Thursday, 7 February 2013


This weekend while my sister was visiting New York, in  London I visited the public exhibitions of many great paintings and sculpture by European artists from the late 19th and early 20th century at Christies and Sotheby's. Both auction houses are having sales of Impressionist and Modern Art this week and on Sunday was the opportunity to see the work of many artists I have never seen before because they were in private collections.

The selection of works did not fail to marvel and impress.

This winter landscape by Claude Monet exhibited at Sotheby's held my attention for a good 20 minutes. This is a painter I walked past many times over the years.  Yes I would say, great color, great technique. But recently the more I look at his paintings, I stop and marvel and have that sensation of "yes, he saw it, he saw what I see,  he understood how light works, he saw the ephemeral beauty of sunlight reflecting off surfaces and caught it all in paint"

Working in a medium of oil paint, a process that takes time, reflection and considerable skill of mixing color and using the right tool. I think he had a strong visual memory to recall how the light passed through the day, because light moves and is moving all the time. I must also add that this painting was expertly and brilliantly lit by Sotheby's lighting designers. I wonder did they use halogen or metal halide, I would like to know.

This colorful painting, though seeming very white, had a gold carved wood frame and hung on a wall covered in black linen so the light and color were intensified. It was beautiful and held that moment of winter sun on snow. It sold for over £7 million pounds.

For other work I used my iPhone to quickly capture some of the paintings that particularly stopped me and caught my attention.

Emile Nolde's saturated watercolors of florals and landscapes, again, the color grabbed me and made me look at this painting of very deep pigmented watercolors that soaked into the paper.

This drawing by Modigliani surprised me, the thick black lines, the form un-elongated, it was very unlike his usual work.... this is what I find fascinating when you can see pages from a sketch book.

Matisse was well represented at both galleries and lovely drawings, simple, tender, they would look good on the living room wall.

But the work of Egon Shiele grabbed my attention and at Christie's it was hung not far from where Matisse was placed. What struck me about his work was with as much economy of line as Matisse, Schiele drew portraits that bore into the psychology of the model, drawings that looked at the human condition with charged electric eroticism.

Whether it was the intention of the curators to place these drawings within the gaze of Matisse, I don't know, but it made me look at the artists in a different way and ask the questions about who was the better draftsman. Impossible to say, they were people who lived in different countries, different cultures but Schiele asks questions about ourselves, about confusion, tension and desire, about pride, false pride, arrogance, compassion. He looked into the soul and saw the dark confusion as well as tenderness and ecstasy.

These drawings were at Sotheby's gallery and apparently did very well.

1 comment:

  1. Your free spirit and artistic intellect are reflected in all of your acute observations.You truly illuminate my experience of these great artists. Bravo Kelly and Thank You.