Armory Antiques Show

Armory Antiques Show
Armory Antiques Show

Maybe it happened to be a cold day, the armory antiques show did not see a huge crowd on Sunday. Geo and I did not go to the Winter Antiques Show which is more or less a museum exhibition with price tags to us. But the armory show itself was top notch. Dealers are friendly and knowledgable. Styles and materials vary greatly that one should be able to at least find something interesting.

Americana, in particular primitive and folk art, was well represented in the show. A few years ago, we saw a weather vane sold for more than 40,000 dollars in an auction. Today almost every Americana antique dealer displayed one or more weather vane in their booths. The number of them is so great that  raised the suspicion of my friend, who has been a long-time dealer and collector.

It is reasonable to assume that under such economic circumstances buyers are more cautious to buy things that hold value more in aesthetic than functioning. However, it is probably a good time to invest . Dealers still offer  objects,  no less impressive than before. (One of the fine art dealers from Brooklyn features a portrait painting by William Merrit Chase.) Dave Smernoff, from New Haven CT,  offers an impressive landscape painting by George Inness Jr. Although more or less regarded as a tonalism painter with specialty in figures and animals, in this sunset painting, even though the overall tone is in the vein of barbizon school, his use of dashed broken color in bold prime red paint without any tint or shade shows his departure from the influence of his father.

Painted Chest
Painted Chest

Another dealers showed a few painting by other tonalism painters such as J. Francis Murphy, Bruce Crane, Alexander Wyant and Dodge Martin. It would be interesting to pair the painting by Alexander  Wyant with that of George Inness Jr. Both depict sunset in forests. But the yearning of expressiveness and personal intuition and illusion has advanced greatly from the first generation of the Barbizon painters such as Wyant or Inness to the second generation such as Charles Warren Eaton and Inness Jr. who happened to be neighbors at one time.

The real startling object found in the show came from a dealer Thurston Nicholes from  Breinigsville, PA. A painted chest, both dated (1798) and signed, was marked at 285,000 dollars.  Painted Pennsylvania furniture has seen the rise of its market for the past few years. Just not too long again, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art exhibited similar furniture from a place called Soap Hollow. The chest, wonderfully painted, did attract a lot of visitors, probably all wondering why it commands such a price. It may have significant cultural heritage meaning or may even relates to some German descendants, however I cannot imagine taking it home and placing a TV on it.

Label for Painted Chest
Label for Painted Chest

“Are you taking pictures for buying it?” He half-joked when I asked permission to take some pictures. Then he casually open the chest. There besides a bag and some folders, there laid a sweater. “Too bad, with a price tag of an apartment, I cannot live in it.” I said to myself.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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