Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Swann Galleries June 9, auction of American Art: Sheeler, Dove, Gifford, Wiggins

On Thursday, June 9, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of American Art featuring works of early American modernism and a recently discovered Hudson River School painting.

             Headlining the sale is New York #3–Study, a 1950 gouache and pencil on paper by American modernist painter and photographer Charles Sheeler. The painting is characteristic of Sheeler’s work around 1950, which reduced objects and buildings to colorful, planar forms. New York #3–Study depicts an abstracted Rockefeller Center, with attention paid to the shadows on 30 Rockefeller Center and the International Building; it is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000.  

Patent Cereals Company, Geneva, New York, a watercolor, circa 1938, by Sheeler’s fellow modernist Arthur Dove, is also part of the sale. It is estimated at $30,000 to $50,000.

             Another highlight is a recently discovered canvas by second-generation Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford, Study of the Parthenon, oil on canvas, 1869. Gifford painted the Athenian temple both en plein air and after sketches he made during an 1869 visit to Greece. The study relates to a larger painting of the same subject,  

Ruins of the Parthenon, which resides in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Study of the Parthenon is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.

             Also included is Mexican painter and illustrator Miguel Covarrubias’s At Leroy’s, circa 1924.  This watercolor, pen and ink piece went on to be illustrated as plate 42 in Covarrubias's 1927 book Negro Drawings, depicting his perceptions of the Harlem Renaissance. A black and white study for this piece, titled The Last Jump, is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and was on view in America is Hard to See, the inaugural exhibition at the museum’s new building. At Leroy’s is estimated at $30,000 to $50,000.

             The sale also includes a run of works by New York artist Guy C. Wiggins. Known for his paintings depicting snowy street scenes in New York, the Wiggins works in this auction include  

Chicago Blizzard, oil on canvas, 1920s ($40,000 to $60,000);  

Fifth Avenue Storm, oil on canvas board ($30,000 to $50,000);

and Winter Along Central Park, oil on canvas, 1930s ($30,000 to $50,000); among others.

Other paintings in the sale featuring the city that never sleeps include two works by John Marin:

City Movement, New York, watercolor, 1925 ($15,000 to $20,000);

and Sunset, Manhattan, colored pencil and pencil ($8,000 to $12,000).

London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff , Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj

J. Paul Getty Museum 
July 26 to November 13, 2016

From  the 1940s  through  the  1980s, a prominent group of London-based artists developed new styles and approaches to depicting the human figure and  the landscape. These painters resisted  the abstraction, minimalism, and conceptualism that dominated contemporary art at the time, instead focusing on depicting  contemporary life  through  innovative figurative works.  

On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from  July 26 to November 13, 2016,  London  Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews,  Auerbach, and Kitaj  represents  the first  major American museum exhibition to  explore  the leaders of this movement, often called the “School of London,” as central to a richer and  ore complex understanding of 20th  century  painting . 

The exhibition includes 80 paintings, drawings , and prints  by Francis  Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, and R.B. Kitaj.  

Leigh Bowery, 1991. Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922 - 2011). Oil on canvas. © Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service. Tate: Presented anonymously 1994. Repro Credit: Photo © Tate, London 2016.

“The majority of paintings and drawing s in the Getty Museum’s collection  are fundamentally concerned with the rendition of the human figure and landscape up to 1900,” says  Timothy  Potts, director of the  J. Paul  Getty Museum and one of the exhibition curators.  “This  significant  exhibition shows an important part of  ‘what happened next,’  highlighting an  innovative group of figurative artists at a time  when abstraction dominated  avant -garde discourse  in the U.S. and much of Europe. Working with our partners at Tate in London, we have brought together a fabulous  group of pictures that  exemplify the radical approaches to figure and landscape pioneered by this influential coterie of artists, illuminating their crucial place in modern art history.”

London Calling  is a collaboration between Tate and the J. Paul Getty Museum  and is curated by Julian Brooks, curator of Drawings at the  Getty Museum, Timothy Potts, and Elena Crippa, curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate.  

Drawn largely from the unrivaled holdings of Tate, the exhibition  has been enriched by a number of loans from other museums and private collectors.

 “By pursuing painting as an activity that records and revitalizes an intense sensory experience,  these artists  rendered  the frailty and vitality of the human condition, tr anslating life into art  and reinventing the way in which their surroundings could be represented,” said Brooks. “The  ‘School of London ’ artists  doggedly pursued forms of figurative painting at a time when it was  considered outmoded.  In recent decades the work of these artists has rightly been reassessed.  It is timely to look at them as a group and deepen our appreciation of their contribution.” 

Francis Bacon (1909 –1992) 

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to English  parents. After traveling to Germany and France he  settled in London. He received guidance from an  older friend, the Australian artist Roy de Maistre, but was otherwise largely self -taught. In 1945, the showing of a number of his paintings at London’s  Lefevre Gallery established his critical reputation,  and he became central to an artistic milieu in Soho  that included Lucian Freud and Michael Andrews.  

 From the mid -1940s, he began taking  as a starting  point for his work reproductions of paintings,  sculpture, photographs, and film stills, mostly relating to the imagery of angst that resonated with  both historical and personal circumstances. From 1962 he expanded the range of his photographic  sources by commissioning particular shots of models, mostly friends and lovers.  For example, 

Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966 Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909 -  1992) Oil on canvas  © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved.  / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016 . Tate: Purchased  1966.  Photo© Tate, London 2016 .   

 Portrait of  Isabel Rawsthorne,  1966 , on view in the exhibition, was  based on a photo of his friend and  regular subject, the artist  Isabel Rawsthorne (1912–1992). 

A highlight of the exhibition,  

 Triptych — August 1972   

forms part of a series of so-called “Black  Triptychs,” which followed the suicide of Bacon’s longtime lover, George Dyer, in 1971. In the  composition,  Dyer appears on the left and Bacon himself is on the right. The image on the central panel is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge.

 Figure with Meat, 1954. © 2016 Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / ARS, New York / DACS, London
Bacon’s well-known  Figure with Meat, 1954 

belongs to a large series of works based on  reproductions of 

Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

In this version, Bacon depicts  the Pope between two halves of a hanging animal carcass, a motif relating to the first portrait of Bacon taken by the photographer John Deakin, in1952, in which the painter  is stripped to the waist and holds a split carcass. In establishing a connection between the raw, butchered meat and human flesh, Bacon expresses a sense of emotional turmoil and reminds the viewer of the vulnerability of the human body.   



Offering a fresh account of developments that have since characterized postwar British painting, this catalogue focuses on Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, R. B. Kitaj, and Leon Kossoff— artists who worked in close proximity as they were developing new forms of realism. If for many years their efforts seemed to clash with dominant tendencies, reassessment in recent decades has afforded their work a central position in a richer and more complex understanding of postwar British art and culture.

Rigorous and gorgeously illustrated, the essays reflect on the parallel yet diverse trajectories of these artists, their friendships and mutual admiration, and the divergence of their practice from the discourse of high modernism. The authors seek to dispel the notion of their work as a uniquely British endeavor by highlighting the artists’ international outlook and ongoing dialogue with contemporary European and American painters as well as masters from previous generations.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms

Tate Liverpool
18 May – 18 September 2016

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (7 October 2016 – 8 January 2017)

Tate Liverpool presents the largest exhibition ever staged in the north of England of one of Britain’s greatest modern painters. Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms will be the first dedicated exhibition to survey an underexplored yet significant element of Bacon’s work.

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992), the Irish-born British figurative artist, is considered a major figure of 20th-century art. Many of his iconic works feature an architectural, ghost-like framing device around his subjects. Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms will feature approximately 30 paintings alongside a group of rarely seen drawings and documents including some of Bacon’s most powerful works, surveying the variety of Bacon’s compositions united by this common motif.

An element introduced by the artist in the 1930s, Bacon used a barely visible cubic or elliptic cage around the figures depicted to create his dramatic compositions. It is these imaginary chambers that emphasise the isolation of the represented figures and bring attention to their psychological condition; the act of placing the sitters in ‘invisible rooms’ guides the focus of attention towards the complex human emotions that are felt but can’t be seen.

Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms traces the development of this architectural structure throughout his career; from the first indications of room-spaces in early works including 


Francis Bacon, Crucifixion 1933
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2016. Image courtesy Murderme Collection. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Crucifixion 1933 (Murderme) 


Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944
Oil paint on 3 boards
Each: 940 x 737 mm
© Tate

and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c. 1944 (Tate); 

the 1950s, including Man in Blue IV 1954 (mumok, Austria) 

 Francis Bacon, Chimpanzee, 1955, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

and Chimpanzee 1955 (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart); 

through to the 1980s, Untitled (Kneeling Figure) c. 1982 (Private Collection).

The exhibition demonstrates the ongoing development of the motif, which Bacon tested in different ways from its inception. A period of experimentation on paper in the late 1950s and early 1960s gave way to a greater spatial complexity in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s, where the cubic cages were transformed into theatrical spaces, demonstrated in 1967’s  


Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden).

Taking inspiration from a seminal essay by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 1981, the exhibition highlights the role of Bacon’s approach to space, which Deleuze interpreted as one of the defining forces of his work.

Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms is curated by Kasia Redzisz, Senior Curator and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool with Ina Conzen, Curator and Deputy Director, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Organised by Tate Liverpool in collaboration with Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. 


Francis Bacon, From Muybridge ‘The human Figure in Motion: Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water/Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours’ 1965
Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2016.

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
Study for the Nurse from the Battleship Potemkin 1957
Oil paint on canvas
1980 x 1420 mm
© Estate of Francis Bacon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016. © Städel Museum - U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Three Figures and Portrait 1975
Oil paint and pastel on canvas
1981 x 1473 mm
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2016. Image courtesy Tate. 

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
Study for Portrait on Folding Bed 1963
Oil paint on canvas
1981 x 1473 mm
© Estate of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
Seated Figure 1961
Oil paint on canvas
1651 x 1422 mm
© Estate of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992
Study for a Portrait 1952
Oil paint and sand on canvas
661 x 561 x 18 mm
© Estate of Francis Bacon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016


Electric Paris - Bruce Museum

May 14, 2016 - September 4, 2016

Paris had been known as the City of Light long before the widespread use of gaslight and electricity.  The name arose during the Enlightenment, when philosophers made Paris a center of ideas and of metaphorical illumination.  By the mid-nineteenth century, the epithet became associated with the city’s adoption of artificial lighting: in the 1840s and 1850s, gas lamps were first installed, while electric versions began to proliferate by the end of the 1870s.  Even as rivals, including Berlin, London, New York, and Chicago, increased the quantity of light in their rapidly electrified cities, Paris managed to maintain its reputation because of the beauty of its illuminations.  Light remained and remains to this day a key signature of the French capital. 

Alfred Maurer (American, 1868-1932) Nocturne, Paris, n.d.
Oil on board, 10 1/4 x 13 3/4 in.
Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Courtesy of Avery Galleries

Jean-Louis Forain (French, 1852-1931)
Dancer in Her Dressing Room, c. 1890
Oil on panel, 10 1/2 x 13 3/16 in.
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 1955.738
Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA (photo by Michael Agee)

Alexandre Lunois (French, 1863-1916)
Le Magasin de Nouveautés (L’Exposition du “Bon Marché”), 1903
Color lithograph on wove paper, image: 18 1/8 x 21 1/16 in.
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 1990.14
Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA (photo by Michael Agee)

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
In the Luxembourg Gardens, 1879
Oil on canvas, 25 7/8 x 36 3/8 in.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, Cat. 1080
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Organized thematically into four sections––Nocturnes, Lamplit Interiors, Street Light, In and Out of the Spotlight––Electric Paris explores the ways in which artists responded to older oil and gas lamps and the newer electric lighting that began to supplant them around the turn of the twentieth century.  While artificially illuminated public spaces and private interiors appear frequently in works of art and popular depictions of contemporary life during this period, the different types of lighting that animate such spaces––and their distinctive visual properties––have not been considered in detail. 
Electric Paris will feature approximately 50 works––paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings––by such artists as Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Marville, Jean Béraud, James Tissot, Childe Hassam, Charles Courtney Curran, Alfred Maurer, and Maurice Prendergast, among others.  

Theodore Earl Butler (American, 1860 - 1936 ) Place de Rome at Night,  1905 Oil on canvas ,  23 1/2 x  28 3/4 in. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection Photography ©Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago 

Willard Metcalf (American, 1858 - 1925 ) Au Café,  1888 Oil on panel,  19 11/16 x  12 1/4 in. Terra Foundation for American Art,  Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.10 Photography ©Terra Foundation  for American Art, Chicago  
Electric Paris at the Bruce Museum is curated by Margarita Karasoulas; it is an expanded version of an exhibition first organized by the Clark Art Institute in 2013, curated by S. Hollis Clayson, who is exhibition advisor to this exhibition.

Mary Cassatt Retrospective and Auction

Yokohama Museum of Art
June 25 – September 11, 2016

The National Museum of Modern Art, in Kyoto,
 September 27–December 4, 2016

The American-born woman artist, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), was active in Paris during the latter-half of the 19th century. During a period when professional women artists were still rare, Cassatt carried through with her intention to become an artist and travelled to France to study painting. In France she searched for a new form of expression and participated in the Impressionist exhibitions where she established her own individual style of painting focusing on everyday family scenes as her subject matter. Cassatt’s works became highly recognized in both France and the United States, and in 1904 she received La Légion d’honneur Chevalier from the French government. Furthermore, Cassatt formed friendships with American art collectors such as the wealthy Louisine Havemeyer, becoming their advisor and contributing to the development of the American art scene.

Mary CASSATT, Mother About to Wash Her Sleepy Child(detail) 1880. Oil. 

Cassatt can be considered as one of the more popular Impressionist artists in Japan but she has mainly been recognized as a pioneer woman artist and as a painter of mother and child scenes, whilst her entire oeuvre still remains relatively unknown. The last Cassatt exhibition to be held in Japan was in 1981 and only a few of her works can be found in Japanese collections. This exhibition is the first large-scale retrospective exhibition of Cassatt’s works to be held in Japan in 35 years and will provide an important opportunity to show the artist’s works together.

The exhibition will display approximately 80 carefully selected works which will include oil paintings, prints, pastels and drawings, spanning from her early to late career, in three exhibition sections.

 From the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art,

 Summertime by Mary Cassatt,

 Jenny and Her Sleepy Child by Mary Cassaat,

 and The Breeze by Mary Fairchild MacMonnies (later Low) are exhibited in Mary Cassatt—Retrospective.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844–1926), Mother and Two Children, c. 1905, Oil on Canvas, Anonymous Gift, 1979.1 Westmoreland Museum of American Art

 The Westmoreland Museum of American Art announces that Mother and Two Children, c. 1905 by Mary Cassatt will travel to Japan to be included in Mary Cassatt Retrospective organized by the Yokohama Museum of Art.


Edgar DEGAS Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: Museum of Antiquity

1879–80 soft ground etching, drypoint, aquatint, etching (9 / 9 state) h. 27.0 × w. 23.7cm
 In addition, the exhibition will show the works of contemporary artists of her time with whom Cassatt had interactions such as Edgar Degas and Berthe Morisot, and will examine their relationship with Cassatt. Furthermore, the exhibition will display the Byōbu-e (folding screen) formerly belonging to Cassatt and also Ukiyo-e prints which influenced the artist, and will analyze in depth what Cassatt mastered from Japanese art.

Auction June 5th Grogan & Company

On Sunday, June 5th Grogan & Company will hold its annual June Auction. he highlight of which is undoubtedly Mary Cassatt’s striking oil portrait, Augusta with Her Forefinger on Her Cheek, which measures 26 ¾ x 22 3/8 in. and carries an estimate of $100,000-200,000.

In the portrait, Augusta, who was the subject of several of Cassatt’s oils, stares out at the viewer with deep, doe-like brown eyes, a coy expression on her face, with her mouth closed and the hint of a smile in the dimples at each edge of her lips. She seems relaxed, leaning on her right arm, with her right forefinger resting on her cheek as she sits in quiet repose. The creamy skin of her décolletage is enveloped by the bright blue textured silk and masterfully rendered white lace of her robe.

Painted by Cassatt in 1910, the portrait of Augusta was with Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris until at least 1914, at which point it sold to James Jewett Stillman (1859-1918), a wealthy financier and an avid art collector. Upon Stillman’s sudden death in 1918, the work passed by bequest to Stillman’s son, Dr. Ernest Goodrich Stillman of New York, who ultimately gave the painting to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1922. Augusta hung in Cleveland for many years and was exhibited at museums across the United States throughout the mid-20th century. In 1969, the museum deaccessioned the work and, in 1971, the family of the Chestnut Hill gentleman purchased the painting at Hirschl & Adler in New York.

“This portrait of Augusta is truly a museum-quality by Cassatt – one that we are delighted to have the chance to offer at auction. We hope that prospective bidders and fans of Cassatt alike take the opportunity to come view Augusta and contemplate this example of Cassatt’s masterful portraiture while it hangs in our Charles Street gallery,” remarks Georgina C. Winthrop, fine art specialist.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jasper Johns + Edvard Munch

Munch Museum
June 18, 2016 - September 25, 2016
This exhibition examines the connection between Edvard Munch's work and one of the truly great names in contemporary art – Jasper Johns. Never before has there been such a comprehensive exhibition of Johns' art in Scandinavia.

Johns (born in 1930) made his breakthrough on the American art scene in the latter half of the 1950s, with paintings based on widely known symbols like the American flag, targets, numbers and letters. His art broke with the subjective and spontaneous painting of the abstract expressionism that had dominated American art in the 1940s and 1950s. Together with artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Johns was a precursor to the 1960s' pop art in the US. He also had close relationships at this time with other artists, including the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage. An important source of inspiration for Johns was Marcel Duchamp and his conceptual approach to creating art.
Johns explicitly distanced himself from the idea of art as subjective expression. He thus forms something of a counterpoint to the expressionist tradition that Munch helped found. It is therefore particularly interesting that Johns at a later stage became interested in Munch's art. His first direct encounter with Munch was at an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1950, when Johns was 20. We do not know much about what kind of impression Munch's art left on the young Johns, but some 25 years later – from the late 1970s – references to Munch started appearing in his work. This was a period of important changes in Johns' art, in terms of both motifs and form. He started including figurative elements, spatial perspective, references to time and existential issues in his pictures. He has been inspired by Munch's treatment of topics such as love, fear, illness and death, among others. At the same time he was also interested in Munch's experimental approach to art.

This exhibitionaims to show that Munch has had a far greater influence on Johns than was previously known. The exhibition consists of about 130 works – paintings, prints, drawings and photographs. An important factor is the way Munch's late self-portrait


Between the Clock and the Bed (1940–1942) is linked to Johns' series of abstract cross-hatch works that became something of a signature motif for him in the 1970s. The similarity between Johns' cross-hatch pattern and the pattern on the bedspread in Munch's self-portrait was not originally intended. However, from 1980–1984 Johns chose to use this similarity explicitly in a series of paintings with the same title as Munch's painting:

Between the Clock and the Bed  by Jasper Johns - Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Between the Clock and the Bed, 1981 by Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns
Between the Clock and the Bed, 1980 and 1988
Ink and watercolor on plastic
Sight: 13-1/4 x 22-1/2 inches. Sheet: 18-1/4 x 26-1/4 inches
Another part of the exhibition focuses on how Johns has been inspired by another of Munch's self-portraits,

 Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895

a lithograph in which Munch places a skeleton arm under his own portrait, as an emblem of death.

Johns was also interested in Munch's suggestive use of shadow and the human figure. This is particularly noticeable in a series of paintings from the second half of the 1980s where Johns introduces the human figure as a subject in his pictures for the first time. This reflects a new existential element in his art.
Jasper Johns + Edvard Munch is a joint project with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, USA. After its spell at the Munch Museum, the exhibition will be shown there in autumn 2016. The curator of the exhibition is John Ravenal, the former curator at VMFA, and the current director of the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside Boston, USA. Ravenal is the editor of

the exhibition catalogue, which is published by Yale University Press. It is fully illustrated and contains an article written by Ravenal.

The English Rose - Feminine Beauty from Van Dyck to Sargent

The catalyst for The English Rose – Feminine Beauty from Van Dyck to Sargent - a salute to 400 years of society beauties - is a portrait recently acquired by the Museum via Arts Council England, in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of the Duke of Northumberland.

Olivia, Mrs Endymion Porter, by court painter Van Dyck, was painted c1637, when the artist was at the height of his career. One of his finest female portraits, it depicts Mrs Porter, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria (whose portrait also features in the show) in shift and pearls, displaying the ‘careless romance’ that is evident in many of Van Dyck’s images.

Whilst this is an intimate domestic portrait commissioned by her husband, it also demonstrates his wealth, status and prestige by the fact that he could afford to engage the King’s painter.

The exhibition’s themes centre on the artists represented, their sitters and fashions, and will follow a chronological order from the 17th to the 20th Century. Alongside The Bowes Museum’s two Van Dyck’s will feature paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds, George Romney, John Singer Sargent and Peter Lely, loaned from galleries around the UK including the National Gallery; the V&A Museum, London; Dulwich Picture Gallery; The Holburne Museum, Bath, and the National Galleries of Scotland.  

Many of the sitters are as famous as those engaged to paint them. Mrs Sarah Siddons, the outstanding ‘tragic’ actress of her time, most famous for her dramatic portrayal of Lady MacBeth, reportedly had Gainsborough experiencing difficulties with her nose, leading him to exclaim ‘Confound the nose, there’s no end to it’.

"The Linley Sisters", by Thomas Gainsborough (Dulwich Picture Gallery) - Elizabeth (left, standing, aged 18) with her sister Mary.

Fascinating beauties Elizabeth and Mary Linley, part of the famous 18th Century musical family known as ‘The Nest of the Nightingales’, also sat for Gainsborough, in the only known painting depicting both sisters together. The former had a colourful life; betrothed to a man of her father’s choice, a duel was fought between him and a then penniless Richard Brinsley Sheridan, soon to become a leading playwright, with Sheridan eventually winning her hand.

Although the sisters’ extraordinary talents saw them perform privately for royalty and publicly at Covent Garden, both were forbidden to sing in public after marriage.

While female artists were thin on the ground in the 17th Century,

Mary Beale is represented in a self portrait, c1675; not unusual in those days, as there were few models to sit for them. Holding an artist’s palette, it depicts a woman determined to challenge society’s intended role for her.

Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the gift of this wonderful Van Dyck portrait, which will be central to our forthcoming exhibition.

“We also thank the Arts Council for their decision to retain this important painting in the North of England, where it will enhance The Bowes Museum’s permanent collection.”