Monday, April 28, 2014

Sotheby's May 7 2014 Sale: Monet and Matisse, Degas and Renoir

Sotheby’s spring Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art will be held in New York on 7 May 2014. It will include art by Monet and Matisse, Degas and Renoir.

The Evening Sale will offer three impressive canvases by Impressionist master Claude Monet, including 

Le pont japonais

which he painted at Giverny from 1918–24 (est. $12/18 million). Monet’s spectacular images of the Japanese bridge spanning the lily pond of his lush garden are among the most recognizable images of 20th century art. These pictures capture the mystique of the meticulously-landscaped environment that served as Monet’s inspiration during his later career. The present picture, which is one of the most richly painted in the series, can be seen in a photograph of the artist’s Giverny studio, where it hangs in completion among other notable examples of the artist’s late production.

Monet’s Sur la falaise à Pourville

– on offer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, sold to benefit its acquisitions fund – was one of the first major Impressionist landscapes to arrive in the United States (est. $5/7 million). The picture was purchased shortly after its completion in 1882 by the artist’s Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel, who was instrumental in establishing Monet’s reputation throughout Europe and abroad. In 1886, the work was acquired by William H. Fuller, the director of the National Wallpaper Company and a devoted early collector of Monet’s art, who organized the first American exhibition of the artist’s paintings at the Union Club in New York in 1891. This show effectively introduced Monet to an American audience which would include some of his most important patrons.

Also in the sale:

Estimate   2,000,000 — 3,000,000 

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse’s La Séance du matin (est. $20/30 million) 

depicts the artist’s studio assistant Henriette Darricarrère, whose own interest in painting he encouraged by offering her lessons during their working time together. In another version of this same subject, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Matisse depicts a nude model alongside the studious painter. The present composition instead features Henriette alone, completely absorbed in her own work. The canvas boasts all of the elements of the artist's most desirable Nice-period paintings, with its colorful patterning and gleaming white highlights, and has gone on to become one of Matisse's most beloved canvases from this period.

Estimate   9,000,000 — 15,000,000

is another exceptional portrait from the artist’s early Nice-period.

 Degas and Renoir

Estimate   3,500,000 — 5,000,000

Estimate   3,000,000 — 5,000,000

Estimate   4,000,000 — 6,000,000 

Estimate   1,500,000 — 2,000,000

Works by Picasso Spanning 7 Decades, Led by Tête de Marie-Thérèse (Estimate $15/20 Million)

Sotheby’s spring Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art will be held in New York on 7 May 2014. It will offer an impressive selection of 14 works by Pablo Picasso, with examples reaching across his remarkable career – from an early drawing dated to 1900, through a late oil painting from 1969. 

The group features 

Tête de Marie- Thérèse from 1932, 

a radiant example of his paintings depicting his beloved mistress of the early 1930s (est. $15/20 million). The present example may be counted among the most painterly and expressive of these pictures, created when Marie- Thérèse was firmly at the center of Picasso's artistic universe. Tête de Marie-Thérèse was part of Jacqueline Picasso’s private collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that her late husband had bequeathed her. Jacqueline generously gifted this work to William Rubin, director of prestigious department of painting and sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Le Sauvetage

represents the largest and most highly developed treatment of a theme which emerged from Pablo Picasso’s memories of the summer spent at the beach with his young mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, at Dinard in 1928 (est. $14/18 million).  The dramatic scene depicts a drowned woman being rescued, inspired perhaps by an event in which Marie Thérèse participated or reported to Picasso, while figures swim and play on the beach. The exuberant and dream-like quality of the composition is heightened by the saturated pigments, independent planes of color and the fantastical cavorting bathers that swirl around the center of the canvas. Le Sauvetage last appeared at auction at Sotheby’s New York in 2004, when it was acquired by the present owners – prior to that sale, it had remained in another European private collection for 40 years.

Also see 

Le Sauvetage (1932)
Also in the sale:

Estimate   3,000,000 — 4,000,000

Estimate   2,500,000 — 3,500,000

Estimate   5,000,000 — 7,000,000

Estimate   7,000,000 — 9,000,000

Sotheby’s to Present Three Masterworks by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

This summer, Sotheby’s London will present a remarkable group of Flemish Old Master paintings from the Coppée Collection. Assembled by the Belgian industrialist Evence Coppée III (1882-1945) in the 1920s, this outstanding collection comprised almost exclusively 16th and 17th century works, with an emphasis on the works of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1637/8) and the Brueghel family. Of the paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that Baron Coppée collected, three of the best will feature in the sale, including an imposing landscape with the Crucifixion, an Outdoor Wedding Dance, recognised as one of the most popular works in the artist’s oeuvre, and a splendidly evocative Winter Landscape. The selection also encompasses impressive paintings resulting from a collaboration between Jan Brueghel the Younger and artists such as Frans Francken the Younger and Hendrik van Balen the Elder, as well as works from the North Netherlandish School and the School of Northern France.

Passed on by direct descent from Baron Coppée, these works have not appeared on the market for almost a century. They will be auctioned as part of a group of 19 paintings from the Coppée Collection in Sotheby’s London Old Master sales on 9 and 10 July 2014.

Talking about the forthcoming sale, George Gordon, Sotheby’s Co-Chairman, Old Master Paintings, Worldwide commented:  

“The Coppée collection was one of the first and finest collections of paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his family. Three paintings by the artist spearhead the group of Flemish paintings in our July sale, and each one is outstanding. The Bird Trap was one of Brueghel's most popular compositions in his own day and remains so now. It is a beautifully preserved crystalline evocation of a Flemish village on a freezing cold day, painted at a time when winter was just starting to be appreciated for its beauty and not merely feared. The Outdoor Wedding Dance, presents an entirely different facet of Brueghel's art: an intense composition of swirling inebriated peasant wedding guests dancing to the raucous Flemish bagpipes, the bride looking bemused in the centre of it all. The greatest of the three Brueghels however is the moving, monumental depiction of Calvary from 1615, a rare work that is in the spirit of his father's paintings of fifty years before, but reveals an unambiguously stark view of a cruel world, its vegetation parched, its massed rocky outcrops overbearingly threatening”.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger who had been overlooked by previous generations of scholars and collectors until after the First World War occupied a special place in Baron Coppée’s heart. This fascination was perhaps not only due to the collector’s keen interest in Flemish Old Masters but also to the resonance of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s works with the traumatic memories of the Great War. The three compositions to be sold in July are illustrative of the artist’s powerful depictions of the tragedy of the human condition, seen through his sympathetic eyes. They also count among the rarest and most popular works in the Flemish painter’s oeuvre

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Calvary, 1615, oil on oak panel, 99.9 by 147.5 cm.; 39⅜ by 58 in. (est. £ 3-4 million)

In this huge and deeply moving painting Pieter Brueghel sets out the scene of Christ’s crucifixion as narrated by the Gospels. Realised in 1615, this oil on oak panel ranks among the rarest of all Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s compositions. It is one of only two signed works which deal with the subject of the Crucifixion. Only four certainly autograph versions of this precise composition are known, and Calvary is by common consent the finest (est. £3-4 million/ €3,650,000-4,860,000/ $5,020,000-6,690,000). 

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Outdoor Wedding Dance,

Oil on oak panel, 41.6 by 62 cm.; 16⅜ by 24⅜ in. (est. £1-1.5 million)

The Outdoor Wedding Dance belongs to a series of pictures painted by the Brueghels which depict different episodes during a wedding day - a tradition founded by Pieter Bruegel the Elder whose Wedding Banquet of 1568 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) (below) is undoubtedly the most famous example. The present work has long been recognised as one of the most popular works in Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s oeuvre and Georges Marlier, the great scholar of Flemish art, went so far as to describe this painting as “one of the most popular of all subjects in Flemish painting at the beginning of the seventeenth century”1. With over sixty known versions on the subject, the Coppée version - most likely executed in the 1610s - is one of the finest to have survived, and remains in a remarkable state of preservation (est. £1-1.5 million/ €1,220,000-1,830,000/ $1,680,000-2,510,000). 

Winter landscape with a bird trap

This painting is not only one of the best loved of all the inventions of the Brueghel dynasty, but in its beautiful depiction of a winter’s day, also one of the most enduring images in Western art. It owes its fame to its extraordinary evocation of the atmosphere of a cold winter’s day. It is one of only eight panels which have the distinction of being both signed and dated. Painted in 1626, it is the latest in date of those so far known (est. £1-1.5 million/ € 1,220,000-1,830,000/ $1,680,000-2,510,000). 

Also see:

  The Wedding Dance in the open air

 Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Wedding Banquet of 1568 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum)

Nice write-up

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Max Weber: Bringing Paris to New York

The Baltimore Museum of Art organized a focus exhibition on one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. Max Weber: Bringing Paris to New York presented nearly 40 paintings, prints, and drawings by Weber, Matisse, and other artists who influenced Weber to transform his painting style from traditional to avant-garde.

On view March 3 – June 23, 2013, the exhibition included many works loaned by the estate of Max Weber and other public and private collections as well as major works by Weber and Matisse from the BMA’s collection.

The exhibition was guest curated by Weber scholar Percy North, Professor of Art and Coordinator of Art History at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, and Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Weber began his three-year sojourn in Paris in 1905, and his studies with Matisse and friendships with Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau inspired him to develop a personal style that evoked the energy, dynamism, and technological advancements of the early 20th century. Outstanding paintings from this pivotal phase of Weber’s career include

My Studio in Paris (1907),

a glimpse of his private world in Europe and the beginning of Matisse’s influence;

The Apollo in Matisse’s Studio (1908),

demonstrating why he was one of the best students in Matisse’s class;

and Burlesque #2 (Vaudeville) (1909),

a combination of fauvist and cubist influences.

The exhibition also brought together for the first time

Matisse’s Blue Nude (1907)

and Weber’s Figure Study (1911),

a direct response to Matisse and Picasso;

and both the painting and watercolor study for Interior of the Fourth Dimension (1913), a cubo-futurist depiction of New York.

Through the artworks he brought back from Paris, Weber also became one of the first to introduce examples of Modernism in the United States. Some of the works in the exhibition by other artists from Weber’s own collection wereStill Life (1908), the first painting by Picasso to enter the U.S.;
Study for View of Malakoff, Outskirts of Paris (1908) an important painting given by Rousseau that Weber loaned to the seminal 1913 modern art exhibition at the New York Armory; and Reclining Nude (1907), a ceramic tile painted by Matisse that includes a figure reminiscent of the Blue Nude.

Additional highlights included an abstract sculpture and woodcut by Weber, and a selection of never-before exhibited drawings.


Weber in Paris

Russian-born Max Weber had begun a career as an art teacher when his artistic aspirations led him to Paris in 1905. For three years, Weber immersed himself in the European avant-garde art world, attending exhibitions and visiting Gertrude and Leo Stein’s legendary Saturday soirées where he encountered paintings and drawings by Paul Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Although he enrolled in classes at the Académie Julian, Weber sought more innovative training and became one of the founding members of Matisse’s class in 1908.

Weber in New York, Baltimore, and Beyond

Max Weber, New York at Night, 1915

When Weber returned to the United States in 1909, he was dismayed that the exciting new art he had seen in Paris was virtually unknown in America. He introduced his cubist-inspired paintings in Younger American Painters, a ground-breaking exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291, and was vilified in the press. Weber began to gain acceptance a few years later when he received a solo exhibition at the Newark Museum in 1913. After a successful show at New York’s Print Gallery in 1915, Weber was invited to present the same exhibition at the Jones Galleries in Baltimore, which became his first solo exhibition outside of the New York area. A news clipping called it “the most exciting art event of the season” and said that crowds were “flocking to see it.” Feature articles appeared in the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Evening News, and reviews were more sympathetic than those in New York. Weber’s reputation grew with subsequent exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, and in 1930 he became the first American artist to receive a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the 1940s, his work was introduced to households across the country through features in Life, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Weber at the BMA

Weber was invited by The Baltimore Museum of Art in 1942 to be a juror for an exhibition and also received a small solo show at the museum, Paintings by Max Weber. He returned to the BMA as a juror in 1948, the same year he was selected as one of the best artists in the country by a poll of art professionals in Look magazine. On a trip to Washington D.C. in 1958, Weber visited the Cone Collection at the BMA and raved to his wife about Cézanne’s painting Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry (c. 1897). His work was eventually eclipsed by the growing popularity of Abstract Expressionism, especially after the 1960 Venice Biennale organized by BMA Director Adelyn Breeskin. Weber died the following year.

From an outstanding review
: (images added)

But it is really Weber’s own work that is the star of this show. The pieces in this first room primarily help prepare us for what will come. We see his transition from a diligent draftsman in an early nude drawing to a modernist in the school of Matisse. “Apollo in Matisse’s Studio” presents a statue of Apollo seen from the rear, the white marble of the god’s body alight with fauvist pinks and greens and a portrait of Matisse himself, drawn in quick, simple lines that demolish the shaded labor of the earlier drawing.

The exhibit’s second room, containing the works completed after Weber returned to New York, is the truly essential part of this exhibition, and one we are lucky to have.

Weber’s “The Bathers” from 1909 shares qualities with outdoor female nudes by Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso, but in my opinion Weber’s women by the sea are superior to all but Cézanne’s. The flesh of the woman in the foreground is succulent—both lean and plump—and exquisitely rendered as she looks out onto the swiftly shifting sails in the sea.

“Avoirdupois,” the sole example of analytical cubism in Weber’s oeuvre, is not as great as Picasso’s and Braque’s definitive cubist works, but it is nevertheless a fascinating piece that could withstand hours of contemplation. Rendered in the beige, browns, and grays that define Picasso’s work of this period, Weber’s piece functions almost as a Monty Python-esque art machine. It’s discordant and dissolving planes overlap in space and time to create a sense of a cranking, weighing motion. The exhibit’s curator and perhaps the world’s only expert on Weber, Percy North also points out that the piece is a joke. The French word printed on the canvas, avoirdupis, refers to a scale, and in the left-hand side of the canvas, we find a bowl of what appear to be peas, pois, being weighed.

This piece alone would be worth traveling some distance to see, but “Interior of the Fourth Dimension” is the one truly monumental piece in the show. In this work—represented here both as an oil painting and a watercolor study, never before seen together—Weber combines cubist and futurist techniques to try to create a “fourth dimension” (the subject of the essay that influenced Apollinaire as well). In the center, we see a bulbous curve rendered with the Braque-like gray and beige desecration of the Impressionist daub, while on either end cool blue-gray towers of colliding spatial planes rise vertiginously toward the center.

Do yourself a favor and don’t just look at this painting head-on. Position yourself to the right of the painting so you can get it at an angle, and the space suddenly opens up and overwhelms you, revealing the painting’s subject—the dynamism of New York City.
From another excellent review (images added) :

The exhibition brings together for the first time Matisse’s notorious “Blue Nude,” 1907, which Leo Stein loaned to the Armory Show and is now in the BMA’s Cone Collection, and Weber’s “Figure Study,” 1911, a direct response to Matisse — and Picasso. A provocatively posed form similar to “Blue Nude” figures prominently in Weber’s “The Bathers,” whose brazen nudes and rugged sensuality call to mind both Matisse’s and Cezanne’s paintings on the same subject. It is a “European-inspired mélange combining the primitivizing impulse of Rousseau and Picasso with the Fauvist coloring and joie-de-vivre sensuality of Matisse,” observes North....

Weber’s still lifes demonstrate the constant invention and reinvention that was his hallmark. An early “Still Life” on view, with bananas, apples and ceramics from a titled perspective, is very much like the Picasso still life he brought back from Paris, “but Weber’s painting is richer in color and heavier in texture, creating a more tactile visual experience,” writes North in the exhibition brochure.

By 1911–1912, Weber began to incorporate Cubist devices into a number of works, although others were essentially primitive or Expressionist. Alfred Stieglitz mounted a Weber show in 1911, and Weber’s solo exhibition at the Newark Museum in 1913 was the first accorded to a Modern artist in an American museum.

For the next few years the Cubist manner predominated, but Weber also assimilated aspects of Futurism into a colorful and dynamic style best remembered today for

“Chinese Restaurant”

and “Rush Hour, New York,”
both 1915, abstract paintings that captured the kinetic energy and fast-moving life of Gotham. (The latter may have been created in response to Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase,” the sensation of the 1913 Armory Show.) As art historian Matthew Baigell has observed, “In contrast with the static nudes and amiable landscapes of his Cezannesque-Cubist work, these paintings exulted in the dynamism of modern life” in New York City.

Another notable Cubist-Futurist work, “Interior of the Fourth Dimension,” an expressively fragmented urban abstraction, suggests both the towering skyline of Manhattan and the hustle, bustle and commotion of life in the big city. Weber described the fourth dimension as “The consciousness of a great and overwhelming sense of space-magnitude in all directions at one time… It arouses imagination and stirs emotion. It is the immensity of all things.”


Essay by Percy North

36 p., 20 color illus.


In November, The Frick Collection will be first venue to present a touring group of masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. The ten paintings to be featured in New York―among them a Botticelli never before on public view in the United States and John Singer Sargent’s iconic portrait of Lady Agnew―will travel on in 2015 with forty-five additional works to the de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The tour brings to all three cities ten of the greatest paintings from the Scottish National Gallery, works that were chosen specifically to complement the permanent collections of the three American venues. The exhibitions in San Francisco and Fort Worth also draw upon the collections of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the three institutions that comprise the Edinburgh sites of the National Galleries of Scotland.

The paintings on view at the Frick―from November 5, 2014, through February 1, 2015―will be 

Sandro Botticelli’s The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child (c. 1485);  (below)

El Greco’s Allegory (Fábula) (1585‒95); 

Diego Velázquez’s An Old Woman Cooking Eggs (1618); (below)

 Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Fêtes Vénitiennes (1718‒19);  (below)

Thomas Gainsborough’s Landscape with a View of a Distant Village (late 1740s or early 1750s); 

Allan Ramsay’s The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick (1758‒60); (below)

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ The Ladies Waldegrave (1780); 

Sir Henry Raeburn’s Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry (1812); 


John Constable’s The Vale of Dedham (1826); 

and John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892).  (below)

The Frick exhibition, titled Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery  is coordinated by Senior Curator Susan Grace Galassi and will be accompanied by a series of public programs and events. A fully illustrated catalogue will include entries on each of the paintings written by the curators of the Scottish National Gallery, as well as an introductory essay by Director Michael Clarke that provides an overview of the exhibition and the institution. Support for the presentation in New York is generously provided by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, The Christian Humann Foundation, and †Walter and Vera Eberstadt.


Founded in 1850, the Scottish National Gallery is widely regarded as one of the finest museums in the world, distinguished both for the quality and for the significance of its holdings. Its collection ranges from the fourteenth to early twentieth century and includes paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. The institution’s holdings encompass works by the greatest names in Western art, including Botticelli, Titian, El Greco, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Watteau, Tiepolo and many of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. The Gallery also contains the most comprehensive collection of Scottish art from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, with masterpieces by such well-known figures as Ramsay, Raeburn, and Wilkie.


The Frick Collection is pleased to present, for the first time in its galleries, a painting by Florentine master Sandro Botticelli—the serenely beautiful 

Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child

Botticelli, best known for his famed  



Birth of Venus  

(both in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence), 

most likely completed this intimate, contemplative image of the Virgin and Child for display in a domestic setting, perhaps a private chapel or study. Though the composition is based on a type developed by Botticelli’s teacher, Filippo Lippi, it is unusual in that it depicts the Christ child sleeping, his closed eyes and supine body possibly intended to foreshadow his eventual death. The picture is rare among Botticelli’s works in that it is painted on canvas, a support which had only recently come into use in Italy. The painting has been in Scotland for more than a hundred and fifty years, taken there by Lord Elcho in the nineteenth century and remaining in his ancestral home until 1999, when it was sold by his descendants to the Scottish National Gallery. The exhibition of Botticelli’s masterpiece at the Frick, de Young, and Kimbell, marks the first time that this work has ever been on public view in the United States.

A striking early painting by Diego Velázquez,

 An Old Woman Cooking Eggs (1618),

 is one of a small group of bodegones (kitchen scenes) painted by the artist in his native Seville before he moved to the court of Philip IV in Madrid in 1623. Velázquez’s confident handling of the subject is remarkable when one considers he was only eighteen or nineteen years old at the time the canvas was executed. The virtuosity with which he represents a range of textures―glistening silverware, semi-translucent egg whites, rustic earthenware―is matched by his sensitivity to expression, as displayed in the quizzical face of the boy and the stern, wizened features of the old woman. Visitors will have the opportunity to compare this early genre scene with one of Velázquez’s later, official court portraits—the Frick’s own 


King Philip IV of Spain (1644),

 on display in the West Gallery. In this royal portrait, the artist maintains the mastery of light and shadow evident in his earlier work while achieving the spontaneous, open brushwork associated with his maturity.

All three American institutions on this tour are celebrated for the richness of their French eighteenth-century holdings. The Frick is well known, for example, for its Fragonard and Boucher rooms as well as Jean-Antoine Watteau’s early military scene

The Portal of Valenciennes (170910). 

The exhibition brings to New York a later example from Watteau’s oeuvre of fête galante paintings,  

Fêtes Vénitiennes of 1718‒19, 

last seen in the United States a decade ago. 

In his mature paintings, Watteau often returns to the theme of the Garden of Love, and Fêtes Vénitiennes is typical of these scenes; fancifully dressed figures flirt, chat, and dance in a frothy landscape, all beneath the watchful eye of a seemingly animated garden sculpture. The painting’s composition suggests the shallow stage of a theatre, and, indeed, the scene may be inspired by the early eighteenth-century ballet-opera Les Festes Vénitiennes. The work is unusual among Watteau’s images of pleasure-seekers in that several of the figures may actually be intended as portraits. The male dancer in exotic garb at left represents the Flemish painter Nicolas Vleughels (with whom Watteau lodged at this time), and the somewhat somber musician at right is said to depict Watteau himself.

The renowned Scottish master Allan Ramsay is included in the exhibition with a tender portrait of his second wife,  

Margaret Lindsay of Evelick

This sensitive study may have been painted to mark the birth of the couple’s second daughter, Charlotte, in 1758. The painting hung in the artist’s London home, and Ramsay’s treatment of the subject evokes the quotidian pleasures of domestic life―through Margaret Ramsay’s informal pose, the delicately rendered still life of roses, and the warm-hued light that falls on his wife’s face and lace mantle. Six years before the portrait was painted, the couple had eloped in Edinburgh without the consent of the bride’s parents, who disapproved of Ramsay’s lower social station. Nothing about Ramsay’s portrait suggests discord, however; rather, the work appears suffused with an affectionate bond between sitter and artist.

The exhibition concludes with John Singer Sargent’s  

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw 

providing a fitting note with which to celebrate this Scottish-American collaboration. Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway, commissioned this painting of his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865‒1932), in 1892. It was exhibited at London’s Royal Academy in 1898 and made Sargent’s name as one of the most fashionable portrait painters of Edwardian society, while also establishing Lady Agnew’s reputation as a society beauty. With the bravura brushwork characteristic of his art, Sargent captures Lady Agnew’s penetrating gaze and the delicate play of light and shadow across her shimmering ensemble of white and lilac. Though Henry Clay Frick acquired numerous works by another American expatriate and society portraitist—James McNeill Whistler—he never added a portrait by Sargent to his collection. 

Two works by Whistler on display in the permanent galleries―

Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland (1871‒74) 


and Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (1881‒82) 

will provide fascinating counterpoints to Sargent’s masterpiece, which was last exhibited in the United States more than fifteen years ago.


The Frick Collection, New York (10 paintings)

DATES: November 5, 2014, through February 1, 2015

TITLE: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery

de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (55 paintings)

DATES: March 7, 2015, through May 31, 2015

TITLE: Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland

Kimbell Art Museum, Ft. Worth (55 paintings)

DATES: June 28, 2015, through September 20, 2015

TITLE: Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland

Dutch Portraits The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals

In the autumn of 2007 the Mauritshuis presented a large survey exhibition of one of the most fascinating phenomena in the history of Western art: Dutch seventeenth-century portraiture. Nowhere else were so many portraits painted of burghers from all walks of life. Amazingly, the last exhibition devoted to this subject took place more than 50 years ago. With approximately 60 masterpieces, the exhibition afforded a magisterial overview of seventeenth-century portraiture. The two grand masters of the genre are Rembrandt and Frans Hals, both of whom are represented by at least eight masterpieces each. In addition, one or more works by some 25 other masters were also on view. The number of talented painters in the Northern Netherlands in the seventeenth century was unparalleled.

The exhibitionwas jointly organised with the National Gallery in London, where it was on view in the summer of 2007. The loans come from more than 30 different museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Particularly important lenders are the Royal Collection in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Gemäldegalerie in Kassel.


Portraits have been painted since time immemorial. A growing interest in painted portraits on the part of the Dutch began to emerge around 1400. At the beginning of the seventeenth century citizens gained ever more power and influence, whereby their interest in luxury products also grew. Our ancestors were justly proud of their accomplishments and gladly and repeatedly had their likeness painted. Therefore, it is not surprising that portraiture became the most widely practiced artistic genre in the Northern Netherlands in the seventeenth century. One or more portraits were found in many households. Painters such as Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Thomas de Keyser, Johannes Verspronck and Nicolaes Maes were granted the commissions and fared well.

Best foot forward

Portraits were always painted on commission. Often the sitters’ names are still known to us today, and we have information about them. Moreover, much can be discerned in the paintings themselves. The clothing, jewellery, and hair styles all indicate how fashionable or wealthy the person portrayed was. A confident gaze, a bold pose, a roguish smile or a striking goatee all express something about an individual’s personality or character, while an attribute or a coat of arms discloses more about the sitter’s background or profession. And this is what continues to engage us now. Who exactly are we face to face with? Obviously, people wanted to show their best side in a portrait. Rembrandt’s phenomenal Portrait of an old man from 1667, however, constitutes an exception to this rule. We see a slumped over, informally dressed man who seems unaware of the painter observing him. Despite having been made centuries ago some paintings make a very contemporary impression. They could almost be the faces of people you might encounter at any street corner on any given day.

Precious memories

The reasons for commissioning a portrait in the seventeenth century actually differ very little from those today. Still now, and perhaps even more so, we have portraits made of ourselves, the people we love and our children either to hang at home or to give as presents. A painted or photographed portrait is a precious keepsake of a person, a special moment or a specific phase in one’s life, but chiefly a sign of love and appreciation. In the seventeenth century an important appointment often called for the making of an individual or a group portrait. However, portraits were not just about enhancing one’s standing or status. Women and children were also recorded on canvas in intimate ‘family snapshots’. Naturally, a marriage was a festive occasion for ordering a (double) portrait. Group portraits were less private in character and generally made to mark the entrance of a new board of regents of a charitable institution, guild or other governing body.

Alone, the two of us, or everybody

A fine example of an individual portrait is

Hals’ 1645 Portrait of Willem Coymans 

in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. His likeness is, as it were, a snapshot of a moment in time in the life of a young merchant, who - with his long, loose and curly hair - reflects the elegant nonchalance of the fashion of the new generation.

Portraits of married couples or of a family were often produced as pendants, two paintings next to one another. A lovely example of this is the

early portrait pair from 1602 of a couple from Hoorn and their children by Jan Claesz:

Portrait of Albert Sonck and his Son Frans

Portrait of Lysbeth Walichsdr and her Daughter Elisabeth

A double portrait represented an additional challenge to the portraitist. One of the most successful compositions in this genre is the

1633 Double portrait of Jan Rijcksen and his wife Griet Jans by Rembrandt

in the Royal Collection in London. Wonderfully depicted here is the moment when the shipbuilder looks up at his wife while she hands him a letter.

Family portraits (for instance, by Jan Molenaer) are particularly valuable and interesting because they afford a glimpse into how wealthy individuals decorated their homes in the seventeenth century. Portraits of children, like those by Jacob Cuyp, Jan Steen and Salomon de Bray are not only touching but also reveal something about the position of children at the time as well as the relationship between parents and children.

A clear development can be traced in group portraiture. In early such portraits, the sitters are positioned next to and above one another in a rather static fashion. In this respect, Rembrandt’s earliest group portrait,

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp from 1632

is quite innovative. This masterpiece instantly catapulted him to the top of his profession making him the most desirable portraitist in the Dutch Republic.

Regent pieces are group portraits of governors of charitable institutions (hospitals, orphanages, or almshouses) that were hung in public places in the seventeenth century. These perfectly illustrate the organised nature of society in The Netherlands, evidencing concern and care for one’s fellow man and the formal structures of the various institutions.

The regents and regentesses of the

Amsterdam Crossbowmen’s Civic Guard (Bartholomeus van der Helst)

and of the

Haarlem St Elizabeth Hospital (Frans Hals),

 among others, were on view at the exhibition.


Dutch Portraits: The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals is written by Rudi Ekkart and Quentin Buvelot, with contributions by Marieke de Winkel, Axel Rüger, Peter van der Ploeg, Ariane van Suchtelen and Lea van der Vinde. In this accessible publication all of the paintings on view are illustrated in colour and provided with an explanation. This is preceded by three richly illustrated essays treating the development of the painted portrait in the Northern Netherlands and aspects of the clothing and fashions depicted in the paintings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dürer, Michelangelo, Rubens: The 100 Masterworks of the Albertina

Albertina, Vienna, 14 March — 29 June 2014

The exhibit Dürer, Michelangelo, Rubens: The 100 Masterworks of the Albertina for the first time shows around 100 top-class masterpieces from the collection of the Albertina in the context of the chequered and exciting life story of its founders, Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen and Archduchess Marie Christine. The large-scale presentation unites the highlights of the collection, from Michelangelo through Rembrandt and Rubens to Caspar David Friedrich. The centrepiece of the Albertina, Dürer’s famous Young Hare, is now once again accessible to an interested public in the context of this exhibit after a decade-long period of grace.

The time span documented by the large-scale exhibit extends from 1738 to 1822: from the age of the courtly Baroque under Maria Theresia and the Enlightenment under Joseph II, through the premodern period and the years of the revolutions in America and Europe to the Biedermeier period of the Vormärz (the years leading up to the revolutions of 1848 in Germany) following the Vienna Congress.  The stations in life of the founders of the collection, Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen and Archduchess Marie Christine, including Dresden, Rome, Paris, Brussels and Vienna, present the leading centres of art and politics, and in the process provide insight into the multi-layered networks of collectors and art dealers, the feudal life of the European aristocracy, as well as the political and intellectual reorientation under the auspices of the Enlightenment.

Loans from throughout the world supplement the holdings of the Albertina in this presentation and convey a poignant picture of the circumstances and the passion for collecting of the namesake of the Albertina. A splendid service, as well as paintings and busts of the Duke and his wife, but also other important documents of the time, such as the hat of Napoleon, worn by him at the Battle of Eylau, originate from, among other sources, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Vatican and various private collections.

Albrecht Dürer
Hare, 1502
Watercolour, bodycolours, heightened with opaque white
© Albertina, Vienna

Friedrich Heinrich Füger
Albert and Maria Christina Presenting Pictures of Their Relatives in Italy to Their Family, 1776
Distemper on parchment
Belvedere, Vienna

Alexandre Roslin
Archduchess Maria Christina, 1778
Oil on canvas
Albertina, Vienna (Dauerleihgabe der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank)

Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen with the Map of the Battle of Maxen, 1777
Oil on canvas
Albertina, Vienna (Dauerleihgabe des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien, Gemäldegalerie)

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Male Nude Seen From the Back With a Flag Staff, ca. 1504
Black chalk, heightened in white
© Albertina, Vienna

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Study of a Seated Young Man and Two Studies of the Right Arm, (Recto), around 1511
Red chalk, heightened with white
© Albertina, Vienna

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Big fish eat little fish, 1556
Pen and brush in grey and black, transfer lines
Albertina, Vienna

Nicholas Rubens with Coral Necklace, ca. 1619
Black and red chalks, heightened in white
© Albertina, Vienna

The Painter and the Patron, around 1565
Pen with brown ink
Albertina, Vienna

Albrecht Dürer
Praying Hands, 1508
Brush, gray and white ink, gray wash, on blue prepared paper
Albertina, Vienna

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
An Elephant, 1637
Black chalk
Albertina, Vienna

Leonardo da Vinci
Half-Length Figure of an Apostle, 1493-1495
Silverpoint, pen and brown ink on blue prepared paper
Albertina, Vienna

Peter Paul Rubens
Ruben’s daughter Clara Serena, 1623
Black and red chalk, heightened with white chalk
Albertina, Vienna

Jakob von Alt
Duke Albert’s Palace on the Augustine Bastion, 1816
Pen, watercolor
© Albertina, Vienna