Friday, April 8, 2011


Devin and I have recently expanded our art collection, which has, up until now, consisted of a few sketches and whatnot that I attempted in college. When these are hung up around the house, they drive me vaguely nuts. "Your proportions are off," I mumble to a rough nude, whenever I pass by. She is obviously depicted by an amateur hand. "No offense," I say, "but your butt's too big."

Obviously this nutsyness and muttering to pictures *will not do*. So the search is on for non-homemade, non-amateur art.

Since moving into our new house we have made three major acquisitions.

1. "Magnolias," oil on canvas, by B. Callaway.
This painting is on permanent loan, compliments of my grandmother. It was commissioned by said grandmother early in her marriage, and painted by an artist friend. I love magnolias, don't you? This spring I am being driven wild by magnolias, and might plant one in our garden,despite the fact that they do not reach the epic proportions common by the trees in the southern regions of our country.

2. "Nudes," series, pencil on paper, ink on paper, by Paulina Everett.

While digging through the back labyrinths and stalls of a local antique mall I discovered a cardboard box full of these delightful sketches, for sale at the very reasonable price of $7 each. I bought eight. Paulina Everett, I later discovered, was a Kansas City artist whose complete works were donated to the Nelson Art Gallery upon her death. Most of her work is still in their permanent collection, but the museum had no use for her sketchbooks, which (apparently) they intended to throw away. These were snatched from the rubbish bin by a local antique dealer, who sells them off cheap to folks like me.

3. "Saint John the Evangelist," tempera on board (?), artist unknown.

Yesterday all three of us (human) Winters went to an estate sale. It was very exciting. We entered into a ramshackle old house built at the turn of the (last) century, which hadn't been updated since probably 1925. The plaster was peeling. The ceilings were caving. Rooms were jammed with junk and the occasional treasure. The original owners of the house possessed quite a remarkable collection of religious icons and antiques, many of them quite fine. These antiques were the reason for our initial interest. We were most disheartened to find, upon arrival, that most of these had already been purchased by antique dealers. All of the really good wooden sculptures were gone. But they didn't get St. John. (You can tell it's St. John because of the tiny dragon emerging from the chalice. This is a reference to the Golden Legend in which John blesses a cup poisoned by a pagan priest in Ephesus. The poison escapes in the form of a dragon.)

I know nothing about this painting. It is either oil or tempera on board. It was sold to the first owners by a man named Conrad Hug, an art critic and dealer in the early 20th century who imported many good paintings from Europe--included a painting reputed to be Leonardo da Vinci "La Belle Ferronnière". The authenticity of this "American da Vinci" has long been debated. But, fake or no, it was recently sold at Sotheby's for $1.5 million. Interesting, no?

Anyway, I don't think that our little John is any sort of masterpiece (or master forgery, as the case may be). But I like him. I like his red cloak. I like the little dragon. And I hope to some day find someone who can tell me more about him.

Of course there is always our little Work of Art, on semi-permanent loan:

1 comment:

  1. You've got quite an eye. Those nudes are a find. Also, why don't you run St. John by a good painting dealer and see who might clean it? Sometimes that can be revelatory.