Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates. Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley, Bazille and later Pissarro and Cézanne. Renoir achieved recognition earlier than his friends.

In 1879-80, he sent several portraits to the official Salon, among them
Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary and Portrait of Mme Charpentier and Her Children. In the 1880s, he abandoned Impressionism for what is often called the “dry style”. In 1886, the art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited 32 of Renoir's paintings in New York, thus opening the American market for Impressionism. Renoir died in Cagnes on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes.

This picture was painted in 1874 and is the very essence of Impressionism. In the 1960s, this masterpiece was in the vault of a Swiss bank : some collectors do not deserve the money they need to have to buy works like that. It has been bought by Georges Charpentier, a leading French publisher in the 1870s whose wife and children Renoir made a famous painting too (below). Charpentier was the publisher of Zola (L’Assommoir in 1877 ), Daudet, E. de Goncourt, Turgeniev, Balzac and Musset. Charpentier loved the Impressionists : in 1879 he created a magazine to promote their works, La Vie moderne (Modern Life).

Charpentier helped Renoir to secure a place at the Salon in 1878, the firts time in eight years, and in 1879 Renoir painted "
Madame Charpentier et ses enfants." At the Salon in 1879, Renoir exhibited four works including the large society portrait of Madame Charpentier. The portrait was hung in a prominent place at the Salon, mainly because of the intervention and influence of Mr. Charpentier, and was critically well-received due to writing of Pissarro who related that Renoir had a ‘great success at the Salon’, and Zola. The canvas was covered with praise by the jury. Marguerite Charpentier was hostess of one of the most fashionable salon in Paris, at which Renoir was a regular guest.

The heirs of Charpentier who bought a lot of Renoir's works had settled in Costa-Rica and left the Pêcheur to live a solitary and confined life in a Swiss Bank. Eventually they removed it from its vault and put it for sale on auction : it was bought by Sir Nigel Broackes, chairman of Trafalgar House.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1485-1576), better known as Titian, was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (Veneto) , in the Republic of Venice.

He was the leader of the 16th-century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. He was probably a pupil of Giovanni Bellini and in his early work he came under the spell of Giorgone.

The work that more than any other established his reputation is the huge altarpiece of The Assumption of the Virgin (Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice, 1516-18). In 1550 he travelled to Augsburg and painted portraits of Charles's son, the future Philip II of Spain, who was to be the greatest patron of his later career.

Titian was recognized as a towering genius in his own time : the painter Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538-1600) described him as the 'sun amidst small stars not only among the Italians but all the painters of the world'. Titian was approximately 90 years old when the plague raging in Venice took him in August 1576. He was the only victim of the Venice plague to be given a church burial.

Titian painted this scene in 1565-76 that refers to Diana in revenge for being surprised by Actaeon as she bathes naked in the woods, transforms Actaeon into a stag and his own hounds attacks and kills him. Since 1961, this picture -property of the Trustees of the Earl of Harewood- had been lent by the Trustees to the National Gallery. In 1971, the Trustees decided to put it up for sale on auction and when it was known by the public thanks to a scoop of The Times it attracted a tremendous interest and media coverage.

At the sale, the Titian was bought for 1,600,000 Gns ($ 3.84 Million) by the famous art dealer Julius Weitzner (1896-1986) after a bidding war with the Getty Museum. He sold the work ten days later for £ 50,000 more to the J. Paul Getty Museum, although a national fund-raising campaign in England tried to stop the export of the work to the United States. Eventually the Getty Museum consented to ship it back to the National Gallery London that bought it with the help of the NACF (Art Fund), the Pilgrim Trust and a public appeal for £ 1.76 million ($4.2 million).

Titian painted as well the scene of Actaeon seeing Diana bathing, this picture can be seen at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
It is difficult now to credit that Titian and the Venetian school of painting have not always been universally admired. In the 18th century, when many of the paintings here entered British collections, the cult of Titian was divisive, even political. Aristocrats loved Titian, radicals loathed him. William Blake revered Michelangelo with his bold design and inner vision, and raged that Titian's soft, yielding sensuality was becoming fashionable - so fashionable that a young girl's claim to have discovered the secret of Titian's colouring caused a national sensation in the 1790s. Blake raged at the appetite for Titian's "sickly daubs".

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Painted by Rembrandt in 1664-65. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1609-1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher of Baroque era. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history.

In 1629 Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman and poet Constantijn Huygens who procured for him important commissions from the Court of The Hague.

Rembrandt died soon after the death of his beloved son Titus on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam and was buried in an unmarked grave in Westerkerk.

Juno was bought in 1960 for then the relatively moderate sum of 50,000 Pounds but in 1976 the Hammer museum in Los Angeles acquired it for the more formidable amount of $ 3 million. The picture is still hanging on the walls of the Hammer Museum where it is probably worth now over 20 million.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish painter, draughtsman and sculptor. He died in Mougins, France, while entertaining friends at dinner.

This self portrait titled "Yo, Picasso" (I, Picasso) was painted in Paris in Spring 1901 when he was a starving young artist. It is an oil on canvas measuring 73.5 x 60.5 cm and belongs today to a private collection.

In 1970 this painting was sold for $ 353,000. Five years later it fetched $ 567,000 and in 1981 it was sold for $ 5.3 million.

There are other self portraits by Picasso, one of the most famous showing the artist wearing -in the style of van Gogh- a dark cloak on a blue-greenish background made during the famous "période bleue" in 1907.

This self portrait also showed a cultural phenomenon that was emerging at the time, which was the picture of the social-politically motivated intellectual artist. Later Picasso will take great pain to appear as a Leftist painter : J.Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, was concerned about Picasso's membership of the Communist Party. The Pablo Picasso FBI files contain excerpts from Picasso's article "Why I became a communist."

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was born in Paris in June 1848, the son of Clovis Gauguin, a Republican editor, and his wife Aline Marie Chazal. In 1849, after Louis Napoléon came to power, the family emigrated to Peru. Clovis Gauguin died on the way. His widow and 2 children, Paul and his elder sister Mari, stayed in Lima with their rich relatives and did not return to France until 1855.

In 1868, Paul joined the navy, which he left after the Franco-Prussian War. Instead, he started to work as a broker’s agent in Paris. The first known drawings by Gauguin dated 1871, when he was in his late twenties. In 1874, Gauguin met Pissaro and other Impressionists. He traded at the stock exchange, which provided a comfortable income and he bought many of the Impressionists' paintings and had a handsome collection.

His début in the Salon took place in 1876. In 1883, Gauguin quit the stock exchange; financial troubles weren't long in waiting. In 1885, he left his family in Copenhagen with his parents-in-law. In 1891, he managed to organize a trip to Tahiti at the expense of the French government. In 1900, after a contract with Vollard, a Parisian dealer, his financial position improved, but his health was irreparably ruined.

In 1901 he moved from Tahiti to Atuana on the Island of Dominique in the Marquesas, where his colors grew even more abundant and lush, and where he executed such pink and mauve paintings as
Horsemen on the Beach. (1902) and The Call. (1902). In 1903, Gauguin was sentences to three-months in prison and fined 1,000 francs because of problems with the church and the colonial administration. Before he could begin his sentence he died, on the 8th of May at his home in Atuana. The man was not nice but his pictures are beautiful

Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin is an homage and an emulation to Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who painted a Bonjour Monsieur Courbet (below). In 1969, it went in a sale in Geneva (Switzerland) for SF 1,3 million ($ 329,000). It was bought by Dr Armand Hammer, president of Occidental Petroleum, who had flown to Geneva in his private jet and landed in a snow storm, the last plane allowed to land. Later he was offered a huge profit by Onassis whose plane had been forbidden to land in Geneva. Hammer told the Greek the painting was not for sale.

It is now on the walls of the Narodny Gallery in Prague (Czech Rep.).

Saturday, January 13, 2007


This beautiful picture by Konstantin Somov is a oil paintings titled Pastorale Russe measuring 15 x 18½ in. (38.1 x 47 cm.).

Konstantin Andreevich Somov was born in St. Petersburg on November 30, 1869 into the family of the senior curator at the Hermitage, artist and art historian, Andrei Ivanovich Somov and his wife, Nadezhda Constantinovna, an excellent musician. From 1888 till 1897, he studied at the Academy of Arts, where from 1894 he took a course at Ilya Repin’s studio.

In autumn of 1897 he left the Academy and went to Paris, where his friends, Benois, Lanceray, Bakst, Ober, Ostroumova had already left for. In Paris they frequented various private studios and the Académie Colarossi. In 1898 after return to St. Petersburg, the friends founded World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) society, with their own magazine.In 1913 Somov became an Academician, and in 1918 a professor of the Art College.

At the end of 1923 Somov immigrated to the USA. He stayed in the USA for one year : “my art is absolutely alien to America,” he wrote in one of his letters. In summer of 1925, he moved to France, near Paris, where he spent the last 14 years of his life. In this period he painted mainly portraits.

He died in Paris in 1939.This oil on canvas sold for
£2,696,000 ($5,251,808) at Christie's London in December 2006.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Painted in 1885 by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) born in Paris from English parents. He was an Impressionist but was overshadowed by Monet. After he went to London in 1871 with Claude Monet, he was influenced by Turner and even Constable.

Among Sisley's best known works are Street in Moret and Sand Heaps, both owned by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing shown at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Compared with that of his colleagues, Sisley's development was neither complex nor dramatic ; the personality his work exudes is reticent and sober, marked by some typically English severity that his French colleagues did not share.

Le Barrage de Saint Mammes sold in 1963 for $ 70,560. At the same sale a Monet "Argenteuil in the sunset" fetched $ 111,220.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


The greatest of the Flemish sixteenth-century masters of genre was Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569). From 1559 he dropped the 'h' from his name and started signing his paintings as Bruegel.

We know little of his life except that he had been to Italy, like so many northern artists of his time, and that he lived and worked in Antwerp and Brussels, where he painted most of his pictures in the 1560s, the decade in which the stern Duke of Alva, committed persecutor of Protestants and a Protestants mass murderer, arrived in the Netherlands.

He was the son of a peasant residing in the village of Breughel. Bruegel specialized in landscapes populated by peasants. He is often credited as being the first Western painter to paint landscapes for their own sake, rather than as a backdrop for history painting. And people used to refer to him as Peasant Bruegel. He died in Brussels in September 1569. He was the father of Pieter Bruegel the Younger and Jan Bruegel the Elder.

This picture was bought in 1923 by a Swiss textile merchant named Hans Mettler (1) for £319, probably the deal of his life. In 1979, it went on auction for £ 400,000 ($840,000).

(1) Not to be confused with Swiss-born, Ottawa-based artist Hans J. Mettler.


This work of Jean Baptise Camille Corot (1796-1875) is titled Venus au bain (Venus bathing). Corot was the leader of the Barbizon school in France and is considered as the precursor or the pioneer of the Impressionism.

By 1845 Baudelaire led a charge pronouncing Corot the leader in the “modern school of landscape painting" but his works have been very often criticized as weak and “pale” or having “naive awkwardness". By the mid-1850’s, Corot’s increasingly impressionistic style began to get the recognition that fixed his place in French art.

He died in Paris of a stomach disorder and was buried at Père Lachaise. A number of followers called themselves Corot's pupils :Camille Pissaro, Berthe Morisot, Le Roux et Alexandre DeFaux.

In 1959, Venus was sold for 27,000 Pounds and in 1995 it fetched $ 2.81 million at Christie's London making the canvass one of the 100 most expensive nudes in the art world.

Monday, January 1, 2007


Edouard Degas (1834-1917) was trained in the tradition of Ingres and draftmanship that he never totally abandoned. His finest works were often done in pastels making the dancers look like floating above the tilted floor like a butterfly. Rather than an Impressionist, Degas preferred to be called a Realist, although his style is related to that of Impressionists. His innovative composition, skillful drawing, and perceptive portrayal of movement is uniquely his own.

Degas also depicted social settings such as race courses, cafes, and music halls. He had a profound influence on later artists, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec, and made sketches from living models to capture their spontaneity, later completing the paintings in the studio.

This picture was made in 1880 : Les Blanchisseuses was sold by Christie's ten days after Black Monday in 1987 for £ 7.4 million ($13.4 million) showing how little impact the crash had on the art market.