Sunday, June 13, 2010

Victorian Masterpieces at Auction


Works by some of the most important British painters of the nineteenth century will be auctioned at Christie's later this week, including Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema's Under the Roof of Blue Ionian Weather (1901) (shown above), which is expected to fetch at least £1,000,000. [Note: it sold to a private buyer in Europe for £1,026,850 / $1,516,657 --KT]

The market for Victorian paintings and drawings has been on fire for the last several months, and the sale on Wednesday, comprising 108 lots, is expected to realize approximately £6 million. The star lots include, besides Alma Tadema's masterpiece, Chloe (1893) by Sir Edward John Poynter (estimate: £600,000-800,000) and The Sea Maiden (1894) by Herbert James Draper (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000). Works by John Ruskin, Frederic, Lord Leighton; Edward Burne-Jones; Edward Lear; George Frederic Watts; J. W. Waterhouse; John Lavery; John Everett Millais; and Laura Knight will also be sold.

Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema (DNB bio here, Wiki bio here), one of the great exponents of High Victorian classicism, worked on Under the Roof of Blue Ionian Weather for more than two years as a commission for the financier Ernest Cassel. The title is adapted from Shelley’s "Letter to Maria Gisborne." The painting bathes the viewer in glorious sunshine, the generous sweep of marble benches with reclining sitters against an azure sea and sky suggesting infinite beauty and tranquility. It received extensive critical acclaim when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1901.

Poynter's Chloe (above) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1893, three years before the artist's appointment as president of the Royal Academy (Poynter's DNB bio here; Wiki bio here). The rich tapestry of colors and textures in this highly decorative work is enhanced by the graceful elegance of the sitter and the presence of music in the form of pipes, a lyre, and a small bird. [Note: this painting was unsold -- KT.]

Draper's The Sea Maiden (above) was the artist's first popular success when it was shown at the Royal Academy in 1894 (Draper's Wiki bio here). Studies for the background were made in the Isles of Scilly and in Devon, where Draper joined a fishing trawler at sea to observe the nets being hauled in; afterward he made a model of the boat to examine the way it caught the light. This work belongs to the genre of mermaid subjects that figures so prominently in Victorian art, including Sir Edward Burne-Jones’s The Depths of the Sea (1886) and J. W. Waterhouse’s The Siren (1900). Unusually, Draper’s sea maiden has no fishtail, an artistic decision guided by the authority of Swinburne's tragedy Chastelard (1865). [Note: This painting sold to a private buyer in the United States for £937,250 / $1,384,318 -- KT]

Read the auction results press release here.


Hels said...

I know Victorian classicism is over the top and somewhat passe now, but I would buy Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema's Under the Roof of Blue Ionian Weather in a heartbeat. Or any Alma Tadema, for that matter. But "at least £1,000,000" is a bit out of my income bracket.

Draper's Sea Maiden, on the other hand, is way too melodramatic for 21st century tastes.

Kristan Tetens said...

I'm with you, on both counts!

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