Heni Art Talks (ctd.)

October 8 2018

Video: Heni 

Here's another good Heni Art Talk, with Dr James Fox on the artist behind the WW1 'Dazzle' ships, Norman Wilkinson.  

Tate in China

October 8 2018

Image of Tate in China

Picture: Shanghai Museum

It's good to see that Tate's touring exhibition in China has been such a success, as Martin Bailey reports in TAN:

The Tate’s most popular ever exhibition is not one that was staged in any of its London galleries—but in Shanghai. Landscapes of the Mind: Masterpieces from Tate Britain (1700-1980), which closed at the Shanghai Museum in August, attracted 615,000 visitors in 14 weeks—more than 6,000 a day. Up until then, the Tate’s most successful show had been Henri Matisse: the Cut-Outs at Tate Modern, which was seen by 467,000 people during 21 weeks in 2014. [...]

The two-venue exhibition has been supported by a one-off £1.3m grant from the UK government—a huge subsidy for a single show. 

It's interesting that Tate didn't just take modern works, but the full range of British landscape art, including Gainsborough, Wright of Derby and Constable. Imagine the transformative effect on interest in art history (and indeed the market) if just a small fraction of Chinese art lovers took an insterest in, say, Gainsborough.

More here.

The future of art history publishing

October 8 2018

Image of The future of art history publishing

Picture: Birkbeck College

On 19th October in London, Birkbeck College are hosting a seminar on 'the future of art history publishing':

We are at a turning point in the publishing of art historical research. To what extent is the existing model of art history publishing sustainable? What does the future hold for the illustrated scholarly print journal and monograph? How is art history responding to the push for online open access publishing? How do copyright and licensing restrictions and costs affect what can be published and in what form? This session brings together print and online publishers and editors, an intellectual property expert and academics to think about the way forward.

* Baillie Card, Paul Mellon Centre

* Natalie Foster, Routledge

* Bernard Horrocks, Intellectual Property Manager, Tate

* Steve Edwards, Birkbeck

* Chair: Leslie Topp, Birkbeck

Sadly, there it appears there will be nobody speaking from an Open Access poit of view. But if you want to go along and challenge Tate's intellectual property manager, tickets are free, and available here. Ask him why Tate refuses to put anything other than low-res images on its website, and why they don't know if they actually make a profit from image licensing.  

New pictures at the Rubenshuis

October 8 2018

Image of New pictures at the Rubenshuis

Picture: Rubenshuis

Good news from one of my favourite museums, the Rubenshuis in Antwerp; they've acquired one of Van Dyck's Apostle paintings (St Matthew, above), and have on loan from Ontario Rubens' extraordinary Massacre of the Innocents. The latter picture is the most expensive Rubens ever sold - and I imagine his ghost will be delighted to see it back in the studio where he painted it, some 400 years ago. Worth getting on a plane for, anyway. 

Mid-season Old Master sales

October 8 2018

Image of Mid-season Old Master sales

Picture: Dorotheum

There are some nice, even bargain pictures on offer in the mid-season Old Master sales. Bonhams in London, 24th October, is here, Christie's in New York on 30th October is here, and Dorotheum in Vienna on 23rd October is here, where a highlight is the above Artemisia Gentileschi at €500k-€700k. Happy bidding. I'm always happy to answer any questions you might have on upcoming lots. 

Mantegna and Bellini at the National Gallery

October 2 2018

Video: National Gallery

The new Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery has opened, and looks to be fascinating. It's on until 27th January. The critics like it: Jackie Wullschlager calls it 'marvellous' in the FT; Ben Luke gives it five stars in the Evening Standard; and Nancy Durrant in The Times gives it four stars. Jonathan Jones in The Guardian is less keen, giving it three stars. 

I'm glad to see the National Gallery making another good video for the show, above. But as talking about Old Masters on film is dear to my heart, I can't avoid pointing out that it doesn't really deliver. This is a video made by art historians for art historians. It should be made for the more general audience of potential visitors, who might not know why Mantegna is worth getting excited about. It needs to get quickly to the point about what the exhibition is about, why these artists matter, and in an accessible way. It doesn't even say that Mantegna and Bellini were brothers-in-law, which is rather a key point in why the exhibition is looking at the two artists together.  

Art and Brexit

October 2 2018

Image of Art and Brexit

Picture: via OSF Home

Does your taste in art dictate your political preferences? I suspect not. But some academics at Oxford's Nuffield College have set about trying to find out. The trouble is, the artworks they've chosen are ill-suited to the task, and there aren't enough of them. I've seen some pretty pathetic attempts to link art and politics before, but this is the most risible yet. I can't believe any academic, yet alone an Oxford one, thought this was a good idea.

The aim of the study was to see if people who preferred 'realistic' art - as opposed to 'abstract' art - also preferred Brexit to Remain. The study concluded that they did, by some 15-20%. Now, you might well think that a preference for abstract art equates to a preference for more 'liberal', or globalist, Remain-type politics. And that's doubtless the stereotype the study's authors were hoping to promote - modern art lovers have more modern politics. 

But leaving aside whether we can ever characterise Leave/Remain politics along such lines, let's look at the methodology behind the study. Which is frankly laughable. The authors chose four pairs of pictures, and in each one there was a 'realistic' picture and an 'abstract' picture. And we can tell all we need to know about the study by the fact that the first 'realistic' painting was a Thomas Kinkade 'light' painting, 'Village Lighthouse' (above), a completely invented, fantasy picture of so little artistic merit and such confected, cloudy schmaltz that it's actually impossible to decide whether it's 'realistic' or 'abstract' (in fact, it's more catarract than abstract). The 'abstract' pair to the Kinkade painting is a fairly literal depiction of Yarmouth Port by Irma Cerese (below). 

The other pairs are only slightly less daft. Here's the portrait category. 'Realistic' is Jessica in Profile by David Gray.

Then for the 'abstract', Francis Bacon's Isabel Rawthorne. 

For the still life category, the realistic picture was Purple of Lilies with White Variation by Michael Klein.

Versus Pink Caladium by David Hockney. 

Now, I don't doubt that it may be possible to determine if people who like, say, 'old' art versus modern art have different political outlooks. But the way to do this is not by showing a small group of people a small number of badly chosen pictures. If you want to choose a 'realistic' landscape, then at least go for something that is a real scene, painted outside, by an artist who was determinedly trying to capture something 'real'. Perhaps a scene by Calame, say. And then you need to allow for all sorts of other biases in the way people choose their art preferences, like modern versus old - so perhaps an abstract painting by Turner should be included too. There is a way to do studies like this; it just requires a better understanding of art history. Let's stop using tired clichés about art to justify pre-determined social and political conclusions. 

Burlington becomes a publisher

September 28 2018

Image of Burlington becomes a publisher

Picture: Burlington Magazine

Important news; The Burlington Magazine is launching its own publishing arm. Three or four books will be published each year. The first will be Roger Fry and Italian Art, by the magazine's former Editor Caroline Elam. The Burlington has chosen to enter the publishing field at a time when art hsitory publishing is facing greater challenges than ever before, some of which are outlined in this excellent editorial:

[...] the quandary for publishers of academic art history is inescapable. How can a typical book on this subject, such as a monograph, consisting of around 100,000 words and 200 illustrations, be made to work? Reproduction fees are one significant issue. Although it is true that some museums are making more images freely available, especially for academic publication, in the United Kingdom they have been remarkably reluctant to do so, blaming the need to sustain revenues in a time of declining public subsidy. Not only are authors increasingly expected to shoulder this financial burden, they are now also often expected to supply their text for nothing, or a nominal fee. Deplorable as this undoubtedly is, it reflects the economic reality of publishing a serious art history title. For such a book to be viable it either needs to be subsidised – by a charitable foundation or an academic institution if not the author – or it has to sell around 3,000 copies. That is a very tall order for a specialised academic title, which in most subjects typically sell fewer than 1,000 copies.

One of the Burlington's guiding principles in the new venture will be to promote good writing:

The impressive sales figures of books by leading academic historians, such as Eamon Duffy, David Cannadine or Margaret MacMillan, show that there is a large popular appetite for well-written, intellectually challenging texts on a wide range of historical subjects. This is an appetite that is much less often satisfied by art historians. The way to sell more books on art history is to encourage more people to read them, and that will be achieved not by technological or economic innovation but by something that this Magazine, and now the books it will publish, has always endeavoured to provide – good writing.

Bravo to The Burlington!

Hokusai and Van Gogh

September 28 2018

Image of Hokusai and Van Gogh

Picture: via TAN

In his latest Van Gogh blog post, Martin Bailey looks into the links between Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' and Hokusai's 'Great Wave'. More here.  

"Ribera: Art of Violence"

September 27 2018

Video: EFE

The new Ribera exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London looks good; above is a clip from Spanish TV from inside the show, which opened yesterday. It runs until 27th January. More here.  

Hockney in Westminster Abbey

September 26 2018

Image of Hockney in Westminster Abbey

Picture: Westminster Abbey

David Hockney has made a window for Westminster Abbey, designed on his iPad. More here

Murder in the Gainsborough family

September 26 2018

Image of Murder in the Gainsborough family

Picture: Private Collection, Gainsborough self-portrait, via TAN

New research has revealed that Thomas Gainsborough's uncle and cousin were almost certainly murdered when the artist was young. From Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper:

Two close members of Thomas Gainsborough’s family were murdered over a financial dispute, new research has revealed. The Art Newspaper has tracked down threatening letters sent in 1738, just before the separate murders took place. One of the warnings was directed at the artist’s cousin: “We will either shoot him or hang him up in gibbets, damn the… rogue’s arse.”

The main research on the artist’s youth and the murders has been conducted over four years by Mark Bills, the director of Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, Suffolk, in preparation for an exhibition that is due to open there in October. His show focuses on the early years of Thomas Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury in 1727, the son of a wool merchant, and who went on to become one of the leading painters of his time.

Lost Henry VIII tapestry found in Spain

September 26 2018

Image of Lost Henry VIII tapestry found in Spain

Picture: Telegraph

A tapestry made for King Henry VIII of England in the 1530s, and thought to have been lost, has been found in Spain. 'Tapestry Tom' Campbell, former Met Director, has been researching the find along with the specialist tapestry dealer Simon Franses. A value of £5m has been mentioned, which seems to me rather low. I was once told (but don't know if it's true) that the most valuable publicly owned items in Britain were the Abraham Tapestries hanging at Hampton Court, which were also made for Henry VIII.

More here

New extension at National Gallery of Scotland (ctd.)

September 26 2018

Image of New extension at National Gallery of Scotland (ctd.)

Picture: National

The on again/off again extension at the National Gallery of Scotland here in Edinburgh is back on track. The last one was scrapped because costs got out of control. The new one is more expensive, but seems to be more realistic, from an engineering point of view, as it won't involve such significant work on the railway bridges beneath the Gallery. 

The aim is to create a new display area for the Scottish art collection, which used to be housed in a subterranean extension that was more like an old car park than a gallery. The old gallery has been closed for over a year now, with highlights of the Scottish collection squeezed in willy nilly with the European Old Masters upstairs in the main galleries. It's a bit of a mess to be honest. Construction will take two years from October. Alongside the new display area will be a larger shop, and a new cafe. But still, as far as I can gather, no office spaces for the curators, who have all been shipped off site. 

More here.  

Incidentally, as part of the new management restructuring at the Galleries (which abolished individual museum directors), the former head of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Dr Christopher Baker, is now styled as "Director, European and Scottish Art and Portraiture". Quite where the likes of Hogarth fit into all this, I'm not sure. 

Courbet's 'L’Origine du monde' model?

September 26 2018

Image of Courbet's 'L’Origine du monde' model?

Picture: The Times

New research has apparently uncovered the name of the model used by Gustav Courbet for his famous picture 'L’Origine du Monde'. She was the opera singer Constance Queniaux, above. More here in The Times

Regular readers will know that various attempts have been made to identify the model, such as this one here from 2013.

'And now for the Leonardo - who'll give me $1200?'

September 22 2018

Image of 'And now for the Leonardo - who'll give me $1200?'

Picture: Wall Street Journal

It's always been a mystery just where the US super sleuth Alex Parrish found Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi - all we knew is that he bought it for about $10,000 with the New York dealer Robert Simon. But now the Wall Street Journal has found a copy of the original sale catalogue, from New Orleans auction house in 2005. The estimate was just $1200-$1500! The WSJ also interviews the family of the previous owner of the painting, who seem pretty sanguine about it all. We've yet to hear from the underbidder...

JHNA online

September 22 2018

Image of JHNA online

Picture: JHNA

The latest Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art is online, and it's free and in high-res. How about that? There are articles on Metsys and the miniaturist Bernard Lens, amongst others.

Don't move Emmeline! (ctd.)

September 22 2018

Video: Houses of Parliament

Good news - the daft plant to move the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst from outside the Houses of Parliament in London has been scrapped. More here

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

September 22 2018

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Picture: de Volksrant

Remember this 'Sleeper Alert' from 2014? It's now been announced as an early Rembrandt - it turns out that the picture had been comprehensively overpainted, and if you compare with the photo below from when it was at auction at Lempertz in Cologne you can see just how many figures had been painted out. The photo above shows the painting mid-restoration.

The Rembrandt scholar Ernst van der Wetering calls the picture 'a great find'. And, would you Adam & Eve it, the picture was found by Jan Six, who of course recently made another Rembrandt discovery - a portrait sold at Christie's in London last year

Meanwhile, there have been some ructions over the purchase of the Christie's portrait, revolving around who was bidding with whom on the painting. The story sheds light on the practice of dealers bidding with other dealers on 'sleepers'. It goes on a lot, and sometimes it can get quite unpleasant. I've always tried to avoid it. Anyway, the story has resulted in some unfortunate remarks from van der Wetering about the picture. He says the portrait gives 'little reason for joy. Because it is a fragment of a much larger canvas, it is a strange thing - something between a Rembrandt and a non-Rembrandt.' Which I think is more than a little unfair, not least because the idea that it was once part of a double portrait is just a guess. 

Van Gogh's gardener identified

September 22 2018

Image of Van Gogh's gardener identified

Picture: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome

I've been meaning to tell you about the new book by the Van Gogh scholar, Martin Bailey; 'Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum', which is available here. To help publicise it, Martin has started a weekly Van Gogh blog, which is here at The Art Newspaper. The latest revelation is that Martin has identified the sitter in Van Gogh's 'Portrait of a Gardener' (above) as Jean Barral (1861-1942). The portrait was painted while the artist was at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. 

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