Thursday, June 28, 2007


Painted by John Constable (1776–1837) who was with Turner the leading figures in English landscape painting of the 19th century.

The son of a prosperous miller, he showed artistic talent while very young but did not devote himself to art until he was 23, when he went to London to study at the Royal Academy.

Influenced by the 17th-century landscape painter Claude Lorrain, h
e never went abroad, and his finest works are of the places he knew and loved best, particularly Suffolk and Hampstead, where he lived from 1821. In France, however, he was a major influence on Romantics such as Delacroix, on the painters of the Barbizon School, and ultimately on the Impressionists.

In 1835, his last lecture to the students of the Royal Academy, in which he praised Raphael and called the R.A. the "cradle of British art", was "cheered most heartily". He died on the night of the 31st March, apparently from indigestion. This picture fetched 43,800 Pounds in a sale in 1946.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The French landscape painter, draftsman, and etcher Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) was regarded as the prince of landscape painters until the days of impressionism in the mid-19th century.

Claude Lorrain was born Claude Gellée in the village of Chamagne near Nancy. Orphaned at about the age of 12, he moved to
Freiburg to live with his brother, who apparently was equipped to teach him engraving.

As of the 1630s his reputation as a landscape painter was firmly established. By the 1640s he counted among his clients the French ambassador Philippe de Béthune, cardinals Bentivoglio and Crescenzio, and Pope Urban VIII. The real subject of Lorrain's work is not the forms of nature or the activities of men, but rather -like Turner- the animating power of light.

In 1961 this picture was auctioned off for only 52,000 Guineas (1 Gn= 1 Pound and 1 shilling). According to tradition, Queen Dido founded Carthage after she fled from Tyre (Palestine). Dido killed herself after the loss of her lover Aeneas : the story of Dido and Aeneas was told in the fourth book of Virgil’s Aeneid.

In 1815 Turner also painted Dido Building Carthage; eventually he refused 5,000 Guineas for it (a huge sum of money two centuries ago). He never sold this painting and finally bequeathed it to the British Nation.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


This Architect's House In The Ravine executed in 1991 by Peter Doig is an oil on canvas measuring 200 cm x 275. For the Saatchi collection who bought it for $3.6 million in May 2007, "Doig half obliterated The Architect’s Home in the Ravine with an underbrush as dense as a half-finished Pollock and the scene becomes foreboding" (sic). Scary !!!

When you pay that amount of money for a picture even from a very expensive artist like Doig you naturally have to justify it and some extra gibberish is not forbidden. It is not clear however whether this painting aims at celebrating or making fun of modern architecture but it is not forbidden either to make some fun of the pretentious drivel of the Saatchi gallery executives.

Peter Doig (born 1959) is a Scottish painter. In 2008, a major retrospective of his work (entitled "Peter Doig") was held at Tate Britain (February-May) and the Paris Museum of Modern Art (June-September). His paintings are among Europe's most expensive. Many of Doig's pictures are landscapes, very abstract,with a number harking back to the snowy scenes of his childhood in Canada.

Doig’s landscapes are splendidly layered formally and conceptually, and draw on assorted artists from art history, including Edvard Munch and Claude Monet to Friedrich and
Klimt. His works are frequently based on found photographs.


Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie on January 29, 1832. His Mother, Eugenie Fournier, was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. Edouard's father, Auguste Manet, was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Edouard would someday follow in his footsteps. Manet did not.

Instead Manet became a painter and printmaker who in his own work accomplished the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Manet began his career with The Absinthe Drinker (1858), a painting depicting a solitary man amongst the shadows of the back streets of Paris. Exhibited in 1863 at the Salon des Refusés, his Déjeuner sur l'herbe ("Luncheon on the Grass") aroused the hostility of the critics and the enthusiasm of a group of young painters who later formed the nucleus of the Impressionists, ie Monet, Sisley and Renoir. Throughout his oeuvre Manet painted modern day life, yet many of his paintings are so much more than simple mimetic depictions. He died, in Paris, on April 30, 1883.

This picture La Rue Mosnier aux Paveurs (50cm x 65cm) was sold in 1986 for $ 10.9 million, then the highest auction price for a modern picture. It showed the view from the studio MAnet occupied from 1872 to 1878 and is mentioned by Emile Zola in his novel "Nana". Originally part of the collection of Samuel Courtauld, La rue Mosnier was one of a number inherited by his daughter, Mrs Sydney Butler, wife of "RAB" (Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, 1902-1982, English Conservatice politician). When she died, RAB was left a life interest in the picture which hung in his rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, or in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


German born Martin Carlin (1730-1785) went to France to work as an ebenist and was neither very successful nor rich but he made a considerable amount of nice piece of furnitures which was mainly bought by the Rue du Fbg St Martin (Paris) furniture dealers of the time.

Tzarina Maria Feodorovna of Württemberg, wife of Emperor Paul I of Russia, bought a Martin Carlin writing desk which she used in her palace of Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 it was bought by the English art dealer Lord Duveen and eventually arrived in the collection of Anna Dodge, wife of the founder of the American car company. In 1971, the Dodge collection was put for sale on auction and this writing desk was sold to the Iranian art collector and oil magnate Habib Sabet for $ 415,800, thus becoming the owner of the most expensive piece of furniture in history.

At that time TIME magazine ironized about the St Vitus's dance of the International Art Market and asked "who needs masterpieces at that prices"? After the Iranian revolution of 1979 it was smuggled out of Iran and, twelve years later, once more sold on auction for £ 918,000 ($1.3 million) to the P.Getty Museum of Ma;ibu. This time TIME Magazine prudently abstained from any sort of ironical comments. No wonder Iranian people do not like American people today....

Tuesday, June 12, 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 Brueghel. 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.

Attention to the life and manners of peasants was rare in the arts in Brueghel's time. His contemporaries preferred to paint nobilities and flatter the vanity of rich people in order to secure some commissions. Bruegel's earthy, unsentimental but vivid depiction of the rituals of village-life—including agriculture, hunts, meals, festivals, dance and games are unique windows on a vanished folk culture and a prime source of iconographic evidence about both physical and social aspects of 16th century life.

This picture went for 78,000 Guineas or $ 229,320 at an auction in 1965. The picture is now on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Austria).


In May 2007, Sotheby's New York city achieved the evening sale of a lifetime with a global sale amount of $255 million for 65 works of art.

The star of the evening was the White Center picture by Mark Rothko that fetched $72.8 million with a guaranteed price of $46 million by Sotheby's autioneer Tobias Meyer and an opening bid of 28 million. Forty-one of the works offered that night sold for over $1 million.

On the White Center only Sotheby's made a staggering profit of $16 million. Commenting the fabulous price reached by the Rothko, Nicholas Mclean, an New York art dealer, only said :"Someone had just bought a Rockfeller."

But Rothko was not the only artist to fetch crazy levels on this historical night : Jim Hodges' No-One Ever Leaves, a leather jacket tossed in a corner (picture above) whose hem is joined to the wall by a spider web of thin silver chains (making the whole thing a work of contemporary art) sold for $690,000.

Jim Hodges, not to be confused with James Hovis "Jim" Hodges (1956-) who served one term as the Governor of South Carolina (1999-2003), was born in Spokane, Washington in 1957. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, in 1980, from Fort Wright College, in Spokane, and a Master of Fine Arts degree, in 1986, from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. He is a a conceptual artist and a sculptor of creative interactive environments.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Painted by French Impressionist Claude Oscar Monet (1840-1926), this picture represents the Seine river at Argenteuil and is one of the numerous scenes of this small city that Monet used to paint in the 70s. It is an oil on canvas that measures 60x81 cm.

Monet, with his powerful, ever alert eye, was able to paint at the same time brilliant pictures and also rather grayed ones in neutral tones. He was more reactive, he had more of that quality that psychologists of that time called "Impressionability", hence he is rifgthly considered as the leader of the Impressionists.

He had a huge influence on painters like Degas, Cézanne, Pissarro and Renoir. This painting was sold in 1963 for $ 111,220.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


The Expressionist movement in Germany embraced stylistic phenomena as disparate as the first abstract watercolors painted by Wassily Kandinsky around 1910 and the social criticism of the art of the Weimar period as here represented by this picture of young poet Walter Rheiner (1895-1925) committing suicide in 1925 in Berlin. This tragic event was painted with outstanding realism by Conrad Felixmuller.

Felixmuller (1897-1977) was born in Dresden. In 1919 he became a founding member with Otto Dix of the Dresdner secession and a member of the November Group. In 1936, around 40 of his works were part of the Nazi exhibition "Degenerated Art. Felix Mueller was excluded from the Berlin Künstlerbund and all his pictures withdrewn from public collections. The Nazis destroyed from 1938 to 1939 a total of 151 of his works. From 1949 to 1962 Felix Mueller taught at the University of Halle.

His picture of the Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner was sold in 1981 for Mk 543,750 ($ 232,960). It is now part of the collections of the
Los Angeles County Museum.