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All styles eventually go out of fashion. Colonial hoop dresses, Victorian handlebar moustaches, and 1960s shag carpeting all enjoyed great popularity before falling out of favor. Similar cycles of taste have governed the history of furniture design. Going out of Style: 400 Years of Changing Tastes in Furniture, an exhibition presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum, displayed four centuries of major American furniture styles alongside scathing commentary written in the period by designers, architects, and writers.

Their critiques—which range from sarcastic to downright ruthless—reveal powerful opinions that helped drive the ebb and flow of taste from generation to generation. While the harsh assessments of the past may seem unfounded to antiques enthusiasts today, they remind us that most period styles—even the perennial favorites—were out of fashion at one time or another

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Sotheby’s January 2015 Old Master Week in New York will feature a select group of highly important paintings assembled by noted collector J.E. Safra. The choice offering of 17 paintings presents a wide range of styles and genres of the period including the Dutch Golden Age, as well as 18th century Italian and French. The vast majority of the works have been off the market for at least 20 years and together the group is estimated to bring $22/34 million. The paintings will go on public exhibition, alongside Sotheby’s Old Master Week sales, beginning January 24.

Leading a very strong group of Dutch works to be offered in Sotheby’s January 2015 sales is "Frozen River at Sunset," painted by Aert van der Neer in or shortly after 1660, a period that was a high point for Dutch landscape painting and for the artist himself (est. $4/6 million).

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On September 9 and 10, Christie’s London will offer the first portion of the collection of antique dealer and interior designer Christopher Hodsoll as part of its “Interiors” auction. The second part of the collection will be featured on September 16 at the auction house’s “Interiors -- Style & Spirit” sale. Hodsoll, who is based in London, is well-known for his idiosyncratic taste in antique furniture as well as his ability to create striking interiors that blend classical pieces with the rare and unusual.

Hodsoll began dealing antiques with his mentor, the late design legend Geoffrey Bennison. Bennison’s predilection for the decadent as well as the eccentric rubbed off on Hodsoll and has had a profound influence on his style.

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The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK will soon debut a recently acquired painting by the American Modernist painter Edward Hopper. The work, titled Blackwell’s Island, was sold at Christie’s in May to a private collector for $19.2 million – the second highest price ever paid for a painting by the artist at auction. The Crystal Bridges Museum later announced that they had acquired the work from the private collection. The painting is slated to go on on view by mid-September in the museum’s Early 20th Century Art Gallery.

Blackwell’s Island depicts what is now known as Roosevelt Island, located off of Manhattan in the East River. The painting, which features a wide expanse of blue sky above swirling water and an industrial skyline, creates a sense of distance between the viewer and the impersonal subject. The composition promotes feelings of loneliness and isolation, which pervade much of Hopper’s work.

Crystal Bridges’ President, Don Bacigalupi, said, “This is a most ambitious composition for Hopper. He painted this work at the height of his powers and it exemplifies some of the best of Hopper’s style: a complex architectural composition with a full range of light and shadow, few people and drama of the past colliding with the present in the form of historic architecture meeting modern.”

While the Crystal Bridges Museum has a number of Hopper’s works on paper in its collection, Blackwell’s Island is its first major oil painting by the artist.

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Wednesday, 07 August 2013 18:25

Amazon Launches Online Art Gallery

The online retailer Amazon launched “Amazon Art,” a website that will be used to market works from galleries across the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Canada. The site currently features over 40,000 works from more than 150 galleries and dealers. Offerings range from modest $44 canvases to Norman Rockwell’s Willie Gillis: Package from Home, which carries a price tag of $4.85 million.

Amazon Art’s slogan, “from gallery walls to your walls,” communicates the site’s mission – to make collecting easy and accessible to all. Consumers can search the site by medium, subject, style, size, frame and color. The majority of the galleries involved with Amazon Art are not high end and most of the artworks offered range in price from $100 to $5,000.

Peter Faricy, vice president for the Amazon Marketplace, which is overseeing the art site’s launch, said, “Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers.”

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Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1933), a pioneer of American abstract art, will receive a National Medal of Arts from President Obama July 10, 2013 at the White House. The National Medal is the highest honor given to artists and art patrons by the U.S. government.

Kelly, a painter, sculptor and printmaker, began developing his unique approach to minimalism, color field painting and hard-edge painting in the 1950s. By the end of the decade, he had established himself as an important figure in the art world and three of his pieces were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s seminal exhibition Young America 1957. Since setting himself apart from his peers thanks to his innovative style, Kelly has been lauded for his ability to pull abstract form, contour and color contrast from perceived reality.

Kelly, who turned 90 this year, is currently the subject of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Chatham Series, which is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through September 8, 2013.

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The Portland Museum of Art in Maine presents Shangaa: Art of Tanzania. The first major exhibition in the United States to focus on the traditional arts of Tanzania, Shangaa includes 165 objects on loan from private and public collections throughout the U.S. and Europe. While most of the works are sculptural in nature, styles range from expressionistic to abstract to refined.

“Shangaa” means “to amaze” in Swahili and that is the intent of the exhibition. Curated by Tanzanian art specialist Dr. Gary van Wyk, Shangaa includes works ranging in date from the 19th century through today. The exhibition illustrates how Tanzanian culture uses art to channel energy, mark the passage into adulthood, and celebrate life among many other things.

Shangaa: Art of Tanzania will be on view through August 25, 2013.

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49 paintings from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, TN are now on view at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE. Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color focuses on Paris’ emergence as the hub of the art world during the 19th century and its role in shaping the Impressionist movement in France.

Between 1853 and 1870, under the command of Napoleon III, Paris was transformed from a quaint city to one of grandeur. Narrow streets and crowded houses were demolished in favor of striking boulevards, lush public gardens, and modern buildings. While the population and prosperity of the city soared, artists flocked to Paris to be inspired and thrive, ultimately defining the city’s modern era. Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1885-1952), and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) all nurtured their artistic visions in Paris during this period. In 1874, the artists held an independent exhibition, which led to their classification by critics as Impressionists. The plein air technique and unblended painterly style of Impressionism eventually influenced future generations of avant-garde artists include Neo-Impressionists, Fauves and Cubists.

The museum’s founders, Hugo and Margaret Dixon, formed the institution’s magnificent collection of French paintings themselves. John Reward, a leading scholar of Impressionism, advised the couple. Renoir to Chagall offers the finest works from their holdings and is on view at the Joselyn Art Museum through September 1, 2013. Admission to the museum and exhibition is free.

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The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA recently received its most considerable gift of American paintings since its founding in 1955 and is holding an exhibition to celebrate the major acquisition. George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci presents eight landscapes by the influential American painter George Inness (1825-1894) dating from 1880 to 1894. The works will appear alongside two Inness paintings collected by the Clarks themselves. The show will highlight Inness’ later work when he moved away from his signature plein-air style towards a more conceptual aesthetic that relied on the use of light and shadow.

The Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg significantly influenced Inness and inspired the artist to look at nature through a more spiritual lens. Inness moved away from straightforward depictions of the natural world towards a style that blended realism with a sense of otherworldliness. Inness achieved this through color, composition and painterly techniques that involved the gentle blurring of natural forms.

Highlights from the exhibition include Sunrise in the Woods, The Road to the Village, and Green Landscape. George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci will be on view through September 8, 2013.

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The Middlebury College Museum of Art in Middlebury, VT is currently exhibiting a selection of rare watercolors and drawings of Vermont by the American painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Best known for his depictions of urban and rural life in America, Hopper’s paintings of Vermont are not widely known and many of them have not been on public view in nearly 50 years. Edward Hopper in Vermont, which was assembled from museums and private collections, marks the first time Hopper’s Vermont works have been displayed together in their home state.

Hopper, and his wife Jo, a fellow artist who was also his model, muse, and lifelong travel companion, made five trips to Vermont during the summers between 1927 and 1938. Hopper’s early paintings from these trips depict Vermont’s most recognizable scenery – rolling green hills dotted with bright red barns and dramatic distant peaks. His later paintings focus on the White River Valley and its vast meadows, wide pastures, and everyday roadside scenes. These works are a departure from Hopper’s usual style as they lack any architectural form or signs of human presence.

Edward Hopper in Vermont will be on view at the Middlebury College Museum of Art through August 11, 2013.

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