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Archive for October, 2011

From Museo de Arte Moderno to M.S. Rau Antiques: a landscape by Corot

October 27th, 2011 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

L'entrée du Chemin Creux by Camille Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot is always considered a genius amongst 19th century art historians. As the father of the Barbizon School, his images are praised for their elegant atmospheric qualities and gentle brushstrokes. Furthermore, his work is credited as a major influence on the later Impressionist movement.

One of the most compelling aspects of L’entrée du Chemin Creux, in my opinion, is its ability to blur the distinction between landscape and dreamscape. Corot achieves this with exceptional play of light, capturing the scene as the morning sun emerges. The unusual composition also contributes to this sentiment. The proportion of the figures (cow and peasant) to the surrounding trees is significant; here Corot really glorifies the vastness of nature.

Additionally, the painting has an impressive provenance; it was part of important French art collector Baron E. de Beurnonville’s large collection around 1880. Under American ownership, the painting was exhibited in Providence, Rhode Island. Of particular note, the painting later belonged to Bruno Pagliai, an Italian-born tycoon and close friend of Avila Camacho, former president of Mexico. Pagliai’s respected private art collection included works by El Greco, Botticelli, Van Dyck, Dali, Rivera and Corot.  Under his ownership, the painting was loaned to the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City for many years.

In admiring the piece, Monet’s famous quote about Corot comes to mind, “There is only one master here–Corot. We are nothing compared to him. Nothing.” This serene and captivating scene justifies Monet’s veneration for the artist; L’entrée du Chemin Creux is an exquisite example of this genius’ work.

To learn more about the piece, please click here.

Masterful Mind – An Important Work by Vincent van Gogh

October 26th, 2011 | posted by Susan Lapene

Vincent van Gogh's "Still-life with Two Sacks and a Bottle"

Vincent van Gogh's "Still-life with Two Sacks and a Bottle"

If someone were to make a list of the most important artists who ever lived, without a doubt, at the very top would be Vincent van Gogh. There were other, talented and influential artists that lived and worked alongside him, so why has van Gogh risen to the top as the quintessential master of the brush stroke? The answer is simple. It was his brilliant ability to be able to translate his mind onto canvas. When others were painting objects, van Gogh painted his emotions, his thoughts, desires, and pleasures and, by his paintings, we have come to realize his immense genius and, also, his torments.

Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 in the Netherlands to Anna Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a pastor descended from a long line of servants of the cloth. This tradition inspired young Vincent to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in religious life, ultimately, only to fail. But these thoughts of religion, God, and his soul someday residing in heaven, were always prevalent and lingering in the back of his mind. His paintings were often a revelation of what heaven would be like if it were here on earth.

At the age of 15, young van Gogh was forced to quit school in order to help support the family. He spoke four languages and was said to be very well read for being from such an impoverished family. During adolescence, he went to work for an uncle in Paris. Now, if his uncle had a grave digging business, van Gogh may have been a grave digger, however, his uncle worked for the largest art gallery in Paris. How serendipitous! He was surrounded by beautiful oils and prints from the masters for 12 hours a day!

In 1880, after several failed careers and love affairs, van Gogh announced to his beloved brother Theo that he planned on becoming an artist. His ever faithful brother, despite being 4 years younger, encouraged and even supported him financially and emotionally throughout the remainder of his life.

With the death of his father in 1885, a tormented Vincent returned to France. Here, his love life was as tortured as his state of mind. Yet, he finally found love, if not contentment in life itself, in his painting. During the next five years, he was to bring forth several hundred vibrant masterpieces….the timeless fruit of his one true love.

Still Life with Two Sacks and a Bottle , which was painted 1884-1885, depicts tobacco and wine of which he had a love affair with both….they were to him heaven on earth. There are two sacks of tobacco, one standing upright ready for use and the other lying leisurely in the forefront. A box of cigars is open in the center inviting the smoker to indulge himself and a bottle of wine, still corked and ready to be savored, stands along with the tobacco. Notice in the very background to the far right, almost behind the cloth drape, is the obscure binding of a book. Is it the Bible? His lust for worldly pleasures had always been overseen and predominated by his overwhelming religious upbringing. Adding to this argument is the fact that a bible is featured prominently in a contemporaneous work now residing in the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The artist plays with colors in this painting. The dark colors were chosen specifically as a philosophical statement. He toys with the senses with splashes of green, blue and red. He was a visionary in his art and this was never more evident than in this work….every stabbing stroke was a personal letter to us. His wish was to open the viewers’ eyes and hearts. He wanted people to feel his art.

On July 29, 1890 he dies in the arms of his brother Theo as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest two days earlier. His demons had finally won. Theo, devastated by his beloved brother’s death, never recovered from the loss and he too joined his brother in death only six months later. They lay side by side in a grave in Auvers-sur-Oise Ile-de-France Region, France.

All of us in the art world owe our utmost thanks and gratitude to Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, the widow of Theo and sister-in-law of Vincent. At the death of her husband, she inherited the remainders of Theo’s shop including virtually all of Vincent’s artwork. That is, what remained of his work, for his mother, in her grief, threw away crate after crate of his paintings and drawings thinking they were total lunacy.

Theo’s widow, on the other hand, organized exhibitions and opened her home for viewings. In fact, the remainder of her life would be devoted to the promotion of Vincent van Gogh – her fatefully famous brother-in-law.

It was hard going at first–people laughed at Vincent’s work. The critics were skeptical at best, but in the end her writings and her persistent, visionary advocacy fanned the Vincent flames. She typed and revised the Theo-Vincent letters, finally publishing many of them in Dutch in 1914. When she died in 1925, she was still working on letter 526.

Vincent van Gogh’s wish in life was to open his mind and his heart to the world and he did this through his paintings and in this, he was a success. His wish was fulfilled and we bow to his genius.

Letter to Theo van Gogh from The Hague (21 July 1882)
What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. With a hand shake, ever yours, Vincent

This work is extremely reasonably priced at $5,985,000. Also, please click here to read an excellent article from the well-respected Deutsche Welle (Dutch World) newspaper discussing the relevance of art as an asset class.

If you have the means to obtain this painting, then don’t hesitate. You may never have another opportunity like this again in your life.

The Royal Roots of Sèvres Porcelain

October 26th, 2011 | posted by Bill Rau

These massive Sèvres Palace urns stand over five feet tall and are extremely rare due to their size and expense to produce

These massive Sèvres Palace urns stand over five feet tall and are extremely rare due to their size and expense to produce

When King Louis XV took an interest in porcelain and became a primary shareholder of what would become the Sèvres factory in 1752, he intended to catapult the international status of French porcelain to the finest in the world. It’s believed that his motivation came from his famed mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who possessed a penchant for the factory’s creations. Regardless of the reason, it is the royal roots of Sèvres that provided the foundation for some of the most coveted porcelain ever made.

After the King purchased the factory in 1759, he had the operations moved from Chateau de Vincennes closer to Versailles to the town of Sèvres. It soon became clear that Louis XV’s main goal was to out-do the larger names of the period, including Meissen and Royal Vienna, as he passed laws forbidding other porcelain makers from copying Sèvres techniques, colors and patterns, and placed tremendous taxes on competitor’s wares. Soon, the quality and exclusivity of Sèvres made it a luxury only the wealthiest could afford, including the entire French Royal Family, their court and the aristocracy.

This incredible pair of Sevrés Palace Urns was clearly made for such royal tastes. Standing at just over five feet tall, bears the royal monograms of both the Emperor and King Louis Philippe in extraordinary hand-painted gilt. Scenes of Napoleon at battle exhibit an astounding level of precision, and are beautifully contrasted by a background of Sèvres signature bleu turquin color. Urns of such artistic distinction were commissioned almost exclusively by Europe’s royal families, making this pair exceptionally rare and desirable.

If there is one statement that can be said about Sèvres porcelain, is that there is no such thing as “good” Sèvres-there’s only “great” Sèvres. Throughout its 250-plus-year history, the company has reinforced that reputation by producing a breathtaking array of pieces that are fit for a king.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of Sèvres porcelain, click here.