Monday, April 23, 2007


This picture is by French painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and represents the road of the small village of Osny not very far from Pontoise (France) where Pissarro established his workshop in 1882. From the 1870s onwards, Pissarro professed passionate disdain for the Salons and refused to exhibit at them. Among the Impressionists, only he and Degas persisted in their unwavering defiance of the Salons.

To the question, "What makes a true painter?" Pissarro would answer that a true painter is the one who can put two tones of color in harmony. In other words, Pissarro defines the true painting in specifically visusal terms. Pissarro was a descendant of a family from Braganza, a Portuguese medieval fortified city near the Spanish border. The family were Marranos - Sephardic Jews who had been prohibited to practice their own creed and forced to convert to Christianity or suffer at the hands of the Inquisition.

This picture painted in 1873 was bought in 1963 for $ 102,900 in London. It is today part of the E.G. Bührle collection in Zurich (Switzerland).

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Born to Norman peasants, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) went to Paris in 1612, working with Mannerist artists and collaborating with Philippe de Champaigne. In Rome by 1624, he worked in Domenichino's studio, absorbing his composition and cool colors. Poussin's art developed slowly.

In 1640 Louis XIII persuaded him to supervise a large decorative project in Paris, but Poussin soon returned to Rome, suited neither for large projects nor for court intrigue and competition. He usually painted what he chose, on speculation rather than commission .

His pictures, rather than pupils, shaped European art for generations. Poussin was the chief formulator of the French classical tradition in painting. By the mid-1630s, he began exploring a serene, classical style inspired by Raphael and antiquity, emphasizing form and moral content. His late works are essays in solid geometry.

This Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth painted about 1651 was sold on auction in 1981 by the Duke of Devonshire, heir to the Chatsworth estate, for 1.8 million ($3.6 million) to D.Wildenstein, the famous and powerful Parisian art dealer. It is now part of the The Cleveland Museum of Art collections.


Frederic Remington (1861-1909) was born in Canton, New York. In 1876 he enrolled at Highland Military Academy, Worcester, Massachusetts and two years later he left to enroll at Yale College School of Art where he attended three semesters.

Attracted by adventure and movement, Frederic Remington defined by his work (thousands of drawings, sculptures, writings and paintings) the American West during his lifetime and played a major role in creating the popular image of the West that persists today.

In both painting and sculpture, he portrayed the action and drama of the West. Remington's subjects, the military, the cowboy and the American Indian, centered on conflict. In some of his best works, conflict was not only the subject, but also created the aesthetic tension of the artwork.

In 1882 Harper's Weekly publishes his first illustration and in 1886 he attended the Art Students League, New York, travelled to Arizona, Mexico, and New Mexico which will be a great source of his inspiration. In 1888, his illustrations appeared in Theodore Roosevelt's serialized articles for Century Magazine and the next year he won a Silver medal at Paris International Exposition.

In 1889, he travelled to Cuba to cover Spanish-American War for Harper's and New York Journal. In 1890, Remington, in his rush to record the last days of the frontier West, he joined the U. S. Army cavalry in their campaign against the warring Sioux Indians in the Dakotas, the same campaign that included the extermination of General Custer's command. Remington was a phenomenal artist of the kind Europe has seen almost none, by his willingness to live the same life as his sitters and depicted exactly what he saw.

He died too early on December, 26th 1909 of peritonitis following emergency appendectomy at his Ridgefield, Connecticut home. During his short life, Remington produced more than 3,000 drawings and paintings, 22 bronze sculptures - cast in editions, two novels - one of which was adapted to the stage - and over 100 magazine articles and stories.

This Apache scouting was sold on auction in 1980 for $320,000. His works and his life are still very much vividly remembered by the F.Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, NY.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) painted this picture "La Grande Loge". Born in an aristocratic family of considerabel wealth and ancestry, Toulouse-Lautrec was pursued by bad fate : he broke his left leg at 12 and his right leg at 14. The bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 1.5 meters tall.

Deprived of the kind of life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived wholly for his art. He stayed in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to paint.

He was a great admirer of Degas. He viewed his subjects with a pitiless sharp eye for their character including himself. He hit at the Moulin Rouge and is really without a precedent as a graphic artist. Unfortunately he drank heavily and ruined his health. He died on Sept. 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malromé, Gironde, France, (picture above) at the age of 36.

In 1979, La Grande Loge was sold for £ 370,000 ($810,000).

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) was a notable English painter, mostly of portraits. At the age of six Lawrence was already being shown off to the guests of his parents who were inn keepers as an infant prodigy who could sketch their likenesses and declaim speeches from Milton. In 1784 he gained the prize and silver-gilt palette of the Society of Arts for a crayon drawing after Raphael's Transfiguration, and presently beginning to paint in oil.

In 1794 he was a Royal Academician, and he became the fashionable portrait painter of the age, having as his sitters all the rank, fashion and talent of England, and ultimately most of the crowned heads of Europe. In 1815 he was knighted; in 1818 he went to Aix-la-Chapelle to paint the sovereigns and diplomatists gathered there, and visited Vienna and Rome, everywhere receiving flattering marks of distinction from princes, due as much to his courtly manners as to his merits as an artist.

This Portrait of Miss Emily de Visme painted in 1794 is an oil on canvas and was auctioned off in 1978 for £ 120,000 ($220,000). Since 2007 it belongs to the National Gallery.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669 ), during his lifetime, made more than two hundred prints. By the time of The Presentation in the Temple (1640), Rembrandt had investigated to its limits the process of pure etching and increasingly used the drypoint technique. The Presentation is an example of the many prints that Rembrandt executed from stories in the Bible. At least one-third of his work is devoted to biblical subjects, quite surprising considering the influence of Calvinist theology in the Netherlands.

This etching was sold in 1985 for £ 561,000 ($ 836,784).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home—now known as "Constable Country"—which he invested with an intensity of affection. "I should paint my own places best", he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, "painting is but another word for feeling".

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows was painted by Constable in 1829, one year after his wife’s death. He later added nine lines from “The Seasons” by 18th Century poet James Thomson that reveal the painting's meaning: That the rainbow is a symbol of hope after a storm that follows on the death of the young Amelia in the arms of her lover Celadon. To paint this picture that was commissioned by the Bishop of the cathedral, Constable made four oil sketches as preparatory studies for the real painting which was planned to be big (151x180 cm). Those four sketches were offered on auction in 1981 in London : one of them went for £ 324,000 ($518,400).

Constable was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy that year, and in 1821 he showed The Hay Wain (a view from Flatford Mill) at the Academy's exhibition. Théodore Géricault saw it on a visit to London and was soon praising Constable in Paris, where a dealer, John Arrowsmith, bought four paintings, including The Hay Wain, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1824, winning a gold medal.

He died on the night of the 31st March, apparently from indigestion, and was buried with his dear wife Maria in the graveyard of St John-at-Hampstead, Hampstead (picture above).

Monday, April 2, 2007


Lilian Grumbach (center), heir of a collection of Coco Chanel's suits and dresses, and the models Sheena Cousins (left) and Elisabeth Flach, posing for the media at the sale of the collection in 1978.

At the death of Coco Chanel in 1971, her wardrobe was bequeathed to Lilian Grumbach. The collection, consisting of about forty suits and dresses and forty-four pieces of costume jewelry designed by, and in some cases worn by, Chanel between 1954 and 1971, together with some three dozen accessories, was assembled and owned by Lilian Grumbach, Chanel's press representative and close colleague.

The key piece in the collection, a beige tweed suit with braid and bright-pink silk, was one of Chanel's favorite suits and a classic example of her design. It brought the top price of the evening: £ 2,400 ($4,800), and was sold to the Oslo Museum.

The Smithsonian Institute Washington bought a similar suit for £1,000 ($2,000) and the Jupiter Corp. of San Francisco paid £ 1,800 for a suit of brown printed velvet made in 1961. The famed "little black dress" was bought by the Baroness de Rothschild for £ 1,500 ($3,000). At the end, the sale's total was £43,256 not very much indeed for such a famous collection.

I guess that each of the above items is worth today at least ten times the price paid thirty years ago.