Art market

A river runs through it: Hanging around in New York, a monthly guide by Brook S. Mason.

Impressionist painters on the Seine at Wildenstein, the Gilded Age glows at Vance Jordan, exoticism at Mark Murray plus fine furniture and Picasso’s lino cuts


o Impressionist shows are part and parcel of the gallery calendar, but this season, Girard J. Stora of Wildenstein & Co. has launched a truly memorable show. The subject, one dear to the hearts of all Frenchmen, yet rarely explored in exhibitions, is quite simply “La Seine: French paintings, seventeenth-twentieth centuries”.

The paintings of this mighty river portrayed in all its guises—in full daylight, at dawn, at dusk, whether winding through the countryside or in Paris and in all seasons—are ravishingly beautiful. Here are Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Bonnard as well as the less well known, but still distinctive, Caillebotte, Lepine and Guillaumin. For students of Impressionism, this show is a must see. Overall, these paintings carry Wildenstein’s distinctive mark. Each has a splendid provenance and is superbly documented. With close to fifty paintings and drawings, this show will prove to be among the leading exhibitions of the season, following close on the heels of Wildenstein’s Bonnard show which has been drawing record attendance.

o Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s are mounting paintings sales devoted solely to the Gilded Age this month. To keep abreast of this, take in Vance Jordan’s “Julius LeBlanc Stewart: American painter of the Belle Epoque.” Stewart is the quintessence of this period. Born in Paris and trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gérome, Stewart (1855-1919) lived among, and chronicled, the haute monde. His “At home (Intimate)” is not just a period piece, but an exquisitely detailed documentation of fashion. The prices alone, from $25,000-750,000, speak a volume or two about the popularity of this genre.

o With the nineteenth century in vogue, consider another aspect, “Orientalism: European and American paintings from the nineteenth century,” at Mark Murray Fine Paintings. Murray has chosen wisely in rounding up all the pivotal painters, including Jean-Leon Gérome, Edwin Lord Weeks, and others. So here are Ottoman architecture, desert landscapes, as well as temples and tombs of Egypt.

o Another interesting show is Kennedy Galleries’ “Charles E. Burchfield: Romantic lands”. This American Romantic realist painter is often neglected but Kennedy’s show does him full justice. These are approximately thirty-five of his watercolours covering all of his artistic periods, including his early gouache landscapes completed while at the Cleveland School of Art. In addition to his watercolours, priced $18,000-185,000, Kennedy features a great deal of archival materials, such as Burchfield early sketchbooks.

o An apt complement to Burchfield can be found at Mark MacDonald’s pioneering Gansevoort Gallery on the edge of the meat-packing district. The exhibition focuses on “The Nordic modern movement: masterworks in glass, ceramics, silver and wood.”

Forget boring Danish Modern: Mark MacDonald lines up all of the key postwar pieces, including Swedish, Danish and Finnish works and creates perhaps the largest show of its kind. Prices range from $275 for Paulslus ceramics to that Timo Sarpaneva landmark vase, the Lancet, at $25,000. Right now, Berndt Friberg’s sparse ceramics with glazes in a muted tonality are exceedingly popular. Other artists and craftsmen represented include Tapio Wirkkala, Henning Koppel and, of course, the Danish silversmith Georg Jensen.

o For a more current take on contemporary, the abstract painter Cleve Grey, even at age eighty, continues to complete paintings that would make an elegant backdrop for modern furnishings. Berry Hill is mounting his latest works—a total of fourteen in all. The colours are in the primary range, but sharp, and he uses form in a startling new way. His massive crumpled forms loom against brilliantly coloured backdrops. If you should miss this exhibition, check out Nicholas Fox Weber’s Cleve Gray (Abrams, $39.95)

o At Adelson Galleries Inc., Marc Rosen Fine Arts is presenting “Picasso’s linoleum, 1958-62: the creative process”, the very first exhibition of his linoleum-cut works in all their progressive states. This show focuses on all sixteen stages in the creation of the artist’s most noted and first major work in this area, “Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le Jeune”. In addition, there is a complete sequence of eighteen proofs of the portrait, “Jacqueline au chapeau à fleurs.”

o For those who missed Asia week, William Lipton Ltd carries elegant and spare furniture and decorative arts from the East. Right now he has a rare seventeenth-century pudding table with a mottled brown, agate-like inset rock top priced at $25,000. It is an example combining both superb form and fine craftsmanship. In addition, Mr Lipton features a set of four matching, marvellously lacquered, leather trunks dating from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries for only $4,500, as well as a pair of black leather military trunks studded with bronze nail heads. On show are the delicate watercolours by Frederick Wong who trained in Chinese calligraphy.

While the recent Asia week auction results were mixed (The Art Newspaper, No.85, October 1998, p.51), Mr Lipton finds that the number of serious collectors is growing dramatically. “There’s increasing sophistication on the part of clients in all areas of collecting”, he says.

o Chantal O’Sullivan carries the very best selection of Irish antiques in town. There’s a massive William IV dining room table from 1835 that is fourteen feet long and really perfect for a board room. Inventory also includes a chaste pair of diminutive Georgian tables with marble tops, a carved shell on the apron and slender cabriole legs, that are classically Irish and priced at $23,000. She has some stunning gilt mirrors, including a pair of Regency ones banked by fluted Corinthian columns on each side. They have original glass and cost $25,000. As well as good Georgian, Ms O’Sullivan stocks the quirky such as a hall stand that is pure Celtic Revival carved with shamrocks from Malahide Castle in Dublin. Also on view but definitely not Irish are a set of five nesting Chinese Export lacquer tables in black, their tops ablaze with ferns in gold, for $9,800.

o To dress up such furniture, botanicals are a natural choice. Ursus Books and Prints in the Carlyle Hotel has a splendid exhibition of contemporary botanicals by the Belgian-born watercolourist, Gertrude Hamilton. She manages to capture accuracy with a rare gracefulness on antiqued paper. Her palette is particularly subtle. Any one of her watercolours, from elegant roses to the simplicity of several tulips, would make a more than stylish addition. Her works are reasonably priced at under $3,000.

o For those who favour truly seasonal visuals, the American Illustrators Gallery has a timely exhibit: “Four seasons: autumn illustration from the Golden Age”. Here are Jack-o-Lanterns, the Pilgrims, no less, football games and hunting by the likes of Howard Chandler Cristy, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth. Prices range from $2,500 to $500,000.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘A river runs through it'