We all know that the art world suffers from a great deal of hype, snobbery and acquisitive motivation. But it has always been like that. In Roman times at the end of BC heading into AD the great social divide to sort out the wealthy and successful from the rest was the humble table, hence our expression of ‘turning the tables on someone.’ The great Marcus Tullius Cicero spent the modern equivalent of millions on a superb marble table to show off his status and good taste. We would find all this faintly amusing today, tastes certainly change.
Praise for artists
From Renaissance times onwards art enjoyed the patronage of the church, royalty and the aristocracy in that order for the self glorification and vanity of the patrons. Of course the artists concerned were praised as some of the best in the world, nothing else would have been good enough for such a successful and important patron. Hence there were so many portraits painted in those times.
The acquisition of money
With the advent of the growing wealth of the middle classes in the nineteenth century, the invention of the camera and faster communication of travel with trains, portraits declined, but the art of promotion grew and grew. In modern times with the aid of the internet and television, hype and promotion have reached almost ludicrous proportions, where the motive is no longer the social importance of the promoter, but the acquisition of money. There is nothing more powerful than the desire to make money. Hence men like Saatchi have become hugely successful in promoting artists of little talent to make fortunes for themselves and sometimes the artist. Onto this bandwaggon have jumped the clever self promoters like Hurst and Emin.
Renoir the genius?
I recently watched a series on television titled The Impressionists. I could not believe my ears when the presenter was singing the praises of Renoir as a revolutionary genius. Most of us agree that he painted some very good pictures, but the bulk of his work was ordinary at best and sometimes downright terrible.
However time has a way of sorting out those with genuine talent. In the twentieth century one man, Pablo Picasso, no stranger to hype and self promotion himself, is increasingly seen as the most important artist of that period. Grand Auctions is delighted to announce that an etching titled ‘Deux femmes nue dans un Arbre’ will be offered for sale in our next auction on May 23rd. A version of this etching was offered for sale by Christie’s in New York in 1988 in the Edward Jameson sale at an estimate of $3,500 - $4,500. The etching was limited to an edition of 100. These etchings display the wonderful draughtsmanship of Picasso.
I will never forget visiting an exhibition of Picasso’s drawings in the Museum of Art in Bayonne titled The Bull. The drawings were displayed in chronological order, the early ones being marvellous detailed images much in the style of the Old Masters, the last drawings were made up of only a few lines, but they were still just as much the bull as the earlier detailed drawings. What a genius he was.
Click here to contact Jonathan Riley, paintings specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.