Thursday, July 31, 2008


Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) is one of Britain’s finest and most original 19th century artists who created richly colored visionary landscapes inspired by the Romantic artist and poet, William Blake. Palmer had an ecstatic response to nature which he expressed in his art through intense color effects and decisive drawing. He had a profound influence on British art inspiring a number of Neo-Romantic painters and printmakers.

Born in London he was the son of a bookseller and some time Baptist minister. He was raised by a pious nurse and started painting churches at age twelve. He first exhibited Turner-inspired works at the age of fourteen at the Royal Academy. He had little formal training and did nit have any formal schooling.

Samuel was largely forgotten after his death. In 1909, large amounts of his work were destroyed by his surviving son Alfred who burnt "a great quantity of father's handiwork.. knowing that no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt."

However this son did not burn everything and in 1909 he brought Harvest Moon to the front counter of Christie's and obtained 5 Gns. for it at auction. Christie's missed a good deal, had they bought the picture in they would have striked gold. In 1972 a member of the family who bought it in 1909 came again to Christie's and put it for sale : it fetched this time 44,000 Gns. ($120,120). Alfred Palmer made the bonfire of the century that almost paled the auto dafé of the Nazis in 1933. The difference is that Alfred Palmer wanted to avoid more humiliation to his father's works.

Palmer painted several Harvest Moon.


Not attributed to Peter Bruegel the Younger but to his circle of followers, this oil on panel, stamped on the reverse with the coat-of-arms of the city of Antwerp and the maker's mark of Guilliam Gabron, is entitled The Bird Trap.

The Bird Trap was also painted par Peter Bruegel the Elder and it is thought that the prototype for this composition is a painting by Pieter II's father, Pieter Bruegel I, signed and dated 1565, in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. But there were a large number of replicas of this picture and the fact is not absolutely certain.

The eldest son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the young Pieter Bruegel (1564-1638) studied first under his grandmother, the miniaturist Maria Verhulst, and then in Antwerp. He painted largely in the manner of his father and even copied many of his works which were themselves copied by his followers like this picture shows.

Far from being snubed by the amateurs, this kind of painting is very much sought after by the public ; it went on auction in July 2008 at Christie's in London and was estimated for a maximum of 29,000 dollars. It eventually fetched the more impressive sum of $ 154,227.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, England, to Laura and Kenneth Hockney. The Hockneys -strict Methodists- were, as David said, a "radical working class family."

Hockney was always considered an eccentric in Bradford. He spent afternoons at Sunday School drawing cartoons of Jesus, much to his teachers' dismay. Like his father, a conscientious objector, he worked as a medical orderly in hospitals as his National Service in the 1950s.

In 1953, Hockney enrolled in the College of Art of Bradford and began painting with oils, his favorite medium. In 1957, Hockney took the National Diploma in Design Examination. He graduated with honors and then enrolled in the Painting School of the Royal College in London two years later, where and when he would gain national attention as an artist. In the summer of 1961, Hockney traveled to New York for the first time where he befriended Andy Warhol and Dennis Hopper.

Later he moved to Los Angeles, California spending much of his day at Santa Monica pier, to watch and admire the beautiful boys that seemed to be at the beach every day of the year.

In 1964, he experienced his first true romance with a nineteen-year-old student named Peter Schlesinger who became a favorite subject of Hockney's, and the many drawings of him show the informal intimacy of the two. His art is marked by the ideas of naturalism.

Since he burst upon the art scene in the middle of the Sixties, David Hockney has been one of Britain's most successful painters. To mark the artist's 50th birthday in 1988, London's Tate Gallery staged a major retrospective of Hockney's work.

Estimated between £350,000 and £500,000, This "Table" fetched £825,250 ($1,644,724) in June 2008 on auction at Sotheby's in London. It is an acrylic on canvas 60 x 60in. (152.4 x 152.4m.) painted in 1967.

David Hockney, is now based in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. He was made a in 1997 and is also a Royal Academician.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted so many Buste de Femme that it is difficult for me to tell precisely which went for how much. In 1977, one Buste de Femme by Picasso was sold on auction by Christie's in New York for $330,000. But there are plenty of others "Buste" of which only a part have fetched recorded prices.

For instance, this one below was sold by Christie's for $3.37 million. The one to the left below was sold by Sotheby's in 2005 for $3.15 million. And the one in the middle was sold in 1994 for $1,10 million.

Others Buste fetched prices that I do not know. Any indication from a kind reader or a complacent art dealer would be welcomed. The two Buste below are more ancient. The one to the left (1907) was a study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and the one to the right was painted during WW2.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke (The Bridge), a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. He volunteered for army service during WW1, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged. In 1933, his work was branded as "degenerate" by the Nazis, and this was a contributing factor to his suicide.

In 1913 Kirchner painted this Berlin Street Scene that was bought after WW1 by Jewish collectors Alfred and Tekla Hess renowned for their support of German expressionist art in the late 1920s and early 1930s, making a succession of large purchases and frequently inviting prominent artists into their home.

In the 30s, Tekla Hess, widowed of Alfred, had to leave Germany and the collection was scattered through Europe by the Nazis :
Berlin Street Scene was sent to Switzerland, sold to Frankfurt collector Carl Hagemann in 1936 and, after the war, purchased by the Berlin's Brücke Museum as a treasured example of the country's rich history of expressionist art.

But eventually the grand-daughter of Alfred Hess - a 62 year old British citizen named Anita Halpin - filed a claim for restitution of the Berlin Street and in 2006 -after two years of negociations between the Berlin Museum and the Hess heirs- the picture was brought back to her by the museum. A politically Left person, member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mrs Halpin thus inherited one of the most reknown and expensive Expressionists works. She did not keep it in her property for long and in 2007 she sold it to art dealer Daniella Luxembourg from New York for £ 20.5 million ( $ 38 million) on behalf of cosmetics heir
Ronald Lauder, son of Estée Lauder, and among the richest people of the world with an estimated net worth of $3.0 billion in 2007.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was born in Rosario in the Santa Fé region of Argentina. His Italian father, Luigi, who had lived in Argentina for ten years, was a sculptor, and his mother, Lucia Bottino, also of Italian origin, was a theatre actress.

After WW1, he returned to Argentina, and began working as a sculptor in his father's workshop in Rosario. He later opened his own studio in the same city. Between 1925 and 1927, he won several competitions. In early 1940 he settled in Buenos Aires and worked feverishly, winning numerous sculpture competitions.

On returning to Milan in April 1947, Fontana founded the Movimento spaziale (Spatial Movement) and, together with other artists and intellectuals, published the Primo Manifesto dello Spazialismo (First Manifesto of Spatialism). Spatialism combined ideas from the Dada movement, Tachism and Concrete art. He then achieved a series of master pieces and Manifestos that brought him international awards and notoriety. He died in Comabbio, Italy in 1968.

This picture, one of his several Concetti spaziali (1) is a waterpaint on canvas measuring 39 5/8 x 32in. (100.5 x 81.3cm.) and was executed in 1966. It fetched £1,161,250 ($2.3 million) in June 2008 on auction at Christie's London. In her portrait of Picasso published in 1938, Gertrude Stein wrote: “A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation.” The sentence could have been written for Lucio Fontana.

(1) Since 1949, Fontana’s perforations in paper and canvases were created under the heading «Concetto Spaziale.» They translate the concepts of the first and second «Spazialismo» manifestos of 1947 and 1948 into an artistic practice.

Friday, July 11, 2008


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. This picture was made in 1899 at a time where he had serious eye problems.

In 1977 it sold at auction for $ 264,000 in New York to the Sara Lee Corporation which endowed it later to the National Gallery London.


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.

His Reclining Nude With Hair Undone (60cm x 92) is one of his most famous paintings and one of a series of Nudes he made before his early death in 1920. This Nude was bought in 1989 by the City of Osaka for $ 13.8 million for a city museum that was not yet built. It is still in Japan.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 to a middle class family. Like many Germans of his generation, his relatives were involved in the Nazi movement; his mother's brother, Uncle Rudi died a young Nazi officer, while Richter's mentally disabled aunt was imprisoned in a Hitler euthanasia camp. This past caused his strong dislike for ideology of any kind and underpinned the attraction that nature, as an indiscriminate force, holds for him.

He embarked on a classical education at the Dresden Art Academy in Communist East Germany (DDR). Years later and a few months prior to the erection of the Berlin Wall, he and his wife fled -like my first wife and her mother- with only a suitcase to Düsseldorf in West Germany (FRG).

Richter's first solo exhibition was held at Mobelhaus Berges, Düsseldorf in 1963. It was the first presentation of his photo-based painting style. Richter blurred the paintings, modernising traditional art through technique, and using photography as his source of material. Richter's first exhibition in the U.S. took place at the Reinhard Onnasch Gallery in 1973. Fifteen years later in 1988 he was given his first North American retrospective organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Unlike American artists Richter wasn't interested in the purity of art. Idealism had disillusioned him from an early age. Instead he painted images without glory; images that rendered the ridiculous, ordinary; the tragic, ordinary; the beautiful, ordinary.

His Abstraktes Bild picture fetched on auction at Christie's in June 2008 the fantastic sum of £1.16 million ($2.31 million). It is an oil on canvas 44 1/8 x 40¼in. (112 x 102cm.) painted in 1991.