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!
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
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!