The London Art Week Showcase

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The flagship Summer event for London Art Week (LAW) showcases the best paintings, drawings, sculptures and objects available on the market, dating from Antiquity to the 20th Century. Running from Sunday 3 to Friday 8 July 2022, a number of LAW's dealers have come together to present an exclusive showcase. Read on to discover more details behind some of the pieces on view in our historical Lavery Studio - the showcase runs until Sunday 10 July.

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Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse
Eugène Delacroix, 1864
Bronze, 35.4 in. (90 cm.)
New York Private Collection
Courtesy Stuart Lochhead Sculpture

First training under a goldsmith, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse possessed unparalleled technical and modelling skills in sculpture, for his he acquired notoriety. He embodies the neo-rococo spirit that triumphed under the Second Empire of France, both in his busts that represent artists, bankers, politicians and muses of the regime, as well as in his great pieces of decorative art. He welcomed into his workshop many young artists, including Auguste Rodin from 1864 to 1871.

Carrier-Belleuse excelled in creating lively likenesses of old masters, such as Rembrandt, Van Ostade, Rubens, Velazquez or Murillo. The day after Eugène Delacroix’s death, which occurred on 13 August 1863, the absence of an official homage and the modesty of his funeral were resented as an injustice by the artistic community. In those times obsessed with glory and the production of statues, it was deemed important to repair the affront to the memory of the greatest French painter of his generation.

Henri Fantin-Latour executed his Homage to Delacroix (Paris, Musée d'Orsay), exhibited at the Salon of 1864, Etex presented a marble bust of the artist at the Salon of 1865 (Paris, Musée Delacroix), and Préault made a bronze medallion with his effigy (Paris, Musée du Louvre). These were individual approaches, and in April 1864 the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts decided to honour the memory of one of its founding members by organizing a retrospective exhibition of his work and commissioning a life size bust from Carrier-Belleuse, who conceived a monumental work and refused to collect any fee. The portrait was exhibited in 1865 at the Martinet Gallery, solemnly placed among some 350 paintings by the master. The bust can be seen in a painting by Albertini that keeps a record of the exhibition.

(Research: Stuart Lochhead Sculpture)

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Sir John Lavery
Hampstead Heath (1921)
Oil on canvas, Signed lower right J Lavery; also signed, inscribed and dated verso
25 x 30 inches (63.5 x 76.3 cm)

Afterf finishing his commissions for the newly established Imperial War Museum in 1920, Sir John Lavery seemed destined to revert back to the role of portrait painter. World War One had broken the spell of living in Morocco  - his old friends here had scattered - and at the same time the Riviera was calling a new generation of artists. Cap d’Ail and St Tropez suddenly seemed more attractive and the artist began to explore the landscapes here - in person and in painting.

The Churchills accompanied the Laverys for part of the time on their Mediterranean trips, where Sir Winston occasionally joined the artist, working on the motif. He had been Lavery’s pupil, intermittently, since 1915, and wanting to show his appreciation for what he had learned, he agreed to supply the preface to the exhibition’s catalogue. Churchill declared, "Sir John Lavery is a plein-airiste if ever there was one ... There is a freshness and a natural glow about these pictures which give them an unusual charm. We are presented with the true integrity of an effect."

Returning to London in the summer of 1921, it seemed appropriate that a show devoted to scenes of recreation and leisure should be opened by a view of the Heath. As Constable had discovered a hundred years before, there was nothing so majestic as the rolling hills stretching south towards the Thames and north into neighbouring Hertfordshire. These were what Lavery faced in his present work and like his predecessor he could not help but to be impressed by the dramatic skyscapes that were visible from this vantage point. 

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Franz Klein (1779-1840)
The Beethoven Life Mask,1812
Sandcast bronze
Private collection, Germany

However much it pervaded their music, beauty was not a common trait among the composers of Vienna’s golden age. Marred by smallpox, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was mocked for his looks. Coming to Vienna in the 1790s to study with Haydn, the then largely unknown pianist was memorable to contemporaries not so much by name but as that ‘small, ugly, dark and stubborn-looking young man.’ As his stature grew over the next two decades, Beethoven’s ugliness went from being an identifying attribute to a subject of curiosity. How could someone so ordinary looking produce something so otherworldly? How could music at times delicate and sublime be perfected in a head that was neither?

This supposed paradox had long intrigued those acquainted with greatness. Dante, himself renowned for his less-than-ideal features, was perplexed as to how Giotto could create beauty that was sorely lacking in the painter’s offspring. Dante’s own deification had shown how a little nip and tuck could find dignity in features that had seemed ugly, and the artists who created the familiar image of Beethoven in the early 1800s copied the trick, aggrandizing the composer’s rugged appearance to make him look suitably intense, passionate and powerful.

One of the earliest examples of this type was a semi-public sculpture In 1812, the year Symphonies 7 and 8 came into being, the Austrian sculptor Franz Klein was commissioned to make a bust of the composer as part of a larger suite of portraits of musicians. An unenthusiastic Beethoven was cajoled into supporting the project, allowing a plaster mould of his face to be taken.

This was the only life cast of the composer ever made, of which the original ‘positive’ survives today. Miraculously so, because as the plaster was drying on his face, the impatient composer, convinced he was suffocating, ripped off the mask, threw it to the floor and stormed out of the room. The plaster broke into pieces, which were saved, because they had already hardened. The life mask has become far better known than the finished bust which it helped to create, and as the nineteenth century progressed countless copies were taken, but these all pale by comparison. 

 

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