Fine Art

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An oil on board [landscape painting], The Blue Fountain (Study for Reveries), by Maxfield Parrish, American (1870 to 1966), executed circa 1925Frederick Maxfield Parrish was born July 25, 1870 in Philadelphia to Stephen Parrish, an American artist famous for his landscapes, illustrations and engravings and his wife Elizabeth Bancroft Parrish.  It’s not surprising that, finding himself surrounded by the tools of his father’s trade, that Frederick (he would begin to use Maxfield as his name later in life) would begin to draw to amuse himself.  Around 1881, the Parrish family traveled to Europe, and during the trip, Frederick contracted typhoid.  It was during his recuperation that he turned his attention to art in earnest under his father’s tutelage.

Maxfield studied widely as a young man, abroad in England and France, and at home at Haverford College, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the Drexel Institute, where he had the opportunity to work with Howard Pyle, one of the greatest illustrators in American history.  While at the Drexel Institute, he also met Lydia Austin, a young instructor, who he would marry in 1895.  Parrish himself found work as an illustrator, working in Philadelphia until 1898, by which time his various magazine illustrations for publications and his burgeoning career as the illustrator, especially of children’s books (for authors such as L. Frank Baum and Kenneth Grahame), allowed the young couple to purchase a home, The Oaks, near his parents in New Hampshire.

It was around this time that Parrish developed tuberculosis, and coupled with the damages done to his health by the typhoid he suffered as a youth, Maxfield and Lydia found it necessary to seek out other climates,  spending time in the Adirondacks, Arizona, and Italy.  (The dry, vibrant landscape of Arizona has often been said to be a key influence for Parrish’s distinctive style and vibrant hues.)  Eventually, though, they found themselves resettled in New Hampshire, where their lives would take a very different turn, after they hired a 16-year old girl named Susan Lewin.

Susan was initially hired to assist Lydia Parrish with the care of the Parrish children.  (Perhaps due to Maxfield’s health concerns, the Parrishes waited until relatively late in life, for the time, to have children, with Lydia being almost 40 when their youngest child was born.)  Susan quickly became Maxfield’s model and assistant, and eventually, they began an affair.  Estranged from Lydia, who continued to live in the main house on the property, Maxfield ultimately moved into his studio where he lived with Susan.

Susan certainly must have served as a muse, because Parrish’s popularity skyrocketed in the years between 1905 and 1920.  His art was in demand by publishers (he did dozens of covers for Collier’s) and advertisers from Colgate to Oneida, and he also had murals commissioned by wealthy patrons like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  Another mural, created in the Tiffany studio, incorporated 100,000 pieces of Tiffany glass, and drew the attention of Cyrus Curtis, the owner of the Saturday Evening Post, who commissioned a mural for the Post’s Philadelphia headquarters.  (Many of Parrish’s murals still decorated the public spaces they were designed for, and visitors can see them in places as varied as the Curtis Building in Philadelphia and the St. Regis’s bar in New York.)

Success allowed him to shift his focus away from advertising by the mid-1920s.  (He was so well-known that by 1925, it was estimated that 25% of the homes in America owned a Parrish print and the deep lapis lazuli blue he favored had become known as “Parrish blue,” hints of which are visible in the image above.)  Parrish chose to move toward painting works of art that reflected, in some ways, his first job as an illustrator, and in many ways, this is the era of work for which Parrish is best remembered, androgynous, mystical figures in fantasy landscapes.  By 1931, he announced that he was changing directions yet again, concentrating this time on landscapes.

In 1953, Lydia, who had for the most part left Maxfield in 1911, died, and he was left alone with Susan.  Susan, perhaps frustrated by Maxfield’s lack of interest in marrying her after so many years together, left to marry someone else in 1960, and it was at that point that Maxfield Parrish stopped painting at the age of 90.  He remained at The Oaks in Plainfield, New Hampshire until his death at 95 on March 30, 1966.

A watercolor and ink on illustration board by Arthur Rackham (British, 1867 to 1939), illustration from Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle in Newcomb-Macklin frameTracing its beginnings to S. H. McElwain’s entry into business in 1871, the Newcomb-Macklin company gained its famous name when McElwain introduced his bookkeeper, Charles Macklin, to John C. Newcomb and they became partners in 1883. The Chicago firm would go on to employ many designers and craftsmen to produce some of the most beautiful and original Arts & Crafts frames in America as well as to purchase the rights to reproduce the famed architect Stanford White’s frame designs after his assassination in 1906. Drawing from a wide variety of frame designs, Newcomb-Macklin crafted frames for many important American painters including George Bellows and John Singer Sargent, often working directly with their premier artist clients, especially the American Impressionists, to develop frame styles and finish treatments to compliment their paintings. Newcomb-Macklin frames came to be highly sought by the discriminating public, and in order to meet this demand, the company maintained showrooms in New York and Chicago, as well as employing traveling salesmen to represent their wares in the early years of the new century. In 1979 the Newcomb-Macklin company was purchased by the Thanhardt-Burger Corporation. The acquiring company had specialized in producing hand-made frames since 1927 and is now considered to be the oldest continuously operated frame-making company in the United States.

It is fairly easily to distinguish Newcomb-Macklin frames, as they have the unusual construction technique of perpendicular corner splines. They are also usually factory stamped and occasionally labeled as well. Newcomb-Macklin frames appear fairly regularly at auction, sometimes on existing paintings as the original frame, sometimes empty, and they fetch fairly steady prices, because they are still considered quality frames of good construction and good resale value.

The Marly Horses

“Marly Horses,” paired sculptures also sometimes known as “horse tamers,” or just “horses restrained by grooms,” have their origins in France, probably by way of ancient Rome. Since the early days of Rome, a pair of sculptures, each of a man with a horse, have been on Quirinal Hill in the city. The spirited horses and the men seeking to control them are a discourse on power that has appealed to various political figures throughout history, and the theme has been replicated frequently.

A pair of 19th century Continental bronze figures of the "Chevaux de Marly" or Marly horses, (sometimes incorrectly spelled Marley), after Guillaume Coustou (French, 1677 to 1746).

A pair of bronze Marly horses. (p4A item # D9812387)

After Louis XIV decided to convert the royal hunting lodge into what is now Versailles, there was a need for a new location for the Royal Hunt. Louis opted for an area on the edge of the royal lands where he set about constructing the Chateau de Marly. (The neighboring community that sprang up to serve the needs of the royal family, Marly-le-Roi, is today a suburban community of Paris.) Chateau de Marly remained a popular retreat for the royal family, a respite from the social formalities (and the constant construction and remodeling) of the palace at Versailles. Although Marly’s golden age was during the rule of Louis XIV, both Louis XIV and Louis XV made continual improvements and changes to the Chateau, especially to the grounds, which were well-watered and lent themselves to elaborate waterworks. (In fact, after the construction of a hydraulic machine, Marly supplied water to Versailles and its famous fountains.)

An oil on canvas painting by Ludwig Bemelmans (1898 to 1962). <b><i>Marly Le Roy</i></b>, signed "Bemelmans" lower right, titled and dated "...JUNE '57" on the reverse.

A Ludwig Bemelmans painting of the village of Marly-le-Roi from 1957. (p4A item # D9943544)

Louis XV commissioned Guillaume Coustou the Elder (November 29, 1677 to February 22, 1746), a sculptor who had already contributed several statues to the Marly grounds, to create a pair of sculptures to flank the horse trough or pond in Chateau de Marly’s park. The works, carved from a single block of marble, were completed in an astoundingly short period – just two years! They were installed in 1745.

Sadly, Marly’s fate was linked to the fate of the royal family. Damage was done during the French Revolution, and the property was sold around 1800. The chateau was completely demolished and sold off in pieces, but Napoleon later bought back the estate, so while the chateau is no longer there, the park still exists. The Chevaux de Marly (Horses of Marly) statues, completed in 1745, were moved in 1795 to Place de la Concorde, the square in Paris where the guillotine had been in operation during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, as part of a post-revolution makeover. (The Champs-Elysees runs between Place de la Concorde with the Chevaux de Marly and the Obelisk of Luxor in the east to the Place Charles de Gaulle with the Arc de Triomphe in the west.)

The Marly Horses remained in the Place de la Concorde for almost two centuries, until they were moved to the Musee de Louvre in 1984, where other Marly sculptures are now housed. There, they have been conserved, and cement copies have been placed both in the Place de la Concorde and in the grounds at Marly.

The motion and dramatic moment captured in Coustou’s works along with their prominent iconic placement in Paris made the sculptures immensely popular, and throughout the nineteenth century, numerous versions were replicated in bronze and smelter on a smaller scale for Victorian homes.

A drawing by Ferdinand Brader, farm scene, numbered 541 and titled below Residence of Jacob Brumbaugh, Lake Tp: Stark County, Ohio 1887

A drawing by Ferdinand Brader, farm scene, numbered 541 and titled Residence of Jacob Brumbaugh, Lake Tp: Stark County, Ohio 1887

One of the  “little mysteries” discussed at the 2012 Midwest Antiques Forum was the cipher that is Ferdinand Brader (1833 to ?). The Swiss-born Brader immigrated to the United States in the 1870s and was an untrained, itinerant artist who spent much of the late 19th century roaming Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, where he would exchange large bird’s-eye view drawings of farmsteads, complete in near-architectural detail (like the one pictured), for room and board. In many ways, there are great details of his work – from his drawings, we often know where he was and when, and while we don’t know how consistently it was done, many of the drawings are numbered, which allows for a further sense of chronology.

Brader’s life, however, remains a great mystery. Some accounts hint at alcoholism, but the incredible detail and precision of his drawings makes this hard to fathom. He had several stints in area infirmaries, but whether this is attributable to the true itinerant/vagrant nature of his life or to something deeper is unknown.

The largest mystery of the “little” mystery that is Ferdinand Brader, however, is his disappearance. In late 1895, Brader found he had inherited a considerable amount in Switzerland. In residence at the Stark County Infirmary at the time, it appears he made plans to travel there to claim his inheritance, but after this, he vanishes completely. Of course, news of someone in the town infirmary inheriting a small fortune piqued local interest, so other small reports crop up, with at least one account making it seem he did not leave town and vanish (death during journey or a happy old age with family?), but rather that he disappeared after going to pay a debt, suggesting far darker possibilities. Or, as one associate suggests, did he just have one of the asthma attacks that plagued him while alone in an “out of the way place”?

Brader’s life continues to come into focus, with recent discoveries indicating that regardless of what happened, he never collected his fortune. All this information and a number of newly discovered drawings are the result of a Brader exhibit scheduled for the Canton Museum of Art in 2014. Brader’s works truly are meant to be appreciated up close, so if you find yourself in the area, plan a visit to the exhibit and stop by the database or the exhibit’s site for some great details. Seems that even “small” mysteries from “out of the way places” often loom very large….

-Hollie Davis, Senior Editor,

A French travel poster for the resort town of Font-Romeu

A French travel poster for the resort town of Font-Romeu

French Poster Art Travels to New Heights

Few collectibles have aged as well as French poster art from early in the last century. After more than a hundred years, the seductive lure of these brightly colored and beautifully drawn posters attract a wide range of collectors including those who can probably afford original art. Vintage posters are a popular segment of the art print collectible area, and of all the poster categories, French travel posters are some of the most eagerly sought.

Signed French Travel Posters
Collectors love posters created by familiar artists of the early 1900s such as Georges Dorival, Constant Duval, Julien Lacaze. Later posters that date from the Art Deco Era featuring the likes of A.M. Cassandre and Roger Broders are also popular. While as a general rule, posters by these identifiable and prolific artists tend to bring the highest sums, dealers caution collectors against buying solely for name, as some of the most highly prized posters are the most beautiful, and were “one-offs” produced by artists whose names rarely appeared again. Collectors should consider each poster on its own merits, and buy for content and condition.

Values of French Travel Posters
Values for travel posters have been rising steadily since the first U.S. poster auction in 1979 at Swann Galleries. At an August 2011 sale of travel and vintage posters at Christie’s, 298 lots sold for a total of $1.27 million.

According to poster expert and dealer, Jack Rennert, the value of a poster is based upon four criteria: artist, subject, rarity and condition. Due to age, small tears and pin holes are common and acceptable, but do bring down the value and collectors prefer examples with the vivid colors of the originals.

Posters set in the south of France fetch premium prices. Collectors love Monte Carlo, Monaco and Nice, especially views with beaches and palm trees. If there are people on the beach, even better, and if the sunbathers include beautiful women, better still. If the poster is of a popular destination and subject with only a few known copies, the price can approach that of original artwork.

Brief History of French Travel Posters
These posters were produced as advertising, not art, and as such, were manufactured with the idea of a limited existence. This limited supply creates high demand, although the posters were popular inexpensive art almost immediately as soon as the multi-color stone lithography process (pioneered by Jean Cheret at the end of the 19th Century) came into widespread use. The popular posters were produced in vibrant colors to advertise everything from cigarettes to champagne, and by the 1890s, railways were plastering their stations throughout France with oversized posters of beautiful people in exotic destinations. Although people collected them almost from the start, two world wars have taken their toll on extant examples.

-by p4A Contributing Editor Susan Cramer.

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