Previous Posts: May 2020

Free Pre-Raphaelite Webinar

May 11 2020

Image of Free Pre-Raphaelite Webinar

Picture: BMAG

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Victoria Osborne, curator of fine arts at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, is presenting a free webinar on the Pre-Raphaelites on Wednesday 13th May 4pm (BST). The webinar is being run by Newark Museum in New Jersey, USA. Viewers will also have a chance to participate in a Q&A after the lecture, a wonderful chance to put any questions you may have to a museums professional.

The event is free but you will be required to sign up to Zoom to join in.

Marcel Roethlisberger (1929-2020)

May 8 2020

Image of Marcel Roethlisberger (1929-2020)

Picture: YouTube

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News has reached us of the passing of art historian and scholar Marcel Roethlisberger (1929-2020). Born in Zurich, and having been educated at the universities of Bern, Cologne, Paris, Florence and Pisa, his studies eventually brought him to the Courtauld Institute in London. After completing his thesis on Jacopo Bellini he was encouraged by Anthony Blunt to develop an interest in the paintings of Claude. He went on to become a leading scholar in the works of Claude, Liotard and several Swiss artists.

Pastels specialist Neil Jeffares has published his own relfections on the significance of Roethlisberger in his blog.

Sotheby's Results

May 8 2020

Image of Sotheby's Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Yesterday's mid-season old masters sale at Sotheby's brought in a very respectable £3.37m (including fees), with 86% of lots sold. This is further encouraging proof that the market for old masters is still going strong despite these strange times. It is also a sign that buyers have confidence in bidding online, something that has not always been taken for granted.

There were several lots that sold particularly well. The most impressive result was Bernado Zenale's Saint John the Baptist, standing in a landscape (pictured) which brought it £225,000 over an estimate of £20,000 - £30,000. The majority of the Earl of Clarendon's set of full length portraits sold above their upper estimates too. This shows that copies of fine pictures can still command respectable prices.

Oranges in Paintings

May 7 2020


Video: Paleis Het Loo

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Paleis Het Loo, the Palace of the House of Orange-Nassau, have made a rather nice video exploring the theme of Oranges in paintings. Conservator Hanna Klarenbeek explains their symbolism and significance particularly in relation to the Monarchy of the Netherlands.

Non-Dutch speakers will have to switch on the auto-translate feature on YouTube to get subtitles in your own language.

Mystery of Portrait Donor Solved

May 7 2020

Image of Mystery of Portrait Donor Solved

Picture: The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Godfrey Kneller's portrait of the poet and diplomat Matthew Prior (1664-1721) was one of the highlights of the recent Tate exhibition British Baroque: Power and Illusion. Few painters could capture the confidence and haughtiness of their sitters like Kneller could.

The painting's lender, Trinity College Cambridge, have published a blog about the recent discovery of the painting's donor. The work was presented to the college in 1908 under the strict conditions that the donor should remain anonymous and that the portrait should be hung "anywhere except in the hall".

It transpires that the canvas was a gift from artist and benefactor Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919). The identity of the donor was recently unearthed in a handwritten letter by M.R. James, the then Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum and famous writer of ghost stories.

A high-resolution image of the painting, superb painterly flourishes and all, can be found here.


Free Ruskin Lecture

May 7 2020

Image of Free Ruskin Lecture

Picture: @SuzanneFagence

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Dr Suzanne Fagence Cooper, author of the book Why Ruskin Matters, is giving a free lecture on John Ruskin as artist, thinker, polemicist and environmental campaigner. The lecture is in collaboration with the Watts Gallery as part of their 'Watts and Home' series.

The lecture goes live at noon today (BST 7th May 2020) on YouTube, and should be available to watch on demand after the event.

Webinar with Rijksmuseum Scientist

May 6 2020

Image of Webinar with Rijksmuseum Scientist

Picture: Rijksmuseum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Institute of Conservation (ICON) is running a free webinar today on 'Metal Soaps in Art'.

It's far more interesting than it might first sound, as the webinar's overview points out;

Old master paintings as well as modern and contemporary art are subjected to changes from the moment they have been made. Discoloration, increased transparency and darkening, crumbling of the paint, paint delamination and loss: these are just some of the degradation phenomena encountered on oil paintings. This presentation focusses on the wide-spread degradation phenomena that is related to pigment-oil binder interactions, which are metal soaps. Metal soap related defects are observed in paintings by amongst others Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Piet Mondrian. Approximately 70% of paintings in museum collections are affected by metal soap-related degradation

This online lecture will by Dr Katrien Keune, Head of Science at the Rijksmuseum. It starts at 4.00pm UK time (6th May 2020), and you don't have to be a member of ICON to join (although registration is required).

Courtauld Watercolours Online

May 6 2020

Image of Courtauld Watercolours Online

Picture: The Courtauld Gallery via. Watercolour World

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Courtauld Gallery in London has uploaded 400+ images of its drawings and watercolours to the fantastic Watercolour World. This resource is invaluable for researchers as well as admirers of these works on paper. The search engine is very easy to use and the high-resolution images fantastic to zoom into. The website claims that it has uploaded 4,000 new images in the last week alone.

Germany Reopens Museums

May 6 2020

Image of Germany Reopens Museums

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Germany has started to reopen its museums this week. There are strong measures in place to reduce any risk to members of the public. This includes mandatory face masks, social distancing, online bookings only and limited numbers into galleries at any one time. Specific routes around rooms have also been introduced. A very useful exercise for British institutions to learn from when the time comes to reopen museums here (whenever that may be).

The NPG are hiring!

May 5 2020

Image of The NPG are hiring!

Picture: NPG

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Portrait Gallery in London are looking for a part-time 'Curator, Missing Narratives on Women.'

As the gallery's website explains;

The post holder will conduct a three-year research project to identify gaps in the collection with an emphasis on female sitters and artists. In addition, the post holder will work with the curatorial team on acquisitions and the Gallery’s Contemporary Commissions programme with the aim of filling gaps in the permanent collection that have been identified within the Inspiring People Missing Narratives research project.

The role is 24 hours (3 days) per week with a salary of £18,469 per annum.

Of equal interest is that the role is being funded by the luxury fashion brand CHANEL (you would have thought more money might have been found to make the role full time?). Considering the NPG's recent ethical awakening in rejecting money from oil and pharma companies (see below), let's hope they've thought through the implications of this partnership.

Applications close on 25th May 2020.

MET Publications Online

May 5 2020

Image of MET Publications Online

Picture: MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Forgive me if this has appeared on AHN in the past but this is a fantastic resource worth highlighting again. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have published decades worth of their publications online and are completely free to access (some new titles are preview only). This includes books, exhibition catalogues and the museum's journal.

The Getty Museum established an equivalent system as far back as 2014.

Seller's Remorse?

May 4 2020

Image of Seller's Remorse?

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some rather unusual news has emerged regarding a Rubens that was sold at Christie's in 2018. The picture above, A Satyr holding a Basket of Grapes and Quinces with a Nymph (c.1620), was purchased at auction by billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker on behalf of his charitable foundation for around $6m ($4.8m hammer). 

After the auction the picture's consigner Debra Turner expressed remorse and decided to 'cancel' the sale. Christie's then proceeded with arbitration to resolve the matter. Their recent conclusion was that the auction house had fulfilled their contractual obligations and thus the Rubens had been successfully acquired by the winning bidder. They are now seeking to confirm the arbitration's award in the federal courts.

Most curiously, the picture has been removed from the auction house's website (Christie's, New York, 19 April 2018, lot 41).

National Trust Collections Annual

May 4 2020

Image of National Trust Collections Annual

Picture: National Trust

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual has been made freely available online via. the National Trust website. The annual contains in depth articles and features of various pieces of research and news relating to their collections. Previous editions go back to 2015.

Friends Reunited at the MET

May 4 2020

Image of Friends Reunited at the MET

Picture: MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has reunited portraits of two significant artistic friends. This historic reunion was made possible by the donation of Antoine Jean Gros's Self Portrait (left) from the collection of Karen B. Cohen in celebration of the museum's 150th anniversary. Gros's self portrait is intended to be hung along the artist's picture of his friend and painter François Gérard (right) executed at the same time.

The full story is found in La Tribune de l'Art.

National Portrait Gallery Sheds BP Judge

May 4 2020

Image of National Portrait Gallery Sheds BP Judge

Picture: ArtNet

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Portrait Gallery in London has announced that BP will no longer be represented on the judging panel of its prestigious portrait award. It seems that this was in response to protests from pressure groups demanding that the gallery should end all links with the oil company. (pictured) This position on the gallery's judging panel was usually taken up by BP's head of art culture and sport Des Violaris.

Readers might remember that in 2019 the NPG turned down a £1m grant from the Sackler Trust on what seemed to be similarly ethical grounds.

Before and After

May 4 2020

Image of Before and After

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There was an interesting image posted onto Twitter last week (via Maaike Dirkx @RembrandtsRoom) of a portrait that was recently sold at Sotheby's.

A portrait of a gentleman standing beside a framed portrait of a lady (right), which appeared in the recent Rafael Valls sale at Sotheby's, actually appeared in auction at Sotheby's NY in 2013. The image on the left shows how the painting appeared in the 2013 sale before the picture was conserved.

Curiously, you'll notice that someone had chosen to paint out the gentleman's arm at a later date. We may only speculate as to why this may have been done. Perhaps the composition wasn't considered appealing enough in a previous age. Many paintings 'restorers' of past centuries often carried out such alterations to pictures that didn't meet the aesthetic standards of certain owners or dealers. It's wonderful to see that in this case this alteration was entirely reversable.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.