Five Must-Read Art Business Articles for June 2018

Artists, collectors, and people interested in art often ask me for good venues to learn more about art business and the art market. There are so many great publications and blogs to follow it can be tough to keep up. So, I will be putting together a curated reading list each month to help highlight some of the key stories related to the business of making and selling fine art. This month's listing includes stories on the financial perils of being an artist and insights into the auction and gallery business. I hope you might keep an eye out at the end of each month as I share must-read articles to keep you apprised of the goings on in the art world.

  1. Advice for Artists on How to Make a Living—When Selling Art Doesn’t Pay the Bills
    by Carroll Michels via Artsy (June 25)
    In this excerpt from her popular book How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, Seventh Edition, published recently as an editorial on Artsy, Michels expertly outlines different career options for artists to help supplement their creative work. The majority of working artists do not make their entire living from their work, so this is especially timely and helpful.
     
  2. Artists Support Themselves Through Freelance Work and Don’t Find Galleries Especially Helpful, New Study Says by Benjamin Sutton via Hyperallergic (June 14)
    Benjamin Sutton does a great job in this article of breaking down a recent study from the Creative Independent on how artists support themselves. The findings are quite interesting, if not totally surprising. One important note I do not think Sutton mentions though, is that the majority of respondents to the survey were younger artists in the early part of their career. This likely influenced the results.
     

  3. Cheim and Read, Storied New York Gallery, Will Close Its Chelsea Space After 21 Years and Transition to ‘Private Practice’ by Eileen Kinsella via artnet (June 28)
    As shakeups in the commercial gallery market continue, news broke this week that New Yorks' Cheim and Read would close its Chelsea gallery space, move uptown, and shift to a private practice model. Kinsella's article provides some excellent background analysis on Cheim and Read, and gives some insights into the change, which is indicative of larger movements in the marketplace.
     

  4. Why Guarantees Are Actually Good for the Art Market
    by Doug Woodham via Artsy (June 28)
    In this article, Doug Woodham does a wonderful job of explaining the sometimes obscure process by which major auction houses offer guarantees to consignors. He breaks down the issue giving some very interesting real world examples, highlighting the differences between house guarantees and third party guarantees. This is a useful piece to read for those interested in learning more about the functionality of the auction marketplace.
     

  5. Meet the entrepreneurs catering to fresh crop of digitally-savvy art collectors
    by Isabel Togoh via The Irish Independent (June 24)
    This piece covers the incredible rise of Unit London, a gallery in London run by two entrepreneurs in their late 20's. Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt founded their first space in 2013 and just this week moved into a new 6,000 square foot permanent home in London's Mayfair district. These young gallerists have built an international following for their artists and have utilized social media to make their gallery accessible to a broader range of potential collectors. They are a bright spot in the gallery market and their story provides some solid insights for other gallerists on how to do business.

Why Teach Art History?

I recently finished teaching my first session of a new eight week lecture style class I developed for the Providence Art Club: Art History & Appreciation. I proposed the class because I genuinely believe that a good grounding in the basic history of art can go a long way in helping individuals to develop better connoisseurship skills. It was the first time such a class was offered at the Club and I hoped it would garner enough interest to get the ten or so students needed to run it. Nearly forty students signed up. Over eight weeks, and nearly 300 slides, we covered everything from the Cave Paintings of Lascaux to the use of art in Beyoncé and Jay-Z's new music video. It was a great experience for me as a teacher. And a great reminder to me of the incredible value of art history.

Regularly ranked as one of the least useful, least marketable, least valuable college majors, art history is often used as shorthand for a wasteful course of study. Mocked even by then President Barack Obama, who in 2014 reminded an audience that you can often make more money from a career in a skilled trade than as an art historian. Art historians are portrayed as alternatively icy, stodgy, and elitist in the popular culture. In spite of the negativity surrounding the discipline, it still draws in students at all levels. But what value does it actually have?

 Still from the 2003 film  Mona Lisa Smile , about a professor who uses art history to challenge her students assumptions at the conservative Wellesley College of the 1950s, starring Julia Roberts.

Still from the 2003 film Mona Lisa Smile, about a professor who uses art history to challenge her students assumptions at the conservative Wellesley College of the 1950s, starring Julia Roberts.

The study of works of art is not just about determining whether a painting is by Bruegel or Bacon. First and foremost, art history has power to create empathy and lead to a better understanding of and appreciation for cultures, traditions, and beliefs other than one's own. Art history also builds remarkable analytical and writing skills, born out of the thoughtful consideration of the historical context for a work and paired with a dedicated examination of the object in question. Additionally, studying artworks builds the skills needed to critically process the ever-broadening flow of visual media that comes with contemporary life. In short, studying art history enables closer looking and deeper thinking.

They say that "history is another country", and that although there may be vague commonalities between historic cultures and today's world, it can be difficult for modern audiences to ever truly understand the motivations, attitudes, and values of people living in England during the sixteenth century, or in France during the eighteenth. But through looking at, and deeply examining, the exacting portraits of Tudor courtiers or the lush paintings of the French Rococo it might be possible to gain a better footing in these foreign worlds. And in the process to also hopefully learn something about abuse of power, or despotism, or revolution. More than the rote collecting of facts or points of view, art history stokes continued curiosity about the subjects, techniques, philosophies, and personalities that have shaped visual culture and history. It enables viewers to explore and question the world around them, and to do so with a critical eye.

Teaching Art History & Appreciation reminded me of all the reasons I love this discipline. The skills developed through looking at works of art are easily transferred to the examination of other media. Honing one's eye on great works of art cultivates stronger cross-disciplinary understanding of architecture, film, and design. Talking students through the history of art helped me to better develop my own capacity to see these and other connections, to understand them, and to share them passionately and accessibly with my students.

One of my favorite quotes about education is attributed to Plutarch and goes something like "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." In teaching Art History & Appreciation, I had a great opportunity to reflect on the capacity of art history to motivate curiosity and connoisseurship in contemporary viewers and collectors. By walking my students through the history of art, I think and hope that I inspired a better appreciation for the rich complexities of the artworks of the past as well as a better ability to read and understand artworks of the present. At the end of the last class one of my students came up and said that the course had "lit a spark" in her and inspired a more keen interest in art history. I guess then, according to Plutarch at least, I did a decent job.

I'm looking forward to teach Art History & Appreciation again in the future, and am currently writing the syllabus for a followup class on Modern and Contemporary Art. For more information on my teaching projects, visit my Speaking & Teaching page.

The Genius of Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the Louvre

 A detail from The Carters'  Apeshit  music video directed by Ricky Saiz, 2018

A detail from The Carters' Apeshit music video directed by Ricky Saiz, 2018

On Saturday, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released a surprise new album, Everything is Love, on Tidal the streaming service they co-own. The first music video for the album accompanies the single Apeshit and was released under the duo's co-moniker The Carters. The video was filmed entirely at the Louvre and was directed by Ricky Saiz, who previously collaborated with Beyoncé on the video for her track Yoncé. The new video, shared with unwitting fans via Instagram on Saturday afternoon, has over seven million views as of this writing (a little more than 24 hours after release). It features Beyoncé and Jay-Z in the empty Louvre Museum; perhaps the greatest bastion of so-called "high culture", and also the center of the predominantly white and male tradition of Western Art. The Apeshit video is stunningly styled, choreographed, and filmed. And it is also highly conceptual. It takes part in an ongoing tradition of celebrities engaging with high art, it places the uniquely American art form of rap on the same level with European masterpieces, and it corrects the lack of diversity that is often taken for granted in cultural institutions, not only in the Old World, but in the New as well.

The video opens with a cinematic shot of a black figure with angel wings standing guard outside the Louvre by night; bells chiming in the distance. It then transitions inside the museum with lavishly gilt interiors appropriate to a former palace and details of fine European paintings. In the next scene Beyoncé and Jay-Z are pictured dramatically standing alongside La Jaconde, The Mona Lisa. Jay-Z wears a pale teal suit with a gold medallion, Beyoncé is in a pink silk smoking jacket, richly accessorized with diamonds. They are presented one-to-one with the best known portrait in Western Art, equaling it in regality. The scene is also a reference to their viral photo shoot at the Museum in 2014, in which they also took a photo alongside Da Vinci's most famous painting. In both scenes they are compared directly to their painted co-star. They, like she, stare out at the viewer. They too, are iconic. And The Carters, like The Mona Lisa, are celebrities with far reaching influence.

 George Clooney, a la Yayoi Kusama,  W Magazine , 2013

George Clooney, a la Yayoi Kusama, W Magazine, 2013

Other celebrities, too, have engaged with the art world. The painter Will Cotton was the artistic director for Katy Perry's California Gurls music video in 2010. George Clooney was styled by the Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama for a W Magazine spread in 2013. John Currin was commissioned to paint a portrait of Jennifer Lawrence for the cover of Vogue's 125th Anniversary Issue in 2017. Louis Vuitton created a line of bags designed with Jeff Koons that feature paintings by Rubens, Monet, and others. The list goes on. Celebrities and luxury brands regularly utilize blue chip artists in their own projects both to establish their cultural bona fides and also to raise the cachet of their own brands. In the case of The Carters, the hallowed halls of the Louvre and the paintings within it become not a sales pitch, but rather a backdrop for an effective performance about culture and race that undermines traditional assumptions about art, the vagueries of high versus low culture, and the institutions that broker mass interpretations of these topics.

Whereas the media of the artworks presented in the video are sculptures and oils, the media of the performers are hip-hop and dance. The uniqueness of hip-hop, rap, and their associated dance styles can be traced back to their foundations in The Bronx of the 1970's, and other mostly African-American enclaves in cities throughout the United States. The Carters' merging of this American musical tradition with the Parisian art establishment is reminiscent in so many ways of Jazz Age ex-patriotism, when American-American Jazz singer, dancer, and performer Josephine Baker rose to spectacular popularity in the Paris of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Beyoncé and Jay-Z are interested in the unique history of African-American performers in France, and engage with that story in the video. Like Baker, their cultural prominence abroad has been achieved not through the avenues of the establishment but through a mass popularity built on the currency of their own work. Lyrics in Apeshit directly reference their popularity and success:

I can't believe we made it (this is what we made, made)
This is what we're thankful for (this is what we thank, thank)
I can't believe we made it (this a different angle)
Have you ever seen the crowd goin' apeshit? Rah!

This popularity comes from a broad and diverse fan-base, which has already raised ecstatic support for their new album and the Apeshit video. Throughout the already viral video, the iconic American music duo is presented as equal to not only The Mona Lisa, but also to the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Egyptian Pharonic sculpture. Beyoncé and Jay-Z perform as art historical subjects with the same gravitas afforded to the works of art they reference. Dancers perform too, alongside Beyoncé in front of works from the academic canon of art history, including Jacques Louis David's The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine, while Jay-Z raps in front of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa. The mostly white faces of art history are contrasted with contemporary African-American artists. Rigid paintings by dead painters are challenged and redefined by rap and the ecstatic movement of individuals who are very much alive. And importantly, this redefinition is undertaken utilizing African-American music and choreography, with a cast made up of people of color. People who have been mostly left out of institutions like the Louvre, as evidenced by the artworks scanned in the video, claim their rightful place in the cultural pantheon.

 Beyoncé (center) accompanied by dancers, performs in front of Jacques-Louis David's monumental painting  The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine , 1807

Beyoncé (center) accompanied by dancers, performs in front of Jacques-Louis David's monumental painting The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine, 1807

Through performance in the Louvre and amongst works deemed "important" by the art establishment The Carters remind the viewer of their own cultural import, which comes not institutionally but communally. Beyoncé and Jay-Z are clearly and unarguably cultural leaders in their own right, and have been for some time. They have millions of followers around the world and, in a reference to the current political climate, they note that they fill stadiums as successfully as the NFL. So the Apeshit video is more of a statement of fact than anything else. These artists are as recognizable and as recognized as The Mona Lisa. They are as successful and as respected in music as painters like David or Da Vinci have been in the visual arts. The video shows though that The Carters share in the kind of creative "genius" formerly associated with white, male, European artists. Although it was produced commercially to promote their music, and does not fit the mold that has been set out for a work of high art, The Carters' Apeshit tells a compelling story and helps to reframe popular visions of culture and cultural institutions.

The video concludes with Beyoncé and Jay-Z in front of The Mona Lisa again. The two, who are previously pictured in the same spot facing the audience, slowly turn to regard each other and then the turn away from the audience to look at famous painting. The point is clear: two uniquely American celebrities considering an iconically European celebrity and thinking about her and their roles in the history of visual culture. In the video, audiences are enjoined not only to reflect on the status of great art or great celebrities within the mass culture, but to reconsider who is deserving of their status and who might have been left out of the popular story and history of art.

How An Art Exhibition Juror Thinks

Many artists ask me what jurors look for when selecting work for juried exhibitions. This is a tough question to answer, given that every juror and every show is unique. Recently, Dr. Elliot Bostwick Davis, Chair of the American Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, made her selections for our National Open Juried Exhibition: America, Now at the Providence Art Club. Her choices were formed partially by the theme of the show but also by her extensive and diverse academic and curatorial background. This week, I juried entries for another exhibition at the Providence Art Club, a show of work by members from Boston's St. Botolph Club coming this August. Like Dr. Davis, I was informed by my education and professional background but found choosing pieces for this exhibition to be a challenge. There were many options that I thought would be a great fit, but I had to work to shape a select group of diverse objects that would represent the talents of the St. Botolph Club community and also be of interest to members of the Providence Art Club. Later this summer, I will be the Juror for the Bristol Art Museum's Annual Members' Exhibition. So I thought it might be beneficial for me to share some of what goes into a juror's decision-making process and how artists can best go about applying to a juried exhibition.

The Call

First and foremost, no matter the show, you must closely and carefully read the exhibition's call for entry. The typical call for entry (or call for art) is a page or so long and contains all the information you should need when deciding what, or whether, to submit. Read the call and be honest with yourself about the relevance of your work to the request being put out by a gallery or institution. If you are uncertain if your work is a good fit to start with, you can reach out to the organization making the call to get your initial questions answered.

Presentation

Good presentation counts. Because most exhibitions are now juried virtually, jurors rely on digital images to make their decisions. Make sure you are submitting a high quality photograph that accurately represents your work. Blurry or otherwise poorly presented images that do not show the piece well will not benefit your application and will almost certainly hurt your chances. Most applications state the resolution and size required for digital images. Follow the guidelines given by the organization or entry platform. And if you need assistance, seek out a professional photographer. If you are submitting to a show where selections are made in person, your work should be professionally prepared and in good condition. Proper presentation may seem like common sense, but it is not to be overlooked.
 

Quality

After assessing presentation, the juror will likely move on to gauging the qualities inherent in each piece. This factors in formal aspects such as line, composition, color, et cetera, but also the conceptual qualities that might be obvious upon first glance. For this reason, submitting your most visually striking work can be helpful in catching the juror's eye. Asking peers and colleagues to critique the work you are considering for submission is a great way to get objective analysis, and to determine which artworks from your portfolio may be the most successful. Some of the qualities found in works of art are relatively objective, but the way a juror interprets them can obviously be very subjective, and influenced by individual taste.
 

Taste

Like I said earlier, every juror is unique. And each juror's selections are bound to be impacted by her or his personal background, education, and interests. The individual taste of a juror will naturally factor into their selections. This is difficult to account for when applying to an exhibition, but it can be helpful to research the juror and learn more about their background or shows they have previously juried or curated in order to determine if they have any obvious interests or biases. This information is often readily available in the juror's professional biography and may even be included in the call for entry. If the juror has a niche area of expertise or interest, they may be less inclined to choose works that fall outside their scope. But if they have a broad range of experience, it may be hard to determine what they will be most interested in.
 

Theme

If the exhibition you are submitting your work to has a theme, stick to it. This point is another seemingly obvious one, but hewing close to the theme can often play to your favor. This is not to say that your work should blatantly or explicitly shout the theme the show is based on, but it should at the very least contain a nod to the theme or express that you understand what the show is supposed to be about. Some themes are more explicit than others but, again, using the exhibition's call for entry for guidance can be helpful in ensuring your work matches the criteria that are being used to shape the tone and content of the show.
 

The Exhibition

It is important to remember that all the work selected has to hang together. As jurors review all the submissions for a particular show they are not only considering the qualities of individual works, but are also imagining how the pieces they choose can work together to create an exhibition that is cohesive. Cohesion does not necessarily mean that all the works must "match", per se, but it does suggest a level of aesthetic or conceptual harmony that creates a thread tying all the work together. Following the theme or, in lieu of a theme, submitting your most current and compelling work are both great ways to show that your work will contribute to a strong exhibition. And again, taking a look at shows previously curated by the juror can be helpful.
 

Takeaways

Ultimately, much of the judgement involved in jurying an exhibition is subjective and there are many potential outcomes. That being said, even a show with thousands of entries is not a "lottery" per se, as even a large exhibition is not shaped by chance. It is designed by a juror or jurors who have all the aforementioned details in mind and are utilizing them to make educated decisions about what works of art will create the most compelling exhibition.

Remember, if your work is not accepted to a particular show, it is not a comment on your worth as an artist. The final selections are always informed by all the factors I have outlined here, and then some. Through carefully reading the call, though, and using appropriate work presented well you will increase your chances of being accepted and hopefully snag a spot on the gallery walls.
 

 

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Vivacious Shapes: Justine Hill's Paintings at Denny Gallery

Justine Hill (b. 1985) is a Brooklyn-based painter who, in her own words, "collages different ways of making marks to accomplish a desired texture, color, or opacity for each form. Most marks are made from paint, crayon, pencil or pastel. The final painting is simply a composite of these varied marks and based on their formation can behave as animated creature or moving environments."

Hill's current solo exhibition, Freestanding, on view at Denny Gallery on New York's Lower East Side, shows off the range of her considerable technical capabilities and the breadth of her vision. Her lively and vibrant paintings are made up of shaped, canvas-covered panels. Layers of texture and color are built up within each shaped form, which are assembled together to create complete objects. The formal elements of each unit in Hill's paintings bounce off one another, resulting in a rich and varied interplay within, without, and between her cutout panels. The work is also full of energy; producing the occasional hallucinatory vibration. Hill's paintings are, in short, exciting.

To paraphrase Denny Gallery's description of the show, the objective of Hill's exhibition is to explore how her paintings can reassert themselves in space, reacquire their background, and become “freestanding”. The show succeeds in every regard. Through her considerate use of line, color, layer, and texture, Hill transforms the viewer's understanding of her shaped supports. In some instances, the painted surface underscores a preconceived notion about the form below. In others, the surface seemingly rebels against its own panel. Hill's work keeps the audience guessing, and the details of her paintings are transfixing.

The strengths of Hill's work are in the rigorous thinking that underpins them. She explores and re-explores the potentials and drawbacks of shape, of line, of content. Her marks are at once practiced and improvisational, but always very purposeful. By utilizing traditional formal elements of construction in novel ways and by undermining or second-guessing their usefulness, the artist engages with the history of the artform. In her work Hill interrogates the very medium of painting to dazzling effect.

Hill earned her BA at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and her MFA at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been featured in four previous solo exhibitions at Galerie Protégé, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, and Denny Gallery in New York, as well as at Blueshift Project in Miami. Her work has been widely reviewed including mentions in Artsy, ArtNet, Two Coats of Paint, Hyperallergic, and The Huffington Post. Her work is in numerous private collections and was recently acquired by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Her extensive CV, and her excellent current solo exhibition at Denny Gallery are indicative of her well-deserved status as a rising star of contemporary painting.

Freestanding is on view through March 6, 2018 at Denny Gallery.

  Dwarf Set  and  Cyclops , by Justine Hill

Dwarf Set and Cyclops, by Justine Hill

  Bookend 3 , by Justine Hill

Bookend 3, by Justine Hill

Encountering The Divine: Fra Angelico at the Gardner Museum

Fra Angelico (born Guido di Pietro, c.1395 - 1455) was described by Vasari in his Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori as "an excellent painter and illuminator, and ... a perfect monk". Vasari also lauded the Angelic Friar's surprising piety in the face of his immense artistic talents. Angelico ably captured the Catholic imagination of the Early Renaissance with his unusually sensitive and humanistic depictions of normally distant saints. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's current exhibition on the artist provides an incredible opportunity to see a series of Angelico's gold-drenched reliquaries, which invite viewers to look deeply and intimately at revelatory and beatific scenes.

On view at the Gardner Museum in Boston February 22 - May 20, Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth is an excellent show featuring stunning pieces. It is described by the Museum thus: 

 

Heaven on Earth reunites the Gardner's magnificent Assumption and Dormition of the Virgin, acquired by Isabella in 1899 and the first Fra Angelico to reach the United States, with its three companions from the Museo di San Marco, Florence. Conceived as a set of jewel-like reliquaries for the Florentine church of Santa Maria Novella, they tell the story of the Virgin Mary's life. This exhibition invites you to explore Fra Angelico's ground-breaking narrative art, marvel at his peerless creativity, and immerse yourself in the material splendor of his craftsmanship.

 

The exhibition lives up to its promise, bringing together companion artworks that are rarely seen outside of their home at the Museo di San Marco in Florence. The reliquaries are presented in an ecclesiastically-inspired architectural setting constructed within the Museum's rotating exhibitions gallery. This context serves the practical purpose of highlighting the relatively small works within the Gardner's relatively large exhibition space. It also reminds viewers of the original intent of the pieces, which were housed at the Dominican Friars' Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence and were meant for quite a personal kind of devotion.

 Fra Angelico (c. 1395 - 1455),  Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin , tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel, 1424-1434, 24 5/16"x15 1/16", Collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 - 1455), Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel, 1424-1434, 24 5/16"x15 1/16", Collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

The works on view are full of lively interactions between God and his holy courtiers. These are underscored by Angelico's eye for the humanity of his subjects, which gives them a vitality remarkable for the time. Each reliquary is also imbued with a sense of humor. Looking closely one can find a waiting angel with hands on hips, or St. Peter looking over his shoulder at the viewer. There are a few moments in which saintly observers of heavenly sights turn to the on-looker and invite them closer into the scene, fulfilling their traditional intercessory role.

In 1899, when Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased Angelico's Assumption and Dormition of The Virgin (1424-1434) it was the first piece by the artist to come to the United States. Gardner and her contemporaries were no doubt drawn to Angelico's work due to his technical virtuosity and the timeless beauty of his paintings. In bringing this stunning object to Boston, Gardner added to her own esteem as a collector with a refined eye. She also set the stage for viewers to encounter Fra Angelico's vision of the divine.

This exhibition is a rare and wonderful opportunity not only to see the Gardner's Angelico reunited with its peer reliquaries from Florence, but also to see these works in relation to the Gardner Museum's extensive and eclectic holdings. By viewing Gardner's collection in her original "Fenway Court" and carefully looking at the works in Heaven on Earth, visitors will not only gain an understanding of the connoisseurship that compelled Isabella to buy her Fra Angelico. They will come away with a sense of the deep faith and spirituality that drove the artist to create it in the first place.

John French Sloan's Ashcan Nudes

John French Sloan (1871-1951) is likely best known as one of the key members of the Ashcan School, the rough association of realist artists working primarily in New York at the turn of the century. Sloan's oeuvre is full of the gritty streetscapes typical of his movement. Some of his most well-known paintings like Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue, of 1906, Six O'Clock, Winter, of 1912, or The City from Greenwich Village, of 1922, convey a sense of the complex relationships between New Yorkers and their urban environment. From the beginning of the twentieth century into the depths of the roaring twenties, such images shape an understanding of what it meant to be a New Yorker and, more broadly, an American. Like his peer Edward Hopper, Sloan had a keen sense of the isolation and loneliness that often accompany life in a vast and impersonal metropolis. Upon closer inspection though, Sloan's body of work contains some unexpected images, including a series of nudes produced throughout his career. These images, often executed as etchings, capture solitary moments of female models in the artist's studio. They are artworks full of disparate qualities. At once sensitive and personal, they are also incredibly retrograde. They express, perhaps accidentally, the uniquely precarious relationship between artist and model, while also exhibiting the patent objectification of women which makes female nudes so problematic.

 John Sloan (1871–1951),  Prone Nude , etching, 1913, 3 1/4" × 6 7/16" (plate), Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 1926, Metropolitan Museum of Art

John Sloan (1871–1951), Prone Nude, etching, 1913, 3 1/4" × 6 7/16" (plate), Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 1926, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an early work, Prone Nude, of 1913, Sloan references the canonical nude prototype. His model copies, with a few alterations, the infamous pose from Paul Gauguin's Spirit of The Dead Watching (Manao tupapau), a painting created twenty years earlier in Tahiti, which depicts Gauguin's terrified native wife Teha'amana laying prone on their bed. Sloan's use of the etching process flips the pose, mirroring his own subject to Gauguin's. While Teha'amana spreads her hands slightly in the earlier painting, the model in Sloan's etching half buries her face in folded arms. Both figures tightly cross their ankles and stare out chillingly at the viewer.

The gesture in Sloan's Prone Nude in the final etching also coincidentally recalls that of Francois Boucher's scandalous la Jeune Fille allongée, a portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy, the petite maîtresse of Louis XV. Both Gaguin's and Boucher's subjects were underage girls, bound by overtly patriarchal societies to take part in relationships that are unthinkable today. Even without the contextual baggage of Gaguin and Boucher, neither of these associations is a particularly positive one, as both are images of women presented exclusively for objectification. Sloan does not seek to correct the issues with the earlier exemplars, and instead presents a woman along the same lines as Gauguin and Boucher, devoid of agency or power in the face of the presumably male gaze. This continuity remains in Sloan's later depictions of women.

 John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude Reading , 1928, etching, 5" x 7" (plate), Gift of Bernard F. Walker, Detroit Institute of Art

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude Reading, 1928, etching, 5" x 7" (plate), Gift of Bernard F. Walker, Detroit Institute of Art

In another etching, Nude Reading, completed fifteen years after his Prone Nude, Sloan makes an image more his own. A nude model, presumably resting between poses, lounges on a bed while leisurely perusing a thick book. In the background, the artist's press is littered with materials. The scene is outwardly beautiful and meditative, but shares the same issues with Sloan's earlier Gauguin-inspired print. The woman is depicted in a one-to-one relationship with an object: the press. As the press has "a bed", the model lays on a bed. The insinuations of model as a tool of the artist, no different than a press, are obvious. The work is also a meditation on the process of creating the etching. The subject is present and so is the press on which this very print was likely created. In addition to revealing aspects of the artist's creative process though, it also presents a decidedly traditional view of the model's role in the creation of such work, as a passive object.

 John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude and Etching Press , etching, 1931, plate: 4 15/16" × 3 15/16" sheet: 12 11/16" × 9 5/8", Gift of Ernest Shapiro and Family 1995, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude and Etching Press, etching, 1931, plate: 4 15/16" × 3 15/16" sheet: 12 11/16" × 9 5/8", Gift of Ernest Shapiro and Family 1995, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In 1931, Sloan revisits the model and press motif in Nude and Etching Press. This time the figure stands with some discernible confidence next to the artist's press. The lithe arms of the anonymous woman replicate the outstretched "arms" of the press. The curvilinear qualities of the press's legs mirror the shapely legs of the model. Again, Sloan presents a woman one-to-one with an object. Neither this figure, nor the Nude Reading, interact with the press at all. Both merely pose in front of the it, and are nearly as still as Sloan's early Prone Nude. Both images elevate and personify the press, while simultaneously diminishing the humanity of the model. This piece, like the earlier nude paired with the press, is an apparent study of the artist's process. Tacked up haphazardly on the wall above the press are nearly a dozen nudes. Perhaps the model here is stretching between more formal poses, with the knowledge that her image too will be added to this collection.

 John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude and Arch , etching and engraving, 1933, 7" x 5", on offer at Swann Auction Galleries March 13, 2018 19th Century Prints and Drawings Auction (Est. $1,500-$2,500)  This work was Unsold.

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude and Arch, etching and engraving, 1933, 7" x 5", on offer at Swann Auction Galleries March 13, 2018 19th Century Prints and Drawings Auction (Est. $1,500-$2,500) This work was Unsold.

Another Sloan nude appeared in Swann Auction Galleries' recent Prints and Drawings sale on March 13. The work, which went unsold, comes two years after the Nude and Etching Press, and features a  model seated uncomfortably on a cushion in front of a window overlooking Greenwich Village. Stanford White's Beaux Art Washington Square Arch stands in bright sunlight in the eponymously named park, framed in the window behind the model. Scenes of city life are also evident, as cars can be seen through and around the arch. Windows of the apartment blocks abutting Washington Square Park form a further backdrop, and an added urbanity. The wrought iron railing and arch give the scene a vaguely Parisian air, imbued with the distinctly Bohemian feeling of the Village in the twenties and thirties. The model here is much more engaged with the viewer than her predecessors, staring out at us wanly. Still though, she is presented one-to-one with an object: the arch. The classical associations of arch and nude are quickly evident. Here though they are updated to New York in 1933, the Città Eterna of the New World.

In all of these pieces the aesthetic values of the Ashcan School are laid out in the medium of the etching. Richly and darkly inked, each plate is thick with crosshatching. Even the smooth-skinned model is criss crossed with descriptive lines. Sloan clearly revels in the textural and linear qualities inherent to the printmaking process and tends to fill the whole field of the plate with lines, independent of their necessity to express value or space. This technique results in prints that are as course as his paintings of metropolitan life. In terms of execution, these images hold together with a stylistic coherence that spans much of Sloan's career.

The problems present in Sloan's portrayals of his models are rather obvious to contemporary onlookers, if not unusual in his own day. The use of models to hone hand-eye coordination and express supposedly universal or eternal artistic values was a time honored tradition and would have been a key point in Sloan's education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It is difficult, though, to reconcile the avant-garde nature of so much of Sloan's oeuvre with the way in which he envisaged nude women. He was a leader of a liberal art movement, an avowed communist, and a rebellious spirit, yet his depictions of women are ensnared by many of the trappings shared by more conservative artists.

While they do offer access to usually unseen moments in the artist's studio and creative practice, these nudes also engage in typically misogynistic portrayals of female bodies. They can and should be appreciated for their craftsmanship, for their ability to show Sloan's process, and for their storytelling capability. But they are surprisingly out of step with the values evident in Sloan's life and in his broader body of work.

Ten Emerging Artists To Watch

Since its founding in 2016, I have been the Art Editor at Boston Accent Lit, a literary journal focused on publishing work by emerging talents from throughout the country. For our two year anniversary, we ran a competition to select ten visual artists particularly worth following. What follows is my congratulatory essay to the selected artists published in Boston Accent Lit and the list of selected artists, linked to their work on the Boston Accent Lit site. Thank you to Boston Accent Lit's Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sarah O'Brien for supporting the visual arts in this publication, and for adding her thoughts to this essay in parentheses.

Boston Accent Lit was founded in 2016, and over the last two years we have published the work of numerous writers and artists. As Boston Accent’s Art Editor, I try to share a diverse range of work being made by artists today. It seems that now there are more artists, more types of media, more approaches, more points of view than there had been at any previous point in history. For the two-year anniversary of the journal, we mounted a contest to find ten emerging artists particularly worth following going forward. The artists selected represent some of the diversity present in visual art, and represent a small cross-section of some of the myriad approaches, from traditional painting technique to collage-based creating to performance, being used by young art-makers. Their works explore a range of subjects—taking on topics such as self-reflection (seen in Lydia Mozzone’s paintings of naked women celebrating their beauty in solitude), family dynamics (conversations to be found within Casey Cullen’s photographic work in Nicaragua), and healing trauma (depicted stirringly in Taylor Maroney’s oil portraits in which sitters indicated places on their bodies that held the most emotional stress). Most importantly, each of these ten innovators brings their own style to the table and they share art that is uniquely personal, honest, and, in some cases, even confessional.

It is only fitting that, as an editor in a literary setting, I should draw on poetry to contextualize the work of these artists. In his 1818 poem, “Endymion,” John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never. Pass into nothingness…” (read an excerpt of this piece here). Setting whatever the academic interpretation of this might be aside, it is a reminder that a great work of art is inherently resilient to the changing tides of fashion, taste, or history. Each of the emerging artists selected for inclusion in this issue imbues their work with some of the qualities that make worthwhile art immune to the erosion of time: depth, originality, beauty, et cetera. It will be exciting to learn where each of these artists ends up, how their work evolves, and which paths their artistic careers pave as they craft their roles in the larger art community. Everyone at Boston Accent Lit is thrilled that we could play a part in sharing the work of these ten artists with you.

Selected Artists:

Matthew Awoyera Jr.

Chelsea Coon

Abba Cudney

Casey Cullen

Sarah D'Ambrosio

Neda Kerendian

Traci Marie Lee

Taylor Maroney

Lydia Mozzone

Britny Savary-Bersani

We will continue to share works of art in all media, by artists from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, belief systems, and points of view.

Thank you for reading.


Michael Rose

Ten Questions with Abba Cudney

AbbaStudio.jpg

Abba Cudney (b. 1992) was raised in Chicago, IL and studied painting and printmaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. Her work is focused on the theme of the interior and she employs a subtle surreality in her depictions of spaces and objects to evoke nostalgia. Abba is one of my favorite emerging artists and in the following ten questions we talk about her process and the story behind her work. Read our conversation and be sure to stay until the end for a slideshow of some of Abba's work that I particularly like. Abba has exhibited widely including a recent show which received much praise at Kelley Stelling Contemporary in Machester, NH. She will be featured in a two person show in the Fain Gallery at Temple Habonim in Barrington, RI from March 9 - May 2, 2018.


Q1. Your subject matter of choice is the interior. How do you select the spaces you depict? What's the significance of these rooms?

A1. Most, if not all, of the spaces I have depicted hold some form of resonance with me. When I began on this interior journey, all of the spaces were either my first college apartment or friend's apartments. I explored everything in front of me, everything that held a memory and story. My work then evolved to a series recreating rooms of my childhood home both occupied and empty, acting as a form of therapy almost. My art changes and evolves with the passing of time, dependent on where I am and what significance that space holds for me.

Q2: The significance of these spaces is evident in the strength of their execution. Is there any significance to the emptiness of these spaces? Any particular reason your rooms are not populated?

A2. When figures are present in a painting, photograph, drawing, etc., a story is almost automatically formed in a viewer's mind and therefore hard to stray away from. I want the objects and spaces to act as the figures, giving them their own personalities. I want people to question why objects are where they are and to create ever-changing narratives. I like to think of my rooms as self portraits almost, with a suggestion of a presence.

Q3. In your paintings, you often mix acrylic and oil. Can you talk more about your painting technique and how you developed it?

A3. I found that I never liked to start on a white surface. Working off of a base of one or multiple colors helps me not only to envision a space more clearly, but also my value structure. The acrylic helps me achieve a drip-like base layer and go in without any restrictions. The oils allow me to bring the space to life with more vibrancy and texture. After my base layer of acrylics and before I go in with oils, I draw the scene and objects with charcoal. Almost 100% of the time I will leave much of the line work. I feel as though it helps enhance the feeling of impermanence, like one is looking at a fading memory.

Q4. It seems like your process is pretty additive then. Have you ever experimented with erasure in your work, or removing layers rather than adding them? And what role does editing play in your work?

A4. A big reason why I use charcoal when I am drawing out the scene is because of its ability to be wiped away and resurfaced again with ease. In printmaking I experiment more with the reductive process, which actually helps me more with value scale and allows me to think of my scenes differently.

Q5. You cite painters as varied as Édouard Vuillard and Antonio Lopez Garcia as inspirations. What are some commonalities among artists whose work you admire, and how have they influenced your work?

A5. Many of the artists I am inspired by were a part of "The Nabis" movement and some considered "Intimists", painting the everyday contemporary life. Many of their philosophies revolved around the idea of drawing emotion out of these everyday scenes and objects. I think that what connects all of the artists I draw inspiration from is their ability to take what some see as the mundane and create a more intimate story, "a window into the soul". Stylistically, I have always admired the Impressionists and their ability to use paint in a bold and vivid way that truly brings life to a painting.

Q6. In addition to painting, you create monotypes and other prints extensively. How does your work as a printmaker influence your painting and vice versa?

A6. Printmaking, monotypes especially, is a way for me to experiment more freely. A lot of my prints begin as the "thumbnails" for larger paintings, and then morph into their own personalities. There is an element of surprise and spontaneity in printmaking that I personally find more difficult to achieve in my paintings.

Q7: In your printmaking, you often work back into the scenes with pastel or other materials. Do you feel that this additional work on your prints continues the spontaneity that the monotype process starts, or does it become more controlled?

A7. I think once I go back into a print I automatically tend to become more controlled and think longer on my decisions. It also depends on what material I am using. For example, with pastels I tend to be more careful, but if I am using watercolor crayons I am more loose just due to the way the medium wants to act.

Q8. Can you talk more about the palate you use in your paintings? How do you manipulate color to influence the perception of the spaces in your work?

A8. My palate usually depends on the space I am recreating and I tend to rely heavily on intuition in the beginning stages. I am very intrigued by the psychology of color and how it can symbolize emotions. In order to feel the intensity of my emotions, I exaggerate most of the colors in the objects and walls, and enhance the feeling of it being a dream or memory.

Q9: You paint in a studio within your home. Does this ever pose a challenge for you? I’m thinking particularly of a great diptych of your bedroom. Does being so close to a space you’re painting make it more difficult to capture it in your style?

A9. There are definitely pros and cons to having a studio in the same space you live. A few years ago I rented out a studio with other artist friends separate from my home. I miss the social aspect of that the most, being able to hear other critiques and work creatively off of each other. However, for me personally, I like being comfortable in my own space and being so close to a lot of what I paint. If I need references from life, I can just walk out of my studio and it is all there.

Q10: What projects are you currently working on, and what’s next for you?

A10. Recently I have been experimenting with image transfers on different surfaces and layering materials. I am continuing my paintings and prints, evolving and learning as I go. I am also in the process of preparing for a show that I have at Temple Habonim in Barrington, RI so that has been keeping me busy and driving me to create more frequently.

Rhode Island Art Buyers Survey

I've recently been reviewing some of the great art market reports produced annually to examine the state of the global marketplace for visual art. While the The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), and Art Basel produce the two most comprehensive reports in the industry, Artsy recently introduced an insightful report on the state of commercial galleries and other reports focus on more niche aspects of the art trade.

One area that I have not seen covered very well is the market for more regionally based artists, including those working in New England. While the high end of the market is doing quite well and blue chip international artists see continued strength in their marketplaces, it can be difficult to find information on topics of a more local nature.

Because of this information gap, I created a very simple and unscientific survey focused on art buyers in Rhode Island to get a better sense of their view of the local market. This short two page survey should only take about three minutes to complete. All the answers given are anonymous and I will publish the results on this blog in February of 2018. The survey will be available to take through January 31, 2018.

I hope you might take a moment to click the button below and complete this survey.  Your participation will help me learn more about the marketplace for original fine art in Rhode Island, and will enable me to share that valuable data with local artists and galleries.

Call for Art: Ten Emerging Artists to Watch

I have been the Art Editor of Boston Accent Lit, a small online literary journal, since it was founded in 2016. Over the last nearly two years we have published the work of many talented emerging artists, so in honor of our forthcoming two-year anniversary we are hosting a competition to highlight ten young artists worthy of special recognition. The full call for art for Boston Accent Lit's Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018 is below and is also available on the Boston Accent site. If you know of an artist who might be interested to apply, please share this call with them!

Call for Art:
Boston Accent Lit’s Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018

Boston Accent Lit, a Boston-based literary journal, seeks submissions from emerging artists from throughout the United States for Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018. Visual artists working in all media are welcome to submit their recent work for consideration. This competition will be juried by Boston Accent Lit's Art Editor Michael Rose. Submissions are due by January 31, 2018.

About Boston Accent Lit:
Based in Boston, MA and founded in February 2016 by Sarah A. O'Brien, Boston Accent Lit aims to showcase work that is daring and innovative, as well as providing a platform for underrepresented voices. The primary goal of Boston Accent Lit is to publish quality work by both emerging and established artists. Boston Accent publishes six issues per year in a digital format, which enables us to be accessible to readers, writers, and artists worldwide. It also will publish digital chapbooks, beginning in 2018.

About the Juror:
Michael Rose joined Boston Accent Lit as its founding Art Editor in 2016. Michael is an art historian, gallerist, and advisor based in Southern New England. He has served as Gallery Manager at the Providence Art Club, one of the nation's oldest arts organizations, since 2014. Michael earned his BA in Art History from Providence College and his Certificate in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts from New York University. He has completed additional coursework at the Rhode Island School of Design and was a member of the Fall 2017 cohort of Practice//Practice, AS220's national professional development program for arts administrators. You can learn more about Michael at his website michaelrosefineart.com.

Competition Rules:

  • Artists must be based in the United States.

  • Submitters must be no more than 30 years old as of January 30, 2018.

  • Artists over 30 will be considered if they have not been previously published.

  • Each artist may submit up to five works for consideration.

  • Artists may also include a short statement and a biography or CV.

  • All work must be original and the product of the applicant.

  • The juror reserves the right to personally invite individual artists or those previously published in Boston Accent Lit to apply for this competition.

Ten Emerging Artists to Watch 2018 will be published in Boston Accent Lit's February 2018 Anniversary Issue. This Issue marks two years since the founding of the publication. Ten Emerging Artists to Watch will be accompanied by an essay by Michael Rose and will feature works by selected artists along with their information.

How to Submit:
To submit, please send your materials to bostonaccentlit@gmail.com under the heading “10 to Watch” with your last name in the subject line. All submissions will be considered. Submissions are due by January 30, 2018.

Contact:
For questions about submitting please contact bostonaccentlit@gmail.com, or to speak with Michael directly, please reach out to him at michael@michaelrosefineart.com.

 

Exploring American Art in the Nineteenth Century

On October 22 I gave a talk at the Bristol Art Museum on the Providence Art Club, and in the course of preparing for this presentation I revisited my art history and my history to get a better look at the year of the Art Club's founding: 1880. Something that came to mind immediately was the proximity of the Club's beginning to the end of the American Civil War, which concluded just fifteen years prior. For comparison, 2017 is of course just sixteen years after the events of September 11, 2001. This correlation made me curious to explore the War's enormous impact on the cultural life of the United States.

It is difficult, or maybe even impossible, for contemporary Americans to imagine what life in the mid and late nineteenth century might have been like in the same country where they now reside. The culture of nineteenth century America was quite different, the nation still so unshaped, that it is as if the Civil War took place in an entirely other country than our own. But the after affects of the conflict shaped the country that we know today. Just one aspect of the changing and coalescing of American society that took place during the Reconstruction Period was in the area of art and culture.

Before the War, and for decades after, the United States was viewed as a cultural backwater. Bereft of their own art institutions, most American artists traveled abroad to study. In ateliers in Paris, hundreds of Americans worked under the tutelage of French artists who themselves were trained in proper academies using well-worn and respected techniques espoused by the art establishment. This temporary diaspora created a class of cultural ex-patriots the likes of which would not be seen again until The Lost Generation of the 1920's.

Scores of these art pilgrims returned to their country to create art with European skill and American vision. And in doing so, these artists realized that the United States would require cultural infrastructure if their momentum was to continue. Artists along with patrons and the growing mercantile and economic elite drew together to create the necessary institutions that would underpin a burgeoning American art scene. Many of the organizations founded to serve the cultural needs of the nineteenth century found a staying power that continues into the twenty first.

  An early exhibition at the Providence Art Club, about 1890, founded in 1880 to stimulate "art culture" in Providence, RI. The Club utilizes the same gallery space for exhibitions today.

An early exhibition at the Providence Art Club, about 1890, founded in 1880 to stimulate "art culture" in Providence, RI. The Club utilizes the same gallery space for exhibitions today.

In the period between 1865 and 1900, an astounding number of cultural organizations were formed in the United States. Primarily in the wealthy North; philharmonics, libraries, literary societies, social clubs, private studios, art schools, associations, and museums sprung into existence. Many of these were funded by the wealth being piled up in a country whose rapid industrialization was sparked by the disastrous internal conflict of the Civil War. The vast irony of the creative output in the post-bellum era is that the industrial complex that abetted the War was also, at least indirectly, responsible for the cultural flowering that occurred in its aftermath.

The types of organizations that grew up after the War were myriad. They were professional associations, museums, and institutions of higher learning. The Yale School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, the Pratt Institute, and the Corcoran College of Art and Design all came into existence in this period. Along with other art schools and private ateliers, they made it possible for the first time to educate American artists at home. This broadened the base of art makers and expanded, democratized, and Americanized points of view presented in the art created in the United States.

In the decade and a half after the War, a slew of art museums were founded, too. These institutions, and their wealthy patrons, would bring the treasures of the world to the United States. Many of the nation's preeminent encyclopedic museums were established in the frenzied nineteenth century, including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Smaller museums like the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts and the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence also came into being. Together, the establishment of such institutions is indicative of the widening audience for culture. As the middle class grew, more Americans were interested in the entertainment possibilities inherent in an art museum.

In the middle of this period, another organization was founded. Not a school, or a museum, but a professional association and social club meant to bring artists and collectors together for the pursuit and patronage of art. In 1880, in Providence, Rhode Island, sixteen men and women came together to found the Providence Art Club. Dedicated to stimulating "art culture" in the City of Providence and beyond, the Club would provide a collective impulse for exhibition and networking.

  Some early members of the Providence Art Club, circa 1890.

Some early members of the Providence Art Club, circa 1890.

The Club was the first such organization to be co-founded by men and women, forty years before the female founders of the Club would be eligible to vote. The second individual to sign the Club's constitution was the great African-American landscape painter Edward Mitchell Bannister. This community, diverse and potentially radical in its day, made it possible for artists and patrons to meet, and for artists to exhibit their work outside the constraints of traditional commercial galleries.

Over the course of the last 137 years, many of the aforementioned organizations have thrived and grown. The Art Club is no exception. Since 1880, the Club has ballooned from 16 members to over 600, and it organizes more exhibitions now than ever. On November 12, the Club opened The 113th Annual Little Pictures Show & Sale, the largest and oldest exhibition of its kind in the United States. The endurance of the Art Club is indicative of the quality inherent in many other organizations established in the same period. Though established for decidedly nineteenth century needs, the Club continues to serve today's artists and patrons in the same tradition, albeit with expanded and modernized services.

In revisiting the period of the Art Club's founding, I came to appreciate the Club more for its historical role in bringing artists and patrons together. While art schools and museums provided much needed venues to education and inspiration, the Art Club was a practical necessity for mid career artists eager to court new patrons. The fact that six women, and an African-American were so integral to the founding of the Club adds to the organization's particular uniqueness within its milieu.

The broader story of American culture at the end of the nineteenth century is one of a country returning to normalcy after an internal calamity. Economic progress partially sparked by the Civil War resulted in an environment where burgeoning art organizations were able to thrive. The Robber Barons of the Gilded Age underwrote institutions which eventually came to serve diverse audiences all over the United States. Contemporary Americans ultimately owe a debt of gratitude to the artists and connoisseurs of the nineteenth century. Their enormous investment in a cultural infrastructure for a cultureless nation continues to pay dividends today.

Two Upcoming Talks: Fall 2017

I am pleased to share that I will be participating in upcoming events this fall:

The Providence Art Club, A Rhode Island Institution
Sunday, October 22 at 1:00pm

Bristol Art Museum
10 Wardell Street
Bristol, RI 02809

Admission: $5 for BAM Members | $10 for non-members

This talk will focus on the story of the Providence Art Club from 1880 to the present. Founded “to promote art culture” less than two decades after the American Civil War, the Providence Art Club was part of the cultural flowering that took place throughout the United States in the late nineteenth century. Unique in its day, the Art Club was the first such organization to be co-founded by men and women some forty years before women gained the right to vote. The Club continues its mission today through unique social and educational opportunities for its members and exhibitions in three historic galleries that are always open to the public. I will discuss the Club’s history, traditions, and continuing impact on the Rhode Island cultural scene.

This talk will be presented in conjunction with an exhibition of work by printmakers of the Providence Art Club at the Rogers Free Public Library in Bristol.

 

The Life & Art of Florence Brevoort Kane
Sunday, November 5 at 2:00pm

St. Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
72 Central Street
Narragansett, RI 02882

Admission: Free will offering to benefit the Community Market at St. Peter's

Florence Brevoort Kane (1895-1956) was an accomplished sculptor who lived and worked in New York, France, and Rhode Island. A passionate member of the Providence Art Club, she left $150,000 to the organization upon her death in 1956 along with the bulk of her remaining work. While the Art Club likely has the most extensive collection of Kane's work, including preparatory plasters and completed works in bronze, St. Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church holds several of Kanes important memorials and religious images. This program will feature three speakers: Judy Landry, who serves on the historical committee of St. Peter's Church, contemporary sculptor Mimi Sammis who will talk about the process behind creating sculptures, and I will be speaking about Florence's work and her impact on the Art Club community. Several works from the Art Club's collection will be on view at this event.

If you're available for either of these programs, I hope you will consider adding them to your calendar. You can also join my mailing list for direct updates about upcoming programs.

Best,
Michael
 

Swann to Offer Important Ossawa Tanner Painting in October Sale

Swann Auction Galleries remains the only major auction house with an entire department dedicated to the consignment of works by African-American artists. In the October 5 sale of African-American Fine Art, there are numerous praiseworthy lots available. Of particular interest though, is a painting by one of the most popular African-American artists of the nineteenth century; the Pittsburgh-born Henry Ossawa Tanner.

The fourth lot in the October sale is from Tanner's series of paintings that focused on the biblical story of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt. The most well-known work using this motif is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In the Met's picture, Joseph, Mary, and the infant Christ are shepherded into the gates of a city under the cover of night. Mary swaddles her newborn son while riding a donkey, the whole scene foreshadowing Christ's entry into Jerusalem in adulthood. The lamp of a faceless attendant lights the path and an architectural background likely inspired by Tanner's travels in North Africa and Palestine. The work is executed in Tanner's painterly style, a later improvisational mode in his technique which blossomed in the early years of the Jazz Age. The rich milky blues in the painting at the Met match tones seen throughout Tanner's work in this period.

 Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)  Flight Into Egypt , 1923 oil on canvas 29 x 26 in. (73.7 x 66 cm) Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund, 2001 Accession Number: 2001.402a The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
Flight Into Egypt, 1923
oil on canvas
29 x 26 in. (73.7 x 66 cm)
Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund, 2001
Accession Number: 2001.402a
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In the painting that will be auctioned by Swann, Tanner returns to the same story. The Holy Family is pictured in a tight grouping with two donkeys, a town low in the distance and a hazy moon hidden by clouds overhead. This nocturne bears the hallmarks of Tanner's style after the turn of the century, with the same cool blues seen in the Met's painting and throughout his oeuvre. It is a fine example of Tanner's mature work. With that latter-day Impressionist handling of the brush, it could as easily have been painted the artist's contemporaries Sargent or Sorolla. Completed between 1920-1925 it was made at the same time as the Met's version and at the height of Tanner's public fame. He was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by the French Government in 1923. This painting is a bit murkier than its well-known counterpart, but conveys the tense foreboding and drama of a quintessential biblical scene rendered by an artist with a passion for religious subject matter.

 Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)  Flight into Egypt  oil on linen canvas, circa 1920-25 23 1/4 x 37 inches, 590 x 952 mm Signed in oil, lower left. Swann Auction Galleries Sale 2456 Lot 4

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
Flight into Egypt
oil on linen canvas, circa 1920-25
23 1/4 x 37 inches, 590 x 952 mm
Signed in oil, lower left.
Swann Auction Galleries Sale 2456 Lot 4

Tanner was born just two years before the start of America's Civil War to Benjamin Tucker Tanner, a Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Sarah Tanner, a mixed race woman who had escaped the slavery into which she had been born through the Underground Railroad. His family prized education and independence, and ran in intellectual circles. This included a close friendship between the artist's father and Frederick Douglass.

In 1879, Tanner was admitted to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The only black student in the Academy, then the preeminent art school in the United States, Tanner was able to study directly under Thomas Eakins. Eakins, the master of American realism, would have inspired Tanner with his commitment to new fashions of studio practice, enabling the young artist to explore painting without the burdensome and outmoded practices of more rigid instructors.

Though Tanner is regarded as the first African-American artist to gain international acclaim, he lived most of his life after 1891 as an ex-patriot in France due to widespread racism in his home country. In 1899 he married the white opera singer Jessie Olssen and they had one child together. Such a union would remain illegal in the United States until 1967. The more liberal French culture of his time lead to success and comfort for Tanner. In an interview regarding the 2012 exhibition Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, curator Anna Marley, PhD, notes that in the United States Tanner was regarded as a "Black artist", while in France he was simply know as Monsieur Tanner, artiste Americain.

 Thomas Eakins  Portrait of Henry O. Tanner , 1900 oil on canvas 24⅛" × 20¼" The Hyde Collection

Thomas Eakins
Portrait of Henry O. Tanner, 1900
oil on canvas
24⅛" × 20¼"
The Hyde Collection

Tanner's frequent explorations of biblical stories throughout his career underscore his religious upbringing in an erudite Christian home. But his repeated return to the imagery of the Holy Family fleeing King Herod bears a more significant symbolic weight. The images of pilgrimage for safety and freedom pictured in his scenes of Joseph, Mary and the Christ-child are natural metaphors for the journeys of escaped slaves like his own mother.

In using accepted canonical imagery in the genre of religious painting, Tanner avoided being pigeonholed as a "Black artist" while subtlety exploring themes of great relevance to the Black experience. The Civil War was a notoriously religious affair, with both sides claiming God's solidarity with their cause. In the aftermath of the War and in light of the newly held but tenuous rights of African-Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Tanner utilized American religiosity as a means to deliver a message about family, freedom, and love that was powerful for African-Americans who continued to work to see their rights properly recognized.

With an estimated sale price of $200,000-$300,000, it is probable that the painting on offer at Swann in October will be bought by an institution. It will be interesting to see the amount of activity this work generates in the marketplace and if, in the end, it goes into another private collection or if Flight into Egypt becomes available for the public in a museum setting. The potency of Tanner's personal story and artistic accomplishments makes his work particularly prized in any situation, but in the current political and social climate a painting of such quality by a groundbreaking African-American painter may be even more sought after.

Welcome to Michael Rose Fine Art!

Hello!

I'm thrilled to welcome you to my new website, MichaelRoseFineArt.com. This site will detail my ongoing projects related to appraising, advising, and services for working artists. I look forward to using this medium to connect with new clients and colleagues as well as to engage in new projects.

In addition to outlining these freelance projects, I'll be posting regularly here on my Fine Art Insights blog about art makers, art works, exhibitions, and other topics related to the art market and industry. I hope to also occasionally invite outside contributors to share their insights on the goings on in the market and the field as a whole. I think Fine Art Insights will grow to be a helpful resource for artists and art enthusiasts.

If you have any questions about this new venture, suggestions for making this site better, or topics you would like to see covered in the blog, I hope you'll feel free to contact me here at michael@michaelrosefineart.com.

Thank you for your interest and support!

Michael