Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Solomon Records

For those of us who love and appreciate Simeon Solomon's paintings and drawings, yesterday and today were major days in the auction world. Yesterday, 26 Solomon drawings and watercolors went up for auction from a single collection at Christie's London, all of them selling in the range of £2,600 to £38,000. Today, though, at Sotheby's London, there was a sale of nine Solomon paintings and drawings in the Victorian sale. These works came from two different collections, and the sale broke not just one but two sale records. Up to now, the record was held by the sale two years ago of his watercolor A Prelude by Bach (A Song), 1868, which sold for £182,500. The painting you see above, Habet!, has broken that record. 

This painting has often been considered his best work, not so much by reviewers at the time, but by his colleagues and friends like William Michael Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne, and subsequent art historians. Painted and then exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865, the picture depicts a group of ancient Roman women having different reactions to a gladiator fight in the arena. The painting's first owner was Charles P. Matthews, a brewer who had homes in London and Essex, England, and it was sold at the auction of his estate after his death at Christie's London on June 6, 1891. It was sold then for 21 guineas. Around a century ago, it was purchased by the grandparents of the owner who sold it today, and surprisingly was actually "lost" for most of the 20th century, having only been "found" in the mid-1990s. Today that same family sold the painting, and it earned £370,000 including premium. As I've mentioned in the past, as compared to his fellow Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian painters, this is still relatively low (some major paintings by Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti go for over £1m these days). Nevertheless, this was a satisfactory acknowledgment of his work and has helped reaffirm his importance in this canon of Victorian painters.

Also by Solomon up for sale today was this picture, the 1867 watercolor version of Bacchus, that he painted when he was in Rome, finishing it in London once he was home. In some ways this painting best epitomizes Solomon's style and subject matter, showing the god of wine as a sensual youth half-dressed, basking in the sun. The homoerotics of this painting are self-evident, and in many ways has become an important subject in discussing Solomon's own homosexual identity and how he frequently depicted youthful males as objects of beauty at this time. The picture was estimated to sell for £50,000-£70,000, but I knew it would sell for much more. It set the record for the second-highest work by Solomon sold at auction, coming in at £237,500 including premium. Two works on paper did not sell at today's auction, because they didn't meet their minimum estimate, but I think between these two big-ticket items and all the works sold yesterday at Christie's there was a sense of exhaustion. I don't think there's ever been this many Solomons up for sale at the same time, so this certainly made for an interesting two days of sales. To read more posts on this blog about the Solomon family painters, click here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Call for Papers: Transnationalism and Sculpture

A few months ago, I posted a call for papers for a conference panel session that my colleague Tomas Macsotay and I had organized. That conference took place this past April 5th at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and was a great success. (I realize now I never posted about it, but trust me it was.) Tomas and I are now co-chairing another conference panel session, this time to be held here in NYC in February 2019: the College Art Association (CAA). Our panel is the official session for the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA) and is detailed below. The image above could relate to a sample presentation of something we are interested in. The 1830 painting is by Ditlev Martens and is called Pope Leo XII Visits Thorvaldsen's Studio near the Piazza Barberini, Rome... and relates to the Danish sculptor's vast studio that had workers from many nations working for him (image: Thorvaldsens Museum). Check out the CAA conference website for instructions for submission. The deadline is August 6, 2018.

Transnationalism and Sculpture in the Long Nineteenth-Century (ca. 1785–1915)
Session Organizers:
Roberto C. Ferrari (Columbia University)
Tomas Macsotay (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)

The history of nineteenth-century art is frequently presented as the product of revolutions and socio-political changes. The Zeitgeist for nationalism and imperial expansion generated by these historic events inevitably fostered interest in national schools of art criticism and artistic practice. But rising interest in global studies has led to more and more evidence of the transnational as a major impact on artistic practice of the nineteenth century, specifically in association with the creation and dissemination of narratives of national identity, and the interests of economic and colonial expansion. The transnational is defined as crossing national boundaries, but for this session transnationalism also refers to culturally blended nexuses of artistic creativity and engagement during the century.

Evidence of this artistic practice is arguably best evident in the creation and display of sculpture, particularly public sculpture because it requires large studios with teams of workers to create, and it occupies spaces that force an encounter with the viewer. Examples of proposals for this session on transnationalism and sculpture in the long nineteenth century might include: sculptors’ studios in Rome dominated by Americans and Europeans, and their practiciens and pupils from other nation-states; monuments incorporating multi-cultural imagery; public statues of monarchs made by local artists in the colonies, potentially inscribed by the politics and hierarchies thereof; and the commingling of sculpture made by native and foreign artists at academies and international exhibitions. Papers on individual artists and works of art are welcome, but they should focus on the larger issue of transnationalism.