Previous Posts: January 2014

Rembrandt and Guardi on display at the Ashmolean

January 22 2014

Image of Rembrandt and Guardi on display at the Ashmolean

Picture: BBC News/Ashmolean

The Ashmolean museum in Oxford has acquired the above landscape byFrancesco Guardi, through the UK government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme. Says director Christopher Brown:

The picture is an enchanting early view painting which shows the Fondamenta Nuove busy with small boats and gondolas, the island of San Michele and beyond the snow-capped Dolomites. It was painted for a British Grand Tourist in 1758, and is now on display in the Britain and Italy Gallery. This Guardi work is marvellously fresh and instinctually responsive to the beauty of his native city.

The Guardi was worth more than the tax amount liable against the donating estate, so the acquisition had to be topped up by the Art Fund. So well done them.

Brown also, in his column for the Oxford Times, adds that the museum will be borrowing Rembrandt's Portrait of Catrina Hoogshaet (below):

[The] picture has been lent to the Ashmolean from a private collection and it is a particularly exciting event for me as a historian of Dutch and Flemish art. The Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet by Rembrandt van Rijn ranks amongst the finest Old Master paintings in this country. It has just been hung in the Mallet Gallery at the heart of our outstanding collection of great European paintings. Painted in 1657, it shows the 50-year-old Catrina Hooghsaet, who lived in Amsterdam. She was a member of a Mennonite — a radical Protestant community — and dressed in the restrained style they favoured. She was, however, a very wealthy woman and wears a rich silk dress with a lace collar and holds a tasselled lace handkerchief. She looks towards her pet parakeet, of which she was evidently very fond. The painting is one of the finest portraits ever made by Rembrandt. It is an enormous privilege to be able to show it at the Ashmolean where it can be seen by millions of visitors over the next few years.

It's #museumselfie day!

January 22 2014

Image of It's #museumselfie day!

Picture: Art Institute of Chicago

Regular readers will know that AHN is an advocate of allowing photography in museums. So what a good idea #museumselfie day is. And today is the day!

To get you in the mood, I'm offering a prize for the best museum selfie - a box set of Kenneth Clark's great TV series 'Civilisation'. You can either send your selfie in directly, or via Twitter. Good luck! More examples here on Tumblr.

Update - On Twitter, the National Gallery in London is getting in on the act, even though it doesn't allow photography! So you have to take one outside.

Special bonus points to anyone who can send one from inside...

Update II - my offer of a donation to the National Gallery if they allow photos still stands...

Update III - the Telegraph has a collection of today's museum selfies here.

Update IV - reader Simone Rein sends in the below gem, from the Met:

Update V - I also liked this one posted by the V&A:

Update VI - artist John Shakespeare sent me this painting of his:

Is this chair racist?

January 22 2014

Image of Is this chair racist?

Picture: Guardian

Er, no, says Jonathan Jones in The Guardian.

How auction houses bag a Koons

January 21 2014

Image of How auction houses bag a Koons

Picture: NYT/Getty

There's an interesting article in the New York Times about how little auctioneers make when selling big ticket items like Koons' Orange Dog:

[...] the owner of the work, the newsprint magnate Peter M. Brant, said Christie’s certainly made no money from him. To secure his business, the house waived the seller’s commission, he said, and then, as a sweetener, gave him a large share of the buyer’s fees.

“I was not required to give them anything from the buyer’s commission until it reached a certain price — which it did not make,” Mr. Brant said in an interview, rather wistfully, since he was hoping for a higher price.

Factor in Christie’s other costs — buying insurance and newspaper ads, publishing glossy catalogs, moving the towering Balloon Dog to its Rockefeller Center headquarters, where it was parked outside for gawking — and the possibility of making lots of money seems to be limited.

George Frederic Watts archive online

January 21 2014

Image of George Frederic Watts archive online

Picture: NPG

Excellent - the National Portrait Gallery has finished its online archive project for G. F. Watts' papers. You can search it here, and find out more about his life here

Waldemar on Rococo

January 21 2014

Image of Waldemar on Rococo

Picture: BBC

Worth tuning into Waldemar's latest series tonight, on Rococo art. BBC4, 9pm. More here, and read Waldemar's Sunday Times column on rococo here. 


January 21 2014

Image of Nicked

Picture: Evening Standard

The above picture by Samuel Palmer, called The Comet, has been stolen from a pensioner in London. Says Sky News:

Police are investigating a fraud scam which saw a £100,000 painting stolen from an 89-year-old woman's home in London. Detectives say the woman was contacted by telephone by a person claiming her bank cards had been used in a crime.

The woman was told she needed to call her bank immediately. She tried to call the bank, but the caller had not hung up and stayed on the line. The victim then believed she was speaking to her bank - but she was still speaking to the original caller.

The woman was told that someone would come to her house to collect her cards. The victim was also asked whether she had any items of value in the house. She mentioned a £100,000 painting by Samuel Palmer, called The Comet of 1858.

Police say a man, believed to be aged in his 30s, around 5ft 10ins with dark hair and an English accent, later came to the home and stole the painting, bank cards and jewellery.

The picture is probably worth more than £100k.

Update - a reader writes:

With regards to your 'Nicked' article:

'a man, believed to be aged in his 30s, around 5ft 10ins with dark hair and an English accent', sound familiar?

I'm 6ft 4!

Buyer of $142m Bacon revealed

January 20 2014

Image of Buyer of $142m Bacon revealed

Picture: Christie's, 'Three Studies of Lucian Freud' by Francis Bacon

It's casino magnate Steve Wynn's ex-wife. According to the Wall Street Journal, which says:

She can certainly afford to collect blue-chip art on her own. Born in New York, she was Mr. Wynn's college sweetheart but also became his closest confidant, a business-savvy executive who co-founded his global casino empire, which at one point included Vegas casinos such as the Bellagio and Treasure Island as well newer outposts in Macau. He still owns Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. The pair married in 1963, divorced in 1986, remarried in 1991 and divorced again in 2010, by all accounts amicably. As part of the divorce settlement, she was granted Wynn Resorts stock valued at $741 million; she remains director of the company and sits on the board of Wynn Las Vegas. Last fall, around the time she bought the Bacon, Forbes estimated her net worth to be roughly $1.9 billion.

Test Your Connoisseurship

January 17 2014

Image of Test Your Connoisseurship

Picture: BBC

Is this by the post-Impressionist painter Edouard Vuillard? Watch 'Fake or Fortune?' on Sunday, BBC1 at 6pm to find out! (If, like me, you'll be in Scotland, then it's on at 4.30pm, to make way for a programme about a BBC Radio Scotland presenter).

Update - yes, the picture is indeed 'right', as we like to say in the art world. Thanks for your kind comments on the programme. It seemed to go down well, with an audience of 4.8m, and a share of 21.8%. 

My favourite comment on Twitter came from someone called 'Chimpman':

i bet these poshos are straight on Google once the cameras turn off #fakeorfortune

If you are the lucky owner of the other missing Vuillard (below), or know where it is, then please get in touch!

London conference on the Art Market

January 17 2014

Image of London conference on the Art Market

Picture: Sotheby's Institute

Here's a call for papers for a conference on the art market, past and present, being organised by the Burlington Magazine and Sotheby's Institute (on 31st October). Here's the blurb:

A one-day conference on relations between the art market in history and the art market today, organized by Sotheby's Institute of Art – London and The Burlington Magazine, to be held at Sotheby’s Institute of Art - London on Friday 31 October 2014.

The aim of this joint conference is to explore critically what the history of the art market can teach us about the behaviour of the art market today, and vice versa. We hope to bring together historians of the art market working on a wide range of historical periods and places, and utilising varying methodologies, and to engage them in creative dialogue, via thematic groupings, with present-day art market experts of different kinds. We hope that a wide range of expertise and interests will be represented from both the past and the present dimensions of this subject.

Many fundamental topics are implicated in this conference, for example the nature of consumerism in societies past and present, the history and nature of art collecting, and the role of art institutions. We have singled out four key themes for this event which we envisage will comprise discreet sessions: 

  • Modes of artistic production, market strategies and sale
  • Localities, networks and globalization
  • Value and valuation
  • Patrons and dealers

It all sounds a little bit academic and potentially guffy to me. I've been involved in the art market for some years now, and I don't entirely know what the first two bullet points mean. Of course, you could say that the conference only really needs one theme; 'How to make a profit'.

Luke Syson on changing jobs and genres

January 17 2014

Video: TED

Good talk by Luke Syson this. Says the blurb:

Luke Syson was a curator of Renaissance art, of transcendent paintings of saints and solemn Italian ladies -- serious art. And then he changed jobs, and inherited the Met's collection of ceramics -- pretty, frilly, "useless" candlesticks and vases. He didn't like it. He didn't get it. Until one day … (Filmed at TEDxMet.)

Can you imagine UK museums putting on talks like this? When it comes to new media, we have a long way to go to catch up with institutions like the Met. Also, note how wonderfully free from guff Syson's talk is. 

New directions at the Met

January 16 2014


Here's a good video, a conversation between the former Met director, Philippe de Montebello, and the current one, Thomas Campbell (of whom, as regular readers will know, AHN is a fan). UK museums, please note the Met's embracing of the digital age. We have a long way to go over here...

I can't wait to see the new European paintings galleries when I'm in New York next weekend. 

Nazi 'degenerate art' inventory online

January 16 2014

Image of Nazi 'degenerate art' inventory online

Picture: TAN

In The Art Newspaper, Martin Bailey reports that the V&A is to publish online the only surviving inventory of the Nazi's 'Degenerate Art' exhibitions. More in TAN here, and see the inventory at the V&A here

The artybollocks generator

January 16 2014

Image of The artybollocks generator


DIY artguff. See how easy it is?

Not Henry VIII's 'last portrait'

January 16 2014

Image of Not Henry VIII's 'last portrait'

Picture: The Times

A new dendrochronological analysis of the above portrait of Henry VIII at Longleat House has led to some incorrect news reporting. The Mail, for example, reported the following:

The painting was previously thought to be a portrait of the king painted after his death. Now, after thorough scientific examination of the oak, experts believe Henry VIII may have posed for an unknown artist in 1544, three years before his death. The wood is believed to date back to 1529.

The painting has an inscription on it stating that it was painted when the Monarch was aged 54, in the 36th year of his reign, but it was common for information to be placed on later copies.

But a closer look at the inscription showed it had been added at the same time the portrait was created.

Then we have this quote from a Tudor historian:

Elizabeth Norton, an author and historian of the Tudor monarchy, said: 'He died in January 1547 and suffered from ill-health for much of 1546. There aren’t any paintings of him depicted as as old man.

'It may well be the last painting that he posed for.'

Readers even half familiar with Tudor iconography will know, however, that the Longleat picture is merely a (very good, by the look of it) replica of Holbein's best surviving face-on portrait of Henry in Rome,* which can be dated to 1540 and is inscribed as showing the king at the age of 49. In the Rome picture, as in the Longleat replica, Henry is shown wearing the clothes he wore for his marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1539. So it isn't at all possible that the Longleat picture, which is inscribed as showing the king aged 54, is a life portrait.

In fact, Holbein's original portrait of the king in this full-frontal pose, for which Henry must presumably have sat, was the c.1536 mural at Whitehall palace, which was destroyed by fire in 1698, after a laundry maid left some washing too close to a fire. The mural was recorded in 1667 by Remigius van Leemput:

Some years ago I re-created (after many hours on Photoshop) a digital, life-size recreation of Holbein's mural for an exhibition in the Philip Mould gallery guest-curated by Dr David Starkey, called 'Lost Faces'. Contemporary accounts of the original mural reported people 'trembling' in front of it. And when I stood before the replica at full scale I could understand why. For a tudor spectator, Holbein's extraordinary realism, combined with the relatively confined and probably quite gloomy space the mural was in, must have convinced some that they were in the presence of some sort of royal witchcraft. Most people then, of course, would never have seen a work of art on such a scale before, and nor such a good one. 

Finally, contrary to what Elizabeth Norton says, there are indeed portraits which show the king as an older man, as seen in the example below (from the National Portrait Gallery) in which he is shown with what must be one of the blingiest walking sticks in history:

As to the Longleat picture's value, which the newspapers inevitably speculated on, then I would say it comes in at around the level of the Studio of Holbein portrait sold recently at Christie's for £650k. This last picture was one of the first Tudor portraits I researched, and it was fun to find it in the inventories of the Dukes of Hamilton. 

The Longleat story was also in the Times today.

Update - a reader writes:

I have the same reaction to all these portraits of Henry VIII: that was one very, very frightening man!!

Fine art on the 'One Show'

January 16 2014

Vuillard, Monet, Rubens and Van Dyck (and 'Fake or Fortune?') all featured on yesterday's BBC1 'One Show'. Here on iPlayer if you're interested. 

Happy Birthday Getty Villa

January 16 2014

Image of Happy Birthday Getty Villa

Picture: Getty

The Getty Villa is 40 years old today. 

Guffwatch - Prague edition

January 15 2014

Video: Vernissage TV

You and I might think the video above represents a vision of hell. But in the world of contemporary art such things are entirely normal.

Here's the exhibition blurb:

Thomas Zipp's exhibition with the title Task Dependence of the Effect of Standards on the Perception of a Series of Objects at the gallery SVIT in Prague narrates to several spheres in our society. In this installation Thomas Zipp thematizes his long-time interest in the research in the area of psychophysics, specifically in the relationship of man to plants. The exhibition transform human (life) cycles to basic elements such as feeding; plants as eatable form, instrument as entertainment. The gallery space is transformed into a laboratory, where the artist and his colleagues present performances; they play music -- and hope that they influence the plants; if not the plants, then in any case the observers. In the interview Zdenek Felix talks about the background of Thomas Zipp's project and the installation on display. Thomas Zipp talks in detail about the specially produced new works. The show runs until January 18, 2014.

Update - a reader writes:

This is neither science (no control or measurement of results) nor art, just self indulgent humans. An example of western human sociology fit for Spengler.

Making paintings move

January 15 2014

Video: Rino Stefano Tagliafierro

This is quite clever. The beginning is perhaps unsettlingly kitsch, but the scary part in the middle is quite cool. 

Update - Jonathan Jones in The Guardian doesn't approve.

'Fake or Fortune?' programme 1

January 14 2014

Video: BBC

Here's a short clip from programme 1 of the new series, which is all about the great post-Impressionist Edouard Vuillard.

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