowa on 18th June, then why not go to the day long symposium. Details here

Zoffany - call for papers

June 8 2011

Image of Zoffany - call for papers

Picture: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. 'Self-Portrait as David' by Zoffany.

To coincide with the Royal Academy's new Zoffany exhibition (10th March-10th June 2012, and before that at the Yale Center for British Art, 27th October 2011-12th February 2012), a conference on Zoffany and his International Contexts will be held at the RA on 14th May 2012. 

If you fancy giving a paper, send your proposal to Martin Postle by 30th September - contact details at the bottom of the page here

British landscapes - new conference

June 8 2011

Image of British landscapes - new conference

Picture: Yale Center for British Art. 'Wollaton Hall' (detail) by Jan Siberechts, c.1697

This looks interesting - a new conference on early modern British landscapes, organised by the Paul Mellon Centre on 18th November. It will:

...explore the origins of British landscape as a pictorial genre, addressing developments in the two centuries that followed Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. It aims to re-examine landscape imagery in drawings, paintings and prints of the period, by exploring its relationship with other 'arts of prospect' employed to observe, record and moreover evaluate the country's transformations. Prospects assumed various forms, visual and verbal, and included maps, plans and elevations, as well as views and verse, pageantry and theatrical scenery, the collaborations of artists, architects and surveyors, patrons, poets and place-makers. A prospect was a far-reaching vision of the future as well as a survey of the present, if also oftentimes reflecting on the pasts that had shaped the national territory. Accordingly, a central theme of the conference will be to consider the relationship between landscape imagery and the making, unmaking and remaking of Britain as a nation state.

Speakers include Kevin Sharpe, Andrew McRae, Joseph Monteyne, Christine Stevenson, Paula Henderson, An Van Camp, and Julie Sanders. Sign up here for a very reasonable £20.


June 7 2011

Image of Nicked

Picture: Tribune De l'Art

The above works by Hals and Jacob van Ruisdael have been stolen from a museum in Holland. Two Boys Laughing, and Wooded Landscape were taken on 26th May from the Hofje van Aerden in Leerdam. More here

New acquisition at NPG

June 7 2011

Image of New acquisition at NPG

Picture: National Portrait Gallery, London

The NPG in London has acquired this very fine pastel by Daniel Gardner, The Three Witches from Macbeth. The picture shows Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Elizabeth, Viscountess Melbourne and Anne Seymour Damer, the sculptor. It was acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. Says the NPG's catalogue entry:

This unusual group portrait depicts three of the most notorious women of the late 18th century. They were intimate friends sharing a common passion for Whig politics and the arts. Whereas Lady Melbourne had been friends with Anne Seymour Damer since the early 1770s, the friendship with Georgiana was fairly recent and this pastel may in part be related to Melbourne’s desire to publicize their friendship. While all three women are described as having enjoyed attending private theatricals and tableaux vivants, Gardner’s choice of the cauldron scene from Macbeth can also be related to their shared and shadowy political machinations as leading members of the Devonshire House circle. The composition has no parallel in Gardner’s oeuvre and it is assumed that either Damer or Melbourne suggested the design. 

I find the last suggestion a little odd - Gardner was a pretty good artist, and his compositions are varied enough. I don't think it would have been beyond his powers to come up with the grouping himself. He need only have read Shakespeare's stage direction for the scene (act IV, scene 1), which states - 'A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. Thunder. Enter three Witches.'

Today's announcement was twinned with news of an exciting exhibition at the NPG this autumn; The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons runs from 20th October 2011 to 8th January 2012. More here.

From £3m to £12m to £17.5m - Watteau continues to Surprise

June 7 2011

Image of From £3m to £12m to £17.5m - Watteau continues to Surprise

Picture: Christie's

The government has put a temporary export bar on Watteau's La Surprise. The picture, which was an exciting new discovery when first sold at Christie's in July 2008, is priced at £17.5m, should any public galleries be interested in raising the funds to buy it.

Thought to have been lost for over 200 years, the picture was estimated by Christie's at £3-5m in 2008. It sold for £12.3m (inc. premium).  

Of course, with today's non-existent acquisition budgets, you have to wonder whether the whole process is something of a charade. I'll eat my trousers if any museum raises the money to buy it - so what, really, is the point in pretending we might be able to stop the picture being exported?

Repin it in

June 7 2011

Image of Repin it in

Picture: Christie's

Forgive the rubbish pun, but yesterday Christie's set a new record for a work by Ilya Repin (1844-1930). A Parisian Cafe, 1875, had been estimated at £3-5m, and sold for £4.5m (inc. premium). The strong price is - thankfully - a sign of the continuing strength of the Russian market.

Sotheby's also sold a fine Repin yesterday, a portrait of his wife, Vera, for £1.1m. And they too set a new record for a work by the Russian artist Vasilya Vereschagin. His The Taj Mahal, Evening sold for £2.28mIt had been estimated at just £250-450,000.


June 6 2011

Image of Cocteaup

Picture: Guardian

There's a bit of an odeur in France ahead of the opening of a new museum devoted to the work of Jean Cocteau. One Cocteau expert says a large number of the exhibits are fakes, while another says they're genuine. As is often the case with a recently deceased artist, it seems to come down to a battle over who has the right to be seen as the sole 'expert', with the power to pronounce on authenticity. From the Guardian:

Art expert Annie Guédras, who was designated by Cocteau's heirs as the only person legally authorised to "evaluate, authenticate and index" his paintings and drawings, examined the Wunderman collection. She concluded that dozens of works were copies or fakes.

However, the Cocteau committee, set up to manage the artist's estate, headed by Pierre Bergé – co-owner of Le Monde and partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent – disagreed.

... Bergé called in another art expert, a decision that infuriated Guédras, who accused him of calling into question her professional judgment as well as breaking the legal agreement designating her as the only person authorised to authenticate Cocteau's work. She promptly resigned from the Cocteau committee and sued. Last year she won unspecified damages equivalent to three years' salary, a decision that Bergé immediately took to appeal.

Lowry self-portrait

June 6 2011

Image of Lowry self-portrait

Picture: Bonhams

There's a touching self-portrait of L S Lowry coming up for sale at Bonhams. In Group of People with the Artist, 1961, Lowry is seen on the left, in profile, very clearly standing apart from the group. Says the catalogue:

[Lowry] is the only figure not physically connected on the picture plane to any of the other people. It is almost as if he has been rejected by the assemblage and is staring into a lonely abyss. This is no coincidence as it is surely symbolic of Lowry's state of mind and how viewed himself within society.

Yours for £100-150,000, on 29th June.

Art History Futures - 'She paints like Picasso'

June 6 2011


Meet Aelita Andre, who has her first solo show in New York. Aelita is four.

Says Angela Di Bello, director of the Agora Gallery:

'She's special in that she really knows what she's doing... if you look at her paintings you'll see that they're balanced... it's one painting after another, she's very very consistent in her work, so she's already developed a style that is hers. What's interesting about her work is that it's abstract impressionism but it's also surrealist in the way she includes objects in her works, and how she includes objects.'

Dubbed 'the youngest professional painter on the planet', Aelita's paintings are priced at up to $9,900 each. Of 24 paintings in the exhibition, 9 were sold by the end of opening night.

Only in New York?

Rockwell painting found on US Roadshow

June 6 2011

Image of Rockwell painting found on US Roadshow


Norman Rockwell's Little Model has surfaced on the US version of the Antiques Roadshow. The picture was painted in 1919 for the cover of Collier magazine, but had been in a private collection since. The value given was $500,000.

The man who said we should pay more for museum entry

June 3 2011

Image of The man who said we should pay more for museum entry

The Director of the Met Museum, Thomas Campbell, has taken the brave step of increasing the 'suggested entry price' for his museum. It's now $25 from $20.

Campbell points out that each visitor actually costs the museum $40, so something has to give. Personally, I think $25 is well worth it, especially as there are all sorts of concessions for various groups.

I wonder what the equivalent cost-per-visitor is for the National Gallery in London?

RA Summer Exhibition App

June 3 2011

Image of RA Summer Exhibition App

Picture: Royal Academy

The RA's Summer Exhibition opens to the public on 7th June. For a preview, there's a snazzy app to download, with videos, images etc.

Hirst statue in Bristol

June 3 2011

Image of Hirst statue in Bristol

Picture: BBC

People of Bristol, rejoice. Damien Hirst's 6.7m high statue Charity will be on public display in Clifton until May 2012.

The statue is based on the charity boxes seen in streets until the '80s. Hirst has replicated one the original boxes, but, according to the BBC has also:

'scuffed her appearance and burgled her charity box' as a comment on social injustice.


Dali debacle

June 3 2011

Image of Dali debacle

Picture: The Guardian

The Guardian has an interesting story about 'Dali sculptures'. The official Dali foundation says that bronzes being sold for more than £1m as 'by Dali' are in fact nothing to do with him.

The seller is the Italian dealer Beniamino Levi and his Stratton Foundation, 'dedicated to promotion of culture and the arts'. Levi says he bought the rights to produce sculptures from drawings and paintings by Dali in the 1980s from Dali's business manager, Enrique Sabater. So although the sculptures, such as the above Alice in Wonderland, are based on ideas in Dali's work, they are not actually by him, and are invariably cast long after his death. 

Of course, with scultpure, the lines of authenticity are more easily blurred than with paintings and drawings. The casting process effectively allows unlimited 'originals' to be made. But looking at the various websites that purport to sell Dali sculptures, there is something faintly disingenuous about the whole process. Take for example the video of Pope John Paul II being presented with what Levi describes as 'the Dali sculpture Saint George and the Dragon made by the Stratton Foundation' in 1995. One presumes the Pope thought the sculpture was actually made by Dali - but it isn't.

New Burlington and British Art Journal

June 2 2011

Image of New Burlington and British Art Journal

Picture: National Gallery, London

Plop onto my desk at once come new issues of The Burlington Magazine and the British Art Journal.

Treats in the former include:


  • A rare document on Giorgione (an inventory of his goods found in Venice after his death - in which his name is given as Georgio, not Giorgione).
  • Discussion of an alterpiece by Bartolomeo Montagna.
  • A freshly cleaned painting by Andrea del Verrochio in the National Gallery, London (above, and more details here).


And in the BAJ:


  • A theory on the possible identity of Anne Clifford in a lost portrait.
  • Lucian Freud's 'Scottish interlude' by Sandra Boselli.
  • The Belton Conversation Piece by Philippe Mercier.
Both are subscription only, but you can read for free the Burlington's editorial on Vasari's 500th birthday, here.


British paintings destroyed in Tripoli

June 2 2011

Image of British paintings destroyed in Tripoli

Picture: Art Newspaper

A number of paintings from the Government Art Collection appear to have been destroyed after the British Embassy in Tripoli was evacuated. Apparently, it was a priority to take computers and documents on the plane out, but not the art. 

The GAC had 17 pictures on loan to the embassy, including, from left above, Philip Reinagle's 1797 Harrier Killing a Bittern, Edmund Havell's William Stratton, and a landscape in the style of Salvator Rosa.

Hopefully they're all ok, and hanging in some enterprising Libyan's bedroom.

Together at last

June 2 2011

Image of Together at last


The two halves of one of China's most famous paintings have been re-joined for the first time in 360 years. From AFP:


The painting [by Huang Gongwang], which is more than 600 years old, was partly destroyed in about 1650 when its owner, a rich collector, ordered it burned.

This was shortly before his death, and experts have speculated he was hoping to take it with him to the afterlife.

The collector's nephew managed to salvage most of the painting, but not before it was torn in two, and for the next three and a half centuries they were never reunited.

Wednesday's event at Taipei's National Palace Museum came a little more than three years after China-friendly politician Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president, ushering in a period of warmer relations with the mainland.


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