By George Franklin
Some interesting and astute questions have come my way from collectors about the works at Abelha Art & Books. A couple of recent ones are in regard to, “Still Life With Grapes”. These are questions that have nothing to with form or color though those elements are of course important. One question is, why the choice of objects painted? Was the painting merely a collection of random decisions or was it carefully thought out? I always appreciate philosophical discussions and as someone who looks for underlying meaning not just in a painting but in a novel or a conversation, I must confess that in my own personal collection I rarely purchase something that use representational objects without understanding the meaning of them .
Often when viewing works of art ( or anything actually) we look at them on a superficial level but if we understand symbols, we can get a story from the painting or work of art. In Taylor’s “Still Life with Grapes”, we have an abundance of meaning. The focal point and undoubtedly the most important object considered is the bunch of grapes and the vine. What easily comes to mind (initially, at least) is the symbolism of Dionysus, the god of vintage in Greek mythology. But the grapes and the vine also have another meaning, one just as ancient with the vine being the symbol of God’s chosen people, the children of Abraham. Furthermore, In the Bible, grapes are used as a symbol for altruism. Grapes are mentioned frequently as positive objects. Wine, by extension, is said to represent faith because it derives from grapes. In "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," by Julia Ward Howe, God is said to be "trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." In this case, the grapes symbolize anger that destroys evil.
The other prominent object represented in “Still Life With Grapes”, is the mirror. Mirrors, as symbols in art, are replete with meaning. The oracle of Apollo at Delphi demanded of the ancient Greek ‘know thyself,’ and mirrors have often been used as symbols of wisdom and self-knowledge. But Apollo also required ‘nothing in excess,’ and the mirror can just as easily imply vanity, an unhealthy amount of self-regard. The peril of over admiring one’s mirror image is encapsulated in the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, the beautiful boy who having fallen in love with his reflection in a pool, pined away and was turned into a flower. In Christian art the mirror came to represent the eternal purity of the Virgin Mary. As the medieval writer Jacobus de Voragine wrote: “As the sun permeates glass without violating it, so Mary became a mother without losing her virginity… She is called a mirror because of her representation of things, for as all things are reflected from a mirror, so in the blessed Virgin, as in the mirror of God, ought all to see their impurities and spots, and purify them and correct them: for the proud, beholding her humility see their blemishes, the avaricious see theirs in her poverty, the lovers of pleasures, theirs in her virginity.” In the history of art, gradually, however, the mirror came to be associated with the negative values suggested by the myth of Narcissus as Vanity and Deception rather than Truth and Prudence.
Another object represented in “Still Life With Grapes”, that seems to make a significant statement, is the knife. In the painting we see the knife as only a tool that serves a practical purpose. The artist has used it for another purpose, however. Many cultures have utilized the symbolism throughout time and for varying reasons. There are many general themes that have been associated with knives, as well. These include: pain, betrayal, revenge, and sacrifice. Obviously, these are not the most positive or uplifting of ideas. The most personal meaning regarding knife symbolism focuses on the nature of our minds. This relationship is a messy duality. On the one hand, our minds can speak of clarity, good fine judgement, and great actions. The mind can be caring, logical, and rational. All of the goodness from within the depths of our hearts can be lived out because of our great minds. However, the mind can play nasty tricks on us, as well. It can become our worst enemy, even stabbing its “owner” in the back. It can be cruel, tormenting us and allowing negative thoughts and images to pass through. We can only hope that this duality will not be balanced, that it will lean much more in the direction of the former.
The other objects in the painting play a lesser role and do not necessarily do more than what is already well stated symbolically in, “Still Life With Grapes”.
“Still Life With Grapes” is available for purchase at www.abelha.co For more information contact; http://www.abelha.co/contact.html
By George Franklin
Oil on canvas
84.1 x 152.4 cm (33 1/8 x 60 in.)
Edward Hopper said that his masterpiece, Nighthawks, was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of twentieth-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. Hopper’s understanding of the expressive possibilities of light playing on simplified shapes gives the painting its surreal beauty. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless curvature of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative customers seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. (The red-haired woman was actually modeled by the artist’s wife, Jo.) Whether purposefully or not, Hopper clearly infused in this painting (and other paintings of his, as well), symbols of human isolation and urban emptiness, although he claimed that in Nighthawks, the symbolisym was done "unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”
What's more, when you really look at the architectural details of the diner you begin to realize that it is a very odd design, indeed. There should 'logically' be more window casing and a pillar in the corner. The faces of the customers and worker perhaps lack certain detail, but anyone who has ever seen his drawings would know that he was very capable of rendering details of human figures. Of course this was all by choice; to create an effect. Look at the rest of the street, it's not just empty, it's desolate, like this part of town has been abandoned. He knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and just how to do it. It seems so simple, in a way, but as with all great art, it's about choice, which details to leave out, which to precisely render with an almost uncanny sense of knowing exactly what the painting would do. It does what all great art does, it inspires deep emotion in the viewer and is evocative in much the same way that DeChirico was able to do with his Metaphysical paintings.
By Frances Saunders
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.
The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.
The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America’s anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.
Initially, more open attempts were made to support the new American art. In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled “Advancing American Art”, with the aim of rebutting Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert. But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to make his Hottentot remark and one bitter congressman to declare: “I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash.” The tour had to be cancelled.
The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.
The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.
Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.
“Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!” he joked. “But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.
“In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another.”
To pursue its underground interest in America’s lefty avant-garde, the CIA had to be sure its patronage could not be discovered. “Matters of this sort could only have been done at two or three removes,” Mr Jameson explained, “so that there wouldn’t be any question of having to clear Jackson Pollock, for example, or do anything that would involve these people in the organisation. And it couldn’t have been any closer, because most of them were people who had very little respect for the government, in particular, and certainly none for the CIA. If you had to use people who considered themselves one way or another to be closer to Moscow than to Washington, well, so much the better perhaps.”
This was the “long leash”. The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its “fellow travellers” in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom also gave the CIA the ideal front to promote its covert interest in Abstract Expressionism. It would be the official sponsor of touring exhibitions; its magazines would provide useful platforms for critics favourable to the new American painting; and no one, the artists included, would be any the wiser.
This organisation put together several exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s. One of the most significant, “The New American Painting”, visited every big European city in 1958-59. Other influential shows included “Modern Art in the United States” (1955) and “Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century” (1952).
Because Abstract Expressionism was expensive to move around and exhibit, millionaires and museums were called into play. Pre-eminent among these was Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother had co-founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As president of what he called “Mummy’s museum”, Rockefeller was one of the biggest backers of Abstract Expressionism (which he called “free enterprise painting”). His museum was contracted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom to organise and curate most of its important art shows.
The museum was also linked to the CIA by several other bridges. William Paley, the president of CBS broadcasting and a founding father of the CIA, sat on the members’ board of the museum’s International Programme. John Hay Whitney, who had served in the agency’s wartime predecessor, the OSS, was its chairman. And Tom Braden, first chief of the CIA’s International Organisations Division, was executive secretary of the museum in 1949.
Now in his eighties, Mr Braden lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, in a house packed with Abstract Expressionist works and guarded by enormous Alsatians. He explained the purpose of the IOD.
“We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.”
He confirmed that his division had acted secretly because of the public hostility to the avant-garde: “It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do – send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That’s one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”
If this meant playing pope to this century’s Michelangelos, well, all the better: “It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it,” Mr Braden said. “And after many centuries people say, ‘Oh look! the Sistine Chapel, the most beautiful creation on Earth!’ It’s a problem that civilisation has faced ever since the first artist and the first millionaire or pope who supported him. And yet if it hadn’t been for the multi-millionaires or the popes, we wouldn’t have had the art.”
Would Abstract Expressionism have been the dominant art movement of the post-war years without this patronage? The answer is probably yes. Equally, it would be wrong to suggest that when you look at an Abstract Expressionist painting you are being duped by the CIA.
But look where this art ended up: in the marble halls of banks, in airports, in city halls, boardrooms and great galleries. For the Cold Warriors who promoted them, these paintings were a logo, a signature for their culture and system which they wanted to display everywhere that counted. They succeeded.
* The full story of the CIA and modern art is told in ‘Hidden Hands’ on Channel 4 next Sunday at 8pm. The first programme in the series is screened tonight. Frances Stonor Saunders is writing a book on the cultural Cold War.
In 1958 the touring exhibition “The New American Painting”, including works by Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell and others, was on show in Paris. The Tate Gallery was keen to have it next, but could not afford to bring it over. Late in the day, an American millionaire and art lover, Julius Fleischmann, stepped in with the cash and the show was brought to London.
The money that Fleischmann provided, however, was not his but the CIA’s. It came through a body called the Farfield Foundation, of which Fleischmann was president, but far from being a millionaire’s charitable arm, the foundation was a secret conduit for CIA funds.
So, unknown to the Tate, the public or the artists, the exhibition was transferred to London at American taxpayers’ expense to serve subtle Cold War propaganda purposes. A former CIA man, Tom Braden, described how such conduits as the Farfield Foundation were set up. “We would go to somebody in New York who was a well-known rich person and we would say, ‘We want to set up a foundation.’ We would tell him what we were trying to do and pledge him to secrecy, and he would say, ‘Of course I’ll do it,’ and then you would publish a letterhead and his name would be on it and there would be a foundation. It was really a pretty simple device.”
Julius Fleischmann was well placed for such a role. He sat on the board of the International Programme of the Museum of Modern Art in New York – as did several powerful figures close to the CIA.
By George Franklin
It was the artist and poet William Blake who once said, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." If William Harnett had read this quote and maybe he did, he would have no doubt agreed.
It could very well be said that William Harnett is the grandfather of the art of the mundane. If that sort of appelation doesn't necessarily hold up, then he must surely be considered the most adept at painting objects that would otherwise probably be overlooked, ignored, or just taken for granted simply because 'simple' things at that time, during the mid19th Century were, in and of themselves, considered too ordinary as subject matter for a painting. It is the genius of Harnett, however, that makes the simple things that we are surrounded with on a daily basis , the mundane objects and the ordinary things, "come to life", as it were. Moreover, besides his masterful skill at rendering objects with a keen eye for precision, what sets Harnett's work apart from the imitators and those whom he inspired, was his interest in depicting objects that were not usually made the subject of a still life painting, hence the appelation.
William Harnett was an Irish American painter of the 19th century who painted trompe l'oeil still lifes , a style of painting in which objects are depicted with photographically realistic detail. Crippling rheumatism plagued Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but fortunately not the quality of his paintings. He died in New York City in 1892
By Katherine Boyle
Once again, the art world celebrates. On Tuesday, Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” became the priciest artwork ever sold at auction, going for $142.4 million at what is now the highest-grossing art sale ever.
Christie’s broke its own record from last year by nearly $200 million, selling $691.6 million of contemporary art in New York. Jeff Koons, the conceptual contemporary artist known for his balloon dog sculptures, also became the highest-grossing living artist, with an orange balloon dog selling for $58.4 million.The numbers seem remarkable, perhaps stunning, to casual observers or those who confuse this Francis Bacon with the 16th-century statesman. But the record-breaking art sales shouldn’t be surprising.
Bacon’s 1969 triptych was expected to sell for more than $100 million, with art publications running huge features on the impending sale of the work. Painted late in Bacon’s career, it depicts another artist, Freud, in a wooden chair sitting in three poses, as the title suggests. Christie’s gave the work an estimate of $85 million, a low figure, considering that it sold for $86.3 million in 2008. Some art-world watchers thought it might break or come close to the record for the highest sale at auction, previously set by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which sold for $120 million in 2012.
Over the past 11 days, auction houses around the world have presided over bids totaling nearly $2 billion for art and jewelry, Sotheby’s told the Associated Press — including a 1963 Andy Warhol painting, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” that sold Wednesday at a New York auction for
$105 million, setting a record for a Warhol.
These record-breaking prices follow years of strong sales. The average annual return of the Mei Moses All Art Index was 13.83 percent from 2007 to 2012, far greater than the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones industrial average. Some massive private sales broke records this year, too, including Steve Wynn’s sale of Picasso’s “Le Reve” for $155 million to hedge fund titan Steve Cohen. For some, it might be tempting to read into these sales or to assume it says something about the broader economy.
“There is a rough correlation between stock markets and the art market, but to be more specific is really difficult,” said David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who writes about art and art markets. Though we can try to read more into this sale, he describes it as a case of “two very rich guys wanting to buy this painting.”
But global stock markets are performing well this year, meaning those at the top who can afford seven-figure lots are probably doing well, too. The sale reflects the Washington talking point that the growing wealth disparity, both in the United States and across the world, is widening at a worrying rate. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that 35 percent of Russia’s wealth lies in the hands of 110 people. That wealth can buy a lot of Bacon and balloon dogs.
But it’s not all good news for the art market. With so much talk of an art bubble, whether it’s bursting or about to burst, it’s not surprising that higher-priced pieces and wealthier buyers are turning up at auction. Felix Salmon of the Reuters news agency has a nuanced take on why these soaring prices
might indicate that the mythical art bubble will burst soon. Salmon highlights what was once rare: Flipping works — formerly frowned upon by galleries and auction houses — is becoming more common. Flipping works can make for a strong season, but it doesn’t necessarily mean these prices will last much longer. As Salmon predicted, there’s another reason for flipping and soaring prices:
“If we see another record-breaking season in New York this week, don’t take
that as a bullish sign. It could just be that we’re entering a period of feverish selling.”
During the early 50s, the famous art critic Clement Greenberg invited Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis, who at the time were second generation Abstract Expressionists, to the New York studio of Helen Frankenthaler to view her recently completed Mountains and Sea . Frankenthaler used a unique painting technique of pouring oil paints onto unprimed canvas thereby allowing the colors to soak in and spread rather than simply drying on the surface. Viewing Mountains and Sea, the innovative color-field painting technique had evidently marked a major turning point in Noland's career as an artist. Following this studio visit, Noland decided to abandon any tendencies to paint in the Abstract Expressionist style and began work on a set of color-field paintings for which he would become best known: the Targets.
Kenneth Noland's Target paintings, alternatively called Circles, were undoubtedly his breakthrough works. In 1958 he began applying a variety of color to a basic circle template positioned on a square canvas, often creating a burst of concentric circles rendered in complementary colors, which contrasted well against the square support.
One other fascinating feature of Noland's early Targets, painted between 1958 and 1960, was the
presence of a smeared, almost jagged outer edge which framed the inner circles, suggesting a final burst of seemingly infinite color, stretching outward into the cosmos.
As the 1960s commenced, Noland's use of color grew increasingly bold and ambitious. In his earlier, less refined Target paintings, heavier color forms were situated against a white or off-white
backdrop. By 1962 Noland began to experiment with colored backdrops and cleaner dividing lines between each circle. He also began making the innermost point of his circles the visual focal point rather than the outer layers.
By 1963, Noland had concluded that his 'circles in a square' format was exhausted and it was time for something new. Noland wanted to continue to experiment with colors and their interactions with one another, but he needed a different format with which to work. The Chevron series was his next phase as an artist, growing increasingly simple and minimalist with his abstract imagery.
The first of dozens of boxes the American artist Joseph Cornell made in honor of famous ballerinas, this box pays homage to Marie Taglioni, an acclaimed nineteenth-century Italian dancer who, according to legend, kept an imitation ice cube in her jewelry box to commemorate dancing in the snow at the behest of a Russian highwayman. The box is infused with erotic undertones—both in the tactile nature of the glass cubes, velvet, and rhinestone necklace (purchased at a Woolworth's dime store in New York) and in the incident itself, in which Taglioni reportedly performed on an
animal skin placed across the snowy road.
Although he spent his entire artistic career living and working in Queens, New York, Cornell drew inspiration from the European art he saw at the Julien Levy Gallery—the first in the United States to exhibit Surrealist work—and often inspired the European Surrealists in turn. In a press release for a 1939 show by Cornell at the Levy Gallery, Salvador Dalí heralded the artist's work as "the only truly Surrealist work to be found in America."
The Genius of J.M.W. Turner
by Shaun Taylor (sourced from Elbert Hubbard's, Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous People with annotations by Wikipedia)
Of J.M.W Turner's many pictures, one of his most outstanding and, perhaps, his most famous is, The Fighting Temeraire, painted in 1838. The painting shows a warship, HMS Temeraire, which had been decommisioned and is being towed away to be broken up. Launched in 1798, 'she' ( ships are frequently referred to using 'she' and 'her' in pronoun form) served during the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars, mostly on blockades or convoy escort duties. She fought only one fleet action, the Battle of Trafalgar , but became so well known for her actions and her subsequent depictions in art and literature that she has been remembered as "The Fighting Temeraire".
The scene of the battle scarred ship being towed to sea was indelibly etched on to Turner's brain and he subsequently saw fit to immortalize the occasion on canvas. The leading art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin, had this to say about the painting; "Of all pictures not visibly involving human pain, this is the most heartrending. ever painted. The utmost pensiveness which can ordinarily be given to a landscape depends on adjuncts of ruin, but no ruin was ever so affecting as this ship to her grave. This particular ship, crowned in the Trafalgar hour of trial with chief victory -surely, if ever anything without a soul deserved honor or affection we owe them here. Surely some sacred care might have been left in our thoughts for her; some quiet space amid the lapse of English waters! Nay, not so. We have stern keepers to trust her glory to-the fire and the worm. Nevermore shall sunset lay golden robe upon her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that part at her gliding. Perhaps where the low gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveler may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on the rugged wood; and even the sailor's child may not know that the night dew lies deep in the war rents of the old Temeraire."
The setting sun symbolises the end of an era, as it pertains to the British Royal Navy, and the silvery sun symbolises the commencement of the new industrial era.
Turner painted this picture when he was at the height of his career, having exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, for 40 years. He was renowned for his highly atmospheric paintings in which he explored the subjects of the weather, the sea and the effects of light. He spent much of his life near
the River Thames estuary and did many paintings of ships and waterside scenes, both in watercolour and in oils.
The single largest archive of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's personally owned objects from his signature polka-dot scarf to a collection of 20 original plaster maquettes including the most ambitious sculpture executed by Renoir and Richard Guino, La Grande Venus Victrix , which was found stored in a shed after Renoir's death will highlight an expansive grouping dedicated to the Impressionist icon in Heritage Auctions' presentation of The Renoir Estate Collection Signature® Auction, Sept. 19 in New York.
The collection is an intimate glimpse inside the personal and professional life of the master painter through a trove of important documents, including his marriage certificate, photographs and letters written to Renoir from friends and contemporaries such as Monet, Manet, and Rodin.
The collection of original sculptural plaster maquettes were created at Renoir's estate in Cagnes, France, in the twilight of his career. Battling severe arthritis, Renoir collaborated with a young and able-handed artist, Guino, at his dealer Ambroise Vollard's suggestion. Together, Renoir and Guino selected which drawings and paintings would work as sculptures, and they set to work.
Included among the sculptural offerings is likely the auction's top lot — a 72 inch tall original plaster maquette for La Grande Venus Victrix, the Roman goddess. After the opening of the Renoir museum, La Grande Venus Victrix was returned to Claude Renoir (Coco) and placed in the garden at Les Collettes prior to traveling to Canada.
"This museum-level collection is superb in its completeness and reveals volumes about the man and his art," said Brian Roughton, Managing Director of Fine Art at Heritage Auctions. "It touches every
corner of his life and represents the last time this collection will appear assembled ever again. In addition to the personal letters and objects, we're also thrilled to have the opportunity to offer 20 carefully collected original plaster maquettes, not as vehicles to make bronzes but rather as individual
works of art which stand on their own artistic merit. Among the maquettes, Heritage is offering "Coco," one of the only plaster maquettes that Renoir produced himself, depicting his young son Claude.
The staggering amount of life documents, awards and ephemera includes rarities such as an American
Medal of Honor awarded to Renoir at the 1883 Foreign Exhibition and an album of candid family photographs featuring Henri Matisse among other notable artists of the day.
The archive also includes rarely seen objects likely made for the artist's eyes only, such as a diminutive polychrome ceramic vase and sugar bowl thrown and painted with his father at Les Collettes as Renoir recuperated at after being shot during World War I.
by P.M. Grand / May 1963
Rilke was the first to see that Rodin can be understood through the details of his work and methods far better than through his grandiose ideas. Of course, the sculptor made ambitious plans-The Gates of Hell are populated by The Thinker, Adam and The Three Shades in the High Romantic style of the Eroica Symphony. But most of Rodin’s vast monumental projects remained incomplete, and some of them are apt to exasperate, where they do not actually disappoint. Rodin trusted the great traditional “subjects,” the noble categories and “missions” of High Art. A man of the people, he never questioned the popular belief in the artist’s responsibility to history nor his rather naïve faith in messages. He was comforted by these sentimental theories in the long period of material difficulty at the beginning of his career. When he became a success—and wore the bearded face of Inspired Genius—fame lent confirmation to his candid faith, and he became the rather shallow priest of a neo-paganism for which the handsome Nijinsky supplied the apparitions of a living god. Rodin was self-educated; a few trips abroad and contacts with Italian and Classic works gave him an enthusiasm which was more intuitive than informed. In fact, Rodin’s utterances were never far from the stereotypes of his time, and, paradoxically, the artist finished his career as a
rich bourgeois, with his palace in Paris, country houses, collections, mistresses, a cellar-full of excellent burgundies. His “power” was worldly, but, luckily, he was always temperamentally attracted to what he thought was the intellectual and metaphysical life.
— From “Rodin: Genius with giblets,” by P.M. Grand, May 1963