Works on paper (and even glass) enrich souls on both sides of the Atlantic
Iwould love to be in New York just now, where the eighth annual Master drawings week continues until Saturday. Twenty-four dealers are showing in East Side galleries between 63rd and 86th Streets, almost all between Park and 5th Avenues. This means that, weather permitting—and it appears likely to be comparatively clement—much can be seen in the course of a pleasant day’s stroll.
The original London drawings weeks, launched in 2001, had a similar atmosphere, with collectors and connoisseurs roaming around the west End village, enjoying, discussing, refreshing and, of course, buying. Now that drawings have been subsumed into the wider summer Art week, some of that friendliness has been lost here, but it persists in New York.
Even if politicians rarely believe it, art is not an ‘elitist’ luxury, but positively good for people and good drawings have qualities that make them the best tonic of all. Ilona van Tuinen, who recently moved from the Fondation Custodia, Paris home of the Lugt Collection, to the Morgan Library in New York, understands this. She notes in a brief introduction to the current event: ‘on my first day at the Fondation Custodia, director Ger Luijten predicted that my time there would change my life and enrich my soul. He was right, of course. I look forward to the continued enrichment during Master drawings week, and I hope to share this experience with many of you.’
Six London dealers are showing in New York, including Martyn Gregory, who is putting on two exhibitions: works on paper including English watercolours at Leigh Morse Fine Arts on E 80th Street and China Trade paintings at the Academy Mansion, E 63rd Street.
Among the former is an 8¼in by 11¼in canvas-mounted oil-onpaper study by Jan wyck (1652– 1702) after an image by Paulus Potter of a leopard-spotted horse (£45,000) (Fig 1). Such horses were progenitors of the Appaloosa. Among the latter, at £30,000, is a 12½in by 101¼in reverse-glass portrait of Capt John Cranstoun (Fig 3) of the East India Company by Spoilum (fl.1770–1805).
Another New York watercolour exhibitor, Guy Peppiatt of Mason’s Yard, St James’s, will be hurrying back to take part in the works on Paper Fair at the Royal Geographical Society from February 9 to 12. There are rather fewer exhibitors this year, about 40, split between dealers in drawings and prints.
Among the former is Patrick Lancz from Brussels who specialises in works from 1880 to 1950. He will have at least one example by Léon Spilliaert, an artist whom I have come to admire more and more over the past couple of years and who is currently receiving increased attention not only in Belgium and beyond, but even in his native ostend, where he has long played second fiddle to his friend James Ensor.
Spilliaert (1881–1946) was a largely self-taught Symbolist. He dealt with loneliness and melancholy and liminal subjects—shorelines and quaysides, bridges, bare trees against twilight skies, sunsets and dying seasons. His figures are sometimes reminiscent of Munch, at others Lowry; Redon and van Gogh are there, but also wadsworth. In short, intriguing, and it is no surprise that he illustrated the Symbolist playwright Maeterlinck.
unlike Ensor’s, his ostend home was destroyed by wartime bombing, but last year, at last, a private initiative resulted in the opening
Fig 1: Jan Wyck oil-on-paper study. With Martyn Gregory