The Charm of an Orange

A Precious Orange, at Doyle Auction
A Precious Orange, at Doyle Auction

William Gerdts, in his book For Beauty and for Truth: The William and Abigail Gerdts Collection of American Still Life : Catalogue, writes his own aesthetics of still life painting:

I was especially attracted to pictures of single objects. It seemed to me that the artist’s concentration must then have been at its most intense, given a minimal concern for both composition and decoration – that he or she must have wanted to “know” the subject in a unique manner.

Such is the case of a small still life painting “Peeled Orange” by Jonas Josepgh LaValley, which was auctioned at Doyle Auctions this Thursday.

Jonas Josepgh LaValley was a resident still-life artist in Springfield, MA in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a barber who after six years of drawing and then eight years of painting after that, began to sell his paintings in his barbershop and eventually became a full time artist.

The peeled orange is about the same size of a real orange. His broad technique and painterly style does not overwhelm the overwhelm  the tenderness and sensibility of the subject. The nuance of the light gives a convincing texture for the rough inner skin and the white impastos render each piece of orange a fragile freshness as if the momentary beauty would soon be consumed without appreciation.

LaValley's expertise: Raspberries, offered at Stanton Auction on Nov 21, 2009
LaValley's expertise: Raspberries, offered at Stanton Auction on Nov 21, 2009

La Valley is famous for his exuberant rendering of fruits, especially for his raspberry.  One such a painting is offered by Stanton Auction today (lot 221).  But I would still prefer that single orange, which both Geo and I agree a great piece of art.

Although the lot was the first item to be auctioned on Thursday, the competition became fierce between phone bidders. It was sold for $2000,  much higher than its estimation ($800-$1200).

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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