Previous Posts: January 2015

A lost Wright of Derby?

January 14 2015

Image of A lost Wright of Derby?

Picture: Your Paintings/Derby museum

The excellent Derby Museum and Art Gallery has secured a £15,000 grant to help them decide whether the above painting is by Joseph Wright of Derby. The subject is The Colosseum by Night, and the picture belongs to the museum. However, its authorship has, reports the Derby Telegraph, been doubted. Presumably on account of what appears to be the curious drawing of the arches on the right. Wright painted The Colosseum by Day, which also belongs to the Derby museum. 

£15,000 is a lot of money to find out an attribution, and I presume this sum allows for the picture to be cleaned, and analysed. I can only find this not especially good photo online. Though at first sight the painting looks too wobbly (that's the technical term) to be by Wright, the sky and foliage top left looks convincing enough. Probably there are some condition issues going on, which are affecting how the picture appears. I'm trying to get a better photo, and will put it up if I can. 

Update - Lucy Bamford, the curator at Derby, has kindly sent a high-res image, and below are some close ups. I'm sure that the picture is indeed by Wright - we can tell that alone from the little figure in the window, and also the foliage and sky at the top left.

But the rest of the picture has been savagely 'restored' by someone in the 1960s or 70s, with huge areas entirely over-painted (as seen in the last image below). The question is, why was it done - to cover up old damage? Or just ineptness. Often it's simply a case of the latter.

Lucy Bamford tells me, however:

Worryingly, I had a tip-off from someone who had some dealing with a painting that was also over painted by the same restorer as the Colosseum back in the 60s or 70s. Their approach seems to have been to sand down the original to make a smooth surface on which to lay new paint, ‘improvement’ being the chief concern I presume.

Yikes. The tale such woeful restoration may be a bizarre one to modern ears, but in my experience it's not unusual. No single group of people has done more damage to paintings in history than those who at some point have fancied themselves as 'art conservators'. Ironic but true. Those pictures that are in the best condition are those that have never been 'cleaned'.

The problome is, every generation of restorers (or, in days of old, simply domestic cleaners, who would scrub pictures with a potato if you were ucky, or a scourer if you weren't) thinks it has come up with the latest answer to 'improve' paintings: once it was 'transferring' (with disastrous results) panel paintings onto canvas; then it was wax re-lining (until people realised how the wax damaged the paint surface). Sometimes it seems art restoration is a giant, intra-generational job creation scheme by restorers.

But anyway, I have no doubts that this time around the work will be done well and carefully. And I look forward to seeing a Wright emerge from beneath the work of that sinful earlier restorer. 

'Spot the Fake' at Dulwich picture gallery

January 12 2015

Video: Dulwich Art Gallery

At the Dulwich Picture Gallery, 'conceptual artist' Doug Fishbone has come up with a new display, called 'Made in China'. For £120, the Gallery commissioned a copy of one of their permanent collection from an artists' workshop in China - and swapped it for the original, even hanging the copy in the original frame. Visitors have to see if they can spot the interloper. Says Dulwich senior curator Dr Xavier Bray (in The Guardian):

“The replica is excellent quality, and when it arrived we were delighted with it - but when I put the two side by side, it was a very interesting experiment. The difference was instantly apparent."

No shit. 

Anyway, it's a fun idea. I'm all in favour of getting people to look more closely at the actualy object. More interesting, perhaps, would have been to pull in some period copies and studio works, to really test the public's sense of connoisseurship. More here. Opens 10th Feb.

Update - a reader writes:

Upon some rumination, I suggest you might want to reconsider your use of what Americans call an 'expletive', for posterity, when you might be considered for a swanky position, or the like.

I fear my chances of attaining any swanky position have long gone.

Update II - in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones is not at all impressed. He says the idea is 'moronic':

It will confuse the public, undermine the pleasure of looking at the great paintings on its walls, and replace the joy of learning about art with a glib postmodern game that is pretentious and destructive. I personally don’t intend to go anywhere near Dulwich until this silliness is done with.

Fakes are not fun. They are not cool. And the postmodernist cult of the replica is getting seriously old. Umberto Eco wrote his seminal essay on this theme, Faith in Fakes, decades ago. The easy claim that replicas are just as good as the real thing and no one can tell them apart anyway is now a hackneyed idea, recently wheeled out like the most boring of dinner party bons mots when the V&A reopened its Renaissance cast court. [...]

It is [...] daft to think a hidden fake adds to the interest of Dulwich picture gallery’s paintings. The anxiety it creates can only detract from a genuine experience of the collection. Museums should not join in the moronic celebration of the replica. Their job is to preserve originals, and make those accessible. Art only matters when it is the real thing.

And another reader writes, further to my suggestion above that a wider display of copies and studio works might encourage even closer looking:

The Kunsthistorisches in Vienna did just that, when I was there a couple of years ago. It was a brilliant display that put copies next to a number of their works, including (if I recall correctly) anonymous contemporaries, a nineteenth century copyist of Tintoretto, a nineteenth century chromoprint of Titian and Heintz's copy alongside Parmigianino's Cupid Making his Bow. Vistors were invited to work out which was which, helped by excellent information cards. It was well thought out and well presented, but without fanfare. On the other hand, the Dulwich initiative looks a bit gimmicky to me.

Another reader adds:

Comparing historic copies to originals is indeed a very interesting exercise for the viewer. It may be worth noting that The National Palace Museum in Taipei (constituting the main part of the former Chinese imperial art collection) held ‘solo exhibitions’ last year of works by the four great painters of the Ming Dynasty. These exhibitions included some good period copies displayed next to the originals with detailed explanations. Interestingly, some of these copies were held together with the originals in the imperial collection.

Guffwatch - the banned list

January 12 2015

Image of Guffwatch - the banned list

Picture: Artnet News

Three cheers to art critic Ben Davis, who, tiring of the contemporary artspeak we call 'Guff' here on AHN, has introduced a new 'banned list' of the 30 most banal guff words. The best are:

4) challenges

Particularly in these usages: “challenges the viewer…" or “challenges ideas of…." Very few things are genuinely challenging, particularly when the art crowd is so very blasé about being challenged.

10) haunting

This is a popular shortcut to making it sound like a work is really good if there is not that much more to say about it.

16) informed by

To me, when a writer says that an artist's work was “informed by" a certain set of ideas, that can be translated to, “What this show was about was unclear to me—but then I read the press release and it said the artist had read something."

18) interrogates

This is so common it hurts every time I read it. It makes art sound literally torturous.

24) profound

As a rule, it seems that artworks aren't just moving these days; they are “profoundly moving." An artist doesn't just get it; she has a “profound understanding" of what's going on. So much profundity out there! This is similar to just adding an exclamation point to things for emphasis!And so the list goes on. The trouble is, once you remove these 30 key words from the guff-writer's lexicon, what else can they say?

More here on Artnet News.

Neil MacGregor's favourite painting

January 12 2015

Image of Neil MacGregor's favourite painting

Picture: National Gallery

The great British Museum director says (in Country Life's 'My Favourite Painting series) of Hans Holbein the Younger's 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling':

‘Hans Holbein the Younger is not yet 30. He knows he’s good and he wants you to know it, too—and then to commission him. How many whites can a painter paint? For him, there is no limit. Here, he has conjured any number of whites as the bonnet curves, the heavy stole folds and falls, the crisp cuff stands sparkling and proud and the fine lawn bodice seductively reveals the flesh below. All white, all distinct. And in the centre, a miniature miracle—the single pearl button, lustrous below the throat. Blue sky and vine leaves behind a sitter wearing a cap of Russian fur, accompanied by a starling and a squirrel. Absurd combinations, impossible in life—enduringly real in Hans Holbein’s art.’

The Holbein is one of 85 pictures that entered the National Gallery when he was director there. I wonder, would he have bought that Wilkie?

Update - a reader writes:

At the time of its acquisition, I recollect the curator in charge being interviewed and remarking that it was an important addition to the collection as it was an “ordinary” Holbein – given, I suppose, the National already owned the artist’s only surviving full-length portrait, and only surviving full-length double portrait. 

It struck me at the time as a rather arrogant comment given that authentic works by this very significant painter, not the least for the history of art in Britain, are not particular common in the country – and certainly not outside the metropolis if that includes the Royal Collection.  Off the top of my head, I can think of only two.

It’s one of those works the National seems to buy because it’s the only institution that can afford to and would have more substantially enhanced other galleries’ collection.  One could add others to this category; by Poussin, Titian, and van Dyck for example.

A truly lovely thing though.

£30m Monet?

January 12 2015

Image of £30m Monet?

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's are hoping Monet's 'Le Grand Canal' fetches up to £30m in next month's impressionist sale. The picture has until recently been on loan at the National Gallery in London. Helena Newman of the auction house said:

“The market for works by Claude Monet has now reached an all-time point of strength, with bidders coming from four times as many countries as a decade ago.”

More here

New Nevinson discovered on Your Paintings

January 12 2015

Image of New Nevinson discovered on Your Paintings

Picture: BBC

Here's another nice discovery story from Your Paintings: a job applicant for the post of Director of the Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport, UK, discovered a lost work by CRW Nevinson in the Atkinson's collection when he did some pre-interview swotting up about the Centre on Your Paintings. And he got the job. Says the BBC:

An art expert who identified a mystery painting at a job interview has been made manager of the gallery storing it.

Stephen Whittle revealed his "strong hunch" about a painting that has been stored at the Atkinson arts centre in Southport since the 1920s.

He told the panel he thought it was Limehouse, a work by CRW Nevinson, a futurist painter.

"When I saw this unattributed image on the BBC Your Paintings website, it was very reminiscent of Nevinson," he said.

Mr Whittle, who came across the painting as part of his interview research, added: "I mentioned my supposition at interview, but I don't know if it led to me finally getting the job."

See the new picture and other Nevinsons here on Your Paintings.

DIA's Graham Beal to retire

January 12 2015

Image of DIA's Graham Beal to retire

Picture: TAN

The Art Newspaper reports that Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute for Art, is to retire next year. Beal, of course, recently helped save the DIA from a disastrous disposal to help pay for Detroit's bankruptcy. But that extraordinary achievement was not all he did, says TAN:

During his [16 year] tenure, the British-born director oversaw a sweeping $158m renovation and reinstallation of the collection and put the museum on stable financial footing for the first time in decades. Under his leadership, locals passed an innovative property tax that is due to contribute $23m to the DIA over ten years and attendance has grown more than 90%, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Has there been a more heroic museum director in modern times? 

Update - a reader writes:

Is he available to be prime minister?

Better than the current candidates.

Great idea!

A Jacobean bargain? (ctd.)

January 12 2015

Image of A Jacobean bargain? (ctd.)

Picture: Savills

I mentioned a couple of years ago English Heritage's inability to sell Apethorpe Hall, a large Jacobean mansion which they had bought in 2004 and spent £8m on, saving it from total collapse. At last, reports the Telegraph, someone has come forward to buy the house (for £2.5m) and complete the restoration. He is a French aristocrat, called Jean Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten, who apparently was once a member of the Chinese parliament. I'm not sure how me managed that, but he sounds like the sort of fellow who can rescue a great house. Congratulations to him, and a hearty AHN good luck with the restoration. I daresay he'll be needing a few pictures...

New drawing gallery at the Courtauld

January 12 2015

Image of New drawing gallery at the Courtauld

Picture: Courtauld

A new gallery dedicated to works on paper is opening at the Courtauld Collection in London. More here at Apollo.

Vive La France

January 9 2015

Image of Vive La France

New Constable discovery at Sotheby's

January 9 2015

Image of New Constable discovery at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

One of the star pictures at Sotheby's forthcoming Old Master sale in New York is, reports Martin Bailey of The Art Newspaper, a sleeper from a minor Christie's sale in London. Constable's study for Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is for sale at Sotheby's with an estimate of $2m-$3m, but was sold by Christie's at South Kensington for just £3500 in 2013. There, it was catalogued as by a 'follower' of Constable, in a sale of the contents of Hambleden Hall, the home of the Viscounts Hambleden. It had been in their collection since the late 19th Century. Says The Art Newspaper:

When the oil sketch came up for sale at South Kensington in July 2013, Christie’s catalogued it as by a “follower of John Constable” and estimated it at £500-£800. The unnamed buyer later confirmed that the work had been heavily retouched in the late 19th or early 20th century, depriving it of its lively, sketchy quality, but it has now been cleaned.

The painting was examined by Anne Lyles, a specialist on Constable, who dated it to 1829-30. She determined that the oil sketch is by the artist’s hand and was among the preparatory works for the final painting, which Tate bought in 2013 for £23m. Lyles describes the study as “one of the most exciting and important additions to the master’s oeuvre to have emerged in recent decades”.

I saw the picture at Sotheby's preview last year in London, and had no doubt whatsoever that it's 'right'. And that was before I read Anne Lyles' persuasive essay in Sotheby's catalogue, which places the picture in its context, and analyses all the key evidence. One of her conclusions is that Constable - who was in the habit of making numerous preparatory sketches and studies for his large scale landscapes - relied on the Hambleden picture most when making the final painting, which (having been recently bought) is now in Tate Britain.

One of the clinchers in the Hambleden picture's favour is that the dramatic, horn-shaped cloud formation it shows looming over the cathedral was copied by Constable for a larger sketch in the Guildhall art collection in London. But, crucially, Constable then painted over that horn-shaped cloud, to make the sky slightly less stormy in that area. Over time, that original cloud structure has become visible through the paint layers; if you look at the image of the Guildhall picture above you can just make out the 'horn shape' to the right of the spire, underneath Constable's later cloud formation. The point is - and apologies for my rather unscientific cloud descriptions - the Hambleden painting cannot be the work of a copyist, because only Constable himself developed that structure of the sky. As Anne Lyles says in her note:

[...] all the other preparatory sketches show the cathedral building more or less in shadow [...]. Moreover, the dramatic stormy sky in the full-scale sketch in the Guildhall (fig. 4) also derives more closely from the Hambleden study than the other sketches. Indeed the cluster of black storm clouds in the full-scale sketch to the right of the cathedral spire was once closer in appearance to the formation seen in the Hambleden picture until Constable decided to knock them back in the former by overpainting parts of them in white.

Anyway, the other clincher for me was the sheer quality of the painting. It's too good to be a copy. Yes, some elements, such as the structure of the cathedral are a little simplistic, but that's to be expected in a study like this, for the emphasis, the compositional development, is all about areas like the sky and stream, and they're pure Constable. For what it's worth, I also know that Anne Lyles - who used to be the Constable scholar at Tate Britain* - is no pushover when it comes to endorsing Constable attributions. So if it's good enough for her, that means it's really good. 

Now, here's the humbling bit - I missed the picture entirely when it came up at Christie's South Kensington, in July 2013. Indeed, I also missed the other 'sleeper' in that sale, The Embarkation of St Paula, which (regular readers will remember) was catalogued as a copy after Claude, but which was withdrawn at the very last moment and sold for £5m at Christie's main salerooms in London in December 2013. In my defence, the South Kensington sale was in the week immediately after all the main Old Master sales, and after South Kensington's own Old Master sale, when you'd normally expect things like the Constable to be sold. Also, the sale was branded as 'Colefax and Fowler [famous English interior decorators], Then and Now', so it sounded like the sort of sale you'd only find chintzy sofas in. Anyway, the fact is, I had my eye off the ball, and can only congratulate the sharp-eyed buyer.

But, AHNers, we must also sympathise with the buyer as well as congratulate them. For when the main press picked up The Art Newspaper's story today (e.g. here in The Mail), Christie's gave this rather unhelpful comment:

'We took the view at the time of our sale in 2013 that it was by a 'follower of'. We understand that there is no clear consensus of expertise on the new attribution.'

Which I think is a little mean, to be honest. Who are the dissenters? Christie's should say so, rather than just casting unspecified doubts like that. I suspect the truth is that no serious Constable scholars doubt it. The Mail's coverage also looks into whether Christie's might be vulnerable to legal action from the Hambleden vendors, and the paper quotes the editor of the Antiques Trade Gazzette, Ivan Macquisten:

'There was a legal case in 1990 that set a precedent for this when provincial auctioneers Messenger May Baverstock of Surrey failed to recognise something that ended up selling for a lot more and was sued by the vendor.

'In the High Court, a judge established a degree of responsibility that auctioneers have.

'If you are a small auction house holding your sales in a village hall it is reasonable that you may not identify such a painting.

'But if you are a Sotheby's or a Christie's with specialists departments with some of the leading specialists in the world, then you probably are. The burden on these bigger auction houses to get it right is far higher.

'That is not to say they are negligent or liable, that depends on how easily the work would be to identify and what due diligence was carried out to identify it.

'Have they been negligent by not carrying out checks on things like the composition of the painting and, in the case of Constable who was known for his cloudscapes, the quality of the clouds?

'I would be surprised if the previous vendor was not considering taking the matter further.'

Factors in Christie's defence include: the fact that the general subject matter - Constable's 'Salisbury Cathedral' - is one of the more copied compositions in British art, and Christie's were thus not negligent in assuming the Hambleden picture was another; the fact that the picture was quite heavily overpainted, thus making certain elements hard to read; the fact that the sale price of £3,500 meant that only one other person thought it worth taking a closer look at.

In favour of the Hambledens, should they wish to pursue the matter: the fact that Christie's evidently did not show it to Anne Lyles, the leading Constable authority, before the sale; the fact that Christie's only recognised at the last minute that there was a £5m Claude in the same sale, which suggests that, when preparing the sale, not as great care was taken with the pictures as one might expect; the fact that Christie's did not put in the catalogue entry the fact that the painting might have had a 19th Century Christie's provenance.

But it's a very difficult area, and I wouldn't want to place too much blame on Christie's specialists. They work to extremely tight deadlines, and, especially in house sale situations, they only get a short period of time to look at each picture. Inevitably, things will slip through the net. Probably the culprit here, if there is one, is the system in which auction house specialists have to operate - if the bean counters further up the food chain gave them more time and staff, fewer mistakes might be made. But then what would we all do without the occasional discovery story?

* It's a matter of great regret that they don't have one any more, of course. 


January 8 2015

For the lack of action today. I was doing my tax return. Ugh.


January 7 2015

Image of $20.1m

Picture: TAN

That's the amount which, according to Melanie Girlis in The Art Newspaper, Sotheby's spent defending itself against the criticism of their shareholder, Dan Loeb - in the first nine months of 2014 alone. That's nearly half Sotheby's profit for the entire period. $20.1m. I can hardly believe it. 

The article is an interesting one. First, it looks at the lack of profitability on those 'mega sales' of modern and contemporary art:

“Both houses are after headline prices, which limits profitability,” Schick says, attributing this to “a number of soft years” since the 2008 downturn. Plus, the auction houses have been offering incentives such as guarantees and profit shares to prime sellers.

“They’ve made it harder by competing against each other … you hear about some suicidal deals,” says Pilar Ordovas, a London dealer, formerly the deputy chairman of Christie’s Europe’s post-war and contemporary art department.

Also, Girlis quotes the chief executive of Phillips, Edward Dolman, as saying:

hat the “massive change in taste” towards contemporary and Modern art should lead to certain departments going—he cites furniture and even Old Masters. “They could shed half of their business,” he says. 

While 'the money' is indeed currently chasing modern and contemporary art, I don't believe for a second that Christie's and Sotheby's Old Master departments are going anywhere. I think to suggest they are is bulls**t, frankly. Earlier today I reported that The Louvre was the most visited museum in the world, with half its visitors under 30. You won't find any contemporary art there. People will always want Old Masters, and if they're cheap - at the moment - then that suits me fine.

Finally, Girlis tells us that profits at Bonhams were 'more than £30m for 2013'. The secret of their success? They've gone in the opposite direction, and have more than 60 departments, catering for everything from clocks to Spitfires. If you're ever looking for the sorts of things you can't find on Amazon, or in Harrods, chances are you'll buy it at Bonhams. 

'National Gallery - the Movie' (ctd.)

January 7 2015

Video: Via YouTube

Jonathan Jones of The Guardian has been to see Frederick Wiseman's new three-hour long documentary of the National Gallery. He didn't like it:

God it’s boring. I love the National Gallery and I was squirming in my seat. Why doesn’t Wiseman let the paintings speak for themselves? Again and again, he films audiences listening to curators or guides give lectures about the National Gallery’s works of art. One such talk would make sense in a portrait of the museum. But why repeat the exercise, again and again – and again?

More here

Kelvingrove acquires sleeping fair-scape

January 7 2015

Image of Kelvingrove acquires sleeping fair-scape

Picture: Glasgow Herald

Here's a nice story from my new locale, up here in Scotland; the Kelvingrove art gallery has acquired, for £220,000, a lost landscape by the Scottish artist John Knox (1778-1845), which shows the 'Glasgow Fair' around 1820. The picture had been discovered in 2013 by Edinburgh-based dealer Patrick Bourne, who spotted it at Sotheby's described as showing a scene in Aberdeen, and attributed to William Turner De Lond. It was bought for £76,900.

I heartily approve of the Scottish version of the 'White Glove Photo-op'.

More here.

De-accessioning in France?

January 7 2015

Image of De-accessioning in France?

Picture: BG

A committee of French legislators looking into the national debt has sought the opinion of the head of Sotheby's in France for his view on whether de-accessioning should be allowed. He said yes, of course:

 'Action is needed to tackle the grotesque waste in national collections. In the Louvre alone, some 250,000 works are currently hidden away in overflow rooms.

'Museums should also be given the option of selling works that have been in public collections for at least 50 years.'

More here

Meanwhile, Art Daily reports that the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, with 9.3m visitors a year. It's good that the Louvre's new director, Jean-Luc Martinez, is adding another two entrances to cope with the numbers.

More than half the Louvre's visitors, says the museum, are under 30 - which is impressive, and a nice riposte to those who always assume high art is not for younger people. 

Turner's house wins £1.4m grant

January 7 2015

Image of Turner's house wins £1.4m grant

Picture: Guardian

Regular readers will know I've been covering fundraising attempts by Sandycombe Lodge, which was the country villa designed by Turner in Twickenham. I'm very glad to report that they've been awarded £1.4m by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to help preserve the site. Well done to all involved. More here in The Guardian from Maev Kennedy. 

Job Opportunity

January 7 2015

Image of Job Opportunity

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

The estimable The Burlington Magazine is advertising for a new editor. Says the magazine's website:

On the retirement of Richard Shone, Editor, The Burlington Magazine is looking for an Editor to lead the publication forwards in both print and digital formats. The successful candidate will be responsible for maintaining the integrity and academic standards of the editorial content, including selecting, commissioning and editing articles with the assistance of an experienced editorial team. The successful candidate must have a bachelor’s degree, but an advanced degree in art history, literature, or a related field is desirable. A high professional standing in a scholarly press, museum, university or equivalent environment is required. The ideal candidate will have a broad knowledge of art and publishing, a tested understanding of the editorial process, and be able to work to tight deadlines. The successful candidate must also have proven leadership skills and the ability to create a positive and productive team environment. The candidate should be able to collaborate effectively with a wide range of colleagues and contacts, both external and internal, and must possess excellent communication skills. This is a board-level position that reports to the Chairman and so requires a candidate who is organized, able to set priorities and juggle competing demands. Some travel is required.

The salary is negotiable, and the closing deadline is 27th February. 

The magazine has many strengths to build on, with a strong brand, and superb production values. But clearly some changes need to be made if the magazine is to continue to be relevant in the future.

A priority for the new editor is to sort out the magazine's online offering, along with its pricing structure. There's something wrong with the magazine's website if one-man-band blogs like this deliver some of its highest traffic. It should be the other way around. At the moment, only the headlines of each new article get put online, and if you want to access details of, say, 'New Titian discovered', it's £15, just for a PDF of that article. That's pretty ridiculous for an educational magazine which is charitably funded - via a trust - and which claims to be a world leader. How many art history students can fork out the £28 cover price? For better or worse, the trend these days for academic publications like The Burlington is towards open access, easily searchable material - or at least much cheaper access. If The Burlington wants a guide, then Apollo magazine has got its online offering about right, with new blogs and online features. 

The magazine also needs to liven up a bit. Too many articles are impenetrable, pitching the reader straight in, in media res (though I admit this is a wider problem across art history). Some introductions and conclusions would be good, as well as more engaging prose overall. The reviews really need livening up; they're sometimes (with the occasional honourable exceptions) as dull as a three hundred year old varnish. And the magazine also needs to relax about any work of art connected with 'the trade'. It'll happily take dealers' cash in advertising, but it won't touch with a bargepole anything a dealer or auction house might have discovered - even though, overwhelmingly, most discoveries come from the trade these days.

I would put many of the magazine's weaknesses down to the rather creaky ownership and management structure, so that needs to change as much as the magazine itself. 

Anyway, if you apply, good luck! And if readers have other recommendations for the magazine, do send them in.

In the latest edition of The Burlington you can read about a newly discovered bust by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, above, in an article by Marie-Noelle Grison, and a review of the V&A's Constable exhibition by the leading Constable scholar Anne Lyles. 

Update - a reader writes:

Indeed the estimable The Burlington Magazine  has a midlife identity crisis. Is it a professional magazine or an academic journal? 

If it is the former then it must serve the entire profession and if the latter then adapt to the current standards for such principally online publications and join a JSTOR type group.

In either case the current generation is web rather than print oriented and its beautiful production standards are expensive like the product of a Savile Row tailor and eventually will have as limited a market.

You can get back issues of Burlington on Jstor up to 2004.

Update II - another reader writes:

I'm sure their attitude will change. They're the last bastion. Remember when everywhere was like that - having to pretend in the Heinz you weren't working for a dealer!

I wonder if the new editor will Trojan-horse the Trade in by introducing more contemporary art, where the Trade/museum lines are even more blurred.

Waldemar on Rubens

January 6 2015

Image of Waldemar on Rubens

Picture: BBC

I greatly enjoyed Waldemar's hour-long programme on Rubens, which was on BBC2 last weekend. I can't think of a better presenter to do Rubens justice - you get the sense watching the film that Rubens and Waldemar would have been best buddies. You can catch it here on iPlayer. 

Update - ahead of the Royal Academy's new show on Rubens, Jonathan Jones of The Guardian says he wasn't much cop:

The very energy of Rubens has something brittle about it. He cannot stop for fear of looking into the dark. He seems terrified of Caravaggio’s shadows, Rembrandt’s eyes, Velazquez’s mirror. His art endlessly moves on, through a bewildering range of genres. It also assimilates a staggering variety of influences.

That's the opinion of someone who probably hasn't looked closely enough at Rubens. I don't mean; not seen enough of his work, but; sniff-the-canvas close-looking. Which, for me at least, reveals that when it comes to the sheer technical ability of applying paint to canvas, or as he mostly did, to panel, Rubens was an unsurpassed genius. Say what you like about Rubens' fat women and crowded compositions, but go and look at some of best-preserved, entirely autograph oils on panel, and you'll find few better passages of painting. Rubens could paint as easily as you and I breathe.

Lining the Jabach

January 6 2015

Image of Lining the Jabach

Picture: Met

Regular readers will know that I've been following the Met's restoration of Le Brun's Portrait of Everhard Jabach and his Family, and here is a fascinating video of the Met's conservators unrolling the painting after it has been given a new strip lining. The more I see how this fascinating painting has come to life, the more saddening I think it is that a leading UK institution like the National Gallery didn't make an effort to keep it in the UK.

Still, the Met's excellent online posts about the restoration help show that it's not just about where a painting is displayed, but who displays it. The Met is streets ahead of UK institutions in their online offering. 

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