Previous Posts: April 2012

Google Art Project and Connoisseurship

April 13 2012

Image of Google Art Project and Connoisseurship

Picture: Capitoline Museum

Over at Art History Today, David Packwood has a must-read post on some of the art historical issues thrown up by the laudable Google Art Project. Money quote:

Maybe all this highlights the need for professional art historians and specialists to consult with the GAP on issues of attribution and connoisseurship, though overall it’s thumbs up for a very useful resource.

As a Poussin scholar, David (rightly) rejects the above picture (Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii), which is attributed to Poussin in full by the Capitoline Museum in Rome. David says:

I’ve never seen this version before- and now unfortunately I have. I have no idea why the Capitoline have labelled this picture - here seen in situ - a Poussin. Like many of his paintings of the late 1630s, Poussin creates a firm, relief-like picture that usually unfolds from left to right. The colours, the poses, especially the foppish gait of Camillus have absolutely nothing to do with Poussin, or indeed the 1630s. Instead of thrashing the disgraced schoolmaster out of the village, the children seem to be leading him out to a picnic. Compare this with one of Poussin’s stern versions shown here.

I should advise the Capitoline to look for their painter in early 18th century France, a rococo painter with classical pretensions - but no means of putting them into practice. Let us not look but pass on.

I find the possibilities opened up by projects such as GAP and the Public Catalogue Foundation incredibly exciting. Are we not far off the day when the world's art historians (amateur and professional alike) can collectively have access to, and make judgements on, the planet's entire publicly-owned collection of art? Imagine; A Catalogue Raisonne of the World! (And in this world, there is no such thing as copyright.)

Update - a reader writes:

Having spent an incredibly frustrating day searching in vain for the location of Italian paintings (Roman galleries are so far topping my list of appalling/non existent online catalogues) the following sounds ideal: 

"Are we not far off the day when the world's art historians (amateur and professional alike) can collectively have access to, and make judgements on, the planet's entire publicly-owned collection of art? Imagine; A Catalogue Raisonne of the World!"

Possibly the worst thing for art historians is knowing an image is in a collection and yet not being able to find it - or any information about it! Next step - make it compulsory for all works in private collections to be photographed and catalogued online so that scholars can learn from them?  Definitely dreaming...

Hear hear to that. While of course nobody can compel private owners to put their paintings online, it is quite likely that images exist of most of them somewhere. For example, more and more auction catalogues are going online, and then there are image libraries such as the Witt, which may one day be online. The equivalent in Holland, the RKD, is increasingly being put online. And of course, almost all the pictures that we have handled here at Philip Mould are online for anyone to see over at our archive site, Historical Portraits.

Another reader writes:

Over at 3PP (which I discovered many thanks to your blog) there is a piece on the Google project (GAP) and Canal Educatif a la Demand (CED) that further endorses the Google / decent image access revolution taking place (three cheers). On checking just one favourite site and artist, Yale Center / Girtin) I must warn you that what is on the Google site might not be exactly what appears on the collection's own site: a work labelled 'Thomas Girtin' on the site Google is, when checking the collections own site details (link on GAP details page fortunately), given as 'imitator of...' and another (also 'Thomas Girtin' on Google) as 'follower of...' So it would be just as well to double-check information, however good the image.

Where they found that Cezanne

April 13 2012

Image of Where they found that Cezanne

Pictures: Art Daily

Sealed in the roof of a car. Art Daily has more fascinating images here.

Update: The picture's authenticity has been confirmed.

Update II - a reader writes:

A propos finding that Cézanne – that is exactly where the central character in “Headhunters” – the gripping and enjoyable new Swedish film, hid the art he stole.  A case of Life imitating Art?


Test your connoisseurship

April 13 2012

Image of Test your connoisseurship


Here's a little glimpse of a painting sent in by a reader. Can you guess the artist and title? No prizes alas, but global adulation from me and fellow AHN-ers.

Update: And the winner is... tweeter Claudia Dias; who very quickly got the correct answer, which you can find by clicking 'Read on'.

<<enormous round of applause>>


<</enormous round of applause.>

Read More

Art history futures - Thomas Kinkade's legend begins?

April 13 2012

Image of Art history futures - Thomas Kinkade's legend begins?

Picture: Telegraph/Alamay

Perhaps inevitably, the death of the phenomenally successful US artist Thomas Kinkade has prompted some tales about his private life. Here's the most curious, from The Telegraph:

He had also been seen urinating in public — in the lift of a Las Vegas hotel and on a model of Winnie the Pooh in Disneyland. “This one’s for you, Walt,” Kinkade was reported to have said.

Curiously, while Kinkade denied accusations of financial impropriety, he did not deny the allegations about his personal conduct. Alluding to his practice of urinating out of doors, he explained that he had grown up “in the country” where it was commonplace. When asked about the Las Vegas lift incident, he admitted that “there may have been some ritual territory marking going on”.

Now I don't much rate Kinkade's paintings, and I suspect many of you don't either. But he was probably the most collected artist, on a numerical basis, in the world. In 500 years time, will art historians look upon his personal quirks in much the same way as we do with, say Caravaggio? Who knows?

The stories of Kinkade relieving himself in odd places reminds me of the time I was working at Buckingham Palace, during a summer opening. One day a visitor started urinating in the marble corridor, down the back of a Canova sculpture. He was entirely unfazed by the commotion he caused, saying something along the lines of 'when you've got to go...' I was detailed to escort him from the Palace, and to make sure he didn't try anything else in the gardens. As far as I know, he wasn't an artist.

That person who takes ages in the airplane toilet

April 13 2012

Image of That person who takes ages in the airplane toilet

Picture: Laughing Squid

Here she is, artist Nina Katchadourian. And while she was in there, she used up all the loo roll to make Flemish and Dutch-style portrait poses. 

Update: a reader has sent me this, with more photos. She really must have been in there for hours.

The price of reproductions

April 12 2012

Image of The price of reproductions

Picture: British Museum

Here at Philip Mould, we're putting together our new catalogue. One of the pictures we'll include is a late Titian portrait of an admiral, which was admired by Van Dyck in Italy. He did a little drawing of it, above (bottom right hand corner), which is now in the British Museum. To reproduce this image at no more than a 1/4 page, the BM will charge us £330 plus vat. Now I know we're in the trade, and that we should certainly pay for reproductions. But in a world where many museums are liberalising their copyright policies, and even allowing free reproductions, isn't £330 plus vat a bit steep?

Update - a lively debate on this. A reader writes:

Re: The cost of reproductions, I can't help but think that it's a case of 'the biter bit' - it seems a lot of money to me, not being 'in the business', but no doubt this cost will be added in to the unimaginable asking price of your Titian - which your gallery website is far too coy to reveal, as far as I can see. This is usual 'market practice' I suppose but you are often concerned about knowing costs and if a public gallery were to purchase the picture no doubt you would insist on us knowing how much it (we) paid (?). 

As you admit commercial dealers cannot complain being charged market rates, ie. what the market will pay. However, for museums to charge other museums or students and similar, such fees is nigh well criminal.

Our insurers don't like us putting prices on our website, or in our window, for fairly obvious reasons. Obviously, if the picture was sold to a public institution, one would expect that institution to state what they paid for it.

Another reader writes:

You wrote on 12th April about the BM charging for the reproduction of an image of a work in their collection which was out of copyright. It is understandable that institutions should try to raise more money at a time when public grants are under pressure. However, the BM and similar institutions are publically funded and have been supported by donations and bequests from people who expected their gifts to be freely available to everyone.

You and your readers may recall the case of Derrick Coetzee, a Wikipedia contributor, who was threatened with legal action by the National Portrait Gallery for uploading images to Wikipedia.

Personally, I think that if a picture is in a public collection, then its image right is too. Non-commercial use should therefore be free. There should be a charge for commercial use; the question is, how high should it be?

Update II - a reader writes:

It seems to me you and your readers are being unfair to the British Museum in this matter, not perhaps in questioning the sum of 330 pounds plus VAT, but in implying that the BM charges scholars and students. It does not. For reproduction in a scholarly publication, of an image that already exists (i.e. no new photography is required) the British Museum provides images within 48 hours, by email, free of charge. As a publicly funded institution they do indeed make their gifts freely available to those furthering research and knowledge, as one of your readers demands.  

Those making money from the use of their images - whether publishers of art books or dealers - should of course pay a fair rate. It is not for me to say what that fair rate is. But I do feel that those of us, like myself, who have benefited in the past and who continue to benefit from the British Museum's extremely benign permissions to reproduce in a scholarly context should make clear that they are a model to be imitated. Attacking the innocent is not the way to improve the situation. Rather we should support them and praise them.

For the record, I certainly wasn't attacking the BM, nor suggesting they shouldn't charge dealers like me, merely discussing the specific cost of a reproduction. Regular readers will know that I am bursting with praise for any institution that offers free images for scholarly use. I should also add that for scholarly publications, we here at Philip Mould are happy to provide images free of use from our own image archive

There is obviously some confusion about the BM's pricing policy, for when we reproduced the same Van Dyck drawing for a loan exhibition catalogue, we were charged, albeit a reduced rate. And another reader writes:

I have a book chapter... coming out soon which cost me about £400 for three images, only half-size. I refused to get one image from the BM as they obviously were charging way over the top. By contrast I have another essay with two NG pics in press- but they considerately waived the fee.

Here is the BM's image use policy.

Stolen Cezanne recovered?

April 12 2012

Image of Stolen Cezanne recovered?

Picture: Buhrle Collection

Cezanne's Boy with Long Arms Boy in a Red Waistcoat, stolen in 2008 from the Buhrle Collection in Zurich, has apparently been recovered in Serbia, that hotbed of art crime. The picture was stolen with a Van Gogh, a Monet and a Degas. The Van Gogh and the Monet were found soon afterwards, but the Degas Ludovic Lepic and his Daughters (below) is still missing.


April 12 2012

...for the technical glitches earlier today.

Selling 'The Painter of Light'

April 12 2012

Image of Selling 'The Painter of Light'

Picture: Thomas Kinkade

The death of US artist Thomas Kinkade has shed an interesting light on the industry that can spring up around a successful artist these days. Lovers of fine art might not like Kinkade's work, best described as John Atkinson Grimshaw on acid, but there's no denying his phenomenal popularity in the US. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kathleen Pender looks at the impact Kinkade's death has had on sales:

Works by Thomas Kinkade have been flying off gallery walls since the artist and marketer extraordinaire died unexpectedly at age 54 in his Los Gatos home Friday.
Nathan Ross, part-owner of the Original Thomas Kinkade Gallery in Kinkade's hometown of Placerville (El Dorado County), has not had time to count how many canvas reproductions have sold since Friday, but "I don't think I am exaggerating if I said 200," he says. On a normal weekend, he sells two or three. [...]
The spike in sales marks a sharp turnaround for the Kinkade brand, which has been in decline since its heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Gallery owners attribute the falloff to the economy, a decline in the collectibles market and oversaturation - the Kinkade name has been on everything from calendars and figurines to La-Z-Boy furniture and a housing development in Vallejo.
Allen Michaan, president of Michaan's Auctions in Alameda, says it's not unusual to see collectors snapping up works after an artist dies. "That is a typical reaction. People think when an artist dies, his work goes up in value."
Michaan would not be surprised to see Kinkade's originals, which are rarely on the market, appreciate but says, "I don't think there is any lasting value" in his reproductions. "A rule of thumb: Anything that is manufactured and marketed as a collectible really isn't."
Kinkades start at $750 for a 12-by-18, standard-edition, signed (by auto-pen) and numbered canvas reproduction and go up from there, with a bewildering array of options.
Each image has several editions - such as standard, artist proof, gallery proof, publisher proof, Renaissance, studio proof and master. Each edition has a successively smaller number of prints and a higher price tag. Higher-end versions also have a hand signature instead of a machine-generated one and additional highlighting (applied by trained artists) that add texture and depth.
In the Bay Area, the most popular Kinkades include Disney themes and scenes of San Francisco, Napa Valley, Carmel and the coast, Perata says. "The ones that are more religion-based sell amazing in the Bible Belt."

The state of art history today

April 11 2012

A learned reader hits the nail on the head:

Although the 1980s literary studies revolution in the history of art has unlocked lots of excellent new approaches to the study of British painting, I often think also about the detrimental effects. So much core archival research has been left undone in the decades since then, as it was unfashionable and unlikely to attract funding. So many generations of students have grown up not caring much about sources. I think it is interesting to contrast British art studies with, say, the history of the early modern state, where scholars are deeply rooted in their materials. Even fashionable ones, such as Steve Pincus. We art historians don't have even the most basic of research tools, such as biographical dictionaries and catalogue raisonnes, to work with. I think it is quite embarrassing, actually, that the field of study takes itself so seriously, yet much of it is essentially floundering around in the dark.


April 11 2012

Image of Titanic-mania

Picture: Leeds Museum & Galleries

Here, courtesy of the Public Catalogue Foundation, is Frederick Cayley Robinson's The Outward Bound. Painted in 1912, it shows the Titanic leaving Southampton, and was commissioned after the sinking to commemorate the loss of Wallace Hartley, the violinist who was leader of the band that sank with the ship. 

The cost of those seeds

April 11 2012

Image of The cost of those seeds

Picture: Graham Turner/Guardian

A while ago, the Tate announced it had bought some 8m seeds from Ai Wei Wei, but curiously did not say for how much. Now, a reader writes:

I wondered if you have seen that the price paid by Tate Modern for the Ai Weiwei seeds is now disclosed on the Art Fund website?  It is 376,000GBP of which 100,000GBP was given by the Art Fund. 

Incidentally, are other people “bothered” ( I’ll put it no more strongly than that!) by the number of contemporary pieces being funded, at least partly, through Art Fund Grants?  If you search “2011” on their site, as above it brings up some 160 grants given, no less than 66 ( 41.25%) of which were for contemporary objects ( prints, paintings, craft pieces, photos, video etc ). I have taken contemporary as created from 2000 onwards. I have not calculated the percentage in money terms which these grants represent.

It seems that the Art Fund is becoming the Contemporary Art Fund……

That's an interesting statistic. Are you bothered/relaxed about the funding of contemporary art? Let me know. Incidentally, on an analysis of price per seed, the previous auction price of Wei Wei's seeds suggests the Tate has got a bargain.

Update - a reader writes:

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree about the amount of money the Art Fund is wasting on contemporary art. I don't think this is what the Art Fund is for, or probably what most members expect their money to be spent on. In the latest Art Quarterly magazine there are two 'video installations' which were each given a grant of over £40,000. In a few years time the galleries will probably not have the technology to make them work anyway. Other things that I find baffling are limited edition prints and photographs, which are not, in my opinion, original works of art anyway but seem to command vast sums of money. Of course the Art Fund would argue that contemporary art attracts huge crowds and if they don't buy it now it will be unaffordable in a few years' time. I would say, wait and see what stands the test of time and then decide if it is worth the money. I have been thinking that there should be a completely separate 'Contemporary Art Fund' and leave the rest for the Old masters!

Exclusive - A new Titian at the National Gallery?

April 11 2012

Image of Exclusive - A new Titian at the National Gallery?

Picture: National Gallery

One of my sharper-eyed readers has alerted me to the new upgrading of a Titian at the National Gallery. For may years thought to be a copy, recent conservation has convinced the National Gallery that this portrait of a man thought to be Girolamo Fracostoro can be displayed as 'Attributed to Titian'.

I'm not a Titian specialist, but I can see that the argument has merits. The composition is of course very Titian-like for a work of the 1520s, and the handling of the cape and elements of the face seems right. However, the main problem with the picture is its condition. In parts, particularly the darks (which are the softest pigments, and are the first to be lost in over-cleaning) there is little left to see but bare canvas. So it's unlikely we can ever really be sure about the attribution.

You can see the picture in room 12. There is no illustration online at the National Gallery, but the above is a photo prior to restoration.  

The best John Michael Wright?

April 11 2012

Image of The best John Michael Wright?

Picture: SNPG

A reader writes:

Thank you for the Hampton Court notice, but isn't Wright's best portrait the wonderfully subtle image of the architect fellow [Sir William Bruce, above] in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery? Hope I don't sound obsessive, but I am a bit about Wright who is undeservedly obscure and sometimes mis-catalogued as 'follower of Lely'.

As a fellow John Michael Wright obsessive, I'm delighted to hear of other Wright fans. And yes, Wrights are very often catalogued as 'follower of Lely', or 'follower of Kneller'. I've been lucky enough to find quite a few over the years. The SNPG portrait is indeed very fine. But personally I don't think many English portraits of the 17th Century can beat Wright's depiction of Charles II for drama and sheer majesty. If you have a favourite Wright, let me know. 

Update - a reader writes:

JM Wright is wonderful but don't you feel the foreshortening of the sitter's left arm in that SNPG picture is rather feeble? And the head all out of proportion with the body? [...] My favourite painting, for what it's worth:

What Trenton tells us about the Arts Council

April 11 2012

Image of What Trenton tells us about the Arts Council

Picture: Independent

It turns out that Trenton Oldfield, the loon who disrupted the Boat Race last weekend, has enjoyed funding from the taxpayer via the Arts Council. In 2009 his organisation This is Not a Gateway was awarded £4,650 by ACE to:

To contribute to the funding matrix of the second annual This Is Not A Gateway Festival. The funding will directly lead to an increase in the quality and breadth of arts activities within the 2009 festival programme. This Is Not a Gateway will facilitate the production of over 40 events to occur over three days for up to 500 audience members.

You can judge for yourself whether 500 people really did turn up here. ACE is also supporting this year's This is Not a Gateway Festival. According to ACE's website:

This Is Not A Gateway, an independent organisation that brings together critically engaged people, is seeking submissions for its 4th festival. Proposals are welcome from anybody whose point of reference is ‘the city’. 

The festival is independent, rigorous and productive - an open platform; an arena for criticality as well as propositions. As a result of the continuing actuate social, economic, democratic and spatial deficits/crisis’s and revolutions, we are seeking submissions from individuals, groups from across the globe that are addressing urgent urban questions. 

Full list of thematics can be found here:

Submissions are sought from a lived knowledge/experience perspective, as well as from the widest range of disciplines. Previous formats have included exhibitions, roundtable discussions, soapboxes, films, walks, presentations, book and project launches. 

This Is Not A Gateway’s role is that of a facilitator. It provides the infrastructure to enable participants to hold their own activities. Support includes securing venues, equipment, publicity, audiences and installation assistance.

If anyone can tell me what any of this means, or even better, what it has to do with art, I'd be most grateful.

Update - a reader writes:

At the end of your piece on Trenton Oldfield, you ask: "If anyone can tell me ...what it has to do with art, I'd be most grateful". I can't help wondering if you're asking us whether your blog post has anything to do with art (it doesn't). There is a big difference between art and Arts, it would be a pity if you expanded into the latter category.

Of course, in the context of discussing the Arts Council I mean art as in 'the arts'. And as a former policy wonk on the arts, I'm afraid readers will have to put up with the occassional rant from me on the subject.

Yes - it's a porn warning at Hampton Court

April 10 2012

Image of Yes - it's a porn warning at Hampton Court

Picture: BG

Seems a touch Puritanical to me... 

New exhibition at Hampton Court

April 10 2012

Image of New exhibition at Hampton Court

Picture: BG (taken surreptitiously, so apologies for the poor quality)

Most visitors to Hampton Court will have heard about Henry VIII and his six wives. Few, however, will know about Charles II and his more numerous mistresses. This is a shame, for the stories of the Stuart court can be just as interesting as those of the Tudor world, and even come close to being as politically important. For had Charles II had spent less time chasing actresses, and concentrated instead on producing a legitimate heir, we might not have had the calamitous reign of James II, and thus the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights, and the consitutional monarchy we live under today.  

So all praise to Historic Royal Palaces for shifting their focus onto the Stuarts at Hampton Court. Their new exhibition, The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned, looks at the love life Britain's most priapic king, Charles II. I can highly recommend it. Brett Dolman, the curator, has put together a show which is both pleasingly entertaining and informative - rare these days - and has selected some of the finest examples of British portraiture from the seventeenth Century. These include: probably the finest miniature of the period, Samuel Cooper's unfinished portrait of the Dule of Monmouth; a selection of Lely's best 'Windsor Beauties', including Pepys' 'prettiest girl in the world', Frances Stuart; my favourite Van Dyck, Cupid and Pysche (though sadly hung too high, and poorly lit); and John Michael Wright's best painting, his portrait of Charles II (glimpsed above). 

I was also pleased to see that Lely's full-length of a naked Nell Gwynn has been displayed properly identified as her, and without the late Sir Oliver Millar's curious suggestion that the sitter is Barbara Villiers. The Lely (above) is hung next to a contemporary copy of the same subject, which, while of inferior quality, confirms to me in its more detailed background that Lely's original, which is strangely muted in that area, has suffered a degree of loss over the years.

A number of pictures have been cleaned for the exhibition, including Lely's fine portrait of Lady Byron, which has languished in the Royal Collection's store for many years. And in a way, what this exhibition really revealed to me was that the previously rather empty and sparsely hung Wren rooms at Hampton Court come to life when full of pictures. Kneller's 'Hampton Court Beauties', for example, are usually crammed into a small and dimly lit ground floor room used by William III at Hampton Court, where it is impossible to stand back from them, or even see some them in the gloaming. This may well be a historically relevant place to hang the pictures, but as Kneller once said when he found someone looking too closely at his portraits; 'my pictures are not made for smelling of'. They need space to be appreciated. So hopefully, the exhibition will usher in a rehang of the later Stuart rooms at Hampton Court. But in the meantime, do go along to this excellent new show - and let me know what you think.

Searching the Google Art Project

April 10 2012

Image of Searching the Google Art Project

Picture: Google/Gemaldegalerie

While we all love the Google Art Project's high-resolution images, there's no doubting the site could do with the input of a few art historians. A reader writes:

What is disconcerting about GoogleArtProject is that they list artists alphabetically under their first name. So if one cannot immediately recall Le Brun's first name as he is not listed under L or B but under C for Charles, one is left guessing and sorely searching...


While it is indeed odd that artists are listed under their first name in the main index, 3PP points out that the search box works fine:

The one thing we should return?

April 10 2012

Image of The one thing we should return?

Picture: Adrian Pingstone

There was news this weekend that the Turkish government has formally requested the return of a 1st century BC stone relief, the Samsat Stele, which is held in the British Museum. The Stele thus joins the Elgin Marbles as an artefact of international dispute.

I'm generally not one for repatriating items such as the Marbles. But I've always thought that 'Cleopatra's Needle' in London probably should be returned to Egypt. Unlike objects in the British Museum, it is not preserved for study by scholars, or a destination for the world's tourists. Instead, it is largely forgotten, hidden by trees, and eaten by pollution to such an extent that its hieroglyphics have become unreadable. I doubt many would notice if it was replaced by a replica. Would you miss it?

Lost Rossetti to be sold

April 10 2012

Image of Lost Rossetti to be sold

Picture: Telegraph/Christie's

From Colin Gleadell at The Telegraph:

A portrait redolent of one of the most famous romances of the Victorian era has surfaced for sale from a private collection in Scotland where it has been, unrecorded and unknown to scholars, for over a hundred years.

Painted in 1869 by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it represents his muse, Jane Morris, who was married to Rossetti’s business partner, the artist and designer William Morris.

Artist and sitter first met and were attracted to each other in 1857, but as Rossetti was already engaged to Elizabeth Siddall, she married Morris instead. However, after Siddall tragically took her life in 1862, and the Morris marriage appeared to flounder, the relationship was rekindled.

The year 1869 is generally thought to be when Rossetti reconciled his grief for Siddall with his love for Jane Morris. Though gossip levels ran high, lack of documentary evidence has left historians guessing at the degree of intimacy achieved between them.

Each destroyed the correspondence with the other during those crucial years. The title of the painting, ‘The Salutation of Beatrice’, associates Jane with Dante’s Beatrice, the incarnation of beatific love and the object of Dante’s courtly love. A sonnet by Dante pinned to the wall extols the virtues of courtly love: ‘My lady looks so gentle and so pure…’

The highest price for Rossetti is the £2.6 million paid by Australian collector, John Schaeffer, in 2000 for a pastel drawing of Jane Morris entitled ‘Pandora’, also dated 1869. He subsequently re-sold it in 2004 for £1.7 million. The rediscovery, which is a rare oil painting, is estimated to fetch between £1 million and £1.5 million at Christie’s next month.

The catalogue is not online yet - I'll link to it when it is, and put up a better photo.

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