Previous Posts: September 2020

George Stubbs Conference Online

September 14 2020

Image of George Stubbs Conference Online

Picture: @PaulMellonCentr

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Paul Mellon Centre have published videos of papers given at the conference entitled George Stubbs: All done from nature. This conference took place at the beginning of the year in collaboration with the Paul Mellon Centre and the MK Gallery, Milton Keynes. The subjects discussed are wide ranging and definitely worth a look.

MET Conservation Reveals Background

September 14 2020

Image of MET Conservation Reveals Background

Picture: MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have shared another fabulous set of images from a recent conservation project on their Instagram Account. The image on the left is a religious painting ascribed to the fourteenth century Master of Vyšší Brod, which appeared at Cortot, Dijon, 2019. An x-ray image suggested that the blue stary background was in fact a nineteenth century addition to the picture, and that something else was lurking underneath. The painstaking work of removing the overpaint with a scalpel was begun. Conservators at the museum eventually reveal the remarkable and original architectural setting for the scene. What a transformation!

French Cultural Sector Receives Another €2bn

September 10 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The French Government has announced that it has pledged a further €2bn towards the cultural sector during this period of crisis. It is estimated that attendance in museums has been down anywhere between 40 to 80 percent. This fund in addition to the €1bn it had given to the sector earlier in the pandemic. €614m has been specifically earmarked for institutions such as the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou.

The Fitzwilliam Museum is Hiring!

September 10 2020

Image of The Fitzwilliam Museum is Hiring!

Picture: The Fitzwilliam Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is hiring a Deputy Director (Masterplan, Exhibitions & Major Displays Projects). The role seems to have a very strong emphasis of displays and developing their masterplan strategy.

The museum has also stated its primary aims in the advert above:

to provide a place, physical and virtual, which gives all audiences the space to think and create

to promote open and honest conversations around works of art and material culture

to explore and develop our collections collaboratively and inclusively to build, preserve and document its outstanding collections

This fixed term postition carries a salary of between £60,905 - £70,579. The closing date for applications is 4th October 2020.

Sotheby's Mid-Season Sale

September 9 2020

Image of Sotheby's Mid-Season Sale

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's mid-season old master paintings sale has been published. The London sale, which will be conducted online, will run from 18 - 23 September 2020.

One is immediately struck by the temptingly low estimates, many of which hover around a few thousand pounds. Can anyone resist a good bargain? As to be expected, several pictures have appeared in previous sales. Overally, this approach might be a very good tactic to encourage all of those who saved up by not going abroad this summer to buy something beautiful for their home.

A few brief highlights include the above Salvator Mundi by Charles Mellin estimate at £6k - £8k; a 14th century 'Florentine School' triptych from the Downside Abbey Trust estimated at £40k - £60k; a 'Workshop of El Greco' of Saint Peter estimated at £8k - £12k; an atmospheric Gerrit Berckheyde of St Bavo Cathedral in Haarlem estimated at £6k - £8k; or equally this very pleasing 18th century 'Irish School' landscape estimated at £5k - £7k. There's also this rather fun 19th century artist's folding easle and chair, once said to be owned by John Constable, estimated at £3k - £5k.

On a personal note, I'm delighted to see this fun portrait by John Westbrooke Chandler, an obscure and chameleon-like artist on whom I contributed an article for the British Art Journal last year.

Gower Makes 8x Low Estimate

September 8 2020

Image of Gower Makes 8x Low Estimate

Picture: Woolley & Wallis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above portrait by George Gower of Thomas Arundell, later 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour, made 8x its low estimate of £10k - £15k to achieve £82,000 (hammer) at Woolley & Wallis today. This portrait of a fascinating figure from history, with Rothschild Provenance, was always going to do well. It had been the subject of an interesting article in The Art Newspaper this week too.

My favourite lot in the sale was this 'Circle of Thomas Lawrence' pencil drawing on (or mounted to) canvas, which made £9,800 (hammer) over its £200-£300 estimate.

Miro Posted to Wrong Address

September 8 2020

Image of Miro Posted to Wrong Address


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This curious story has emerged the other day. Spanish authorities have tracked down a €10,000 artwork by Joan Miro that was sent from Spain by post to the wrong address in London. A Spanish collector had sent the work to another collector in London only for the package not to arrive. The authorities managed to track down the recipient who claimed they had returned it to sender. The work was finally tracked down in an unnamed London auction house.

One wonders whether the work was properly insured and exactly which method of postage was used for this valuable work on paper. I'm sure there must some stories out there of old master drawings that have been shipped this way in the past?

Bellotto goes to Sunderland

September 8 2020

Image of Bellotto goes to Sunderland

Picture: The National Gallery, London

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sunderland Museum has just opened a free exhibition entitled Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery. Amongst the loans from the nation's art gallery in London include the fairly recently acquired Bellotto The Fortress of Königstein from the North (pictured). This work, alongside five other old masters on loan from the gallery, will hang with the Sunderland Museum's own views of castles by the likes of Lowry and Clarkson Stanfield.

The exhibition, in a different form, was in Cardiff earlier this year and will head to Norwich in November.

Lely Study Conserved

September 5 2020

Image of Lely Study Conserved

Picture: MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recently announced that they have conserved a head study by Sir Peter Lely (pictured). The study has been linked to the actress Nell Gwyn in the past, but this remains unproven.

The difference is very subtle but striking. With the yellowed varnish and overpainting removed, the beautiful hues of the skin tones are once again allowed to sing as Lely had intended. I recommend clicking on the link to head over to the MET's website to zoom in on the beautiful details and brushstrokes.

Free Lecture: Titian, the 'Raphael' of Venice

September 5 2020

Image of Free Lecture: Titian, the 'Raphael' of Venice

Picture: Alinari

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto is hosting a free online lecture as part of a series celebrating the 500th year anniversary since the death of Raphael. On Tuesday 8th September 2020 at 3pm (EDT) Giorgio Tagliaferro, Associate Professor in Renaissance Art at the University of Warwick, will be giving a lecture entitled Titian, the 'Raphael' of Venice, examining and comparing the different lives and works these artists produced.

As the blurb explains:

The similarities between Titian and Raphael have been largely underestimated, despite the fact that the two painters were revered as paradigms of artistic perfection until well into the nineteenth century. In today’s perception, the two artists are hardly, if any, conceived of in parallel terms, inasmuch as sixteenth-century Venice and Rome are seen as separate historical entities.

The lecture is free to attend but registration is required.

Chatsworth Drawings in Sheffield

September 4 2020

Image of Chatsworth Drawings in Sheffield

Picture: Chatsworth

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Millennium Gallery in Sheffield is reopening to the public on 12th September. This means that visitors will once again be able to visit their fabulous sounding free exhibition Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth. As the title suggests, the Duke of Devonshire has loaned out 50 highlights from his family's old master drawings collection, including works by Claude (pictured), Rubens, Van Dyck, Poussin, Carpaccio and more.

The exhibition runs until 1st November 2020, and visiting hours are quite restricted, so visit this exhibition while you can!

Works on Copper Video

September 4 2020

Video: The National Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery in London have published this very interesting video exploring why and how artists painted on copper. The talk is given by art historian and curator Letizia Treves.

Refreshed British Galleries in Cleveland

September 4 2020


Video: Cleveland Museum of Art

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Cleveland Museum of Art have produced this video showcasing the museum's newly refurbished British Galleries. It gives some fascinating details on the conservation history of several pieces from the collection, including a painting by Sir Peter Lely.

Here you can find an interview with some of the curators involved in the refurbishment. Media reports have focused in on the new interpretation that highlights what it describes as 'the sins of empire', with particular focus on a the museum's newly acquired Wright of Derby portrait of Colonel Charles Heathcote. I hope the interpretation includes a note on Wright's close friendship to key figures in the abollitionist movement.

Museums Reopening (ctd.)

September 4 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper have published an article concerning the low visitor numbers to London museums since their reopening earlier this summer. Through their own research, they suggest that museums in London are experiencing a much slower uptake of timed slots than they had hoped. Their survey included institutions such as the National Gallery, Tate, and V&A. Data from the UK culture department suggest that museums have been running at 12% of their usual summer visitor numbers. They also report that the National Gallery has seen a very large decline in visitors under the age of 34.

Many reasons for the drop are suggested, including the fact that the timed booking slots does not suit the many casual visitors who usually decide to visit museums only a day or two before.

Regrettably, this data is not entirely surprising. The media in the UK is flooded with reports that London remains eerily quiet due to changes in home working and visitors plainly staying away. This is in addition to the fact that the city's supply of international tourists has all but vanished. In the meanwhile, one hopes that internal visitors will gradually become more confident in visiting such places. It seems that the only resolution to this problem will be a miracle vaccine.

In addition to these testing times, Bendor has penned this article in the same publication drawing attention to a leaked document from the UK's culture minister Oliver Dowden pushing museums to be more commercially active.

To quote the article:

In a letter leaked to The Art Newspaper, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden has urged museum directors to "take as commercially-minded an approach as possible, pursuing every opportunity to maximise alternative sources of income". If they don’t, he warns, "I will not be in a position to make the case for any further financial support for the sector."

It seems that the DCMS could not have picked a worse time to give such instructions.

'Rejected' Van Gogh makes €550,000

September 3 2020

Image of 'Rejected' Van Gogh makes €550,000

Picture: artnews

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A painting attributed to Van Gogh, which the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam had rejected, sold for €550,000 in Germany this week. The Wijk Mill is purported to have been painted during 1883-5 when the artist was imitating seventeenth century Dutch old masters. Dechow, the auction house who sold the work, have had their attribution supported by the German art historian Ulrich Kuder who has written a book on a Van Gogh from this period. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, whose expertise are sought for matters of authentication, have said that they do not believe it is by him.

Whoever bought the work has made quite a big gamble. Trying to get art experts to change their minds on such matters is by no means easy.

Update - A reader has kindly drawn my attention to this article that was published by DE24. Curiously, it explains that the attribution to Van Gogh has been supported by an 'AI Expert'.

To quote the article:

The artificial intelligence (AI) expert, Wolfgang Reuter, sees it differently.

The leading data scientist at the Munich company Alexander Thamm examined the painting using an AI. The result: “The Wijk Mill” actually came from van Gogh with an 89 percent probability.

AI checks digital fingerprints of artists Reuter’s model cannot only be applied to questions about Van Gogh. “Whether Rembrandt, da Vinci or Van Gogh – everyone has style elements and patterns that the algorithm recognizes and learns itself,” he explained to “Bild”.

Here is another article which draws attention to the work's provenance and inscription on the painting which supposedly bears a great similarity to Van Gogh's handwriting.


It seems highly unlikely we're in the position to place our trust in AI models to pass reliable judgements on questions of attributions. However, this won't stop some sections of the scientific community to keep developing methods to come up with the ultimate computer model which will decide who painted what. Afterall, artists are human beings whose individual complexities as deep as the ocean.

Likewise, I'd be interested to hear of an AI development program that has internalised and absorbed all of the complex scholarly literature and catalogue raisonnés on the likes of Van Gogh, for example. That would surely be an interesting exercise, alongside the visual analysis and pattern finding which most AI experts tend to focus on.

Modigliani Retouching Controversy

September 3 2020

Image of Modigliani Retouching Controversy

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported on controversy that has arisen surrounding a retouched painting by Modigliani. The painting is caught up in a lawsuit between the scholar Marc Restellini and the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, with whom Restellini has been finishing a long awaited catalogue raisonné for the artist.

The most interesting part of the story, it seems to me, is the above painting of Beatrice Hastings Seat (1915). This picture sold at Christie's last year for $4.8m and given to Modigliani in full. Restellini has claimed previously that the auction house should have pointed out that the painting was retouched in the 1950s. The image on the right shows the painting in 1953 showing large areas where the work was clearly unfinished. The scholar's criticisms have also been interpreted as a concerted attempt to correct misattributions made in a previous catalogue raisonné by Ambrogio Ceroni in 1958. 

The article quotes Restellini having said in 1997, when it sold previously, that:

It had been transformed by someone else to make it more marketable. I showed Christie’s the original work’s photograph from the Paul Guillaume archives and said I could never include the painting as it stands today, because to me that is fake.

Christie's, quite rightly I think, have stood by the fact that the picture is still a Modigliani, albeit it a slightly altered state. The old master paintings world has a slightly more liberal view of paintings in different physical and restored states, for example. 

Overall, the story shows how political catalogue raisonné projects can be, especially with an artist whose works commands such high prices on the market.

Sleeper Alert!

September 3 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Nye & Company

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News on Twitter (via. @auctionradar) that this painting 'Attributed to Godfried Schalcken' made $36,000 over a $1,500 estimate yesterday at Nye & Company. These very dark pictures are quite difficult to photograph successfully, but someone must have seen through the poor image supplied!

Dealers, Museums and the Art Market - Free Lecture

September 2 2020

Image of Dealers, Museums and the Art Market - Free Lecture

Picture: Bowes Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Furniture History Society are hosting a free online lecture by Dr Mark Westgarth of Leeds University on the Bowes Museum's 2019 exhibition SOLD! Dealers, Museums, and the Art Market.

This exhibition examined the history of the antique trade in Britain through objects from leading public collections. The stories of how objects came into various collections can often be just as intriguing as the objects themselves.

The lecture will be streamed live on Zoom on Sunday 6th September at 19.00 (BST). It is free to attend but registration is required.

Burlington Magazine - George Gower

September 2 2020

Image of Burlington Magazine - George Gower

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Readers of The Burlington Magazine are in for a treat this month. A serious article has been published on the artist George Gower (c.1538-96), Serjeant Painter to Elizabeth I. Penned by Edward Town and Jessica David of the Yale Center for British Art, this article addresses lots of fascinating details particularly in regard to stylistic straits of the artist's work. Detailed technical analysis is presented, which certainly adds to the richness of our understanding in the way this artist worked. New attributions for well-known paintings have also been suggested, which is always a bold thing for an article to do. The attribution of Elizabethan portraiture has always raised lots of debate, particularly when faced with such a lack of primary source material.

If you're not a subscriber to the magazine you can purchase a PDF of the article for a mere £17.

A must read is the magazine's free-to-read editorial which gives comment on the National Trust's controversial proposed changes.

MET's European Masterpieces in Brisbane

September 1 2020



Video: Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Exciting news for the inhabitants of Australia. The Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art have announced they will be hosting an exhibition of 65 European Masterpieces on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This exhibition will include many old masters, including the likes of Titian, Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, Rembrandt, alongside other celebrated impressionists. The loan coincides with major renovation works at the MET which has resulted in the idea to send many of its masterpieces out on loan.

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.