Tag Archives: Art

…writing, art at home…

I am forever lost in the world of Art. In so many ways. And I love it. Just like Dante’s alter ego in The Divine Comedy’s opening lines of Purgatory, I find myself lost. He found himself lost among the tall, dark trees, lost in his middle age. I, on the other hand, find myself lost among paintings, ink sketches, water colours, reference books, auction house catalogues, antiques, artist biographies. It is a fantastic way of being lost, since the feeling makes me search and explore. I want to learn more, see more, find more. Ponder on what art and beauty gives us. On what it means. Revel in being adrift on the sea of fine arts.

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A small part of the reference library in my study. I can’t function without these books.

Having spent a fair amount of time writing a two-part article on art for a recently started magazine, I got thinking on what kind of art I surround myself with. What am I looking at when I’m at home? When walking through a corridor, walking out of the bedroom, sitting at my desk? What am I dreaming of acquiring to hang on my walls? To someone like myself even, who spends his life in the fine arts, it can easily become just a fascination. The hunt for another object or more knowledge on art becomes a way of life. It is easy to forget what’s around you.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

When working, I don’t have any big paintings hanging around me. Just the books on the shelves in the study. They supply me with over 100,000 pictures if needed. Whichever period of art, whichever architectural movement, I can find something on most topics among all the books. But as a reminder of previous periods in life, I have two small postcards stuck to the window-frame. One of Paris, by van Gogh, and one of Amsterdam painted by Monet. The postcard over London, what feels like my second home town, has disappeared in a recent move.

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At times the personal has to come before professional pride. Also for an antiques dealer and art historian.

One of my favourite periods of art is Early Romanticism. It’s stretching from about 1790 until the late 1830s. It was a great period for Northern European artists travelling to the southern parts of Europe. There they learnt to handle light, shades, and got the oportunity to learn from the old masters visiting museums. The water colour became a medium for professional artists as well as for amateurs. Up until now it had not been an accepted medium for professionals. This makes the late Regency period, also called Empire and Biedermeier style in interior design and pictorial arts, very interesting. It is today possible to buy high quality water colours from the years around 1800 for almost nothing. Quite incredible really, but the style isn’t very fashionable for the moment. It was up until ten years ago. And will soon be again. For sure.

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Another favourite is this little adorable cherub by Johan Gustaf Köhler, painted in Munich in 1836. He was Carl Larsson’s teacher in sketching at the Academy.

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Water colour from 1806, painted by Sophie Tersmeden, hanging in the bedroom.

So what is someone like me dreaming of? Oh, a lot of things. But a few weeks ago I found a painting I felt I could not live without. But I forgot about the auction, and I guess that was just as well. The painting didn’t sell cheap. It was a beautiful oil painting of a passage under Colosseum in Rome, painted around 1815 by the father of the Danish “Golden Age”, C. W. Eckersberg. It sold for €24,000 which meant it almost doubled the asking-price. If I’d only had the money, and remembered the auction,  the painting would be hanging in my dining room now. I know the perfect wall! But until I have the oportunity to buy that kind of art, I will carry on leafing through my books for more knowledge and constant inspiration.

The latest in a pile of inspirational reads, "Ann Getty: Interior Style"

The latest book in the huge pile of inspirational reads, “Ann Getty: Interior Style”

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Filed under Antiques, Art, Auction Houses, Culture

What links two paintings together

Two paintings hanging in different museums on different continents. Two paintings in different medium, one watercolour and one oil, painted by two different artists. It is almost thirty years between them. One painter was Austrian. The other French. What links them? And why? And why does it matter?

This is not a particularly hard question if you’re an art historian. I’m not even sure anyone but me will find it fascinating. Still, I find it interesting that a fairly unknown, at least outside expert circles, watercolour painting I came across researching a thesis earlier today had me thinking “…what? Is that really the same person as in the famous Manet painting?” I am talking about Peter Fendi’s Evening Prayer from 1839.

Peter Fendi was born in Vienna in 1796. In the 1820s and 1830s he rose to fame, partly due to him being an early defender of the lithography technique where his erotic motifs could flourish and be easily spread among the faux prude semi-bourgeois in Vienna, but also thanks to his stunningly beautiful watercolour interiors. The interior above is simply called Evening Prayer, but it is not any old bourgeois family that is depicted. It is the Habsburg Archduchess Sophie and her four children. Sophie was married to the emperor’s youngest son, but because of various deaths in the family the oldest boy in the picture, the blond one kneeling by the crucifix, would later become the Emperor Franz Joseph. But it is not him I am interested in. The least important one, the youngest to the far left, was called Maximilian, and he would for purely political reasons be installed as Emperor of Mexico for a short time.
Why I reacted as strongly as I did is probably because this seemingly innocent and naive, trusting little blond fellow would become famous to us mostly thanks to the incredibly cruel and Naturalistic painting Édouard Manet would paint in 1869 (he made the first one in 1867, but the big and famous one was finished in 1869), Execution of Emperor Maximilian. A death is never easy, and in pictorial art it can sometimes be more touching than in any other art form. The death of an innocent child is even harder to accept. Though, the man being executed was not an innocent child, was he? He was a grown-up, an Emperor, a military man.

Regardless what one thinks of the political situation in Mexico in the 1860s, I find it touching to think about these two paintings in connection to each other. Though thirty years apart. The young boy kneeling a little apart from his other siblings, a little further back from the kneeler than the other three, sends out an energy of a child wanting to be part of something. But being the youngest son of the three, the likelihood of him ending up as a prince in a castle somewhere, forgotten, is very high. Though he might not know it, he can probably sense it, like all children can. That he would be installed as Emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III 25 years later, in 1864, he could probably not even dream of. When I look at these two pictures there is still a touching similarity, something to do with the loneliness in Maximilian’s energy depicted by both Fendi and Manet. In Manet’s painting he hold hands with two friends and fellow officers, Mejía and Miramón, guiding him into the eternal Light. That it is the same boy as in Fendi’s painting fascinates me. That two painting on their own are just depictions of a moment, a snap-shot of someone’s life, is nothing strange per se. But seen next to each other, as pendants, they create a whole new way of looking at art. They create their own, or rather Emperor Maximilian’s, closed universe. The beginning and the end. Maximilian’s Alpha and Omega. Isn’t that incredible?

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Filed under Art, Edouard Manet, Peter Fendi