Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Jacopo Bassano del Grappa (1510-1592) also known as Jacopo da Ponte, painted this picture in 1542. Bassano started painting in the workshop of his father and then launched himself in the painting of a large variety of religious scenes. After 1560 he devoted his talent to pastural scenes that made him quite famous in Italy. Bassano specialized in the production of Biblical, pastoral scenes featuring peasants and animals. His paintings were admired for their richness of color and complex designs.

Influenced by Tintoretto and Titian, he established a workshop in Bassano with his four sons: Francesco the Younger (1549–1592), Girolamo (1566–1621), Giovanni Battista (1553–1613), and Leandro (1557–1622). They shared his style, and some works are difficult to attribute precisely.

In 1969 the infamous Norton Simon -who had once caused enormous trouble in a sale at Christie's - bought the painting for $ 655,200. It is still in the Norton Simon Art Foundation in Pasadena, Calif. The huge price paid by Simon underlined then a growing tendency that works of impeccable beauty, preservation and authenticity did not have to be by the biggest names like Rubens and Titian to fetch high prices.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was the sparkling star of eighteenth-century decorative painting in Italy. He was a virtuoso master of the fresco medium, sought after not only in Italy but also in Germany and Spain. As a colourist, Tiepolo is unsurpassed, progressing from the rather dark tonality of his early works to his characteristically sunny palette from the early 1730s.

Tiepolo was born in Venice, Italy. At 19 years of age, Tiepolo completed his first major commission, the Sacrifice of Isaac. By 1750, his reputation was firmly established throughout Europe and in 1753, he was richly in demand locally and abroad, where he was elected President of the Academy of Padua.

In 1761, Charles III commissioned from the painter a large ceiling fresco to decorate the throne room of the royal palace of Madrid where he died on March 27, 1770.

This picture -Allegory of Venus entrusting Eros to Chronos (292 x 190 cm.) painted in 1754-58- has a terrific history. At the turn of the XXth century, the House of Henri L. Bischoffsheim in Audley Street in Mayfair London was redecorated but nobody paid sufficient attention to the ceiling of a drawing-room that displayed this fantastic painting by Tiepolo. At the death of Mr. Bischoffsheim's widow in 1922, once more nobody paid attention to this ceiling and the House was acquired by the Egyptian embassy that totally overlooked the fantastic asset they had upon their head.

In 1962 an Italian expert, Pr. Antonio Morassi, published a catalogue of Tiepolo's paintings that mentioned this picture in Mayfair House and referred to an article of 1876 in which the author described the painting as a forming part of the ceiling of "one of the grandest houses in Mayfair, London, present whereabouts unknown."

This was not lost for everybody. In 1964, one director of Christie's was browsing through this book and checked who was now living in this house. When he saw that it was the United Arab Republic embassy he picked up his phone and asked for a visit from the Cultural Attaché. It was granted and here he found the Tiepolo on the ceiling. Five years later, the Ambassador decided that the picture represented a great fire risk and that it was not relevant to the UAR collections. So the Egyptian governement of Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to sell and to use the proceeds for the conservation of the temples in the Nile valley.

It was not easy to remove the Tiepolo from its place as the frame was screwed to the ceiling. When it finally came up for sale, it was bought by the National Gallery in London for 390,000 Guineas ($ 982,000). In the meantime a copy of the master was made by a local artist John Lewis for £ 350 which now proudly fills the emptiness left by the master's picture.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Italian artist born in Livorno of Jewish heritage, practicing both painting and sculpture who pursued his career for the most part in France. There he developed a unique style : today his graceful portraits and lush nudes at once evoke his name, but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. Modigliani had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health, dying of tuberculosis and excesses of drink and drugs at the age of 35.

In 1965, the Young Farmer fetched £ 22,320 at Parke-Bernet in New York and Christie's sold it for £ 59,574 in 1969 in Tokyo. It was the first sale of Christie's in Japan which was a great success. In 2006, the portrait of the art dealer Paul Guillaune who helped Modigliani in his débuts went for $ 4.8 million under the hammer at Sotheby's to Nahmad Gallery, dealers in New York.

After the First World War, Modigliani returned to Paris. After several successful exhibitions in England, English collectors started to buy his paintings. But by the end of the year Modigliani became seriously ill with tuberculosis. On January 24 1920 he died. On the following day the pregnant his companion Jeanne Hébuterne committed suicide. A portrait of her went for $26.9 million in a sale in 2006 ; it had fetched $15.1 million in 1998.

The artist and his companion are buried together in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Their orphan daughter Jeanne (1918-1984) was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani:Man and Myth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Rembrandt Harmenszon van Rijn, born 15 July 1606 in Leiden, was the son of a miller, Harmen Gerritsz. van Rijn (1568-1630), and his wife Neeltgen van Zuytbrouck (1568-1640). The youngest son of at least ten children, he left the University to study the fundamentals of painting with the Leiden artist Jacob Isaacsz. van Swanenburgh (1571-1638).

Rembrandt was enthusiastically praised by the secretary to the Prince of Orange, Constantijn Huygens (1596-1674) who admired particularly Rembrandt's ability to convey feeling through gesture and expression.

But in 1660 almost ruined Rembrandt had to turn himself into an art dealer to survive.

In 1663 a plague that ravaged Amsterdam claimed the life of his lifetime companion Hendrickje Stoffels . Four years later Titus married Madgalena van Loo (1642-1669), but the following year, in 1668, he also died, the victim of another plague epidemic. When Rembrandt died on 4 October 1669, he was buried in an unknown rented grave in the Westerkerk, Amsterdam.

This portrait of an old man was painted in 1651 and belonged to the collection of the Duke of Devonshire in his Chatsworth House in the Derbyshire (England). In 1969 it was auctioned off for 300,000 Gns ($ 756,000) to art dealer Edward Speelman of 175 Piccadilly, London.

A not very good self-portrait by Rembrandt appraised for $ 20/30,000 sold for $ 103,000 in April 2008. After his death Rembrandt came to oblivion. His painting of the Night Watch was refused by every art dealer and eventually was accepted by a gymnasium at the condition that a small portion of it at the top be trimmed to fit the height of the walls of the gymnasium.


Pieter Cornelis (Piet) Mondriaan, after 1912 Mondrian, ( 1872– 1944) was a Dutch painter. He was an important contributor to the De Stijl (The Style) art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism . In 1912, Mondrian moved to Paris and changed his name (dropping an 'a' from Mondriaan) to emphasize his departure from life in the "artistic backwater" of Holland.

While in Paris, the influence of the style Cubism of Picasso and Braque appeared almost immediately in Mondrian's work. Paintings such as The Sea (1912) and his various studies of trees from that year still contain a measure of representation, but they are increasingly dominated by the geometric shapes and interlocking planes commonly found in Cubism.

Mondrian achieved full artistic maturity about 1921 and then he went on painting the same picture. His public was always small and he did not have a one-man exhibition until 1942. Today his paintings are hotly competed for but in his lifetime he sold only a few, and then very cheaply. He lived the life of a friendly hermit, his natural asceticism making poverty into a style.

In 1940, he left for New York City, where he would remain until his death.
The new canvases that Mondrian began in New York are even more startling, and indicate the beginning of a new idiom that was cut short by the artist's death . Piet Mondrian died of pneumonia on February 1, 1944 and was interred in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Mondrian painted this Composition in 1930 that fetched the historical price record for an abstract picture of £ 1.5 million in 1983 (2.3 million dollars). It was bought by the powerful Japanese art dealer Shigeki Kameyama. In 1989 Kameyama bought Picasso's Au Lapin Agile on auction at Sotheby's for 40 millions dollars and De Kooning's Interchange for $20.68 million. Three years later he bought Andy Warhol's 1962 painting of images of Marilyn Monroe, which he sold later to the Cleveland Museum.

Since then a lot of riche Japanese collectors went bankrupt and have left the international Art market but still the prices of Art have continued their upwards movement.

Friday, October 12, 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 painted in 1876 is an oil on canvas (65.9 x 49.8 cm.) represents Henriette Henriot, an actress at the Odéon theatre in Paris. Renoir painted several portraits of her, notably a Madame Henriot in a boy costume (below).
The picture above
was sold in 1962 for £ 5,500 only and fetched £ 33,875 in a sale in Tokyo, Japan in 1969. It is now on the walls of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, a gift from the Adele R. Levy Fund.

Renoir was one of the great worshippers of the female form, and he said `I never think I have finished a nude until I think I could pinch it.' One of his sons was the celebrated film director Jean Renoir (1894-1979), who wrote a lively and touching biography (Renoir, My Father) in 1962.

Currently most Renoir's works sell in between $100,000 and $ 2 million.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was born at Fontenay-aux-Roses, near Paris, into the family of a high-ranking official in the French War Ministry. After an idyllic and happy childhood, in 1886, Pierre entered the University of Paris to study law. In 1893, he met 16-year-old Marthe de Méligny, of whose real name of Maria Boursin Bonnard was not aware of until they got married 32 years later. From their meeting a large part of his art revolved around her notably this veritable hymn to voluptuousness.

This woman spread out for all to see after lovemaking is the epitome of unveiled intimacy, violent, passionate and sombre and, in the end, very "fin de siècle" ; she is certainly his Marthe.

After seeing this painting, the famous art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard asked Bonnard to illustrate a collection of Paul Verlaine's poetry. His paintings of the late 1890s are very personal and intimate like this Indolente (1899).

In 1918 Bonnard was made the honorary president of a society of young French painters. In 1926 he bought a house named 'Le Bosquet' at Le Cannet on the Côte d'Azur. The house remained his main place of residence and work until his death. The same year, 1926 year, he visited the USA.

In 1983 this picture sold for £ 302,400 ($471,744). It is an oil on canvas, 96x106 cm now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Willem de Kooning ( 1904 – 1997) was an abstract expressionist painter, born in Rotterdam. His early artistic training included eight years at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. In the 1920s he worked as an assistant to the art director of a Rotterdam department store. In 1926, De Kooning entered the United States as a stowaway on a British freighter and in 1927 he settled in Manhattan. In October 1935, De Kooning began to work on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project, and he won the Logan Medal of the arts.

Developing a bold style of gestural paintings, he produced figure paintings and abstract, urban landscapes throughout the 1950s. In the following decade, pastoral themes replaced the urban violence of his earlier expressionist work. In 1963, de Kooning moved from a Manhattan loft to his newly built studio in the East Hampton community of the Springs. The North Atlantic light and flat beaches of Long Island inspired the luminous paintings of de Kooning's later career.

He made many canvasses about women, all distorted and rather monstruously looking. For that reason, he has sometimes been accused of being a woman-hater.

Known for his draftsman's hand and "bravura brushstroke," de Kooning never settled into a single style. "You have to change to stay the same," he would say, and following his own wisdom, he constantly reinvented himself.

In the 80s, Willem de Kooning was diagnosed with, in all probability, Alzheimer's disease. After his wife, Elaine, died on February 1, 1989, his daughter, Lisa, and his lawyer, John Eastman were granted guardianship over a Wilhem De Kooning, alcoholic and sick.

Woman-hater or not, his work was appreciated and sought after well before his passing : in 1983, this picture of Two Women fetched $1.2 million on auction.

When Willem de Kooning died in 1997, he was remembered as the first modern art star. His giant, eruptive works, long career and turbulent lifestyle made him one of the most complex and romantic figures of the 20th century.