We’re very excited to announce the European Masters, American and Southwestern Art Auction, an online-only Matthews Gallery event running July 25-29. It’s our very first auction, and we’ve been working on it for more than a year. Of course, the works we’re putting on the block have stories behind them that are much older than that. Click here to browse the diverse catalogue, and read on to learn the legends behind four of the lots.
Lautrec was on a steamship cruise from Le Havre to Bordeaux when a beautiful woman who was staying in cabin 54 caught his eye. He became infatuated with her but she was so aloof that he never got a chance to introduce himself. Lautrec refused to disembark until the ship reached Lisbon, where his friend Maurice Guibert finally dissuaded him from sailing on to Dakar, the mystery woman’s destination. The sketches he made of her on the boat would inspire La Passagere du 54.
Lithograph, on wove paper, Wittrock’s third (final) state, the full sheet, with green lettering.
This lithograph has one of the longest titles of any of Miró’s art works. In french it is: “Le chien aboyant à la lune reveille le coq le chant du coq picote le crane du fermier Catalan posé sur la table à coté du pourron”. In English: “The dog barking at the moon wakes the cock, the song of the cock pecks at the head of the Catalan farmer resting on the table by the flask of wine”. Joan Miró (1893-1983) was a leading pioneer and proponent of surrealism. His work has a childlike style that at its heart is a sophisticated play of color, line and forms. Miro was a consummate master printmaker and over his lifetime he completed more than 1,000 fine art prints.
Lithograph in colors, number 12 from the edition of 80.
Gauguin sailed from France to Tahiti in 1891 and didn’t return home until two years later. He went there in search of an untouched beauty far away from “everything that is artificial and conventional”. Upon his return to Europe, he carved a series of ten woodblocks to illustrate a written account of his travels called Noa Noa. The prints, which were only his second attempt at printmaking, are considered some of his most innovative work. “Gauguin’s current effort will tomorrow provoke a complete revolution in the art of printmaking,” wrote critics Julien Leclerq and Charles Morice. This is presumed to be a proof apart from the signed and numbered edition of 100 published by the artist’s son, Pola Gauguin in Copenhagen in 1921.
To top off our list of art history’s most influential players (click here for part 1), we had to make some tough decisions. Would Monet still be known today if not for a fateful trip to the seashore with Boudin? Who had a greater influence on abstract expressionism: Pollock or De Kooning? Browse our choices and let us know if you agree or disagree in comments below or on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
6.Eugene Boudin (1824-1898)
French painter Eugene Boudin grew up riding across the English Channel on his father’s steamboat between his home village of Honfleur and the city of Le Havre. Boudin’s mother put an end to the voyages when the young boy nearly drowned, and the family moved to Le Havre to open a picture frame shop. Perhaps it was these early years at sea—and that terrifying dip in the tumbling waves—that drove Boudin to create the small but dynamic compositions that would directly inspire Impressionism.
As a young man Boudin opened his own framing shop and showed work by artists such as Constant Troyon and Jean-Francois Millet. At 22 he started painting full-time, capturing coastal scenes with an impeccable eye for light and a keen interest in the social interactions of beach-goers. He was greatly influenced by the 16th century Dutch masters, and was one of the first French painters to work in the outdoors.
Boudin moved to Paris on a scholarship when he was 23 and soon met the teenage Claude Monet. Monet was working as a caricaturist on the streets of Paris, but Boudin convinced him to travel to Normandy and paint en plein air. In 1874 Boudin showed work in the first Impressionist exhibition alongside Monet’s pivotal Impression, Sunrise, which was painted in Le Havre and inspired the name of the new movement. Without Boudin’s encouragement, Monet may never have moved past charcoal.
7.Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Picasso and Matisse called Paul Cezanne “the father of us all”, but there’s always a mentor behind a master. Cezanne was heavily influenced by Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. “He was a father for me,” Cezanne said. “A man to consult and a little like the good Lord.”
Pissarro grew up on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies and attended a boarding school near Paris. In school he studied the French masters and excelled at drawing and painting. He moved to Paris in 1855 to apprentice with Anton Melbye and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. While Corot worked on his paintings in the studio, Pissarro insisted on painting en plein air and often finished works in one sitting.
The artist was criticized for his technique, which often exposed the rougher, less picturesque side of the French landscape, but his quick, intuitive methods attracted a small group of artists who would soon be known as the Impressionists. Pissarro became their patriarch, and was the only artist to participate in all eight Impressionist exhibitions. However, it was his switch to Neo-Impressionism at 54 and his great influence on Post Impressionism that landed him on this list. Pissarro’s impulse to look deeper into the landscape and trace every rough edge would inspire Seurat, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne in their revolutionary explorations of perspective that would fracture (and eventually completely dissolve) the classical picture plane.
8.Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso is arguably the most famous—and prolific—artist of the 20th century. He created roughly 13,500 paintings and hundreds of thousands more prints, engravings, illustrations and sculptures over the course of his 75-year career. Though he’s famous for co-developing Cubism, it was his explorations into all corners of the plastic arts that made him so influential. No matter the medium or style, Picasso had a hand in radically changing it all.
The artist was born in Malaga, Spain. His father was a professor of art who began formally training his son from a very young age. By 16, Picasso had gained entrance to the prestigious Royal Academy of San Fernando. In the early 1900s he moved to Paris, where he met art collector Gertrude Stein and many of the most famous artists of the time. He started working with Georges Braque in 1909, and the close friends developed a style that pushed Cezanne’s explorations of multiple perspectives to new extremes.
Cubism encouraged artists to analyze objects and break them into thousands of pieces, and similarly shattered the art world into myriad Modernist movements from Futurism to Constructivism.
9. Jackson Pollock (1912- 1956)
Jackson Pollock was called “Jack the Dripper” and “The Worst Living Artist in America” by the media, and a large slice of the public saw him as a reclusive drunkard who dealt the killing blow to order and sense in art. Sometimes when you’re drumming up an art revolution, things have to get messy.
Pollock grew up the youngest of five brothers in Arizona and California. He and his brother Charles moved to New York City in 1930, where he studied at the Art Students League and worked for the WPA Federal Art Project. In 1936 he took an experimental workshop on liquid paint that would later influence his famous drip paintings. Under the watchful eyes of collector Peggy Guggenheim, art critic Clement Greenberg and his wife Lee Krasner, who he married in 1947, Pollock would become the figurehead of the Abstract Expressionist movement and radically change the world’s definition of art.
Greenberg saw Abstract Expressionism as the final step in painting’s inevitable reduction to its most essential elements. There was an unmatched purity to Pollock’s atmospheric, gravity free color fields that only the eye could traverse. “Jackson was the greatest painter this country has produced,” Greenberg mused. Whether you agree with the critic or not, Pollock undoubtedly subverted figurative painting in an unprecedented way, and changed art history in the process.
10. Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Austro-Hungarian immigrants. In third grade he developed Sydenham’s Cholera, a disorder of the nervous system that left him bedridden for months at a time. Isolated from his peers, the shy child became a voracious student of pop culture. Just a few years later he would build his own towering pedestal using the very figures and symbols that he pinned on his bedroom walls.
Warhol graduated from high school in 1945 and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology for commercial art. In 1949 he moved to New York City, where he worked in the publishing and advertising industries and got his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in pictorial design. In the 1950’s RCA records hired Warhol as a designer, where he pioneered innovations in various image-making techniques, most notably in screen printing. At the same time he was using similar processes—and subject matter—in his fine art, which he showed in galleries around New York. It was an approach to art that offended many critics at the time, who accused Warhol of succumbing to the homogenizing forces of consumerism.
This was Warhol’s true impact on art history: to show contemporary artists that they couldn’t avoid or ignore the foundational social changes affected by the mass media. Whether he was exploring identity, vanity, sexuality, fame or nothing at all, Warhol was molding the mercurial landscapes of Modern and Postmodern art.