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The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is currently hosting the exhibition Off the Beaten Path: Early Works by James McNeill Whistler. The show commemorates the 155th anniversary of Whistler’s beginnings as an artist, which was sparked by a trip from Paris to the Rhineland. Before setting off on his expedition, Whistler established two goals – first, to visit Rembrandt’s home city of Amsterdam and second, to make his mark on the art world.

While he never made it to the Netherlands during his voyage, Whistler created drawings, etchings and watercolors depicting what he saw along the way. Later in his career, these early country scenes and portrayals of innkeepers and shopkeepers would go on to shape Whistler’s selection of subject matter, composition, use of light and shadow, and perspective.

Off the Beaten Path will be on view at the Freer Gallery through September 28, 2014.

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Monday, 09 September 2013 18:59

National Gallery to Send Manet Masterpiece on Tour

The National Gallery in London will send Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian on a tour of the UK. The painting will be the first work to embark on the three-year Masterpiece Tour, which is part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings. In 2015, Canaletto’s A Regatta on the Grand Canal will join the Masterpiece Tour, followed by Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 in 2016. Christie’s auction house is supporting the museum’s effort.  

The Execution of Maximilian depicts the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian being executed alongside two of his generals. Mexican forces captured Maximilian, who was installed in Mexico as a puppet emperor by Napoleon III, when Napoleon withdrew his French troops, who were occupying Mexico. After its completion in 1868, the painting was cut into smaller pieces, some of which were sold individually. Degas eventually purchased all of the surviving fragments and reassembled them on a single canvas.

The Execution of Maximilian will travel to The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge (January 17-March 16, 2014), The Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle (March 22-May 18, 2014) and the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick (September 27-December 6, 2014).

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When the Spanish cotton baron Julio Muñoz Ramonet died in 1991, he left his illustrious art collection to the city of Barcelona. In 1995, to comply with the terms of his will, Barcelona’s city council established the Julio Muñoz Ramonet foundation, which oversees Ramonet’s properties and art collection.

However, Ramonet’s will and collection has been mired in legal controversy after his four daughters asked that their late father’s requests be annulled. The Spanish Supreme Court recently ruled in Barcelona’s favor, allowing the city to maintain control of Ramonet’s collection. Following the case, authorities visited Ramonet’s villa only to find that the most significant works in his collection had been removed. Authorities are now seeking masterpieces by Rembrandt, E Greco, Diego Velázquez, Sandro Botticelli and Francisco de Goya that were once displayed in Ramonet’s private residence.

While Ramonet’s daughters are not suspected of wrongdoing, a full inventory of Ramonet’s collection is being conducted.

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Thursday, 15 August 2013 18:20

Worcester Art Museum Acquires Veronese Painting

The Worcester Art Museum has acquired Paolo Veronese’s Venus Disarming Cupid (circa 1560), one of the last works by the Renaissance master still in private hands. The work was gifted to the museum by the New York-based collector Hester Diamond and will go on view on September 20, 2013 alongside works by Rembrandt, Jacob van Ruisdael and El Greco as part of the exhibition (remastered).

Hester acquired Venus Disarming Cupid at Christie’s in 1990 when its owner consigned it to the auction house as Circle of Francois Boucher. Shortly before the sale, the painting was attributed to Veronese and enthusiastically endorsed by the art historian and Veronese expert Terisio Pignatti. The revered painting has an impressive provenance, once residing in the collection of the German Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechinger and appearing on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006.

Matthias Waschek, the Worcester Art Museum’s director, said, “It is rare that a museum can announce the acquisition of a single Italian Renaissance work, let alone one as spectacular as this Veronese. Venus Disarming Cupid is a game changer for our collection.”

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A Danish phD thesis revealed that a common preservation method may cause more harm than good to artworks. The study showed that when an oil painting treated with the once-popular wax-resin lining is exposed to relative humidity over 60 percent there is a good chance that it will shrink, compressing the paint and causing it to flake off. The revelation was part of Cecil Krarup Andersen’s thesis, which was recently defended at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation.

During the 20th century the “lining” technique was popular among conservators and used to protect well-known masterpieces including works by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh while traveling for loan exhibitions. For her thesis Lined canvas paintings: Mechanical properties and structural response to fluctuating relative humidity, Andersen studied the Danish national gallery's collection of Danish Golden Age paintings and examined the difference in moisture sensibility before and after wax-resin lining.

The wax-resin technique became popular during the 1960s but was obsolete by the 1970s since the method tended to darken paintings’ colors. However, the discovery of relative humidity’s effect on wax-resin lined canvases is a new finding. While the majority of museums maintain an approximate relative humidity of 50 percent, malfunctioning climate controls and flooding could leave some of the finest works in the canon of art in perilous danger.

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Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced that it will host the exhibition Last Seen by the French artist Sophie Calle beginning on October 24, 2013. The show will feature works created by Calle in 1991 in response to the Gardner’s tragic heist, which took place the year before. New works created in 2012 will also be on view.

The exhibition presents 14 photographic and text based works divided into two categories. The first series includes pieces created shortly after the heist, which saw the theft of 13 works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and others. The second series was created at the Gardner Museum while Calle was revisiting her earlier project.

Soon after the heist, Calle interviewed curators, guards and other staff from the Gardner in front of the museum’s stark walls. Years later she repeated the process but this time, in front of the empty frames that the Gardner later hung. She asked her interviewees what they remembered of the missing works and what they saw when they looked at the blank frames. She used text from the interviews and her own photos to create visual interpretations of loss and memory. Pieranna Cavalchini, the Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gardner, said, “This exhibition is a poignant reminder of just how much power art and a great artist like Sophie Calle can yield in bringing life, energy and beauty to what is in essence a never-ending story of loss.”

Last Seen will be on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum through October 24, 2014.

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Back in May 2013, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles announced that it had bought Rembrandt Laughing, a 17th century self-portrait by the Dutch master, from the London-based art dealer’s Hazlitt Gooden & Fox. On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, it was revealed that Britain’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, had delayed approval of the Getty’s application for an export license until October 15, 2013, a tactic usually used to give collectors and museums enough time to collect the funds necessary to keep an artwork in the country.

In 2007, Rembrandt Laughing was put up for sale at a small auction house in England and said to be by a “follower of Rembrandt” even though a number of dealers thought it to be an authentic work by the artist. Eventually, scientific tests and studies by a leading Rembrandt scholar confirmed the attribution, causing the work’s value to skyrocket. In order to keep the painting in England past October 15, a British institution interested in buying the work will need to raise around $25.1 million, the price the Getty has agreed to pay for it.

The Getty has run into trouble exporting works out of Britain in the past. In 1994, the institution was told that they could not have Antonio Canova’s sculpture Three Graces, after raising $12 million and waiting five years.  

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Dürer, Rembrandt & Whistler: Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly is now on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. The exhibition is comprised of one of the finest local collections of Old Master prints, which was assembled by Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly. Kelly, who had primarily collected American 20th century prints and prints by John James Audubon (1785-1851) in the past, began collecting Old Master works in recent years.

Kelly’s collection includes rare etching, woodcuts and engravings by German printmaker Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528); nearly 30 works by Rembrandt (1606-1669); sheets by Canaletto (1697-1768); and several sheets by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). The collection is rounded out by a group of etched cityscapes and figure studies by James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903).

 Dürer, Rembrandt & Whistler: Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly will be on view at the Bruce Museum through August 18, 2013. A scholarly catalogue and educational programs complement it.

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On June 10, 2013, Bank of America announced the recipients of its 2013 Art Conservation Project. The program provides grant funding to international nonprofit museums to conserve historically and culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration.

This year, Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project will provide funding for 24 works in 16 countries. One of the most significant undertakings is the restoration of Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Built between 1921 and 1953, the Watts Towers are an iconic part of the city and have fallen into disrepair. The towers are part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Other projects include the restoration of Jackson Pollock’s (1912-1956) Number 1A, One, and Echo at the Museum of Modern Art; 13 mural drawings by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) at the Detroit Institute of Arts; four Tudor paintings at the National Portrait Gallery in London; a Rembrandt (1606-1669) study at the National Gallery in Prague; and a Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) photography collection at La Casa Azul in Mexico.    

Bank of America launched its Art Conservation Project in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in 2010. It was expanded to include the Americas, Asia, and Australia in 2012. Including this year’s recipients, Bank of America will have funded the conservation of 57 projects in 25 countries.

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