THE QUINTESSENTIAL MODERNIST

Randall Davey- Leaving the Paddock- Matthews Gallery Blog

We’re ending our SPRING OF MODERNISM blog series with the tale of a pioneering artist who was the model of a New Mexico modernist. Randall Davey (1887-1964) was born in East Orange, New Jersey. His father was an architect, and he enrolled at Cornell for architecture in 1905. Three years later he dropped out and moved to New York to study art, to the consternation of his father.

At the New York School of Art, Davey forged a close friendship with teacher and Ashcan School artist Robert Henri. Henri was friends with the founders of the Taos Society of Artists, and worked hard to cultivate New Mexico’s budding reputation as an arts destination. In 1910, Davey exhibited with George Bellows and Stuart Davis and in 1913 his artwork was in the New York Armory Show, the most influential modern art exhibition in U.S. history.

Portraits of Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
Davey and artist John Sloan visited Santa Fe in the summer of 1919, and Davey fell in love with the Land of Enchantment. His art career in New York had stalled, and the Southwest adventure offered a fresh start. Davey bought an old mill on Upper Canyon Road and moved there permanently the next year. It was a path that had been calling him since his early days as an artist. Inspired by the metropolitan subject matter of the Impressionists, Davey developed a diverse oeuvre of still lifes, horse-racing and polo scenes, artistic nudes and landscapes.
Davey was a true Renaissance gentleman: he made paintings, prints and sculptures, played cello, built a polo field on Upper Canyon Road and was always dressed to the nines (even when he was painting in the hot sun).
Prints and a Drawing by Santa Fe Artist Randall Davey- Matthews Gallery Blog
The lifelong automobile enthusiast died in a car accident on a trip to California at 77 years old. After his death, his wife donated the Davey house and land to the Audubon Society. The Randall Davey House is still open for tours on Fridays, and stands as a tribute to an artist who helped make the Santa Fe art colony what it is today.
A Davey House docent visited the gallery for our SPRING OF MODERNISM opening, and kindly offered us a private tour. Keep your eye on the blog for photos from the tour and more information on Davey. Make sure to visit our exhibition before it closes on March 31st, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more gallery news.
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FOCUS ON THE FIGURE: The good, the bad and the body

Two Odalisques by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Jamie Chase- Matthews Gallery blog

Two Odalisques by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (left) and Jamie Chase (right)

No matter their preferred medium or subject matter, one of the first things young art students are challenged to do is pick up a pencil and draw from life.

“It’s only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise, that you have rendered something in its true character,” said Camille Pissarro, mentor to the Impressionists.

Of course, Pissarro had a different idea of what it meant to evoke something’s “true character” than, say, Paul Gauguin. As we discussed in our last post, Vermeer and de Kooning painted female figures in oil to highly divergent ends.

Our FOCUS ON THE FIGURE survey show, running now through the end of December, has us pondering the artist’s eye for the human body. History’s verdict on the success or failure of a particular depiction is often entirely based on the culture that first viewed it. Even in the hands of the most technically talented artists, the human body has a unique capacity to spark fiery controversies. Here are some notorious offending body parts:

SKIN

Michelangelo- The Last Judgment detail- Matthews Gallery blog

The Last Judgment (detail), Michelangelo

Believe it or not, that’s a woman in the image above. Michelangelo (1475-1564) had a hard time depicting feminine grace, probably because he used massive body builders as models. That’s not the reason the artist’s Last Judgment mural in the Sistine Chapel drew the ire of the church, though. Michelangelo left many of his buff bodies unclothed and the clergy was afraid they would provoke sinful titillation. After the artist’s death, fig leaves were swiftly deployed.

TEETH

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun- Self Portrait- Matthews Gallery

Self portrait, Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

As chronicled in our blog series 10 Women Who Changed Art History Forever, even fully clothed models (with frilly collars) could show too much. When Marie Antoinette’s court painter Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842) dared to flash a smile for this self-portrait she was roundly condemned for diverging from the style of “the Ancients”. Read what one gossip columnist had to say about it here.

EARS

John Singer Sargent- Madame X- Matthews Gallery blogMadame X, John Singer Sargent

Top Paris socialite and legendary beauty Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau couldn’t resist John Singer Sargent’s (1856-1925) offer to paint her portrait in 1883. When conservative viewers at the Paris Salon were scandalized by Gautreau’s bare white shoulder and bright red ear in the painting, Sargent attempted some damage control by painting in a shoulder strap and renaming the painting Madame X. Alas, Gautreau’s reputation was forever damaged.

FACES

Pablo Picasso- Les Demoiselles dAvignon- Matthews Gallery blog

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) always referred to his seminal painting of a group of Spanish prostitutes as The Brothel of Avignon. The canvas sat in his studio for years before he exhibited it under the title Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) in 1916. Even after its rebranding, the painting caused a stir because the women’s faces—influenced by traditional Iberian art, African tribal masks and the art of Oceania—were considered savage and their postures barbaric and aggressive.

After the show, the work was rolled up and stored away for years. It wouldn’t be recognized for its visual innovations until later, when designer Jacques Doucet bought it for 25,000 francs in 1924. “It is a work which to my mind transcends painting; it is the theater of everything that has happened in the last 50 years,” Doucet said.

Our FOCUS ON THE FIGURE show features art by Jamie Chase, Kate Rivers, Eric G. Thompson, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Harold Frank, Pablo Picasso and more. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more news about the exhibition.

NEW TRADITIONS: Matthews Gallery Online Art Auction

History of the art auction- Matthews Gallery blog

The world’s oldest auction house opened in Stockholm, Sweden in 1674. Art auctions in Great Britain gained popularity a few decades later when the Earl of Oxford’s collection appeared on the block in 1742. That particular sale featured the full range of odd and valuable items you might find in a dusty old castle, from a bust of an unknown bishop (five shillings) to a series of van Dyck paintings (165 guineas).

The beat of the auction mallet has marked the rhythm of the secondary market ever since. It’s a tradition that’s full of strange pageantry and heart pumping excitement. Auction kingpins Christie’s and Sotheby’s, which were both founded in mid-18th century England, often draw the ire of art world players for their tightly controlled sales. “They know exactly how many people will be bidding on a work and exactly who they are,” wrote art critic Jerry Saltz in 2012 after a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream sold at Sotheby’s for $119.5 million. “In a gallery, works of art need only one person who wants to pay for them.”

Online auctions have meanwhile been swiftly democratizing the centuries-old process, and that’s where the Matthews Gallery decided to jump in. We launched the EUROPEAN MASTERS, AMERICAN AND SOUTHWESTERN ART AUCTION on July 25 and it runs through July 29. Come browse our virtual auktionsverk of art and, if you’re inspired, make a bid. You’ll find art by European modernists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro, Southwestern legends including Emil Bisttram and Alfred Morang, and notable contemporary artists like Jamie Chase, Eric G. Thompson and Kate Rivers among the lots. Here are some notable pieces from the catalogue:

EUROPEAN MASTERS 

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Click to see the works on our auction site:

HISTORIC SOUTHWESTERN ART

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Click to see the works on our auction site:

  •  Untitled (Landscape #1), Emil Bisttram
  • Untitled (Landscape #2), Emil Bisttram
  • Untitled (Landscape #3), Emil Bisttram
  • Untitled (Santa Fe Landscape), Alfred Morang
  • Riders at Sundown, Gene Kloss
  • Return of the Wood Gatherers, Gene Kloss

CONTEMPORARY ART 

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See more lots from the auction here, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for auction updates all week!

LEGENDS OF THE LOTS: Matthews Gallery Online Art Auction

March Chagall- L'Opera Poster (1964)- Matthews Gallery auction
L’Opera Poster, Marc Chagall

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.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec- La Passagere du 54- Matthews Gallery auction
La Passagere du 54, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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. 

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Joan Miro- Dog Barking at the Moon- Matthews Gallery auction
Dog Barking at the Moon, Joan Miro

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.

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Pablo Picasso- Untitled (From the 156 Suite, 16 mai 1971)- Matthews Gallery auction
Untitled (From the 156 Suite, 16 mai 1971), Pablo Picasso

Degas visits a brothel in this etching by the legendary Spanish modernist.

Number 23 from the edition of 50.

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Paul Gauguin- Mahana Atua (Noa Noa woodblock)- Matthews Gallery auction
Mahana Atua, Paul Gauguin

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.

Woodcut, 1894-5, on chine

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Make sure to check out the entire auction catalogue here, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for more legends behind the lots!