Me in retirement

December 19 2012

Image of Me in retirement

Picture: Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

Just come across this fine picture on Your Paintings called 'The Connoisseur', by Henry Herbert La Thangue. Mrs G looks resignedly on...

Meanwhile, also on Your Paintings, is another rather charming picture called 'The Connoisseur', by August Friedrich Siegert:

Readers who want to display their connoisseurial credentials are invited to send in similar images...

Update - a reader writes:

"The Connoisseur" [top]  by Henry Herbert  La Thangue is actually of Mr Abraham Mitchell, aged 53 at the time, a Bradford textile tycoon and a Methodist of "reserved and retiring nature". He and his brother Joseph built neighbouring mansions (called "The Parks"), his with a picture gallery, which is the setting for this work. He was one of La Thangue's principal patrons. In the background are his wife and their two sons Tom (standing) and Herbert, and one of his daughters either Edith or Annie. Mitchell had been a local councillor, alderman, JP and refused the mayoralty of the town (see "A Painters Harvest". Oldham Art Gallery catalogue 4 November -12 December 1978 Page 22 & 23).

A very unusual genre for him and a very modern painting for you!!

Add to list of life's ambitions: have a house with a picture gallery.

National Gallery conference: the Emerging European Art Market

December 19 2012

Image of National Gallery conference: the Emerging European Art Market

Picture: Towneley Hall Art Gallery/Your Paintings

The National Gallery have been in touch - they're seeking papers for a conference to be held next year  on 21-22 June, on London and the Emergence of a European Art Market (c. 1780-1820):

The French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars with occupations of Italy, Spain and the Low Countries, instigated a sweeping redistribution of art. At the same time, the Papacy’s loss of temporal power undermined the enforcement of export laws in the Papal States. This convergence of events ensured that large volumes of paintings—often entire collections, from European monasteries, churches, and private palaces—were widely dispersed via auction and private treaty sales in a true diaspora of art. Current scholarship posits that amidst these large-scale market transformations London emerged as the new hub of the international art trade, replacing Paris. The well-known example of the move of the Orléans collection to London, where it was sold through various private treaty transactions and a series of auctions between 1798 and 1802, is often considered a pars pro toto for the British assumption of power on the international art market.

While some studies have begun to address the velocity and scale of this redistribution, little has been done to analyze the dynamic networks of agents who provided the infrastructure for the circulation of art works and sales information throughout Europe. Economist Neil De Marchi recently pointed out that the financial market linking crucial centers such as Amsterdam, London, and Paris has been studied in depth, but comparable research into the “mechanism of the painting trade and the extent to which it was integrated across those centers has barely begun.” This conference aspires to tackle this issue by convening scholars and experts from a range of disciplines to discuss broad research questions such as: Did the long-term effects of the political turmoil in France alter the existing personal and professional networks of dealers and connoisseurs? What would have been the motivations to ship art works to foreign market places? How integrated was the European art market around 1800, or were there still relatively independent local markets? Was there an implied hierarchy of metropolitan markets or were conditions too volatile and fluid for fixed patterns to emerge?

More specific details below (clock 'Read on'). If you would like to give a 30 minute paper, or know anyone who might, please contact Susanna Avery Quash at the Gallery wtih a 250 word proposal by 15th February by emailing susanna[dot]avery-quash@ng-london[dot]org[dot]uk.

Given the vast amount of historical evidence now available to scholars, we have the capacity to address these micro and macro developments in innovative ways. Over the last two years the National Gallery, London, and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, have collaborated on a project to research, transcribe, and index auction catalogues published in Great Britain between 1780 and 1800. By January 2013, almost 100,000 new sales records from c. 1,200 catalogues will be published online, via the Getty Provenance Index® databases. This will add significantly and strategically to the already extant data-pool of approximately half a million records from British, French, German, Dutch, Belgian, and Scandinavian Sales, spanning the period of c. 1780 to 1820.

One of the main objectives of this international conference is to work towards a methodological synergy of art historical case studies and data-driven socioeconomic analysis in order to understand better the mechanisms of the international art trade at this pivotal period as well as the long-term implications for the history of collecting, the establishment of museums, and the formation of the discipline of art history.

Topics for consideration include, but are not limited to:

- ARTWORKS Cross-border traffic of objects (cultural transfers, customs regulations, arbitrage, etc.) and its effect on the formation of private and public collections.

- AGENTS Market integration throughout Europe (national/transnational dealer networks, centre and periphery, impact of revolution and war, etc.)

- INFORMATION Auction catalogues as economic tool and literary genre (classification systems, lot sequence, transparency, connoisseurship, etc.)

- VALUES Idea of art as an investment (different national canons and currencies, growth of investment-minded collectors, ascendancy of the banker as a key player, price manipulation, etc.)

'The Black Gardener'

December 19 2012

Image of 'The Black Gardener'

Picture: The Garden Museum

Congratulations to the Garden Museum and its director Christopher Woodward, who, with only ten days notice after seeing it in an auction catalogue, successfully raised £127,000 to buy the above 'Black Gardener' (dated to 1905) by Harold Gilman. The amount needed was more than twice the upper estimate. Our new best friends, the HLF, contributed £60,000. Well done to everyone involved. More details here.

Picasso to leave the UK

December 19 2012

Image of Picasso to leave the UK

Picture: Courtauld

Picasso's Girl with a Dove, recently sold for £50m, will now leave the UK after an export licence was granted. No UK museum had tried to raise the funds necessary to keep the picture here. It's interesting that, despite the Picasso name, the picture did not generate any 'save it for the nation' campaign.

This year, UK museums have raised enough money to keep artefacts worth £29m in the country, including the Manet at the Ashmolean, a pair of console tables at the V&A, and a sculpture by John Nost the Elder, also at the V&A. The bulk of the money for these purcahses came from the Treasury, in the form of tax foregone. More details here.  

Salvator Mundi not going to Dallas

December 19 2012

Image of Salvator Mundi not going to Dallas

Picture: DMN 

From the Dallas Morning News:

Visitors to the Dallas Museum of Art won’t be seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi after all. Its owners have rejected the museum’s bid to buy the painting after weeks of negotiations, officials revealed Tuesday.

The painting had been at the DMA during the talks. The DMA’s final offer was not disclosed, though the cost of the artwork had previously been reported as $200 million.

The rejection follows a recent flurry of upbeat news — free admission and free memberships in 2013, and $2.3 million in new grants and gifts.

The DMA announced that it was trying to acquire the Da Vinci during the summer and had launched a fundraising campaign toward the purchase.

“While the museum’s leadership was hopeful that the painting would be acquired for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, they are incredibly inspired by and grateful for the outpouring of community support for the campaign to acquire this work,” according to a statement from the museum. The DMA said it had raised “tens of millions of dollars” in pledges toward the purchase.

Director Maxwell Anderson said in the statement that it “was a privilege to be responsible for the safekeeping of this masterwork as we assembled commitments towards its purchase. The fortunate few who saw it in person will not soon forget its beauty, power and majesty.” 

Shame. I wonder if this is all part of the negotiation. At a reported $200m, the stakes are high...

Job opportunity - Louvre

December 19 2012

Image of Job opportunity - Louvre

Picture: TAN

The Art Newspaper reports that the Louvre director, Henri Loyrette, is to leave. 

Don't study art history! (ctd.)

December 18 2012

Further to my post below on Tom Snyder's call for students to avoid art history, a reader sends in this perspicacious thought:

Of course we need STEM [Science, Technology, subject graduates, but that does not mean we don't also need arts and humanities graduates (this sort of dubious see-saw thinking also infects discussions of private and public sectors). As recruitment officer for a School of Arts I often come across unsubstantiated assertions that there are no jobs for art historians or philosophers. This is not true. The creative industries, heritage and tourism and the cultural sector constitute a vibrant and substantial part of the UK economy. At a recent careers event at the V&A I heard a fascinating talk by a designer, Chris Sherwin - Head of Sustainability at Seymourpowell, about how a huge amount of industrial waste and environmental damage is simply caused by poor design. Scientists need arty types, and vice versa.

Arguments that we can "no longer afford the arts" are not only uncivilised, they fly in the face of evidence to the contrary of their importance for the economy.

Another reader writes:

I think one of the most important things in life is to have a balance, to help you see the whole picture…or at least to be able to appreciate that there is more than one way of looking at things. Art, for me, is the means to do this…and it will benefit the whole of society if more attention is paid to this vitally important and enriching aspect of our lives.

Rembrandt's English period?

December 18 2012

Image of Rembrandt's English period?

Picture: YourPaintings

A reader alerts me to this gem from Your Paintings. Anyone know where the original might be...?

Update - a reader writes:

Actually, there might be some evidence that he did spend time in England.  There are suggestions that he was in Hull later on in life (reported by Vertue) as well drawings of both St Albans and Windsor Castle.


December 17 2012 the Philip Mould Ltd Christmas Party! Hence not much posting today. Might not be much tomorrow either, depending on what sort of party it turns out to be...

Where have all the blokes gone? (ctd.)

December 17 2012

Following my recent mention of an art historian's finding that only 3 out of 30 people in an art history conference were men, a reader alerts me to the fact that the National Portrait Gallery's staff (according to their new annual review) is split 32% male, 68% female.

Don't study art history!

December 14 2012

So says Tom Snyder, President of Ivy Tech Community College in the USA:

It is time we all accept the fact that a traditional four-year liberal arts education is a poor investment for America's middle class. Student debt is now at the $1 trillion mark with graduates of four-year institutions facing an average of $25,000 in debt. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that in 2012, 1.5 million recent college graduates, or 53.6 percent of those students with bachelor's degrees are jobless or underemployed.

Students and their parents need to think carefully before investing the $7,605 a year that the College Board estimates as the average tuition at a public four-year institution. This figure doesn't include room and board, Friday night pizzas, books or lattes.

Today's economy cannot support more art history or philosophy majors. Students and their parents must consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). That's where the jobs are and there is an inexpensive, quick way to qualify for these jobs -- enrolling at a community college.

But can you imagine how dull the world would be if everyone studied science, technology, engineering and maths, Tom? 

More goodies at 'Art World in Britain'

December 14 2012

Image of More goodies at 'Art World in Britain'


Dr Richard Stephens has been in touch with news of important additions to The Art World in Britain 1660-1735. Highlights include documents relating to the 10th Earl of Derby's intensive collecting:

The papers of one of the great early 18th century art collectors have been published on The art world in Britain 1660 to 1735 website. The 56 letters, 87 bills and receipts, and miscellaneous accounts, inventories and other documents of James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby (1664-1736) of Knowsley Hall, comprise the largest archive yet found of the early 18th century art trade. Most of these papers remain at Knowsley Hall.

Derby's collecting can be reconstructed in amazing detail and he emerges as one of the most ambitious connoisseurs of his age. His London agent's account books document a decade of copious and self-assured expenditure, and there is a complete paper trail describing the importation of artefacts from Italy. The best documented agents are two painter dealers, Thomas Wright and Hamlet Winstanley, whose activities on Derby's behalf in London and Italy in the mid 1720s are described in many letters.

The papers are also an important source for the study of the early 18th century art world. They deal with the acquisition of prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture; purchases both in London and abroad; from dealers and at auction; purchases on the secondary market as well as direct commissions from painters; and not only the direct costs of art works, but also framing, colours and other studio materials, customs duties and packaging. They feature painters, picture sellers, importers, print sellers, sculptors, frame makers, shippers and carriers.

Excellent stuff. For full details of the latest update, click here.

Hirst & Gagosian split up

December 14 2012

Image of Hirst & Gagosian split up

Picture: Artinfo

Shucks. One of the most successful artist/dealer relationships ever seen is alas no more. From the FT:

Mr Hirst’s company, Science Ltd, said that “Larry Gagosian and Damien have reached an amicable decision to part company”, adding that the artist would continue his relationship with a second gallery, White Cube, in London.

Gagosian issued a statement, saying: “It has been a great honour to work with Damien over the last 17 years culminating with the worldwide showing of the Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 at all 11 Gagosian galleries this year;We wish him conti­nued success for the future.”

Spot the difference

December 14 2012

Image of Spot the difference

Picture: TAN

In The Art Newspaper, Emily Sharpe has news of the emergence of a putti in a picture at the Blanton Museum of Art in Texas:

The recent cleaning of what was believed to be a relatively straightforward composition of a 17th-century female nude in the collection of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, took a turn of mythic proportions when conservators discovered two additional figures: a putto and a recumbent Zeus. They elevate the painting’s main figure from a mere mortal to Danaë, the daughter of a mythical Greek king and the mother of Perseus, a son of Zeus. Scholars have attributed the work to a follower of the French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649).

The newly discovered figures had been scraped away and painted over at some point after the artist’s death. “[The alterations were probably] done either to hide badly damaged figures or to make the work more marketable and in keeping with the tastes of the 19th and early 20th centuries,” says Colette Crossman, a curator at the museum, who suspected that the painting had been altered. “The composition did not make sense and the subject matter did not connect to the standard [17th-century] iconography,” she says. After discussions, the curators and conservators decided to remove the overpainting and restore the figures.

Two years

December 13 2012

Image of Two years

Picture: Guardian

The prat who vandalised Tate Modern's Rothko has been sentenced to two years in jail. Said the judge:

"Your actions on the 7 October of this year were entirely deliberate, planned and intentional."

Speaking about "yellowism", Judge Chapple said it was "wholly and utterly unacceptable to promote it by damaging a work of art" which he called a "gift to the nation".

He said it was "abundantly clear" that Umaniec was "plainly an intelligent man" and told the court he had described Rothko as a "great painter" in a letter he had written to him.

A good deterrent sentence, I think.

Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

December 13 2012

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: Bonhams

A reader writes, astonishingly:

With all this talk of modern art fakery (which, as you say, is so rife that I've already experienced an extraordinary amount of it during my relatively few years in the trade), I thought I'd share you my favourite personal experience.  In my naive collecting days (not that long ago...) I purchased for a modest sum of around £100 a watercolour on Ebay purporting to be by the hand of Kyffin Williams - the main reason for this acquisition was the fact that I found the work had been offered as a genuine some years previous by Bonhams.

It had failed to sell but I thought the estimate was a touch high and thus I approached them to see if they'd consider re-offering the piece at a more conservative price.  They confirmed it was the same work but said that they'd have to get an 'external specialist' on the artist to inspect it first hand to reconfirm the attribution.  I felt this was probably a bad sign and thus was amazed when they came back and said the expert had proclaimed it to be right. Hence they re-catalogued it in one of their forthcoming sales [now withdrawn].

However, the catalogue had not been live long when I received an e-mail from Bonhams informing me that it had been brought to their attention that the work was a fake as its source had been revealed as former genuine sketch by a completely different artist, the notable but less expensive Alan Lowndes [below].

Someone had cut of Lowndes' signature, added a 'KW', some Williamsesque splodges, and crosses on the spires of a North of England pavilion to make it look like Venice!!   

Quite how this fooled Bonhams, twice, and an apparent expert of the artist's work is beyond me but I guess the story acutely demonstrates much that's wrong with the murky world of modern art - and why I now almost exclusively stick to old masters/pre-1900 pictures which thankfully are infinitely more interesting both academically and aesthetically...

All most peculiar. One hopes that Bonhams have called in the Old Bill, with regards to the first consignor.

Mission accomplished

December 13 2012

Image of Mission accomplished

Picture: BBC Your Paintings/PCF

Large round of applause please for everyone at the Public Catalogue Foundation and BBC Your Paintings - as of today, every one of the UK's 210,000 publicly owned oil paintings is online. This is a quite astonishing achievement, and all privately and charitably funded (tho' special mention to the Scottish Government for providing support where the UK government would not).

In my office here I have on the shelf a copy of Christopher Wright's 'British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections', an un-illustrated checklist published in 2006 by Yale containing details of some 90,000 works. It's an occasionally useful volume, as it lists the literature pictures have appeared in. But thanks to Your Paintings it is now largely redundant. In 2006 it was heralded as a transformational book. How quickly our expectations have moved in the past six years.

The PCF is still fundraising for the last batch of photography and digitisation. If you can make a dent in their £100,000 target, please do.

Watch the £29m Raphael sell

December 13 2012

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's comprehensively whipped Christie's this Old Master season, so we'll forgive them this shameful piece of corporate triumphalism. 

The scrap value of fine art

December 12 2012

Image of The scrap value of fine art

Picture: ATG/ Henry Moore Foundation

The recent jailing (for just 12 months) of two thieves who stole a Henry Moore sundial from the Henry Moore Foundation has revealed the amazingly low stakes involved. After it was stolen, the thieves sold the piece, valued at £500,000, to a scrap metal dealer for just £46. More details in the Antiques Trade Gazette.

Fresco Jesus - the revenge

December 12 2012

Image of Fresco Jesus - the revenge

Picture: Ebay

Here's a weird one - a picture by the restorer of 'Fresco Jesus', Cecilia Gimenez, has reached EUR610,000 on ebay. Next bid is EUR620,000 if you fancy it. I somehow doubt the winning bidder will pay up. But you never know. Maybe Alberto Mugrabi thinks she's the next big thing.

Update - a reader writes:

I think you have misinterpreted the eBay price for this picture. The comma is the European equivalent of our decimal point, so the price is only 620 euros.

Oops. Sorry about that. Lucky I'm not a journalist.

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