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  the international fine art fair, 1998

by Fred Stern  

The catalog
If you don't have the time to visit Europe's fine art scene, take yourself to the Seventh Regiment Armory on 67th Street and Park Avenue in New York, May 7-13, 1998. There you can visit the booths of some of Europe's greatest galleries, and feast your eyes on fine drawings, etchings, sculptures and, of course, paintings.

It is not that there are no American galleries -- in fact there are 24 from the U.S. -- but the majority of exhibitors come from abroad. Seventeen dealers are from France, 13 from England, four from Germany, three from the Netherlands, two from Belgium and one from Spain.

The offerings include some of the greatest names from the 15th to the early 20th century. Many of the dealers make this their only U.S. show, and nearly all of them have shown this spring at Europe's most prestigious show in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

What brings them to the U.S. is, of course, that the money is here. After all, the wares on offer run anywhere from the affordable few thousand to the financial stratosphere, with not a few of the paintings running into the millions.

Another factor is the relative ease of doing business here, as opposed to the bureaucratic maze of taxes and trade rules that plague the European art market. The U.S., a great many galleries are saying, is so much easier to work with than our governments in Europe.

A third consideration is obviously the ever-increasing familiarity of American collectors with European artists, and the perception that tremendous increases in monetary value are possible.

Edmund Tarbell
Girl with Horse
at Adelson Galleries
Adelson Galleries, Inc. New York
Showing primarily American Impressionists, the gallery takes a special interest in the work of Maurice Prendergast (1858-1913). Prendergast came to Paris in 1891 and was greatly influenced by the work of Georges Seurat and the Nabis, the group of artists around Pierre Bonnard. These influences were quickly translated into two strong watercolors, on view in the Adelson booth at the fair. The West Church (1900-01), a festive work in luminous greens, shows a fountain and a garland of people dressed in their summer best. An atmosphere of lightness almost dwarfs the huge church structure. Central Park (1901-03) is a sparser composition, with dominant reds and superbly balanced color patches.

Other offerings brighten the booth, including John Singer Sargent's sun-splashed Street in Algiers (1879-80), and works by Mary Cassat, William Merrit Chase, Childe Hassam and Edmund Tarbell.


Paul Delvaux
The Mermaid
at Bern'Art SA
Bern'Art SA, Brussels
America's familiarity with Belgian art has pretty much centered on the work of James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff and, of course, Paul Delvaux. Here the gallery introduces us to the work of Floris Jespers (1889-1965), whose Clown Masquerade presents an Ensor-like world through the prisms inspired by Picasso and Chagall, in a large canvas of Pierrots, clowns and trapeze artists. Charles in a Striped Jersey by Henri-Jacques Edouard Evenepoel (1872-1899) is a startling portrait of the artist's illegitimate four-year-old son. It combines doubt and frustration, with sadness and dismay. Known to every Belgian through likenesses on stamps and posters, it has achieved enormous popularity.

The other world-renowned artist, Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), is represented by another dream image, The Mermaid. It is a typical Delvaux rendering, erotic in its execution, with the usual pop-eyes on the principal figure, a ship and a lighthouse in the background, and a man going along a straight road, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.


Antoine Etex
Portrait of Charles Gleyre
ca. 1830
at Yates

A Portrait of a Young Man...
at Haboldt & Co.
David and Constance Yates, New York
The gallery chose to present small portrait sculptures from the 18th to the early 20th century, including works by the French "animaliers." Small bronzes by Rodin form a gallery of their own. But the Yateses are also showing some of their best drawings and oils, including a superb portrait of Charles Gleyre by the French artist, Antoine Etex (1808-1888).

Ars Libri Ltd., Boston
This very well known purveyor of art books featured a sumptuous display of monographs of master drawings at the show. In 1994 Ars Libri published a catalogue raisonne of the drawings of Nicolas Poussin (1596-1665), and the series will expand soon with catalogues raisonnes of Watteau, David and Fragonard.

Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York
Dutch 17th-century landscapes and seascapes are the mainstays of this gallery. Philips Wouwerman's small scenes of horsemen and carriages traveling through the woods are elegant, precise and intriguing. These works were popular from the beginning with French and German collectors, a vogue which has never abated. Now however, his popularity has spread worldwide, with the value of his work appreciating accordingly.

Jan Breughel and Wievael canvases also decorate this lively booth. Among the Italian masters offered is an early Tintoretto, of a young member of the Mocenigo family, his face highly intelligent, his lips sensuous, his penetrating peering from a lace collar.


Pieter Brueghel the Younger
The Return of the Country Fair
at Galerie De Jonckheere
Galerie De Jonckheere, Paris
The gallery glories in the work of Dutch 16th-century masters, especially in the paintings of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638) and his circle. The Return of the Country Fair shows white-aproned ladies frolicking with their burgher husbands on a bright spring morning. Other works include portraits of the French nobility in all their finery and jewels, by the French artist Corneille De Lyon (1500-1574). Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657) is represented by a Portrait of a Young Scholar. Holding a document in his right hand, his eyes riveted on the observer, his copper-paneled portrait bespeaks the wealth, intellect and prestige of the Netherlands.

Chana Orloff
at Gallery Vallois
Whitfield Fine Art Ltd., London
The gallery is probably showing the most famed painting in the exhibition, the Holy Family with St. John the Baptist in an Extensive Landscape by Bordone. It was in the hands of Queen Christina of Sweden when she went to Rome, and has been in the best collections in Europe ever since. Superbly crafted monumental figures sit amid trees in a broadleafed landscape. The Madonna as modeled here appears in many works by Bordone.

Two small landscapes, one by Van der Neer (1601-1677) and another by Von Poelenburgh (1586-1667), Landscape with Figures, inspire by their jewel-like renderings.

Gallery Vallois, Paris
This gallery brought a solo show to New York of sculpture by Chana Orloff, whose strong hands and skillful planning bring warmth to her portrayals. Born in the Ukraine in 1888, Orloff went to Paris in 1910 and exhibited her bronze figures alongside works by Matisse, Roualt and Van Dongen. Her figures center on motherhood and the feminine form, and she also made playful animal renderings.


L. S. Lowry
St. Augustine's Church, Pendlebury
at Crane Kalman
Crane Kalman Gallery Ltd., London, and Dover Street Gallery, London
This gallery group presents an astounding array of museum quality works by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) in all their agonizing intensity.

In one corner of the Kalman area is the stunning painting by L.S. Lowry, St. Augustine's Church, Pendelbury (1924), its spires penetrating an early morning sky and dwarfing a small cemetery.

Over the years the two galleries have presented a vast British public with the works of the Austrian painters Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, and those of Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, Chaim Soutine, Jean Dubuffet, Andre Derain, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland.

The Dover Street Gallery, has also ventured into the realm of Italian master paintings, showing the work of Pasquale Rossi and still-lifes by Giacomo Recco, as well as the View of St Mark's Square, Venice (ca. 1850) by Carol Bossoli.

Arnoldi-Livie, Munich
Master drawings and oils predominate in the offerings of this highly respected gallery. A Rubens oil sketch for a painting of Neptune and Amphitrite (ca. 1616) illustrates Rubens superb work with "a loaded brush," fine coloring and a powerful representation of the female figure. Another preparatory sketch, this one by Carle Van Loo, Theseus Conqueror of the Bull of Marathon (1732), is rendered with heroic detail and with amazing spontaneity.


Paul Serusier
Les Jeunes Mères
Daniel Malingue
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris
This gallery's presentations were overwhelming in their variety and depth. Outstanding was a work by Paul Serusier (1865-1927), The Young Mothers, an 1891 rendering of a group of Breton women with their children in a lush landscape. Vuillard's Mme Vuillard in the Dining Room sparkles with its detailed rendition and a smooth blend of flesh tones, greens and reds.

Passer, Feininger and Pissarro are joined by a late Chagall, The Green Farm of l968.


Johann Adam Klein
Resting Carriers Beside the River Danube
at Siegfried Billesberger
Gallerie Siegfried Billesberger, Munich
This German drawings gallery brought some of its best work to the show. Included in an array of German 18th- and 19th-century works is Carriers Resting besides the River Danube by Johann Adam Klein (1792-1875). Klein uses pencil and pen heightened with grey wash to picture draymen with their horse, a wagon and materials. Another master, Johann Wolfgang Baugartner (1709-1761), is featured with a series of superb veduti of Italian gardens, river scenes and well-dressed ladies and their escorts, strolling or embarking on river journeys.

Billesberger is another dealer who regularly shows at the Maastricht Fair and in New York. Much of the work of this gallery goes to museums both in Europe and the U.S., especially the Fogg in Cambridge.


Salomon De Bray
Christ at Emmaus
at Drs Salomon Lilian
Drs. Salomon Lilian BV, Amsterdam
The Dutch painter Salomon de Bray (1597-1664) is represented by Christ at Emmaus (1662). This painting, from the artist's last years, has Rembrandtesque qualities, with its light and shadow playing among an astonished company gathered around a table. The Beach at Scheveningen of 1644 by Jan Van Goyen (1596-1656) shows this prominent and prolific Dutch painter at his best, with an atmospheric beach scene of a colorful and busy harbor.

FRED STERN writes on art and antiques.