Previous Posts: February 2017

Bruce Munro on Impressionism

February 22 2017

Video: Sotheby's

To publicise their next Impressionist sale, Sotheby's has made the above film with the British artist Bruce Munro. I know I've said it before, but these short auction house short films are often so good.

Gurlitt horde (ctd.)

February 22 2017

Image of Gurlitt horde (ctd.)

Picture: Bild

The Art Newspaper reports that four more works from the Gurlitt collection have been restituted:

A drawing of the interior of a Gothic church by Adolph Menzel and a painting by Camille Pissarro, hidden for decades in Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection, have returned to the heirs of the original Jewish owners, the Kunstmuseum in Bern and German government announced.

German Culture Minister Monika Grütters returned the Menzel drawing on 20 February to the heirs of Elsa Helen Cohen, who sold it in 1938 to the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’s father, to fund her escape to the US. Pissarro’s View of the Seine from the Pont-Neuf was returned to the heirs of the French-Jewish businessman Max Heilbronn a few days earlier, according to the Kunstmuseum.

White glove shot (ctd.)

February 22 2017

Image of White glove shot (ctd.)

Picture: Guardian

There was some good white glove action in The Guardian yesterday, to herald the news that a watercolour by the little-known artist Henry Stanier is to go on display for the first time. The picture was discovered by the British Museum curator Kim Sloan ten years ago in a frame store:

Sloan, curator of the British section of the museum’s enormous prints and drawings collection, discovered the huge watercolour in an obscure corner of the museum more than 10 years ago, when she was looking for the original frames for some Turner watercolours.

To her astonishment she found not just empty frames, but three paintings by Stanier, an artist she had never heard of. They appear to have been stashed away in the 1950s without ever being recorded in the museum’s collection.

Crowd-sourcing connoisseurship

February 20 2017

Image of Crowd-sourcing connoisseurship

Picture: Universiteit Leiden

Pyschology researchers at Leiden University did an interesting experiment on connoisseurship, to see how quickly people could begin to discern attribution:

We used an experimental procedure we normally use to study grammar learning and applied it to evaluating art work. In the lab, participants looked at 50 paintings of landscapes by Van Goyen, a 17th century master. Next, we showed them 50 other landscape paintings. Half were Van Goyen’s and half were from his ‘environment’. Our participants indicated for each new painting whether they thought it was made by the same artist who made the first set of paintings or not. We tried ourselves. Overviewing all 100 paintings we presented in the lab, we could really not tell the difference between the Van Goyens and the environment (Cuyp or the Ruysdael). But we found that our participants could! Not perfectly, but definitely ‘above chance’.  

What will happen when computers can do this?

The Louvre has a cat!

February 20 2017

Image of The Louvre has a cat!

Picture: Gareth Harris

On Twitter, journalist Gareth Harris has tweeted this photo of 'Richelieu', who is apparently the Louvre's cat. 

Johnny van Haeften on the internet and art dealing

February 20 2017

Video: TEFAF

The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf) has made a series of video interviews with Johnny van Haeften, to celebrate his 45 years in the art business. In the above film he discusses how the internet, and the accessibility of both auctions and auction prices, have impacted on the traditional art dealing model. 

You can see the first video and others here

Dog drawing re-attributed to Rembrandt

February 20 2017

Image of Dog drawing re-attributed to Rembrandt

Picture: Independent

A drawing of a dog in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig, Germany, has been re-attributed to Rembrandt, after having been displayed for many years as the work of Johann Melchior Roos. More here

Artemisia Gentileschi in Rome

February 20 2017

Image of Artemisia Gentileschi in Rome

Pictures: BG

We went to see the Artemsia Gentileschi exhibition in Rome last week. The Deputy Editor, as you can see above, found it very exciting. 

I highly recommend a visit. The show is on until 7th May. The show is genuinely revealing; it's only when you see a large number of her works together - and here cleverly interspersed with those of her contemporaries - that you reallise just how good she was, and how original. To be honest, she consistently knocks most of her rivals out of the park.

I particularly liked her .c1620-5 Portrait of a Lady with a Fan, below. What attitude. You wouldn't get a male artist painting a female sitter like that in the 17th Century. 

'Vermeer and the Masters'

February 20 2017

Video: Louvre

The Louvre's new exhibition on Vermeer and his contemporaries looks to be worth a trip to Paris. It opens February 22nd, till May 22nd. I like the animated video above. The Gerrit Dous work especially well. Incidentally, what an underrated artist Dou is these days.

Update - the show gets five stars in The Guardian.

Old Master portrait drawings at the NPG

February 20 2017

Image of Old Master portrait drawings at the NPG

Picture: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty the Queen, drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger.

This looks like fun; an exhibition of Old Master portrait drawings at the National Portrait Gallery in London. 'The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt' opens 13th July till 22nd October. More here.

New Michael Dahl self-portrait

February 20 2017

Image of New Michael Dahl self-portrait

Picture: James Mulraine

My friend and fellow blogger has discovered a new self-portrait by Michael Dahl, who was one of the leading portraitists at work in England in the early 18th Century. More here

The rise of the selfie

February 20 2017

Image of The rise of the selfie

Picture: Juno Calypso, the Honeymoon Suite, via Saatchi Gallery

In a review of a new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London on the rise of 'the self' in culture (From Selfie to Self-Expression), the Great Waldemar looks at the selfie's evolution in art, and wonders why the selfies of the past are generally so glum:

Artists were the first selfie-takers because they were the only creatives in the past who could actually do them. What is now easy used to be difficult. Before the advent of smartphones and mirror functions, only those who could paint and draw to a high standard were capable of preserving a convincing likeness. Not only did you need to stare into a mirror for hours, wrestling with your own reality, but you needed also to say something meaningful. Looking like you was never enough.

No wonder the great self-portraitists are such a miserable bunch. The greatest of them all, Rembrandt, is one of art’s glummest presences. Rembrandt painted about 50 self-portraits in all — Kardashian numbers! But in none of them does he appear to enjoy what he sees. Even in his earliest selfies, the young Rembrandt looks as if he is counting the days. By the time he gets to old age, his face is as lined with pits and wrinkles as a pensioner’s scrotum. Yet this, too, is role playing. Those funny hats he wears, the gold chains, the fur coats, are studio costumes put on for the picture. This was not the clobber he wore in the street. Rembrandt’s selfies are fantasies about the passage of time, the shortness of life. [...]

Among art’s keenest self-portraitists, not one of them, not Gauguin, not Van Gogh, not Frida Kahlo, can be described as an optimistic presence. Something about looking into a mirror, staring deep into yourself, turned the self-portraiture of the Old Masters into a dark and profound pursuit. [...]

That is no longer true. Today, taking selfies is simples. Just point and click. Anyone can do it. Famous politicians gathered at important summits can do it. People falling out of aeroplanes can do it. Women in the bath can do it. Astronauts orbiting the moon can do it. We can all do it. The disappeared have disappeared. A Niagara Falls of selfies is cascading down on us from the heavens as every nobody on the planet is handed the tool with which to turn themselves into a somebody.

The show runs till May 30th.

It's time to nationalise UK local art collections

February 20 2017

Image of It's time to nationalise UK local art collections

Picture: DCMS

I've written a piece for The Art Newspaper on why nationalisation is the only way to safeguard the UK's regional art collections from being either run into the ground, or sold off altogether. More here

Warhol down, Richter up

February 20 2017

Image of Warhol down, Richter up

Picture: Christie's

So says Marion Maneker at Art Market Monitor:

The 74% fall in sales volume is both dramatic and unsettling, especially when no serious participant in the art market will say that demand for Warhol has diminished. The dislocation of supply, caused by the rapid rise of art values from 2010-2015, is probably the reason for Warhol's market absence. Still, without significant works by Warhol on the block, there is a question of market leadership.

Fakes, fakes everywhere (ctd.)

February 20 2017

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere (ctd.)

Picture: via Facebook

In Michigan, a 32 year old art dealer called Eric Spoutz (above) has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for selling forgeries for over ten years. Artists he claimed to be selling included Willem de Kooning. There's some interesting info here on the US Justice department's website - it seems Sproutz wasn't especially diligent:

Despite his efforts to create false histories for the artwork, investigators identified multiple inconsistencies and errors in SPOUTZ’s forged provenance documents.  Many of the purported transactions took place before SPOUTZ was born, and the forged letters included non-existent addresses both for the purported sender and various parties referenced as sources of the artworks.  SPOUTZ also consistently used a single distinctive typesetting when forging documents purportedly authored by entirely different art galleries in different decades regarding unrelated transactions. 

This case is another demonstration of both the ease and problems of faking modern art. The ease is because, let's face it, some of this stuff is easy to replicate or mimic, especially when you're dealing with the proliferation of series and prints. The problems come because buyers assume there must be some quite specific paperwork attached to the artwork, since they were so recently created. It's here that modern forgers usually fall short. Of course, an attraction to forging Old Masters - if you can do it - is that the market is tempted to accept works without any meaningful paper trail. 

Katie Zavadski has more background  on Spoutz's activities in this piece from the Daily Beast in 2016.

Scotland almost there on Monarch of the Glen

February 20 2017

Image of Scotland almost there on Monarch of the Glen

Picture: National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland has nearly completed its fundraising to secure Landseer's famous Monarch of the Glen. The target, to buy the picture from Diageo, is £4m, and the Galleries are at £3.25m, with £2.75m from the HLF and £350k from the Art Fund. A public campaign has been launched. 

Stolen Guercino recovered

February 20 2017

Image of Stolen Guercino recovered

Picture: TAN

A large altarpiece by Guercino which was stolen from a church in Italy in 2014 has been located in Morocco. Someone was trying to sell it for £800k. Attempts are being made to get it back. More here

Who'll buy £30m Pontormo portrait? (ctd.)

February 20 2017

Image of Who'll buy £30m Pontormo portrait? (ctd.)

Picture: ACE

In The Art Newspaper, Martin Bailey has some extra snippets on the Pontormo saga, including the fact that the National Gallery offered the US owner an amount above the £30.6m they were required to raise to make a 'matching offer'. We don't know what the amount was, but the offer was still rejected. Consequently, the export licence has been formally rejected, and the painting will now stay in the UK for at least the next decade. 


February 13 2017

Image of Apologies...

Picture: BG

Greetings from Rome! The bells are ringing as I type, and the sun is out. This is quite a contrast from Edinburgh in February. Yesterday we went to the Pantheon (what a ceiling), where we paid homage to Raphael, who is there buried (below, bad photo).

Then we went round the corner and by chance, in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, found the tomb of Poussin. Adam Elsheimer is buried their too. 

I'm afraid blogging may be light for a couple of days. In the meantime, randomness from the Deputy Editor and I can be found on Twitter

The art of sitting for your portrait

February 10 2017

Image of The art of sitting for your portrait

Picture: via About Face

I've always wanted, as a sometime purveyor of portraits, to sit for my own portrait. Yes, it's vanity. But also I'd like to know what sitters go through. I can't decide whether I'd be a complete pain in the arse to paint - 'this is my best side; I want this pose; ever heard of Van Dyck?' - or would simply submit entirely to an artist, in order to best experience what it is like to be painted. (Be a pain in the arse, you say.)

Anyway, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery Sandy Nairne has written a fascinating essay on both commissioning portraits (which he had to do many times) and being portrayed. After he left the NPG he was invited to sit to Chuck Close. Here he describes the initial moment of portrayal:

 I perched on the aluminium stool, with the large lens alarmingly close, banks of bright lights on each side, and associate Myrna nearby, ready to offer a paper towel to lessen the moistening on my face. She was operating the front part of the camera, including the shutter; the bellows framed with rods and stays, with wheels and cogs for positioning. The moment of exposure combines a blast of light from each side of the camera. Not really a shock, but startling even when you know it is coming. I was over-self-conscious about my appearance, and aware that if I became a Chuck Close Polaroid then every hair and pockmark might end up showing. And I was equally conscious of my expression. Should I be smiling? With my mouth open or closed? How could I not look stiff and get some degree of warmth into my expression?

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