Known best as the author of Paul Signac’s first catalog raisonné, Gaston Lévy was perhaps the most remarkable art collector in pre-war Paris. After the Nazi regime seized his properties and dispersed his paintings, masterpieces were thought to have been lost to the Lévy family forever.
However, This February Sotheby’s is proud to offer three recently restituted masterworks from the Lévy collection in our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. In this episode of Expert Voices, Sotheby’s Head of Restitution Lucian Simmons chronicles the story of Gaston Lévy’s collection and explores the extraordinary talent of Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro through their works Gelee Blache, Quai de Clichy and La Corne D’or.
‘The creation of new objects, the transformation of known objects; a change of substance in the case of certain objects: a wooden sky, for instance; the use of words in association with images; the misnaming of an object… the use of certain visions glimpsed between sleeping and waking, such in general were the means devised to force objects out of the ordinary, to become sensational, and so establish a profound link between consciousness and the external world.’
René François Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) was born in Lessines, Belgium. His father was a tailor and textile merchant; his mother committed suicide in 1912, drowning herself in the River Sambre.
From the 1930s, Magritte sought to find ‘solutions’ to particular ‘problems’ posed by different types of objects, a method that enabled him to challenge and reconfigure the most ubiquitous and commonplace elements of everyday life. These problems obsessed him until he was able to conceive of an image to solve them.
This philosophical method had come to him after waking from a dream in 1932. In his semi-conscious state, he looked over at a birdcage that was in his room but saw not the bird that inhabited the cage, but instead an egg. This ‘splendid misapprehension’ allowed him to grasp, in his own words, ‘a new and astonishing poetic secret.’
Carel Willink was a pioneer of Magic Realism, an avant-garde movement of Dutch modernism closely associated with Surrealism. In this episode of Anatomy of an Artwork, discover how a visit to Italy’s Bomarzo Gardens following the death of his wife inspired a series of paintings featuring monsters, see how Willink drew further inspiration from dream-like images and illusions, and learn how his near-photographic style exudes a sense of mystery and enchantment.
In this episode of Expert Voices, Otto Naumann explores their friendship and budding rivalry through Lievens’ masterwork Woman Embraced by a Man, Modelled by the Young Rembrandt. From the outset of his career, Lievens was at times bolder than Rembrandt, and the two constantly learned from one another during this critical period in their development.
In early 17th century Holland, a young Rembrandt spent his days studying and working with fellow artist Jan Lievens. After apprenticing together in Amsterdam, the two likely shared a studio in their hometown of Leiden and even depicted each other in their compositions.
This signature audacity is on full display in in Woman Embraced by a Man, which will be offered as a highlight of Sotheby’s Master Painting Evening Sale. (29 January | New York)
In this revelatory book, Nina Amstutz combines fresh visual analysis with broad interdisciplinary research to investigate the intersection of landscape painting, self-exploration, and the life sciences in Friedrich’s mature work. Drawing connections between the artist’s anthropomorphic landscape forms and contemporary discussions of biology, anatomy, morphology, death, and decomposition, Amstutz brings Friedrich’s work into the larger discourse surrounding art, nature, and life in the 19th century.
Best known for his atmospheric landscapes featuring contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies and morning mists, Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) came of age alongside a German Romantic philosophical movement that saw nature as an organic and interconnected whole. The naturalists in his circle believed that observations about the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms could lead to conclusions about human life. Many of Friedrich’s often-overlooked later paintings reflect his engagement with these philosophical ideas through a focus on isolated shrubs, trees, and rocks. Others revisit earlier compositions or iconographic motifs but subtly metamorphose the previously distinct human figures into the natural landscape.
Nina Amstutz is assistant professor in the history of art and architecture at the University of Oregon.
Now on the cusp of turning 87, Kim Novak is still finding herself. The star of such classics as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” “Picnic,” and “Bell, Book and Candle,” the actress turned her back on Hollywood in the 1960s and has since pursued artwork and a love of animals. Mo Rocca reports.
“Observation is observation. Looking, listening, thinking, conjecturing … all original ideas begin with a kind of scrutiny that is at once framed by discipline and open to discovery. Because I have always taught students in a university, not in an art school, I think I have a baseline understanding of what it means to approach the visual world from a different place. Teaching non-artists is always a little bit like being a foreign exchange student. Therein lies the challenge—and, I suspect, the fun.”
January 7, 2020 – This month, artist, designer, and writer Jessica Helfand joins Caltech as the Winter 2020 artist-in-residence in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Caltech-Huntington Program in Visual Culture, which is administered jointly by the division and The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Helfand is a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazines, and founding editor of the website Design Observer. She taught at Yale for two decades and has held artist residencies at the American Academy in Rome and the Bogliasco Foundation, among others. Her most recent book, Face: A Visual Odyssey, was published by MIT Press last fall. On January 16, Helfand will take part in a noontime talk with Bren Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biology Ralph Adolphs on the theme of the “face.”