Maybe eleven Volvos are equal to one Rolls Royce Silver Coud, but is a work by John Singer Sargent equal to a Claude Monet? Such is the problem in dividing up well-heeled estates like that of Christopher Larson and Julia Calhoun. According to the Seattle Times, the biggest challenge in the recent divorce was dividing up the $102 million art collection. The couple failed at the task, so it landed in the hands of the court. According to the article, “The result became a study in how people measure the value of art, and which counts for more — pragmatism or sentiment.”
Read on… Perhaps the easiest way to call it even would have been to sell everything and split the proceeds. But the economics of art worked against that. For fine art, any gain in value from purchase to sale is taxed at 28 percent, more than for most assets. Then there’s the cut taken by dealers and auction houses. And then there was the fear, voiced in one court filing, that the couple owned “so much 19th Century American artwork” that selling it all would saturate the market, driving down prices.
You can find the details in the article, but know that in the end Calhoun’s 19 paintings averaged $3,082 of appraised value per square inch and Larson’s 24 paintings came in at $1,942 per square inch. Charming.
Image: Mid nineteenth-century depiction of Josephine fainting after being told by Napoleon he will decree a divorce (to seek a male heir and royal alliance).
Crystal Bridges isn’t the only museum acquiring these days, and some of the art is traveling north. The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced recently it has acquired three important French Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, and a pastel by Mary Cassatt, the Pennsylvania native and American expatriate who became famously associated with Paris during the late 19th century. All of the works are gifts from Chara C. and the late John Haas, longtime supporters of the Museum. They include Path on the Island of Saint Martin, Vétheuil (1881) by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926); Apple Tree in the Meadow, Éragny (1893) by Camille Pissaro (French, 1830-1903); Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint Cloud (1879) by Alfred Sisley (French, 1839-1899); and Madame Bérard’s Baby in a Striped Armchair (1880-81) by Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926). The Monet and the Pissarro have now been placed on view in gallery 152, while the Sisley hangs in gallery 157 and Cassatt’s pastel can be seen in gallery 162.
“With these remarkable gifts, John and Chara Haas have greatly enriched the Museum’s collections,” said Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO, “adding strength to the Museum’s extensive holdings of Impressionist art and enabling us to present a more complete picture of these artists’ remarkable achievements. We are deeply grateful to John and Chara Haas, who now join the many great collectors whose gifts have made the Philadelphia Museum of Art a major destination for art enthusiasts from around the world.”
“We are delighted to have these four works, which expand and enhance our rich Impressionist holdings with a radiant landscape by Monet created during the years he spent in Vétheuil in the late 1870s and early 1880s, a period that has not been represented in our collection, a remarkably fresh and beautifully painted winter scene by Sisley, a handsome landscape that Pissarro painted at his home in Éragny, and a charming pastel portrait of the young Lucie Bérard by Mary Cassatt,” said Joseph Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum.
Monet’s Path on the Island of Saint Martin, Vétheuil (1881)is a colorful view of the fields near the village of Vétheuil on the north bank of the Seine, where Monet moved with his family in 1879. During the summer of 1881, Monet painted lush views of the town from the island of Saint Martin as his pictorial style evolved from the blunt, broad strokes of the 1870s to the delicate, rhythmic brushwork of Path on the Island of Saint Martin. This is the first work from Monet’s Vétheuil period to come into the Museum’s collection, and its presence will enable visitors to understand the development of the artist’s work during this important time in his career.
Apple Tree in the Meadow, Éragny (1893) captures the fields and gardens around Camille Pissarro’s (French, 1830-1903) home in Éragny, a small village about 90 miles northwest of Paris. This focused study joins four other views of the Pissarro home in the Museum’s collection from earlier years. A view of the meadow adjacent to Pissarro’s house (the brick building visible on the left), it is marked by the strongly-patterned brush and palette knife work common in the artist’s paintings of the 1890s and clearly demonstrates the influence that the work of the Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat (French, 1859-1891) had on Pissarro’s work during this period.
Alfred Sisley, an Impressionist landscape painter well represented in the Museum’s collection, painted Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint Cloud (1879) while living to the west of Paris. Of particular note is Sisley’s dramatic treatment of the winter view in which the snowy river bank is animated by the mooring lines that secure an unseen barge to the bank of the river. Sisley was widely admired for his skillful renderings of winter scenes. Here the sky and the fugitive effects of light and weather are depicted here in nuanced tones of white and blue.
Mary Cassatt achieved remarkable success as a woman working in a field almost entirely dominated by men. Several of her sensitive portraits depicting family scenes and her nieces and nephews are in the collection at the Museum, including Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt (1884) and A Woman and a Girl Driving (1881). Madame Bérard’s Baby in a Striped Armchair, a portrait of 9-month-old Lucie seated on a vibrant blue striped chair, demonstrates the artist’s mastery of the pastel medium by the early 1880s. The brilliant use of red and blue in the background offsets the child, who is dressed in a formal white gown. Cassatt’s assured and sensitive handling of her young subject is particularly apparent in the modeling of Lucie’s moving hands.
Several other acquisitions have been reported. According to Philly.com, the museum also acquired Daniel Garber’s Tanis (1915), a portrait of the artist’s 8-year-old daughter. The painting had been in the collection of the Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was acquired via a private sale. The paper reports the Westervelt Corp., owner of the collection, is selling about 50 of its most prominent holdings.
I’ve been collecting images of ships and boats in art over the past six months and have assembled them in a video. The music is by George Shearing. Some of the images are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. I hope you enjoy!
John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet went together to paint outdoors. Sargent asked Monet if he could borrow some black. Monet replies, “black? I don’t have black,” to which Sargent replies, “then I can’t paint!”
I haven’t verified the authenticity of this historical change, and it seems like it could have been contrived to convey the differences in these two impressionist painters. Perhaps if William Gerdts, keynote speaker at a symposium yesterday at Doyle Auctions where he relayed the story, reads this entry he can reveal the source.
The afternoon included four presentations on “Impressionism and Afterward” to coincide with an upcoming sale at the auction house. Gerdts covered Impressionism as it took hold in America, explaining that its arrival coincided with the end of large exhibits in France and that Americans were much more favorable to Monet’s landscapes that the work of Renoir.
In addition to Sargent, major American Impressionists include William Merritt Chase and Mary Cassatt. A participant in early impressionist exhibits (mid 1880s) in New York, Chase was taken in by New York’s Parks where he painted landscapes. Beginning in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, a dispute with an official provided the impetus for his relocation to Central Park.
Cassatt joined the impressionists in 1879 and participated in exhibits by the New Society of American Artists, which was formed in 1877 to counter the conservative National Academy of Design. Her work didn’t really enter the mainstream until after the 1893 World’s Columbia Exhibition in Chicago.
Art Historian Susan Larkin picked up the lecture series with a presentation on Childe Hassam in Connecticut. Perhaps most noted for his urban scenes, Hassam visited Old Lyme often between 1903 and 1912. Old Lyme was founded by Tonalist Henry Ward Ranger, however rather than impressionists and Larkin showed how Hassam’s work took on a Barbizon flavor. Old Lyme wouldn’t stay Barbizon, Henry Ward Ranger moved away in 1904 and the flavor of the school moved solidly to Impressionism.
Some of the interest for me in Nancy Matthews, author of the catalogue raisonne on Maurice Prendergast was the story of Venice itself. With the city impoverished for many years, little in Venice was different that it had ever been for Prendergast. Outsiders may have found this charming, but Venitians may have been frustrated with the lack of modern conveniences. Matthews pointed out, however that even if the financial means had been available to modernize the city, the physical characteristics made it almost impossible to accommodate electricity, telephones and cars.
Matthews showed slides of the Square of San Marcos painted by Prendergast and Whistler, both having a certain amount of the unexpected. I use “unexpected” because I don’t personally like the frequency of use of the term “shock” when talking about art. I appologize to Ms. Matthews for using this as a forum to bring this to attention, but it has been a source of mounting irritation. The word, it seems to me, is used far too often and I suspect stems from the artists of the 1960s thru the early ‘90s by artists who aimed specifically for to include an element of “shock.” Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ would be an example of a work of art made primarily for shock value. I’m not sure what word can replace it, however. I recall an American tour at the Brooklyn Museum where the word “shock” was used to describe the tall buildings in Hassam’s urban scenes.
Descriptively, a ”shock” is a jolt of sorts that makes you jump, and I don’t think that’s really what happens when we see something unexpected in a painting, which really may vary depending on the painting. Such an element may be a cause for additional introspect or a head turner, but not really a shock. An event like a Presidential assassination comes as a shock. An unusual element in a painting doesn’t quite rise to that level.
While the blur may have been the element of interest in the Whistler example, in the Prendergast Painting it was the Italian flags that may have come as a sinking feeling to those seeing the reality Venice was under “Roman rule.” It would certainly bring an uneasiness. I really enjoyed the presentation and again appologize for such an unfair focus here on the word “shock.” The possibility surely exists it is the perfect word and I’m all wet!
Finally we returned from Europe to New York with a presentation by Valerie Ann Leeds, Adjunct Curator at the Flint Institute in Michigan, on the Ashcan School. Leeds pointed out that the word “Ashcan” stems from a report in the Philadelphia Record commenting on “the disappointments of an ashcan.” The school centers around art and its honesty in worldly observation.
It was interesting to draw comparisons in my mind between the portrait work of Robert Henri and Thomas Eakins, both who seemed to be able to honestly capture not only the form, but the character because they were painting people they knew.
The Doyle auction includes items of interest by Charles Linford, a curious captivating Whistler and many other paintings. Even if you’re not an auction buyer, the preview is this weekend. Stop by and treat it like a rarely on public view gallery exhibit, which it is!