Whitehall Blog

Archive for the ‘Fine Art Studies’ Category

Understanding Life in Georgia Hunt Country

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Thomasville, Georgia sits at the heart of the plantation region of  the southwestern part of the state about 30 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida.  Vast single family plantations fill the landscape for perhaps 50 miles in every direction, plantations dedicated to the preservation of the land and its abundant wildlife, yet also dedicated to hunting (quail in particular).  These historic pieces of land range from 7,500 acres for the smaller properties to 40,000 acres for the larger holdings.  This past week during the 24th annual Thomasville Antiques Show I was the very happy guest of one of the wonderful local families who have long supported this antiques show, this gracious Victorian town and this remarkable way of life which has brought the great families of America to annually take up residence for a few months, hunt, party, attend various arts events and simply spend quality time with their families and friends.  Now many have settled into a semi-permanent residency with perhaps some escape during the humid summer months.

I took two photos of a painting in the dining room, painted about 1994 by an artist I failed to annotate–sorry!  What is so interesting is it shows the landscape of towering pines with low ground cover for the quail families to hide and forage.  The hunt wagon is pulled by a mule or horse in a tradition dating back over one and a half centuries.  On the wagon are the dog care team with the pointers in particular caged on the wagon bed until the point of the hunt is reached.   Two dogs have gone on point.  The hunters are a short distance behind them–with guns.  The men on horseback to the right foreground are the guides who know every inch of these thousands of acres!  A retriever is sitting on the wagon seat–one of several that will retrieve the birds once they have been shot.  So there is a tidy division of labor among the hunting dogs–pointers and retrievers.  For three months every year this hunting scene is recreated hundreds of times across hundreds of thousands of acres as it has been since the middle of the 19th century.

A second full photo:

The next photo is fun because it recounts the creation of the painting from the sketch to finished piece.

And here I am being served breakfast while looking across the beautiful landscape from the breakfast area of the dining room!

St. Ann(e)–A Prelude to Cathedral Show

Monday, January 28th, 2013

While we are not taking our current collection of 18th and 19th Century religious carvings and the 17th century Reliquary I showed on the Whitehall Facebook a couple of days ago, this piece seems like a perfect prelude to this week’s show

This sensitive yet eccentric carving was one of the most difficult pieces to identify we have ever encountered. It made no sense that the Virgin Mary was holding Jesus and a seemingly adult girl, as she had only one child and certainly not one older than Jesus.  From priests to scholars and through loads of photographs we hit a wall until a good friend said–”that carving is misidentified, it represents a very small area of deep belief as to the ancestry of Jesus”.  She explained it is of St. Anne, holding her own daughter, the Virgin Mary,  and her grandson Jesus.  Many believe that Mary was also born of a virgin, but the church generally rejects this now:

in the 4th century and then much later in the 15th century, a belief arose that Mary was born of Anne by virgin birth.[7]Those believers included the 16th century Lutheran mystic Valentine Weigel who claimed Anne conceived Mary by the power of theHoly Spirit. This belief was condemned as an error by the Catholic Church in 1677. Instead, the Church teaches that Mary was conceived in the normal fashion, but that she was miraculously preserved from original sin in order to make her fit to bear Christ. The conception of Mary free from original sin is termed the Immaculate Conception—which is frequently confused with the Virgin Birth or Incarnation of Christ.

While this 18th century piece has some flaking, it is extreme;y sensitive carving with entirely original surfaces.  It is likely northern European and it may as well be from a Protestant as a Catholic church, especially since it is generally accepted that Martin Luther found his calling through St. Anne.

It was created as all great 18th century painted surfaces were created–the piece is carved, then a thin layer of gesso is applied and finely detailed, finally the paint and gilding is applied.  The flakes we see are caused by shrinkage in the wood carving, causing loosening of the gesso and leaving only a white chalk like surface on the now bare spots.  Such losses are acceptable to most collectors, preferred to excessive restoration and repainting.

Great Japanese Poster Show

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

The Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill, the Museum of The University of North Carolina, has a great exhibition that plays on their historic strength in Asian Art with a Japanese Poster Show, c. 1940′s to 1970′s.  The ability to study the show in two large galleries, then visit historic wood block prints (the intellectual antecedent of much of the show) as well as sculpture, lacquer, porcelain, paintings and bronzes in the adjacent galleries is thrilling.  The show is up until january 6.  With the current brilliant shows at The Nasher, Duke University, and The NC Museum of Art this is a great time to make an art pilgrimage to the Triangle.  And visit with us, where you will find extensive Asian decorative arts on offer!

Entry to the museum:

This first photo summarizes the show:

The Ackland Store on the corner of Franklin and Columbia in the heart of downtown has not only the catalogues but a large section of Japanese art and design for sale–all current production, of course.  It includes prints, paintings, pottery, fabrics, etc.

One of the most moving pieces is this late piece–most work pre-dates the 1980′s–symbolizing the horrendous losses from the flaming deaths of the atomic bombs with gorgeous butterflies falling  burning through a clear blue sky.

I love Imari porcelains and the next two posters delight me because of the colors as well as the geometric shapes of one and the Noh aesthetic of the other.

Finally, here is one of the excellent wood blocks from the Ackland Collection–it is one of the most elegant portraits that exists in what is called the floating world of the wood block print..  This relates to a painting and is late in the historic tradition–1919, a time just before wood block arts booms with strong art deco images.

Don’t miss this terrific show!

Edouard Cortes Paintings

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Recently I reported that we had had two marvelous Edouard Cortes paintings brought to Whitehall to sell.  Normally I would not start with our information from our website, but in this instance I think it makes a fun start.  Then we will study in detail these paintings and how much information we have gathered about them from all over America and Paris!

 

Wp-1800z: Edouard Cortes Oil On Canvas:
A gorgeous “Sunset on the Boulevard des Capucines or Boulevard Madeleine” oil on canvas, Edouard Cortes (1882-1969). Provenance: Painted in 1950, artist stamp & number 5187. Sold by Arnot Galleries, NYC to DeGremine Galleries, Grosse Pointe, to Mr. & Mrs. Sterling Howell Dockson, 1957, parents of the current owner. 13″ x 18″ canvas size. Fine condition. References: Noel Coret and Nicole Verdier, esp. Coret cover & pp.132-134; Verdier, pp. 187, 198, 199. $65,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wp-1801z: Edouard Cortes, Oil on Canvas:
A charming Edouard Cortes, oil on canvas, “Place de Tertre, toward Sacre Coeur”, 13″ x 18″ canvas size. Provenance: Painted in 1953, artist stamp & number 12027. Sold by Arnot Galleries, NYC, to DeGremine Galleries, Grosse Pointe to Mr. & Mrs. Sterling Howell Dockson, 1957, parents of the current owner. As with many of Cortes’ paintings, he had a love of Paris that led him to paint certain magical views over and over again. It may have added appeal to the pacifist (WWI war hero) Cortes, as Sacre Coeur is dedicated to atonement for the crimes of war. See especially Coret, p. 156. $55,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These paintings were brought to us by the daughter of the couple who bought them in 1957 from the gallery listed above (which by the way is misspelled based on the family annotation on the back of one–more later on this little problem!).  She was unaware of the two fine Cortes paintings Elizabeth and I sold this past year–she simply hoped we might be interested in assisting her as we have for many years–boy,  were we happy to help.  Cortes has become one of our favorite artists and we have loved studying his works, the fakes being sold, the work of his students, etc.  Some of the fakes being sold are difficult to spot but perhaps in studying these two paintings we can attune our eyes to what makes Cortes great.

In particular we find two aspects of Cortes’ work to be unmistakable–a mastery of light and the creation of movement in an essentially static situation.  All paintings are a momentary flash in time, yet the very best paintings capture that moment and make it live–make it alive.  Cortes almost always captures that moment and brings it to life as we gaze upon it.  Cortes was also a master of light–a trait of all great artists–a trait sadly made trite by the hideous work of Thomas Kincade and his supposed mastery of light.  That advertising campaign has given the mastery of light a very bad reputation, but in fact from the Mona Lisa to the great romantic paintings of America’s natural wonders to Monet’s capture of light in a garden, the capture of light has marked the greatest art.  A glimmer in an eye that reveals personality–light.  The glowing color in a cheek that tells an intriguing story–light.  So we will certainly talk about these factors as we explore these paintings together.

Each of the paintings, as you can see, came with a paper cover on the back, one with a little historical notation about the 1957 purchase.  The daughter had them reframed and the annotation was hers.  Her mother always treasured the paintings and felt they had been a good investment which she enjoyed.  We were pleased to tell her she was right.

 

The information seemed so tight that I made a very serious error–blinded by their beauty I forgot to be curious!  When an art dealer friend saw them he flipped–and he has sold many Cortes paintings for $100,000 and more.  His comment, particularly about the Boulevard scene was simple:  “Cortes’ Parisian work does not get any better, this painting captures the setting sunlight, one of the most beautiful and lively views in all of Paris, and the motion and light within the painting are pure perfection”.  He then said you must tear open the back and see if there are artist stamps or other information.  And there they were.  He gave me some intriguing leads to follow and I have done so.

But first the paintings in detail.

The light of sunset is magical in the background as lights glow forth from the shops and buildings along the boulevard.

In this close up we can really see the amazing technique of Cortes which no fake or copy seems to ever reach:  the horses legs seem to prance down the boulevard, adding an exciting sense of motion which takes this static view and imbues it with life.   Again and again the fakes have horses that are frozen in time–Cortes’ horses are alive and in motion!

In this painting of the great basilica dedicated to ending war, we are actually led to it as all of Paris is led, through a glimpse that includes the living city of light.  Seldom does any visitor to Paris position himself to look dead on at the front–it seems instead most often in our vision to be shining forth above us at the end of an avenue.  And most often it is a visual surprise.  This painting also captures that glorious aspect as again the light fades, colors glow on the white stone, and a street filled with life shimmers in a recently passed shower.  Cortes was also the master of rain!  Again and again over the years he captured Paris cleansed by rain–or even shimmering in a shower in evening lights.

This next close-up reveals Cortes’ simple strokes of the brush to create his illusions of movement and light–the water seems “wet” and the couple wander along while those around them hurry–we are left to again add our own interpretation to this:  a touch of new found love?  a departure from the area after confession or prayer?  or maybe nothing but a stroll before dinner?  The question is never answered but the connotation of Paris is once again magical.

So what about those numbers and the stamp–do they take us further along in the history of these paintings?  Happily the answer is a resounding yes!

It was suggested by our friend that because Cortes had very few representatives for his work that the Grosse Point Gallery attribution was a red herring–that another gallery had to have sold the paintings to them.  Two suggestions were made and I pursued them simultaneously:  contact Arnot Galleries in NYC, in business since 1863 in Vienna and New York, and contact Nicole Verdier, author of the first two volumes of the Catalogue Raisonne of Cortes’ work  to see what light they might each might shed upon them.

Vicki Arnot immediately responded that the paintings had their gallery inventory numbers.  The Arnot family has worked for many years to provide Ms. Verdier with any information maintained in their voluminous files, including their years of representing Edouard Cortes.  Just this morning I received word form Ms. Verdier that these two paintings will appear in Cortes, Catalogue raisonne–Volume III using the photographs we supplied to her and the Arnots for their examination.  Her email is included here:

Dear Mr. Lindquist,

 

Here are the completed informations from  ARNOT’s archives:

 

# 5187  LES TROIS QUARTIERS, BOULEVARD DE LA MADELEINE

Purchased by Herbert Arnot Inc., NY, on July 14, 1950

Sold to De Grimme Gallery in Grosse Point, Michigan, on August 18, 1950

 

# 12027 PLACE DU TERTRE A MONTMARTRE

Purchased by Herbert Arnot Inc., NY, on July, 1953

Sold to De Grimme Gallery in Grosse Point, Michigan, on July 10, 1953

 

The two paintings will be included in CORTES, Catalogue raisonne – Volume III

 

Sincerely

 

Nicole Verdier

You will notice that the Gallery name as recorded is DeGrimme Gallery (not DeGremine as recorded on the back paper)  in Grosse Pointe and you can google it and find they were established in 1940.  I had tried dozens of combinations of spellings and made many “gallery , Grosse Point” searches–all to no avail.  Fascinating that although the internet can be our salvation, it can also be pure frustration!  Why did nothing related to DeGremine produce an answer or a correct spelling?  Oh well, in the end the answers have been found, the paintings added to the fully documented list of Cortes’ work–a truly thrilling development.

We are also deeply grateful for our friend who shared his knowledge with us.  Without his inspiration and his suggestions, these two paintings would have never been included in Ms. Verdier’s seminal work.

Needless to say those descriptions above are about to change again as the complete provenance of each painting now stretches back to the studio of Edouard Cortes in an unbroken chain!