October 16, 2019

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

'A crazy amount of talent': contemporary art thrives in Harare
How Marc Chagall’s Daughter Smuggled His Artwork to the US
You Can Actually Visit Bob Ross' Grave Near Orlando And It's A Happy Little Place
Louvre secures key Italian loans for Leonardo retrospective
Woman discovers Renaissance masterpiece in kitchen
Despite Brexit, Britain is biggest lender to Louvre’s Leonardo blockbuster show
Jim Kociuba
A happy little surprise: Lakes area couple earns $10K in sale of Bob Ross painting
What to Do If You Inherit an Art Collection
'True Rembrandt relic' discovered in cesspit below artist's house
How a “Very Paintable” House Inspired ‘American Gothic,’ a Modernist Masterpiece
Spain gets last word on London sale of Botticelli painting
New owner of Milford's Main Street Art plans changes, moving down the street later this fall




'A crazy amount of talent': contemporary art thrives in Harare
An unexpected post-Mugabe boom has caught the attention of international art collectors

In a makeshift studio, in an empty house on a ridge with a spectacular view of trees and blue sky, two artists are setting out brushes and paint. Half-finished canvases lean against walls. The bustle and noise of the city is far away.

Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude and Helen Teede are among a new wave of young artists in Zimbabwe who are attracting attention from collectors and curators worldwide. Both now work in a converted house surrounded by forest, a 40-minute drive from the capital, Harare.

Almost two years after Robert Mugabe, who died this month, was ousted in a military takeover, Zimbabwe is enjoying an unlikely boom in contemporary art, despite an economic crisis and unstable, sometimes violent, politics. The success is linked to its problems, the artists say.

“We want to talk about the time we are living in [in our paintings] … It comes out abstract and indirect but we have a collective responsibility to address what we know, what we see … There is source material in every day,” Teede, 31, told the Guardian.

Valerie Kabov, who runs the First Floor Gallery in the centre of Harare and represents many emerging artists, said the post-Mugabe boom had been “unequivocal”.

“We’ve had a lot of international collectors coming and there is interest growing all the time … For a very small population of artists, the number of internationally successful artists that have emerged from Zimbabwe is really extraordinary.”

Kabov attributes the depth of talent in Zimbabwe to a tradition of education and intellectual inquiry, and “living in a really interesting matrix”.

“They cannot make work that is not important because there is nothing in their lives that is not important. There is none of this navel gazing. Here everything is real. The work comes from a really strong place emotionally … You add a little bit of skill and … boom!”

Art from across the African continent has enjoyed a surge of international interest in recent years, with works newly visible in art shows, featured in the specialist media and sought after by major institutions.

In Cape Town, on one of the world’s most recognisable waterfronts, a vast new art museum, the biggest ever in Africa, opened in 2017. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa has already been described as “Africa’s Tate Modern”. There are also new museums in Marrakech and Lagos.

Last year, the prestigious Frieze magazine published a long report on contemporary art in Zimbabwe.

The South African Goodman gallery is opening in London next month with a show that includes works by Kudzanai Chiurai, one of Zimbabwe’s best known contemporary artists. Another well-known artist, Misheck Masamvu, won fame when Zimbabwe invested in a pavilion at the Venice Biennale art fair in 2011.

Since 2012, Kabov has traveled to international art fairs to represent her artists and boost the international profile of the country in the contemporary art world.

“Zimbabweans themselves are not aware of the extreme talent in their midst, because it is not considered an indigenous tradition,” she said.

The devastating economic legacy of Mugabe’s 40 year rule means artists in the former British colony face many obstacles: a lack of exhibition spaces, limited opportunities to sell their work and difficulties getting basic supplies of artistic materials.

Teede is concerned that the lack of a major domestic art market will mean that little work currently being produced remains in the country.

“There’s always been a crazy amount of talent here … But all the best work that is being produced at this super exciting time is being sold overseas and that is a big loss. In 50 years maybe there will be a museum and it will all have to be brought back,” she said.

Many aspiring artists attend workshops run by the National Gallery, founded in 1957 and housed in a Le Corbusier-inspired building in the centre of Harare.

Nyaude, who studied at the National Art Gallery for two years and was picked to exhibit at the high-profile New Museum Triennial in New York last year, said one factor driving the boom was economic.

“You have a possibility as an artist to do pretty well and there is so little other opportunity so if you have a drive to make art, that’s a push factor,” he said.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former spy chief and senior ruling party official who was confirmed as Mugabe’s successor in a contested election last year, had promised voters he would make Zimbabwe “open for business”. But foreign investment and re-engagement with the international community has been stymied by widespread human rights abuses.

“Living in Zimbabwe, you are affected by the politics every day, not directly, but it is there … The absurdity of the situation defies language. You can’t speak about politics directly here.Painting is a way of working things through that you can’t think through logically,” said Nyaude, 31.

Amanda Mushate, a 23-year-old artist represented by Kabov, said the biggest obstacle she faced was reconciling her creative ambitions with the expectations and habits of her friends.

One recent painting, entitled WhatsApp Gold, was inspired by the intensive use of social media of many of her peers.

“The biggest difficulty as an artist is to be myself, to be the real me in my social life,” Mushate said. “Other girls of my age, they are interested in their careers and don’t understand me being an artist. If they came to appreciate what I do, that would be my biggest achievement.” The Guardian


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How Marc Chagall’s Daughter Smuggled His Artwork to the US
Letters penned by Marc Chagall reveal his immigration difficulties to New York during World War II and his concern for his daughter who followed him on a separate ship, carrying a large case of his works.

August 22, 1941. “As you can see, we are already in the city, at Hampton House,” writes early Modernist artist Marc Chagall to General Morris Troper and his wife Ethel shortly after his arrival to the United States. At the time, the Tropers were imminent figures of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and were instrumental in rescuing Chagall from Nazi-occupied Paris in June 1941. “We are waiting impatiently for the arrival of the children,” Chagall’s letter continues, expressing his concern for his daughter Ida and her husband Michel Rapoport who followed him to New York on the refugee ship SS Navemar, smuggling a large case of his work on their journey. “We read today (in a Russian newspaper) that ‘Navemar’ is a floating concentration camp; that there is no water or the least of conveniences,” the painter wrote. “Oh God, how the people suffer there.”

This anxious letter, along with 11 others penned by or addressed to Chagall, were recently brought to auction in a Guernsey’s sale held at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York City. The lot also included a book of Chagall’s work entitled “Peintures 1942-1945.” Chagall had gifted the book to the Tropers with a personal dedication and a self-portrait on the inside front cover. The book includes an introduction by Paul Eluard, with a poem by Leon Degand.

A majority of the letters in the auction (written in German, French, and some English) date from the time period between May and August of 1941, before and during Marc and Bella Chagall’s process of immigration. Not speaking any English, the Chagalls depended greatly on assistance from the Tropers. Chagall’s main concern in the early letters was the safety of his daughter Ida, who remained trapped in Europe without the paperwork needed to emigrate.

An article published by the David S. Wyman Institue for Holocaust Studies narrates the dramatic story of Ida’s journey to the US and her struggle to rescue her father’s work:

On May 7, Marc and Bella crossed into Spain by train, then continued on to Lisbon, arriving on May 11. There they waited while their daughter and son in law, Ida and Michel Rappoport, prepared to bring Chagall’s paintings, which had been shipped to Spain. But once again, disaster threatened. The Spanish customs authorities were holding up the transfer of Chagall’s art work, reportedly because of Gestapo pressure. Ida went to Madrid to try to rescue the art, but Michel was arrested while trying to cross the Franco-Spanish border and had to be smuggled out of prison.

Eventually, the couple made it to the United States after a climactic journey on the SS Navemar, narrowly dodging German torpedoes en route, accompanied by crates of Chagall’s masterpieces.

Marc and Bella Chagall lived a life of turmoil before arriving in New York. The Belarus-born couple had initially immigrated to Paris to flee persecution in Russia. Then in 1941, the Vichy Regime took over France and made life in Europe impossible for the Jewish couple. Upon arriving in NYC, they were accommodated at Hampton House on 20 East 70th Street, but for a while, their mail address was channeled through the Museum of Modern Art.

MoMA played a major role in rescuing Chagall from Occupied Europe. Alfred H. Barr, who was the museum’s director, invited Chagall to have a solo exhibition as a way to justify a United States visa for the artist. The fictive invitation became a reality in April 1946, when Chagall had his solo exhibition at MoMA.

Guernsey’s auction is an unusual one. Entitled “Humanity and Inhumanity,” the action sought to link the Holocaust with Civil Rights Movement by juxtaposing Chagall’s correspondences with a rare recording of a 1967 Martin Luther King speech at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, and a collection of documents exchanged between members of Israel’s Provisional Council who drafted and signed the country’s declaration of independence in May 1948. Chagall’s letters (each estimated between $10,000-$20,000) were sold to the current owner by the Morris Troper’s family.

In June of this year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York shrouded Chagall’s painting “The Lovers” (1913-14) on the event of World Refugee Day. The painting depicts Chagall with his wife Bella during their life together in Paris, before the war broke. A sign posted next to the painting asked: “What would the Met’s walls look like if there were no refugees?” Chagall’s granddaughter Bella Meyer, who was the Met’s guest of honor at the shrouding ceremony, told Hyperallergic: “I wouldn’t have been here if my grandparents were not accepted into the US.” Hyperallergic


You Can Actually Visit Bob Ross' Grave Near Orlando And It's A Happy Little Place
Rest in peace up in those happy little clouds Mr. Ross.

Bob Ross, an artist who shared the joy of painting with the world. We know him as one of the most wholesome people to ever exist, and the late Ross was actually from Florida too, a fact badge we Floridians proudly wear. While we'll never be able to meet the legend himself or shake his hand, you can actually visit Bob Ross at his gravestone — and it's actually super close to Orlando.

Bob lived a full life in the Sunshine State, being born on October 29th, 1942 in Daytona and raised in the heart of Orlando; seems fitting that the happiest painter in the world would grow up in the city home to Disney, the 'Happiest Place on Earth'.

He dropped out of school at a young age and joined the air force, traveling all over the country and seeing the beauty of nature everywhere that would later become his inspiration for his art. His service in the military took him to Anchorage, Alaska in the 1960s, where he learned his signature wet-on-wet technique that we've become obsessed with after watching him paint magnificent landscapes on his show "The Joy of Painting" over the years.

To our dismay, the man beneath the flagship permed 'fro passed away from lymphoma at the age of 52, on July 4, 1995, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida — where one of the only original Bob Ross workshops lives, and you can actually still take painting classes there today.

Bob's spirit lives on in the happy little clouds and his body lays to rest in a cemetery in the small town of Gotha, Florida; only a 20-minute drive from the heart of Orlando, at Woodlawn Memorial Park. It's here where you can actually go visit his grave plot at Section O, Lot 537.

To find him, look for the statue of the holy family praying with a coliseum type monument behind them. About 8 rows of graves out from this statue you'll find Bob's grave. Many visitors leave flowers, art supplies, paintings and nature-inspired trinkets to pay their respects to the most loveable painter on Earth.

Those looking to go visit the late Ross can do so, 7 days a week. Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery is open 24 hours, while the Funeral Home on site is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

After you visit Bob under the happy little trees, swing on through Orlando and check out some of the cool things in the area, like this hidden post-apocalyptic "Fallout" themed bar with Super Nintendo and arcade games hidden inside of a comic book shop, this Dragon Ball Z themed ramen shop, or one of these 8 unique indoor hideaways in Orlando. NARCITY


Louvre secures key Italian loans for Leonardo retrospective
The Vitruvian Man—normally only shown for a few weeks every six years—will travel from Venice’s Gallerie dell'Accademia to Paris

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man will go on show after all at the Louvre retrospective devoted to the artist, when it opens on 24 October. The loan from the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice was announced along with several others at a meeting in Paris on Tuesday between the French and Italian culture ministers Franck Reister and Dario Franceschini. The agreement puts an end to a cultural exchange controversy that erupted under Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's government, which fell earlier this month.

Franceschini had agreed to the loans when he was in previously office in 2017, but far right members of the Salvini government questioned the deal, accusing France of trying to marginalise Italy and monopolise the 500th anniversary of the celebrated artist’s death.

At their meeting, the two ministers signed an agreement praising cultural cooperation throughout Europe and planning an exchange of loans for the Louvre's exhibition and the Rafael show in the Scuderie del Quirinal in Rome in 2020. The Louvre agreed to lend the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione and Rafael’s self portrait with a friend, as well as five drawings, two of them by his assistant Gianfrancesco Penni.

For its part, Italy pledged an impressive series of works for the Leonardo retrospective, including the Vitruvian Man from the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which is normally shown only a few weeks every six years. The duration of the loan to the Louvre has not yet been determined.

Despite resistance from the Uffizi director’s, Eike Schmidt, the Italian Minister also decided to loan six works from the Florence museum, including the very first drawing signed and dated by the artist, a view of the Arno river, and the oldest copy of the Battle of Anghiari, the lost fresco that Leonardo painted for the Florentine Republic. The Uffizi will also send one of the best copies of Leonardo’s Leda, also lost since the 17th century, and drawings such as a study for the Adoration of the Magi, the monumental painting that is impossible to move from Florence, and two studies of drapery. The show will thus confront 12 of the artist's 16 drapery studies in a special section of the show. The only major work on the Louvre's wish list that won't be included in the exhibition is the Annunciation (ca 1472) also at the Uffizi.

Although they did not need to be included in this formal protocol, Italy confirmed all the loans already secured from Venice, Rome, Turin and Parma, including the brilliant Scaglipiata (Head of a Woman, around 1508) from Parma's Galeria Nazionale. The Artist Newspaper


Woman discovers Renaissance masterpiece in kitchen
Christ Mocked, by the 13th-century painter Cimabue, could be worth up to €6m

An early Renaissance masterpiece by the Florentine painter Cimabue has been discovered in a kitchen on the outskirts of a town north of Paris, where it might have been binned during a house clearance if an auctioneer had not spotted it.

Christ Mocked, by the 13th-century artist who taught Giotto, is estimated to be worth €4m-€6m (£3.5m-£5.3m).

The work had for years gone unnoticed in the house of a woman in her 90s near the northern French town of Compiègne. It had been hanging between her open-plan kitchen and her living room, arousing little interest from the family, who assumed it was a standard religious icon. Although it was placed directly above a hotplate for cooking food, the picture was in good condition.

In June this year, when the woman decided to sell her house and move away, an expert at an auctioneers in Senlis was contacted to look at the contents, furniture and furnishings of the 1960s-built house in case some of it could be sold.

“I had a week to give an expert view on the house contents and empty it,” Philomène Wolf told Le Parisien. “I had to make room in my schedule … if I didn’t, then everything was due to go to the dump.”

Wolf said she spotted the painting as soon as she entered the house. “You rarely see something of such quality. I immediately thought it was a work of Italian primitivism. But I didn’t imagine it was a Cimabue.”

The auctioneer, who began her job at the auction house only last year, suggested the woman bring the painting, measuring 20cm by 24cm, to experts for an evaluation. She thought there might be a sale price of €300,000-€400,000.

Paris art experts were then contacted to give their view on the painting’s origin and it was valued at millions. About 100 other objects from the house were sold for around €6,000 and the remaining furniture and decorations were disposed of at the local dump.

The woman and her family have insisted on remaining anonymous. But they told the auction house that for years they had thought it was simply an old religious icon from Russia. The painting had hung on the wall for so long that the woman said she no idea where it had come from or how it had come into the family’s hands.

The painting was deemed to be a rare work by the Florence-born Cimabue, also known as Cenni di Pepo, one of the pioneering artists of the early Italian Renaissance. Only 11 works painted on wood have been attributed to him, none of them signed.

It is thought to be part of a large diptych dating from 1280, when Cimabue painted eight scenes depicting Christ’s passion and crucifixion.

Two scenes from the same diptych, known as The Virgin and Child with Two Angels and The Flagellation of Christ, already hang in the National Gallery in London and the Frick Collection in New York respectively.

The well-preserved scene in the National Gallery was also lost for centuries, and found only when a British aristocrat was clearing his ancestral home near Lowestoft in Suffolk. It had been hanging unnoticed on a landing in the country house, where staff had no idea of its significance or value. It was given to the nation in 2000.

The National Gallery described Cimabue’s work as representing “a crucial moment in the history of art” when Italian painters, while still influenced by Byzantine painting, were exploring the naturalistic depiction of forms and three-dimensional space.

Early Renaissance art was hugely influenced by Byzantine art, which is still produced in a similar style today on a background of gold paint.

The French art expert Eric Turquin, who studied and valued the painting, said tests using infrared light found that there was “no disputing that the painting was done by the same hand” as other known works by Cimabue.

The painting from the kitchen will be sold by the Acteon auction house in Senlis on 27 October. The Guardian


Despite Brexit, Britain is biggest lender to Louvre’s Leonardo blockbuster show
Speculation remains over whether Salvator Mundi will appear

Britain will be the largest international lender to the Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition, marking the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, when it opens on 24 October. Despite the looming Brexit deadline, the UK will send around 40 works, a quarter of the exhibition total, across the Channel to France for the show. “Britain, ironically in this moment of Brexit, is the most important lender,” says Louvre curator Vincent Delieuvin.

There will be 23 works from the Royal Collection (including studies for the lost Battle of Anghiari (1505) and Leda and the Swan (1505-10)), five from the British Museum, two from Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford, and others from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, London’s Courtauld Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and National Galleries of Scotland, as well as the Codex Arundel from the British Library. Although not announced, the National Gallery will be lending the Burlington House Cartoon —Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (1499-1500)—which had been bought from the Royal Academy of Arts in 1962; the painting of Tobias and the Angel (1470-80) by Leonardo’s master Verrocchio and studio; and the Portrait of a Young Man (around 1520) by Leonardo’s pupil Marco d’Oggiono.

The National Gallery’s version of The Virgin of the Rocks, however, is remaining in London, where it will be the centrepiece of a special presentation (9 November-12 January 2020). Although accepted by the gallery as a Leonardo, the Louvre’s curators believe that it was painted by a pupil under the master’s supervision.

Aside from works on paper, the Musée du Louvre has been unusually quiet about revealing which paintings will be coming for its anticipated blockbuster, although an announcement is expected shortly.

Last year the Louvre’s director Jean-Luc Martinez said that “the goal is to gather the greatest number of works by Leonardo”. With paintings, this is an immense challenge, since there are only 15 or so that are fairly universally accepted as from the master’s hand.

The Louvre owns a third of the paintings, providing an essential basis for a show. As for the ten or so other Leonardos outside France, there have been tough negotiations and the Louvre has faced some disappointments. Poland’s Czartoryski Museum has declined its Lady with an Ermine (1489-90). The Krakow museum is due to reopen in December after nearly a decade of renovations and the Leonardo portrait is its star attraction.

The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg has two paintings, the Benois Madonna (1478-80) and the Litta Madonna (1490). The Louvre has requested the Benois Madonna, and it is hoped that it will be coming. The Litta Madonna will not go to the Louvre, since it will be the centrepiece of the exhibition Around Leonardo: The Madonna Litta and the Master’s Workshop at Milan’s Museo Poldi Pezzoli (8 November-10 February 2020). Its status is controversial, with many specialists regarding it as a studio work.

There are three important Leonardo works in Italy: Annunciation (1472-75) and Adoration of the Magi (1481) (both Uffizi, Florence), and the Portrait of a Musician (1485) (Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan). These loans have proved problematic, since a political row developed after the Italian government said that it would not lend its Leonardos to France unless the French loaned their Raphaels to Italy for the 500th anniversary of his death in 2020. The Louvre did not formally request the Adoration of the Magi, possibly because they understood it would be refused. As for the Portrait of a Musician, it is understood that Milan—where Leonardo worked in his early years—would be very reluctant to lose a key work in this anniversary year. The loan of the Saint Jerome (1480) to the Louvre from the Vatican, however, has been secured.

The situation regarding the Portrait of Ginevra de’Benci (1474-78) (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) and the Madonna of the Carnation (1478-80) (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) remains unclear. But the biggest question is whether the Louvre exhibition will include the Salvator Mundi (around 1500), which sold for $450m in 2017 and was bought for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The painting was scheduled to go on display in Abu Dhabi a year ago, but this was cancelled at the last minute and its whereabouts remain a mystery.

With all these challenges, Delieuvin would be doing well if he succeeds in reassembling two-thirds of the 15 or so Leonardo paintings in addition to the riches from British and French collections. The Art Newspaper

Jim Kociuba

At the start of his career over 30 years ago, Jim Kociuba (@jimkociuba) was the only art teacher in New Hampshire’s Hopkinton school district. Each day, he’d bring his cart of art supplies from classroom to classroom, teaching kindergartners one moment and 12th graders the next. Now, Kociuba is retired and lives in Cambridge, making art that speaks to his love for the nature of New England. He didn’t have much time to work on his personal art when he was a teacher, but that didn’t matter to him. He says he grew more than he could imagine during his time teaching the craft.

Q. The most eye-catching aspect of your art is the attention to detail. Why is that such an important component of your creative process?

A. I like working in layers. I start very gesturally, so it’s initially actually very loose and relatively representational. For example, if I’m painting a tree, I’ll start with the bones of the branches and build on that. Or when I make a landscape, I’ll start with an initial painting, build on it, and then I began adding pixels on top of the landscape. Those are usually done with metallic page and pumice, so they’re very sparkly and textured. The addition of the pixilation is as if I’m staining the campus with a flat watercolor, creating a very distinct final addition. I thought of it after being constantly exposed to the dynamic shapes of static due to bad cable in New Hampshire. But it also comes from a frustration of seeing people hold up their phone to take pictures of art in museums, rather than experiencing it in the flesh. I thought I’d just add the pixels for them. [Laughs.]

Q. Your use of color is quite consistent as well. What initially drew you to the color palette that you use?

A. It stems from my avoidance of burnt sienna. It’s a discordant color, and if I were to ever make it part of my layering process, it would mute the entire thing, so my art just naturally follows this progression of color that avoids burnt sienna. I’ve had a tiny tube of burnt sienna in my studio that I haven’t touched in 20 years. Look at the Mona Lisa, the use of burnt sienna gives the painting an earthy tone that pulls everything together. At the same time, it doesn’t feel vibrant enough for what I’m trying to convey. Beyond that, color is very very personal. There are many theories, but to me the choice of a color palette is a very visceral reaction from the artist. To me, the colors I use are just second nature.

Q. Your art also deals a lot with nature. But they aren’t traditional landscapes. Why did you choose nature as your subject, and have you ever experimented with anything else?

A. I was actually a photographer at first, and then a figurative painter. I’d paint people and portraits and always had an eye for detail. But there’s just something so relaxing, and pleasing and settling about painting landscapes, especially with trees. As a child, when I looked up at trees and I’d see the light streaming through the branches, I was just entranced. I’ve been making landscapes since I first had my hands on a crayon. I was definitely the kid who would get in trouble for drawing on everything. The Boston Globe


A happy little surprise: Lakes area couple earns $10K in sale of Bob Ross painting
For 21 years, the painting hung in a pole barn at the home of Larry and Denise Walton, relegated there because it didn’t match Denise’s color scheme of their Pelican Lake home. Larry purchased the painting in 1980 for $60 at a fair in Alaska, only to learn this summer it was created by a very well known artist.

Each day when Larry Walton backed his car out of the pole barn, he’d see the oil painting that reminded him of his bush pilot days in Alaska.

He bought it on a whim in 1980 from a peculiar artist at a fair in Anchorage, struck by the dazzling northern lights depicted with sweeping brush strokes in the winter night sky. Beneath the aurora, a creek runs through a valley at the base of a mountain range, and a rustic cabin with icicles hanging from the roof’s edge is nestled among snow-dusted pines.

Eighteen years later, as he and his wife moved into their remodeled home on Pelican Lake, the painting didn’t make the cut for indoor decor.

“It was like a new house when we moved in here,” said Denise Walton, Larry’s wife of 31 years, from the couple’s kitchen table earlier this month. “Of course with all the white and beige things, I had a black painting that he wanted to put up, and there was no way. It went to the garage and it hung there … for 21 years.”

Left undisturbed in a building with no natural light, the oil painting remained museum quality -- which is a good thing, considering it’s believed to be an original work by famed PBS painting star Bob Ross that made the couple $10,000 in the midst of downsizing their estate. Larry had no idea the artist he spoke with that day -- with whom he connected over shared military experience and a love for Alaskan wilderness -- was indeed the Happy Painter himself. He paid Ross $60 for the framed canvas.

“He was an interesting guy to talk to, he’d been a lot of places, and I’d been to a lot of places,” Larry said. “Alaska is kind of a melting pot of people. Interesting to talk to him, but a little different. But everybody is a little different.”

On a hunch
It was the keen eye of the Waltons’ son-in-law Chris Kovacs that led to a closer look at the chastised work of art. The family worked together over recent weeks to prepare Larry, 81, and Denise, 85, to leave their beloved lake home for a retirement community near the Twin Cities. Facing a relapse of Denise’s breast cancer, the couple said it was time for the move.

“I had a couple of relapses with my cancer, and my daughter said, ‘How many more kicks in the head do you need before you move back to support?’” Denise said. “I said, this one will do it. … It’s going to be hard because we’ve been used to all of this room up here and we’re not going to have that down there, but we’ll have family support, and that means a lot.”

Before taking that step, the Waltons had the fate of decades of possessions to determine: what would accompany them to their new, smaller home, and what wouldn’t. While working in the pole barn, something about the painting caught Chris’ attention.

“It was funny because I have watched YouTube, and sometimes you get recommendations for various things. I recently got a recommendation for a painting regarding Bob Ross and northern lights,” Chris said. “I didn’t watch the video. … Something triggered that when I saw it on the wall, and it didn’t really register immediately. On the way home, I called my brother-in-law and I said, ‘Hey, listen, you need to check out the painting on the wall and see if it’s a Ross painting, and if it is, see if it’s an original painting.’ So that’s how we discovered it was truly a Bob Ross painting.”

Admiring Alaska
What Chris saw on YouTube may have been the 13th episode of the eighth season of “The Joy of Painting,” Ross’ half-hour instructional painting show during which he somehow transformed a blank canvas into a finished landscape, real time. In that episode, Ross paints a similar northern lights scene with a bit more polish than the one Larry took home six years earlier. While adding happy little snow-covered bushes, Ross talks of his time in Alaska, where he was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base during his 20 years of military service, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. That time also saw the emergence of Bob Ross the artist. He took his first art class at the Anchorage USO club and later sold his paintings on both canvas and gold pans.

“In Alaska, they have ice fog,” Ross says, the brush bristles audible as they mark the canvas. “It covers everything, everything with frost. It is so beautiful. Trees look like they’re in full foliage. It is so beautiful. Light plays through it, and all these little ice-covered frosty things, they act like prisms, and they break up the light and you see all colors in the trees, in the dead of winter. You can see -- you have to go see it, I can’t explain it all to you.”

Larry remembers the beauty of which Ross spoke. Working as a flight instructor, he surveyed the Alaskan wilderness from the sky, often in a floatplane or bush airplane. He captured many of those memories himself, although he did so through a lens rather than with a paintbrush.

“If I saw a pretty valley, I would fly down a valley and take a picture,” Larry said. “I was a picture nut at the time. I’ve got 2,000 slides of Alaska from just about every place you’d want to see.”

The natural beauty captured by Ross’ painting was what drew Larry in that Alaskan summer day. Woozy from one too many amusement park rides, Larry exited a tilt-a-whirl and strolled through the fair’s various artistic displays. And then he saw it -- a rugged scene so familiar to the well-traveled pilot, interpreted through oil paints. The northern lights reminded him of times north of the Arctic Circle, where the spectacular display stretches to the ground and gives off audible crackling sounds.

“It was such a nice painting of just the landscape and what living there in Alaska was,” Larry said. “When I got there, it was mostly dirt roads and glacier dust roads.”

Unknown treasure
Three years later, “The Joy of Painting” debuted on PBS. To this day, Ross’ paintings enter the homes of millions through the screen. But a canvas he actually painted never entered the Waltons’ home, and in all that time, the couple had no idea the artist who sold Larry the painting had become a popular culture icon.

That lack of familiarity with Ross made it all the more shocking for the Waltons when they learned how much money Ryan Nelson of Modern Artifact art gallery in Minneapolis was willing to pay.

“I thought, you know, how much really is a Bob Ross painting worth?” son-in-law Chris said. “I wasn’t expecting that value. It was a nice surprise. You always hear about people finding treasures and not knowing they have treasures. It was a neat feeling that we found this treasure for my in-laws.”

Steve Peer, another son-in-law of the Waltons’, did much of the legwork when it came to selling the painting. He immersed himself in Ross research and found a feature story published by The New York Times this summer, which investigated the whereabouts of the paintings Ross completed during his television run. As it turned out, coming across a Ross original is more difficult than one would think, given the man is known to have painted at least 30,000 canvases before his death in 1995. Nearly all of Ross’ television-era paintings are stored in a warehouse owned by Bob Ross Inc., an organization led by Joan Kowalski, the daughter of Ross’ longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski.

“Everyone had fun following this for their own various reasons,” Steve said. “I enjoyed more of the puzzle of the thing, than the art kind of thing. It seemed like the stars were lining up and I had to figure out why. This was the perfect time to sell it, and why is that? The (New York Times) article comes out, this guy (Ryan Nelson) lives 25 minutes from my house and sells more of them than anyone else in the world. How does that happen?”

“My opinion? It’s a God thing,” added wife Kate Peer, Denise’s daughter.

A happy little ending
For Nelson, buying Ross paintings could be described as a mission of his. His Minneapolis art gallery, he said, is responsible for buying and selling more of Ross’ work than any other in the world, among the works of other “contemporary masters” including Andy Warhol.

“I started buying them because it was fun. I grew up watching Bob as a kid and he really was the person who introduced me to the art world,” Nelson said by phone. “One day, I started thinking about his artwork and started looking for his paintings. At the time, you could buy a painting for $1,000 or $2,000. Nobody had ever really exposed his art to a gallery before.”

Nelson said he can tell immediately whether a painting is an original Bob Ross -- not just from the “Ross” painted in the corner, or even the signature often scrawled on the back of his canvases, but from the distinctive style of brush strokes. Even so, Nelson said he sends the works he finds to Bob Ross Inc. for authentication upon sale.

“I would never recommend anyone do their own authentication,” Nelson said. “Reach out to them directly and send the painting out.”

Nelson said there are many fakes on the market, particularly given the show’s very nature encouraged people to try their hand at Ross’ style. He’s taken it upon himself to purchase many of the fakes, he said, in an effort to prevent an unsuspecting art collector from being duped. Once a painting was proven fraudulent, Nelson said he would pursue refunds through eBay or other online marketplaces.

“A painting that looks enough like a Bob Ross to be worth the owner’s efforts to send it in to Bob Ross Inc. to be certified is not a guaranteed Bob Ross painting and we have had cases before where paintings made it into our offices and we regrettably had to inform the owners that they were not Bob Ross originals,” wrote Sarah Strohl, executive assistant for Bob Ross Inc., in an email.

Unlike most of the other art Nelson purchases, he said Ross’ paintings are typically acquired from the original owner -- someone who, like Larry, likely bought the piece from Ross himself.

“They paid anywhere from $5 for a gold pan to $60 for a painting,” Nelson said. “The significant amount of money I’m able to pay them now for it is a great surprise for them. … I think Bob has slowly been dropping that luck out to a lot of these people who liked his art and bought it, and now they have a significant piece that they paid $30-$40 for.”

The painting that once hung in Larry and Denise’s pole barn is currently listed on Modern Artifact’s eBay page for $18,450. Pre-show paintings of Ross’ aren’t worth as much -- a cerulean blue-dominated ocean scene, which Modern Artifact describes as an original episode painting from the 24th season of “The Joy of Painting,” is priced at $95,000.

They may not have hit that big of a jackpot, but the Waltons still walked away with five figures and the artwork’s original wooden frame. So what did Larry have to say to Denise, after learning of the value of his treasured Alaskan painting relegated to the garage?

“I didn’t talk too much about it,” he said with a smile. “You know when to shut up.” Brainerd Dispatch


What to Do If You Inherit an Art Collection

Inheriting art can be a very educational and meaningful experience, helping you to learn more about your family and about the art world. On the other hand, assessing which pieces you’d like to part with and knowing how to do so can create a world of stress. So whether you’ve inherited one artwork or hundreds, here are some tips for figuring out what to do with it all.

What first?
Before figuring out what you’re going to do, first assess what you have. Some art collectors have the foresight to get their collections appraised, and may even have an inventory with the locations of artworks around their house and photographs of each piece, according to Daile Kaplan, vice president of the auction house Swann Galleries.

But if you do inherit a thoroughly inventoried collection, don’t rely on those documents too much—appraisals need to be up to date for tax purposes, meaning a seasoned appraiser will come in handy. Amy Parenti, vice president of the auction house Freeman’s, recommends finding one affiliated with one of the three major professional organizations of appraisers: the American Society of Appraisers, the International Society of Appraisers, and the Appraisers Association of America. To best evaluate a piece, the appraiser should be well-versed in the specific type of artwork, or the technique or materials the artist used. An appraisal typically involves someone looking at each item in the collection, photographing it and assessing its condition, and doing research into comparable items that have recently sold in order to determine that work’s value.

“The services of a professional at some point will be important, if not necessary, in making a determination or assessment about current values,” Kaplan said.

And appraisals can be done for reasons unrelated to estate tax—Parenti recommended an equitable distribution appraisal if you’re splitting up the collection among several relatives.

To save or to sell?
Obvious reasons come to mind for deciding to keep or sell inherited artworks: You may want to continue to cherish your grandmother’s favorite painting that hung in her living room, or you may want to immediately get rid of a creepy clown photo that has haunted you since childhood. Other, more practical reasons relating to space and resources may also govern your decisions.

Keep in mind that not all art is created equal; even if a piece is attributed to a once-famous artist, the market for that artist may have completely dried up. In other cases, a museum retrospective or a recently issued catalogue may create an advantageous moment to sell. Misattribution can also be a problem—a treasured family heirloom may turn out to be a fake or a copy upon closer inspection. But don’t despair: You could also wind up in a position similar to the woman who found out a painting hanging in her kitchen was worth $6.6 million. Either way, an appraiser or an auction house specialist will be able to tell you what still has value, and you can make an informed decision from there.

As Kaplan noted, “If there are 100 artworks in a collection, the core value or primary interest may be in 30 or 40 of those artworks.”

I’m keeping this piece. What do I do now?
The next steps might entail looking into insuring the art and, if you don’t have space for it, putting it into a storage facility. Art should be stored in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, and there are plenty of storage facilities that specialize in storing fine art. If it’s staying in your home, be sure to think carefully about where you’re putting it: Displaying a painting or a photograph near a window or by a bright light source can damage it. Talking through how to frame and protect the piece with an experienced professional is the best move.

This one has to go. Can I sell it?
If you decide to sell a piece, an auction house can provide an estimate for how much the work might fetch at auction. The estimate may be based on a home visit by specialists, or may be done strictly based on images—many auction houses, including Swann, Freeman’s, Bonhams, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips, have online forms and platforms for requesting estimates. After the seller agrees to the presale estimate and any other fees that might be incurred by the auction house, the piece is brought in, photographed, put into a catalogue, and offered at auction.

Parenti said she sees a fair amount of disappointment on the secondary market, since the vast majority of works depreciate in value. The presale estimates don’t only reflect what might be hot on the market; the condition of the piece, its provenance (the history of its ownership), and its rarity are also considered. And it’s impossible to tell which artists might be hot in the future, even for auction house specialists.

“When people are going down this path, they might be surprised,” Parenti said.

I don’t like this painting, and it has no market value. How can I get rid of it?
Not all art collections are full of gems, and at some point, you may need to part with some unprofitable pieces. But many greener methods exist than just trashing it. It may be possible to donate the art to a charity benefit, though certain procedures need to be followed to claim a tax deduction. Antique stores, local charity shops or galleries, and even eBay are all options. Parenti suggested a good old-fashioned garage sale as a last-ditch way to clear out unwanted items.

“It may not have a whole lot of value as a painting, but it’s just a great, beautiful object, and someone’s going to love it as an item of decoration,” Kaplan said. artsy


'True Rembrandt relic' discovered in cesspit below artist's house
Clay pot used by Old Master to paint is now on show in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum

A clay pot excavated from the cesspit below Rembrandt van Rijn’s Amsterdam house has been declared as one of only two “true Rembrandt relics” by Leonore van Sloten, the curator of the Rembrandt House Museum. Tests have shown that the pot contains a deposit which includes quartz (sand), a material that the artist used to prepare the ground for his canvases. No other Dutch Golden Age artist employed a quartz-based ground, so the pot and its contents must have belonged personally to Rembrandt.

The pot has just gone on display in an exhibition on Rembrandt’s Laboratory: Rembrandt’s Technique Unravelled (until 16 February 2020). The show, part of the year-long programming around the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt's death, is set up like a laboratory to show new insights into the artists’s paintings, prints and drawings.

The glazed cooking pot was discovered with another in 1997 during an archaeological excavation of a former cesspit beneath the courtyard. Although examined at the time, more recent techniques have now made it possible to determine the contents of the vessels.

One pot, with a white deposit, was found to contain a chalky substance that was widely used by artists to prepare wooden panels. The other, with a beige deposit, held a substance used to prepare the grounds for canvases, using a mixture of quartz, earth pigments, chalk and traces of lead.

The Rembrandt researcher Karin Groen had already found that the artist appears to be the only Dutch 17th-century painter to have used this mixture to create a ground. She believes that this makes it virtually certain that the cesspit pot came from Rembrandt’s studio.

Rembrandt probably used a quartz ground because it was not only a cheaper surface than conventional red ochre and grey layers, but it also kept the canvas more flexible, which was useful for very large works. The quartz mixture from the pot corresponds closely with the ground used on Rembrandt’s Night Watch, which is about to undergo conservation at the Rijksmuseum. The Art Newspaper


How a “Very Paintable” House Inspired ‘American Gothic,’ a Modernist Masterpiece

In the early to mid-20th century, many American artists flocked to the country’s major metropolises. From the California Impressionists who set up camp in the state’s coastal cities to the Abstract Expressionists whose home base was in bustling New York City, these modernists found success in these urban settings. In the meantime, however, Iowa-born painter Grant Wood was making a name for himself in the Midwest, a region that would inspire his most celebrated painting: American Gothic.

Featuring a stoic portrait of a farmer and his daughter, this painting offers a fascinating glimpse into life in the rural United States. While many have misconstrued its meaning and misinterpreted its subject matter since its debut in 1930, this depiction of small town life remains one of art history’s biggest icons—and it’s all thanks to a tiny white house.

Before diving into the history of American Gothic, it’s important to understand the person behind the painting.

Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa, in 1891. Though he spent much of his childhood in this rural town, Wood moved many times during his formative years. Following the death of his father when he just ten years old, his family moved to Cedar Rapids. Wood lived here until his late teen years, when he relocated to Minneapolis to enroll in the Handicraft Guild, a school that played a prominent role in the proliferation of the Arts and Crafts Movement. After one year, he returned to Iowa, and, in 1913, he moved to Illinois to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In addition to migrating around the Midwest, Wood frequently traveled abroad. Between 1922 and 1928, he visited Europe four times, where he developed a devoted appreciation for the work of Jan van Eyck. A pioneer of the Northern Renaissance, Van Eyck is renowned for his detailed paintings rendered in a realistic style. Though this artistic approach would greatly influence Wood, he did not share Van Eyck’s interest in biblical motifs or spiritual symbolism. Instead, he found inspiration in daily life, which is central to American Gothic.

“Technique does not constitute art,” he said. “Nor is it a vague, fuzzy romantic quality known as ‘beauty,’ remote from the realities of everyday life. It is the depth and intensity of an artist’s experience that are the first importance in art.”

In the late summer of 1930, Wood was back in Iowa. While traveling around the tiny town of Eldon, he discovered a “very paintable house.” Known as the Dibble House, this humble abode was built in 1881 in a Gothic Revival style called Carpenter Gothic. Architects working in this style sought to translate the forms and motifs found in medieval stone buildings as wooden homes. The Dibble House, for example, features a steep-pitched roof and two arched windows with intersecting wooden tracery.

In addition to its Gothic elements, however, Wood was drawn to its characteristically “rural” appearance, typified by its small stature, cream-colored walls, and shingled roof. When he spotted the home, it immediately caught his eye—and sparked his imagination. “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house,” he said. Specifically, he pictured a farmer and his daughter, who—though make-believe—he opted to immortalize through portraiture.

Rather than completely imagine his subjects or seek out sitters for what would become American Gothic, Wood made perfect models out of two people he already knew: his younger sister, Nan Wood Graham, and, unexpectedly, his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby.

The painting features Wood Graham and McKeeby positioned before the home. To aptly illustrate “the kind of people [he] fancied should live in that house,” Wood dressed the figures in clothing typical of a farming family. Wood Graham, for example, wears a colonial print apron and has a cameo pendant pinned to her high-collar, while McKeeby wears overalls and carries a pitchfork. He also opted to give the figures stoic expressions—a choice that many Iowans misinterpreted as an attempt to portray them as “pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers.” Wood, however, stressed his appreciation for his home state and stated that this was not the case.

This is not the only misunderstanding sparked by the portrait. Since the piece’s conception, many people have assumed the figures to be husband and wife. Wood, however, intended the pair to represent a father and his daughter—though he always allowed the painting to be open to interpretation. “These particulars, of course, don’t really matter,” he wrote in a letter in 1941. “What does matter is whether or not these faces are true to American life and reveal something about it.”

Still, even with some controversy, the piece met mostly positive reception. In fact, when Wood entered it in a contest at the Art Institute of Chicago, it not only won him a $300 cash prize; it culminated in the painting’s permanent place in the museum’s collection.

Today, fans of American Gothic can view the painting in the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained for decades. However, those who are truly interested in stepping into Wood’s world can actually visit the still-standing Dibble House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the quaint cottage is practically identical to its painted likeness. The only difference? It now has a museum and visitor center, aptly illustrating the extent of the lasting legacy that started with a “very paintable house.” My Modern Met


Spain gets last word on London sale of Botticelli painting

A Botticelli portrait of a humanist poet that long hung in Madrid's El Prado Museum is being offered this week for sale during London's Frieze Masters art fair for $30 million. But a Spanish law on cultural treasures might create difficulties for a foreign buyer seeking to bring the treasure home.

The painting dating from 1500 is billed as the last by the Florentine Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli in private hands outside of Italy and on the international art market, generating excitement around the annual Frieze art fair, which opens Thursday.

The sale is being arranged by Trinity Art Gallery in London. Gallery owner and Italian art dealer Carlo Orsi said the painting's strength is in its expression and the significance of the person it portrays: Michele Marrulo, a well-known Latin poet of the Medici court and adventurer of the Renaissance.

"Portraits mirror the human person, and Botticelli in this case represents this humanist poet and warrior with an incredible force of expression that is moving," Orsi said.

Carl Brandon Strehlke, curator emeritus of the Philadelphia Museum of Art who compiled the catalog for the sale, said the subject's pose is defiant, "bust-length with wild eyes, hair out of place. It seems as if he is about to say something or talk."

Botticelli has "really been able to capture him as if he were living, even though the painting might be posthumous as it could very well be painted after Michele Marrulo's death by drowning in 1500," Strehlke said.

The painting is owned by the descendants of politician Francesc Cambo, who acquired it in 1929. The family has previously donated other works of art to Spanish museums but decided to sell this one.

The portrait was on loan for more than a decade from 2004 to Madrid's El Prado Museum. Spain declared it "a work of cultural interest" in 1988, which means it cannot lose its link to Spain. Such works "can only cross our frontiers with official authorization and for a limited period of time established by the permit," the culture ministry said.

The painting is currently in London on a permit. If it is sold, it must be returned to Spain by Oct. 25. The Spanish cultural ministry has the right of first refusal to match the price. If the ministry decides not to purchase it, a buyer residing outside Spain would have to ask for a permit of temporary exportation, which the ministry said "could be granted or not."

Orsi said he's not concerned about Spain's right of refusal, which is a process similar to that for significant cultural works in his native Italy.

"We will see if the government wants to let it go or not," Orsi said, adding that Spain had not expressed an interest in purchasing it during the painting's years at the Prado.

Orsi said ideally the painting would be purchased by a museum, even though that limits the pool of buyers. But even if it lands in private hands, he said it was unlikely to be out of public view for long.

"It has traveled to shows in the past, and it has been requested for a show in Paris next year. It is so important, that even if it is bought by a private collector, it won't disappear and not be seen any more," Orsi said. WSB


New owner of Milford's Main Street Art plans changes, moving down the street later this fall

Natalia Wohletz has been a customer of Main Street Art in downtown Milford for years, getting artwork framed before having it on display.

Now, she's the owner.

The 24-year-old Milford resident recently purchased the business at 432 N. Main St., from previous owners Barb Moorhead and Leslie Watson, who sold the business after owning it for 20 years to enter into retirement. They approached her earlier this year about becoming the next owner of the business.

"When they said that, I was like, that sounds like an interesting opportunity," said Wohletz, who graduated from the International Academy before earning a degree from Kalamazoo College. "I had dreamed about opening my own shop, but it never seemed feasible to just have an art gallery. I couldn't quite figure out how to make it."

Moorhead said Wohletz was one of the first people they thought of when they decided they would sell the shop earlier this year. They still pop in from time to time to offer assistance whenever it's needed.

She said they are both looking forward to spending time doing what they want to do, including a little traveling.

"I have the opportunity to retire and do other things that I want to do," Moorhead said. "Like go up north in the middle of the week."

Wohletz, who graduated with a degree in math, has run a side business, Peninsula Prints, both in Milford and on Mackinac Island, where her family has a home. She's had prints displayed on the island, as well as the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, with the work framed at Main Street Art.

Art became a career path for her after she tried other avenues and didn't enjoy them nearly as much.

"I first became a business analyst and discovered I didn't like that," she said. "I said, let's give this art thing a run.'

Moving down the street
The shop, which has called downtown Milford home for decades, is known for its artwork and custom framing. Wohletz said she plans on keeping the custom framing going, as well as stocking art supplies. She plans on transitioning the gallery from the current artists to Michigan artists only.

"Our gallery portion is going to be all Michigan-made," she said. "We are bringing in new oil painters, pastel artists, printmakers like myself, photographers and jewelry. We'll have a lot of brand-new pieces that will be really exciting."

Adding new artists isn't the only change coming. Wohletz will move the gallery down the street to the new building that's currently filling up with tenants at Main Street and Liberty later this fall. Moving to a new space, she said, will increase the size of the shop by several hundred square feet.

But not everything is changing. Wohletz has kept many of the same things longtime customers will recognized, including some of the staff. Suzanne Gilbert, who's worked at the shop for more than 30 years, has decided to stay on for the transition.

"It's been fun, you make a lot of friends, like her," said Gilbert as she pointed to Wohletz. "First she was my friend, my customer, and now, my boss. It's a riot."

More information on the shop can be found at mainstreetartmilford.com. Hometown Life