Previous Posts: February 2013

Five star Barocci (ctd.)

February 28 2013

The Great Brian also likes the National's new exhibition (tho' not the catalogue):

This is a beautiful, thrilling and intelligent exhibition, its exegeses so self-evident that the turbid and turgid, over-explanatory and occasionally foolish catalogue is virtually superfluous. For a less formidable introduction library users should borrow Nicholas Turner’s Federico Barocci, 2000 (ISBN 2-84576-025-6) though the reproductions are appalling; I commend, too, David Ekserdjian’s Correggio, 1997 (ISBN 0-300-07299-6), for some recollection of his work is essential if one is to understand Barocci. Having seen the exhibition, the visitor might find it fruitful to look at early works by Rubens, and paintings by Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni and other painters from Bologna.

A painting's eye view

February 28 2013

Image of A painting's eye view

Picture: BBC

Here's a screen grab from the forthcoming BBC2 Culture Show programme I'm in, presented by Alistair Sooke. On the left is the director of the Bowes Museum, Adrian Jenkins. We're examining what might, or might not, be a major discovery... Tune in at 6pm on Saturday March 9th to find out...

Plug - new Kneller discovery

February 27 2013

Image of Plug - new Kneller discovery

Picture: Philip Mould & Company

I thought I'd mention an unfinished picture by Sir Godfrey Kneller we've just discovered here at the gallery. It came up on the Continent as German School, and was much over-painted. Happily, the over-paint was easily removed, and we also found Kneller's signature on the back of the original canvas when we re-lined it (always nice to have your connoisseurial hunch confirmed like that). It's a rare religious picture by Kneller, and probably shows his daughter, Catherine Voss, modelling as Mary Magdalene. Although the picture is unfinished, as shown in the very sketchy handling of the fabric and background, Kneller himself must have viewed it as somehow complete, hence the signature. More details at Philip Mould & Company here

A V&A deaccession for sale

February 27 2013

Image of A V&A deaccession for sale

Picture: Grassi Studio

A sharp-eyed reader has spotted this St Anthony Abbot panel by Vittore Crivelli for sale at TEFAF Maastricht - with the provenance revealing that it was once owned by the V&A. 

Velasquez cleaned

February 27 2013

Image of Velasquez cleaned

Picture: Otto Naumann Ltd

The recently discovered Velasquez sold at auction at Bonhams in 2011 for £2.6m has been cleaned, in time for display at TEFAF Maastricht (which opens on 14th March). You can zoom in on the cleaned picture here

No triple A, just triple dip

February 27 2013

Image of No triple A, just triple dip

Picture: BG

Apologies for the poor photo, but this cartoon in the Sunday Times was an amusing combination of Lichtenstein's 'Whaam!' (currently on show at Tate Modern) and news that the UK has lost its AAA credit rating.

We seem to be heading for a triple dip recession here. Regular readers may remember that AHN predicted this back in 2011. Hopefully, HM Treasury might think that if even obscure art dealers could have told them that their economic policy was wilfully, entirely, idiotically useless misguided, then it's time for a rethink. But that's some hope. Instead, it's time for AHN to again remind readers in government what John Maynard Keynes, he of sound economic sense, looked like. The below portrait of him is by the great cartoonist, Sir David Low, and belongs to the National Portrait Gallery.

Five star Barocci (ctd.)

February 27 2013

Video: National Gallery

See a longer video on Barocci's life at the bottom of this page.

Five star Barocci

February 27 2013

Image of Five star Barocci

Picture: BG

I got back from New York yesterday morning, and just had time to dash round the preview (above) of the new Barocci exhibition at the National Gallery. It's an excellent show, enjoyable, informative, and even revelatory. But don't just take my word for it - Richard Dorment in The Telegraph gives it five stars, and although we're only in February, says:

All I can do is plead with you to go. This is the exhibition of the year, and the way things are going we won’t see anything like it for a long time to come.

Most of us will be familiar with Barocci's work from books, and the occasional painting seen in the flesh. But this exhibition is one of those rare moments when you finally get to see a mass of paintings by an artist whose work you thought you knew, and realise that you had no idea just good they were. It's sad that Barocci has been significantly under-appreciated by art history, but wonderful that the National Gallery has made such an effort to correct this. Not many leading galleries would give an artist like Barocci such a big exhibition, and if this is a reflection of Nicholas Penny's new academic focus, then we have a great deal to look forward to during his directorship.

Barocci's head studies (which he relied on due to an illness that it made it tiring to paint large pictures without full preparation) are amongst the finest in Western art. That said, in some of Barocci's larger pictures, like the Last Supper, the overall composition suffers from the fact that so many brilliantly observed head studies have been directly translated onto the larger canvas, for they all shine out at you, and the eye doesn't know quite where to look. I went round the exhibition thinking that Barocci would have made a great portraitist, and happily in the last gallery the exhibition includes a sublime c.1571/2 portrait of Francesco Maria II della Rovere.

Hack Job

February 26 2013

Image of Hack Job
Pic: PCF


When a member of the Talbot family had to sell an octagonal portrait of Henry VIII to fund repairs they were struck with a problem - they had no octagonal potrait to fill the plaster frame attached to the wall. They did however have a three-quarter length and a knife...

Guess Who

February 25 2013

Image of Guess Who
Pic: LH


Part of my job here at Philip Mould & Company is to request images of upcoming lots from various auction houses around the world. We always ask for high-resolution images and very rarely get them. Instead, we get bombarded with hundreds of terrible low-res snaps from which nothing can be gleaned. I have decided therefor to share my frustration with you all by taking a terrible photo of a nice little painting we have in stock, the first person to guess the artist will get a handful of the much coveted AHN points, now accepted in all good retailers. 

Update - thanks for your entries. The artist is, as two of you guessed correctly (well done), Mary Beale. 

Christie's Online

February 25 2013

Image of Christie's Online

Pic: Christies


Tomorrow Christies will open bidding for the second batch of works from the Warhol Foundation after their decision to sell the lot last year. Intriguingly Christies have decided to offer them in an online auction over the course of one week;

"The timed online format allows clients to browse, bid, receive instant updates by email or phone if another bid exceeds theirs, organize shipping, and pay from anywhere in the world."

This eBay style of auctioneering seems to be all the rage at the moment and a few regional auction houses have also opted for this method of sale, normally for their lesser valued items such as wine as well as unsold lots. With the ever increasing overheads of large commercial spaces, this quicker method of public offering will no doubt become common ground in the years to come.

I'm off...

February 24 2013 the US for a few days. In the meantime, I've asked my colleague Lawrence Hendra to babysit the site, so you won't miss out.

What would the conservators say, Ma'am?

February 24 2013

Image of What would the conservators say, Ma'am?

Picture: ITN

Much amusement here in the UK at the revelation that the Queen, seen here  greeting the Australian High Commissioner, is partial to an electric fire. The audience room above has a fine pair of Canalettos in it, as well as a Gainsborough full-length. But doubtless the Queen has someone on hand to make sure the fire is switched off at night.

Academic Guffwatch (ctd.)

February 24 2013

A reader tells us how it's done:

[...] I just came across a list I made a few years ago at a Joseph Wright of Derby conference in Liverpool.

I made the list to help me learn the language of "the academy" (as some professors call it). I felt I had to learn to talk like the natives for them to accept me; but since, I have realised that - better than trying to master an obscure foreign tongue - the thing to do is talk slowly in plain English.

In isolation, most of these words are perfectly sensible. But collectively they work like one of those "thought clouds" to reveal the way that today's historian of historic British art thinks.

Point of departure; strategies; threads; tensions; connections; contested; regimes; undermine; fragmentation; anxieties; displace; reciprocity; embed; transaction; sublimate; conventions; shifting; nuanced; redistribute; exchange; collapsing polarities; juxtapose; framed by; reflective; invoke; problematize.

Have other readers experienced a similar pressure to talk like this?

Update - a reader writes:

What bothers me about art-history-guff is not just that it is often incomprehensible but that it is also so often aggressively ugly.  For instance, of the words on the list your corespondent provides, 'problematize'; or one of my own pet peeves, 'contextualize'.   Do the guffers use ugly language deliberately to dissociate themselves from the old-fashioned idea that art can enthuse and uplift our minds and emotions through beauty?  Or is it more simply that this is writing by, to and for the guffers themselves, employing ugly jargon to confuse and estrange the uninitiated?   Or most simply of all, is it just a smokescreen?

It's official - Banksys are national treasures

February 24 2013

Image of It's official - Banksys are national treasures

Picture: AFP

The recent hoo-ha over a 'lost' piece of Banksy graffiti has been a masterclass in how to generate free publicity. Did the lady above have nothing better to do, or was she paid to hold up that ridiculous sign? The latest news is that the US auction of the bit of wall has been cancelled. In the meantime we've seen politicians intervening, calling for the return of our 'heritage'. If the sale of Henry Moore's Old Flo aroused such passion, there wouldn't be any question of Tower Hamlets council trying to flog the thing. 

Regular readers won't be surprised to read that I'm mystified by the whole thing. For some years now I've seen Banksys in conservation studios. They seem to fall apart quite quickly. 

Achtung! East German art online

February 21 2013

Image of Achtung! East German art online

Picture: DDR-Kunst

I've always been strangely interested in the (oxymoronically titled) genre of socialist realism. If you are too, then a new online database of East German art is worth a browse. The above picture is called 'Thalmann speaks to the People', and was painted in 1951 by Hans Juscher. Thalmann was the head of the German communist party, and was shot in Buchenwald in 1944, probably on Hitler's orders. Much was made of him in East Germany after the war.

A search in the database for 'mauer' (wall) doesn't bring up much, curiously...

New blog

February 21 2013

Image of New blog

Picture: David Packwood

Art historian and Poussin scholard David Packwood, of Art History Today, has launched a new blog on the history of painting in Florence. Well worth a click.

What are the arts worf?

February 21 2013

Well, in the US (according to Americans for the Arts), $135 billion a year, and 4.1m jobs. More details here.

Richard Green stands up for the art trade

February 21 2013

Image of Richard Green stands up for the art trade

Picture: Telegraph

One of London's leading art dealers, Richard Green, has issued a bullish statement on the health of not only the art trade but also of London's commercial art galleries, following the closure of Agnews, the 195 year-old art business. When announcing the closure, Julian Agnew said:

"Changes in the market and technology make a gallery no longer necessary unless perhaps you are a big Contemporary art business."

Richard Green (seen above, at the opening of his newly refurbished premises in Bond Street) has responded with a letter in this week's Antiques Trade Gazette:

[...] I believe that the Antiques Trade Gazette should make it clear that he was speaking for himself, and not for the entire art trade. [...]

Julian says that a gallery is no longer necessary because of new technology. But if you want to question whether a gallery is necessary or not, why did thousands of people come and view our recent exhibitions of Sir Alfred Munnings and Ken Howard, instead of simply viewing these exhibitions online. Why have visitor numbers to The Tate and other museums helped to make London such an important tourist destination? Many of these people are not buyers, but some are, and they all want to experience art first-hand. Technology is surely a tool which can widen our audience and possibilitites, but it does not replace the first-hand viewing experience. [...]

I believe that there is plenty of life in the art market and I note that Julian will continue to deal privately after the gallery has closed. You only have to look at the number of dealers involved in Master Paintings Week in London (June 28-July 5) to see how active dealers are in this country. Or, go to TEFAF Maastricht (March 15-24) and see how many British dealers over there are handling Old Master paintings, unviling new discoveries and giving new attributions.

'Looking at the View' (ctd.)

February 20 2013

Image of 'Looking at the View' (ctd.)

Picture: BG

The new Tate Britain landscape show I mentioned below is well worth a visit. I enjoyed it, especially the juxtaposition of older and newer works. The business of having 'no long descriptive labels' is still daft though, as it was precisely because I was looking at modern works (outside my usual comfort zone) that I wanted to know more information about them. I wasn't the only visitor to be found looking up details on their mobile...

One contemporary picture I greatly liked was the above Black Square 2008 by Gillian Carnegie. It's a brilliant bit of painting. Indeed, I liked it so much that I idly enquired how much such a thing might cost. The answer is... too much.

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