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A 46-year-old German man was arrested by authorities in connection to the devastating art heist that took place in the Netherlands on October 16, 2012. The man was arrested in southwestern Germany for allegedly trying to sell the seven stolen paintings back to the Triton Foundation, the owner of the artworks.

The paintings, which include masterpieces by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), were on view at the Kunsthal Museum in the Netherlands and have yet to be recovered. The bounty, which includes Picasso’s Harlequin Head (1971), Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901), and Matisse’s Reading Girl in White and Yellow (1919), is believed to be worth between $66 million and $266 million.  

This is the fifth arrest made in connection to the heist; three Romanian men accused of carrying out the heist were arrested on January 22, 2013 and a Romanian woman was arrested on March 4, 2013 on suspicion of assisting the robbers. Officials are working to determine whether the German suspect had ties to the stolen paintings or was simply trying to scam the Triton Foundation. He was arrested on the grounds of suspected blackmail and is currently under investigation.

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A Romanian woman has been arrested in Rotterdam in connection to an art heist that rocked the Netherlands in October 2012. The 19-year-old woman, who is the girlfriend of one of the three suspects currently being held in Romania for alleged involvement in the heist, is thought to have helped the thieves haul the seven stolen masterpieces out of the country.

Police claim that after the robbery, the paintings were taken to a home in Rotterdam where the frames were removed. The paintings were later taken to Romania where prosecutors are investigating the mother of one of the suspects who claims that she burned two of the stolen works.

The robbery, which took place at the Kunsthal museum, was the biggest art theft in two decades in the Netherlands. The stolen works, which are part of the private Triton Foundation collection, include masterpieces by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and are believed to be worth between $66 million and $266 million. Among the masterpieces lifted by the thieves were Picasso’s Harlequin Head (1971), Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901), and Matisse’s Reading Girl in White and Yellow (1919).  

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Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906) The Large Bathers is currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The work, which is on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is being exhibited alongside the MFA’s own Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).

 The Large Bathers, painted in France between 1900 and 1906, is considered one of the most ambitious of Cézanne’s many works exploring the theme of nudes in a landscape. Serene and idyllic, the painting was left unfinished at the time of Cézanne’s death.

 Gauguin’s Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, which was painted between 1897 and 1898, also features nudes in a landscape, but as means to illustrate the inevitable passing of time. Upon its completion, Gauguin said, “I believed that this canvas not only surpasses my preceding ones, but that I shall never do anything better – or even like it.” Gauguin attempted suicide after finishing the painting but was unsuccessful.

 Exhibited together for the first time in Boston, Large Bathers and Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? bridged the gap between art of the 19th and 20th centuries. In doing so, Cézanne and Gauguin influenced a generation of modern artists including Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

 The two paintings will be on view at the MFA through May 12, 2013.

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:18

Arrests Made in Dutch Art Heist

Romanian authorities have arrested three suspects relating to an art heist at the Kunsthal museum in the Netherlands. The robbery, which occurred October 16, 2012 at around 3AM, was the biggest art theft in two decades in the Netherlands. The stolen works include masterpieces by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and are believed to be worth between $66 million and $266 million. The paintings have not yet been recovered.

While little is being revealed about the arrests or the suspects, it has been reported that three men are being detained for 29 days at the request of prosecutors from the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism. The suspects’ involvement is still being explored, but officials believe the stolen works might be hidden in an undisclosed location in Romania.

The seven stolen paintings, which are part of the private Triton Foundation collection, include Picasso’s Harlequin Head (1971); Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901); Matisse’s Reading Girl in White and Yellow (1919); Gauguin’s Girl in Front of Open Window (1898); Meyer de Haan’s (1852-1895) Self Portrait (circa 1890); and Lucian Freud’s (1922-2011) Woman with Eyes Closed (2002). The Triton collection, which was assembled over the course of 20 years, includes more than 150 works of modern art ranging from the 19th century to the present day and spans a number of important art movements.

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Energy efficient LED lighting, which is widely used in museums across the world, has altered the color of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) famous Sunflowers (1888). Once a vivid yellow hue, van Gogh’s masterpieces are darkening; scientists have discovered that certain yellow pigments from the 19th century become unstable after exposure to LED lights, turning them a brownish green over time.

Researchers in France and Germany sampled 14 works dating from 1887 to 1890 and tested for the reaction, which affects the oil paint color chrome yellow. A popular pigment at the time, artists such as Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) often used chrome yellow in their paintings. Upon their discovery, researchers suggested that museums avoid using LED lighting on certain works and switch to a safer illumination alternative.

Van Gogh painted his sunflower series as a welcoming present for his friend, Gauguin, and planned to hang the works in the room where he was to stay while in Arles. A copy by van Gogh from the original series is on view at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse (1869–1954) is best known for his use of color and fluid, innovative forms. A leading figure in modern art, the French artist defined the Fauvist movement, but defied classification. The works of Nicolas Poussin, Édouard Manet, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin inspired Matisse and he communed with groundbreaking artists such as Camille Pissarro, André Derain, and Gertrude Stein.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Matisse: In Search of Painting opens on December 4 and explores the evolution of Matisse as a painter. Matisse worked rigorously, often painting the same scene and subject over and over again to gauge his own progress and compare various techniques, a process he developed during his academic training.

In Search of Painting features just 49 vibrant canvases but spans Matisse’s entire career. Organized by Rebecca Rabinow, a curator of modern and contemporary art, the exhibition places the works in pairs and groups by subject to illustrate Matisse’s methodical process. In the 1930s, Matisse began having photographs taken at various stages of each painting to document their evolution. Three of the finished canvases along with their accompanying photographs will also be on view. The juxtaposition illustrates Matisse’s own self-awareness and the arduous process that led to each finished canvas.

Matisse: In Search of Painting will be on view through March 17, 2013.

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Patrons who are familiar with the permanent collection at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts might become befuddled upon their next visit to the institution. Some of the museum’s finest works including Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Dance at Bougival, the pivotal Claude Monet painting, La Japonaise: Camille Monet in a Japanese Costume, five works by Paul Cézanne, five more by Edouard Manet, and two of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh are nowhere to be found.

While some of the works have been lent to museums in the United States, Japan, and Europe to enhance exhibitions, others have been rented to for-profit organizations. Loans between institutions are common practice, but compounded with the large number of works currently out on rent by the MFA, the museum’s own collection appears to be lacking. Currently, 26 of the MFA’s paintings are involved in exhibitions in Italy, which the institution received a hefty yet undisclosed fee for. Some of the works now on view in Italy are two paintings by John Singleton Copley and two Rembrandt portraits as well as single works by Eugène Delacroix, Paolo Veronese, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, and Pablo Picasso.

While the MFA is excited to be raising revenues, the act of charging fees for lending works has been a source of controversy. One of the main duties of public institutions, including art museums, is to share their collections with the public. Many objectors find the practice of lending works for profit to be in direct opposition to this goal.

Other major holdings that are not presently at the MFA are Diego Velázquez’s Luis de Gongora, two works by El Greco, two more by Gustave Courbet, the museum’s only painting by Edvard Munch, and arguably its greatest work by Edgar Degas, Edmondo and Therese Morbilli. While MFA officials argue that they are bolstering the museum’s international reputation, critics feel the institution is suffering for it.

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One of the biggest sales at Doyle New York’s Rare Books, Autographs, and Photographs auction on November 5 was an important letter by George Washington. Purchased by a private collector for $362,500, the letter surpassed its pre-sale estimate of $80,000-$100,000. It was the fourth highest price paid at auction for a letter by Washington and the highest price for a single-page letter.

Written to James McHenry, Washington’s wartime aide on December 10, 1783, the President writes of his intention to resign as Continental Commander and become “translated into a private Citizen.” The letter was sold with McHenry’s archives in 1859 to Baltimore collector William T. Walters. It remained in Walters’ family until it was offered at Doyle’s auction.

The entire sale totaled $1,604,594, surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $849,200 to $1,255,000 and 90% of lots sold. Besides George Washington’s letter, major sales included John Webster’s The Deuils Law Case… (1623), the first quarto edition, which achieved $25,000; a set of Author’s Autograph Edition of Whitman that sold for $22,500; and a letter from Paul Gauguin to Camille Pissarro that brought $28,125.

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Tuesday, 15 March 2011 04:07

A fresh look at Paul Gauguin

Many artists and historians look on the painter Paul Gauguin as one of the founders of modern art. His work in the 19th century brimmed with innovation. He tried to paint with his mind rather than his eyes. He colored grass red and figures of Christ yellow. He played with perspective. His obsession with primitive peoples engaged and influenced Picasso.

Yet, as Gauguin specialist Belinda Thomson points out, the innovations that excited everyone 100 years ago "are not necessarily those that have the strongest appeal" in the 21st century. Old innovations do not surprise anyone; they turn into clichés instead. Gauguin's paintings must be regarded differently now. They must be examined, Thomson says, for "their beauty and complexity."

Thomson, an honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh, has put together an exhibition that celebrates Gauguin not as a prophet of modern art but as a painter of beautiful and complex canvases. The show, called "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," has opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., after a long and popular run at the trendsetting Tate Modern in London. Closing in Washington on June 5, it will be seen nowhere else.

Thomson was joined as co-curator in Washington by Mary Morton, the National Gallery's curator of French paintings. Their exhibition demonstrates how Gauguin spun myths — often lies — about himself and his exotic travels to excite interest in his paintings and sculptures.

The show, in fact, does nothing to enhance the personal reputation of the painter. The art historian Paul Johnson, while extolling Gauguin's work and idealism, once described him as "a self-indulgent scoundrel," and there is much evidence for this on view at the National Gallery. But his egoism and gnarled spirit add much complexity to his paintings.

Gauguin was born in Paris in 1848 but spent much of his life outside France. His father was a political journalist, his mother the daughter of Flora Tristan, a well-known French socialist and feminist. When Gauguin was an infant, his family fled France after the failure of the leftist revolution in 1848 and took refuge in Peru. Through Flora Tristan, whose mother had been Spanish, the Gauguins had relatives in Peru. These relatives would cause Gauguin to boast years later that he had Inca blood, but there was no truth to this.

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