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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Artist Profile: From Norway to Chicago, Svend Svendsen's take on the American Landscape

Svend Rasmussen Svendsen was a master artist in capturing elements in nature which would coexist perfectly with one another. The term seeing through the eyes of an artist is a statement that perfectly describes ones thoughts while looking at a painting by Svend Svendsen.

Born in Norway in 1864, Svendsen studied with the very prominent Norwegian artists Fritz Thaulow and Edward Ertz. Together they were able to incorporate a style which were influenced by the Barbizon school and French Impressionist, but were also unique to their Nordic background. Svendsen's approach to painting was more luminescent than the Barbizon school, while being more naturalistic than the Impressionists. While studying with Ertz, Svendsen painted this summer landscape, recently at auction, titled "The Stone Bridge," atypical to his common nocturnal snow scenes:

Svendsen emigrated to Chicago at the age of 17 in 1894. In Chicago, Svendsen was instantly recognized as a talented artist. Between 1895 and 1920, Svendsen frequently exhibited works at the Art Institute of Chicago. Svendsens incredible talent was highlighted when his painting won the Art Institutes Fortnightly prize, which was an annual award given to the best work by a young artist. He would go on to win prizes at the Nashville exposition of 1897 and St. Louis exposition of 1904. He also held one man exhibitions at some of Chicago's most prestigious galleries. These successful exhibitions laid the foundation to Svendsen's distinguished career.

Svendsen's beautiful landscapes are what sets him apart from other artists. He had the incredible ability to capture the pure essence of the natural world with his plein air style. While the elements of his paintings are rendered very realistically, he would often use light to romanticize the landscape. Whether is was the suns rays illuminating his landscapes with a complex array of colors and reflections. Or one of his calm and tranquil pastoral landscapes set in a idealized setting, the dimly lit cabin in the woods exhibiting nature and human beings coexisting perfectly.

Svendsen was also a master at leading your eye on a journey through his works. Like a maestro to his symphony, Svendsen directs you through a work in the way he perceives it. Sometimes it would be a winding stream journeying you through an entire work, capturing every little detail along the way. Or a straight path, leading you through a peaceful collection of cottages blending in with their surroundings. Svendsen understood the importance of creating these moods in his works.

Today, Svendsen's works are displayed throughout the country in institutions such as the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian. Svendsen's works are mostly concentrated in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago, often times coming up at auction or sold in galleries. Additionally, MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. has researched and appraised several Svendsen works over the years and has facilitated the sale of such pieces in the past. The affordability of his work opens up his appeal to a wide range of collectors. No matter if you are a novice collector or seasoned veteran, a Svend Svendsen painting would look great on any wall.

Researched and written by Robert Snell

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works cited: Svend Svendsen

Friday, April 23, 2010

Edouard Cortes: Master Parisian Streetscape Painter

Few artists could paint such a compelling Parisian street scent as Edouard Cortes. Painting from the turn of the century well into the mid 20th century, Cortes witnessed great changes in Paris through the Belle Epoque, the Great War, the international depression, the Second World War and beyond. Much of what Monet did with haystacks, lily ponds and fields in Giverny; Edouard Cortes did for the grand city of Paris. Capturing the changes in light, atmosphere, season and mood; Cortes was internationally known in his day and remains so today, one of the best examples of street-scene painters to have ever graced the Champs-Elysees.

Cortes came from a long line of artisans; the son of a Spanish Court painter and grandson of an artisan, Edouard was immersed in an art-heavy environment early in life, leaving a deep impression on the artist. Edouard’s father originally traveled to Paris from Spain for the Exposition Universelle in 1855, eventually settling permanently in Lagny-sur-Marne (Rehs). Schooled in painting by his father and enrolled in private schools from his birth, Edouard rose above his siblings in his ability in and passion for the visual arts, eventually exhibiting his first work, titled La Labour, at the Societe des Artistes Francais (Rehs). This early success set Cortes on his path to popularity in Paris, the city he would paint for the next 60 years until his death in 1969.

Cortes managed to capture all of the landscapes of Paris in new and interesting manifestations, representing the sights in ways only the Parisians would be familiar with during their regular strolls through the city. Landmarks such as Notre Dame, the Place de Clichy, the Opera, the Quai du Louvre and the Place de la Bastille are rendered during different times of the day, under unique weather conditions and from a multitude of angles, Cortes’ work stands as a testament to the visual variety of a single place. The sale of street paintings is commonplace on European city corners today but the vast majority pale in comparison to those of Edouard Cortes.

Interesting insight into the artist’s work and collectability comes from a recent Antiques Roadshow episode recently aired on PBS and captured in an online transcript. While in Michigan a guest brought a Cortes painting after hearing the name on a previous program. The guest explained to appraiser Alasdair Nichol that the painting had been owned by her grandparents, both artists, who traveled to Paris frequently. Noting that paintings of Cortes are frequently forged because of their near-universal appeal and high value the appraiser noted that one secret to detecting a genuine Cortes painting is locating a pin mark in the middle of the painting that the artist had originally placed there as a point of origin for the perspective.

Spotting this and noting the fine quality of the work, the appraiser was convinced that the work was genuine and stated that at auction the painting could fetch anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 (Nichol). Flabbergasted, the guest broke down into tears of joy, astounded by the value of this beautiful painting.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. has been fortunate enough to have appraised works by this artist and enjoys inviting art collectors and owners alike to their Michigan Avenue office for a consultation session. A skilled team of appraisers and researchers on staff welcomes your questions and concerns and urges you to make an appointment to stop by our office to discuss your item. You never know what you have in your collection until you get your work properly appraised, and MIR is a great place to get that done!

Written and Researched by Justin Bergquist

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-8510

Works Cited:
Nichol, Alasdair. “1959 Edouard Cortes Painting,” on Antiques Roadshow website.
Rehs, Howard. “Edouard Leon Cortes,” on

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Christine Tarkowski's Monument to the Harrowing State of the Liminal

A few weeks past, I attended an eloquent artist’s talk by sculptor Christine Tarkowski centered about her striking exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center— Last Things Will Be First and First Things Will Be Last. It brought to mind a favorite poem, “The Monument” by Elizabeth Bishop:

* * *

An ancient promontory

an ancient principality whose artist-prince

might have wanted to build a monument

to mark a tomb or boundary, or make

a melancholy scene of it…

“But that queer sea looks made of wood,

half-shining, like a driftwood sea.

And the sky looks wooden, grained with cloud.

It’s like a stage-set; it is all so flat!

Those clouds are full of glistening splinters!

What is that?”

It is the monument.

--Elizabeth Bishop, from “The Monument”

* * *

Tarkowski began the talk by reciting some evocative lines relating to governance, liminality, eternity: “Pioneers circle the wagons to protect the women and children”; “Any point on the circle is the beginning and the end.” The motif of the circuitous path in Last things Will Be First And First Things Will Be Last abounds: the beginning of the exhibit is the end—you must pass through the first room again to exit the gallery space); it is unclear if the double helix in her massive ship is ascending or descending;

the final room in the exhibit is filled with images of cyclical objects; the excellent lp Tarkowski made with founder member Jon Langford of The Mekons spins in “eternal return” on the stereo.

She sees the first works—the ship and the textile print—as symbols of western wreckage along a historical/global timeline. Ben Nicholson proclaims her massive ship “a tippy cardboard hulk held together with stringy bamboo staves and shiny aluminum scaffold shackles. One thing is for certain: This thing is going nowhere, except in our dreams” (excerpt from Nicholson’s vibrant essay “The Feral Cosmos of Christine Tarkowski”).

Textiles wildly printed, superimposed images of the ceiling of the Pantheon and a tortured landscape.

(Photograph taken just before a rainstorm.)

In the sails of the ship, motifs from the floor of the Pantheon— her thoughtful reference to the Pantheon in these works which concern the reinvention of cultural spaces—the Pantheon, with its columns native to Egypt, initially a temple to the gods, later a place for Christian worship and congregations of tourists.

The curator noted pseudomorphism here; a happy accident: the view from the window—the Frank Gehry bandshell—outside echoes of Tarkowski’s ship.

The self-referential quality of images of the clothesline and flags printed in the fabric itself.

The cast-off assemblage; once-utilitarian objects, now the junk of the world.

And the human figures—a man plaintively looks back at a woman on the boardwalk. They are suspended over an existential realm of cast-off things; they are headed anywhere else— “True life is elsewhere” (Rimbaud). (Also, a sort of military figure hangs about in the murk.)

The second room in the gallery space is permeated with the terrific Langford/Tarkowski call and response gospel album Thirsty Woman if You Drink this Water You’ll Never Be Thirsty Again! (it is wonderful and, hey, the 45 is only 5 bucks in the gift shop!)

Lyrics taken from the displayed screen-printed text. O, wooly mammoth (my favorite part of the gospel song)!

Tarkowski spoke about commodity—whale and whale oil; whale as metaphor for immigration; the relationship between fuel and faith.

Imitating God. An implied steeple-needle threatens to “pop” the blue sky.

* * *

Where then are the private turns of event

Destined to bloom later like golden chimes

Released over a city from a highest tower?

--John Ashbery, from “The One Thing That Will Save America”

* * *

Tarkowski reads work as “live rituals enacted on a negative space,” and an exploration of the way we create our own micro-faiths.

The geodesic “chapel” made me feel a tenderness towards even the wires and textured cement with its pebbles and glistening gems all lit up. The rote materials speak to us, reminding us that the chapel is a constructed thing. The sacred elements are in place, in a traditional religious sense and in a sort of ode to the devotional in the art culture—as Tarkowski related, her use of the geodesic dome references Buckminster Fuller, and the “god” he became.

Illuminated chapel “stools.”

In the words of Artschwager, “Furniture in its largest sense is an object which celebrates something that people do—or sanctifies it’” (Collins 120).

Imitating God relates a modern mythos—a 21st century conversion attempt. Tarkowski’s car broke down in Indiana, and an Amish woman took her in. As the woman related her ideas about God and faith, she attempted to convert Tarkowski, and the artist experimented for a number of months to see if the attempts would “stick.”

The experience for Tarkowski became an attempt to create a “faith-based system.”

Some “congregants”:

My best friend Suzanne, visiting from New York!

(This is me, with writing notebook.)

Fellow art devotees.

Tarkowski inverts what she frames as the typical process for formalizing religious intent—to “receive revelation,” then to attract congregants, finally to construct a space for worship, etc. In an artist’s statement, Tarkowski explains, “I’m building my system in reverse order, starting with only a fragment of the architecture, propaganda, and music.”

Tarkowski as Bishop’s “artist-prince”:

* * *

The crudest scroll-work says “commemorate,”

while once each day the light goes around it

like a prowling animal,

or the rain falls on it, or the wind blows into it.

It may be solid, may be hollow.

The bones of the artist-prince may be inside

or far away on even drier soil.

But roughly but adequately it can shelter

what is within (which after all

cannot have been intended to be seen).

It is the beginning of a painting,

a piece of sculpture, or poem, or monument,

and all of wood. Watch it closely.

--Elizabeth Bishop, from the final stanza of “The Monument”

* * *

Tarkowski reads the “first” room in the installation as a “bombardment of sense material”, and the “final” room as sort of deathish space, which ironically addresses formal art-historical tropes—the iron sculptures in Methods of Egress—which become for Tarkowski kin to “models for future development” found in an architect’s office; here, in her words, is her version of spirituality—the models—“laid out as commodities.”

The vacuous-type third room, with bisecting table.

The table, constructed from former beech wood bleachers, is interesting to consider—in terms of reconfiguration—in relation to Rita McBride’s Arena, “both an autonomous sculpture and functional wooden seating unit like that found in sports arenas” (Collins 125).

Rita McBride, Arena

In Last Things Will Be First And First Things Will Be Last, we witness the gorgeous inherent defunctness of the sculptural works in the realm of practical human “progress”; the sail is “frozen”—it is going nowhere; the geodesic dome is heavy and “earth bound”, a meteoric event, says Tarkowski; we see the “perpetual purgatory” inherent in the photo etchings and sculptural models—ramps, cul-de-sacs, tires, traffic roundabouts. In fact the aesthetic of “parking lot egress” so permeates the space of human reality, Suzanne and I didn’t need to walk 15 feet from the exhibit, and she noticed another; here is “Niebs” as a human inhabitant of the ramp:

* * *

“The whole thing is scattered about inside me, the rooms, the stairs that descended with such ceremonious slowness, others, narrow cages that mounted in a spiral movement, in the darkness of which we advanced like the blood in our veins” (Bachelard 57, Rilke, Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, Fr. Trans p.33).

* * *

I think it is appropriate to consider Tarkowski in terms of what Siah Armajani terms “archi-sculpture” and Anthony Caro identifies as “sculpitecture” (Collins 130, 131). Perhaps of all the arts, sculpture, particularly in relation to large-scale installations, is the best-suited to philosophical inquiry. Indeed, when we walk through a building, we are in a sense walking through the canals of the human mind, as buildings are born there; and, further, these human-created spaces transform us: “The cosmos molds mankind, that it can transform a man of the hills into a man of islands and rivers, and… the house remodels the man” [my italics] (Bachelard 47).

In the words of Tarkowski: “For most, architecture invokes a utilitarian structure with a defined knowable program; house, church, garage, prison. I think of it in terms of the abhorrent program; the house is Theodore Kaczynski’s cabin in Montana, the church Jim Jones’s compound, the garage abandoned in the back alley inhabited by squatters, and the prison across the border in Mexico where the US out-sources incarceration services… It makes sense that architectural design should be driven by the future program of its inhabitants.” In the vein of works by sculptors McBride and Pernice, the manner in which Tarkowski’s ship overwhelms the gallery space creates a fruitful type of discomfort in the viewer. Constructed with little thought of human “use” in the realm of practicalities, and more a meditation upon liminal cultural structures, “swarming-still” (Bishop), I admire Christine Tarkowski’s impressive, menacing architecture, built metaphorically with some of the same deathish/restorative volcanic pumice found in the upper realms of the Pantheon.

* * *

The two envelope halves lying on a plate.

The message was wise, and seemingly

Dictated a long time ago, but its time has still

Not arrived, telling of danger, and the mostly limited

Steps that can be taken against danger

Now and in the future, in cool yards,

In quiet small houses in the country,

Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets.

--John Ashbery, from “The One Thing That Can Save America”

* * *

Tarkowski’s installation runs through May 2nd, jubilantly closing with what is sure to be a raucous and lovely ”sing-along” performance/choral event with Tarkowski and Jon Langford at 2pm.

The staff at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.—mere steps from the Chicago Cultural Center— seeks to fully understand the arts in their particular cultural contexts and to analyze relationships between various artistic mediums and genres; in this way we can broaden our expertise as art appraisers.

Written and Researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-8510

Works Cited:

Bishop, Elizabeth. The Collected Poems 1927-1979. New York: The Noonday Press, 1983.

Hoover, Paul., Ed Postmodern American Poetry. Ashbery, John. “The One Thing That Can Save America.” New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994, pp.178-179.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Avant-Garde and Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago

A few weeks past, I attended an event in Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago—mainstage actors Barbara Robertson and Larry Yando from the Goodman Theatre, in conjunction with the Poetry Foundation, performed excerpts of prose, plays and poetry by modernist, avant-garde writers, as part of the “500 Ways of Looking at Modern” series. The lead speaker articulately bridged the works within the overarching avant-garde movement. Projected images of great works of art in the very pretty Fullerton Hall created a magical atmosphere (perhaps answering the residual memories of excitedly witnessing projected images in the darkened assembly of art history classes).

Paul Cezanne, The Bathers

As we dragged to light in the 20th century “the recreation of the perception of our world,” we witness self-referential works—we investigate “thinking about thinking.”

Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

Cubism is “simultaneous awareness”—the “shatter” of a surface, allowing us to view the subject from an infinite number of angles.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Apollinaire, the “tireless supporter of the cubist arts,” heralded the new in his poem “Zone”—it is perhaps a love poem to the 20th century, a casting off of the deathish past—“In the end you are weary of this ancient world.” Apollinaire attended Picasso’s Parade and subsequently coined the term “surreal.”

Picasso, Apollinaire

Apollinaire read the works of Pascal to Picasso as he painted. Apollinaire made arrangements that after his death, Pascal’s Pensees be delivered to Picasso.

Verdone proclaimed, “The artist must be in the avant-garde” as in the military; Robertson and Yando sang a marvelous duet about the army—visualizing a new world through the metaphor of war. As in Mina Loy’s “shattered glass/ into evacuate craters” from “Lunar Baedeker,” read by Barbara Robertson,

to shatter a surface into different angles requires a certain violence, like tapping at a mirror with a little hammer, and admiring the disjointed, infinite views emanating from the broken surface.

Mina Loy

To quote Stein, this is a “violent kind of delightfulness.”

Picasso, Gertrude Stein

The avant-garde artists orbited about the scene built by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Barbara Robertson gave a generous and lush reading of “A Substance in a Cushion” from Stein’s Tender Buttons: “What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not come before there is a quotation. In any kind of place there is a top to covering and it is a pleasure at any rate there is some venturing in refusing to believe nonsense. It shows what use there is in a whole piece if one uses it and it is extreme and very likely the little things could be dearer but in any case there is a bargain and if there is the best thing to do is to take it away and wear it and then be reckless be reckless and resolved on returning gratitude” (Stein 10).

Stein, at once ironic and earnest, wittily defended the intelligibility and accessibility of her work, proclaiming, “If you enjoy it, you understand it and lots of people have enjoyed it so lots of people have understood it… all you must enjoy my writing and if you enjoy it you understand it. If you did not enjoy it, why do you make a fuss about it? There is the real answer”. (Check out the superb sound recording here:

Various mediums interpenetrated to arrive at new art forms in music, painting, poetry, theater (as in Stein’s libretto for Four Saints in Three Acts, an opera).

Robertson reciting Stein

Orphism, Imagism, Futurism, the Dada, Surrealism—all sprouted from the body of the avant-garde.

Larry Yando roared out Marinetti’s futurist manifesto: “Let’s break out of the horrible shell of wisdom and throw ourselves like pride-ripened fruit into the wide, contorted mouth of the wind!”

Filippo Marinetti

Robertson indeed sang the “love of danger” in “we want to exult aggressive motion”:

Tzara turned inward to confront the artist’s psyche; following his instructions to cut up a newspaper, place the pieces in a bag, and then select the clippings to construct a poem, Tzara declared that “the poem will resemble you.”

Tristan Tzara

Kandsinsky asked, “Why couldn’t painting be more like music?” (and then made it so).

Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle)

Theo Van Doesburg aimed to “turn up the volume on color and constancy”; his poetry runs parallel to Mondrian’s aesthetic.

Theo Van Doesburg

Piet Mondrian

Kurt Schwitters declared, “The basic material of poetry is not the word but the letter”; the actors performed his “W.”

Kurt Schwitters

Yando performed Eluard’s “Nearer To Us” (“run and run towards deliverance/ And find and gather everything/Deliverance and riches/ Run so quickly the thread breaks…” and sang Brecht’s lyrics for the ballad “Mack the Knife” from TheThreepenny Opera—the final line is so satisfyingly abrupt, cut knife-like: “There in darkness/ drop from sight.”

The evening closed with a moving excerpt from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, executed cleverly and with a great deal of sensitivity; an appropriate end with its modern sensibilities, its ambiguity and existentialism.

Samuel Beckett

* * *

The staff at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. seeks to fully understand the arts in their particular cultural contexts and to analyze relationships between various artistic mediums and genres; in this way we can broaden our expertise as art appraisers. We are located just steps from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center; please do give us a ring to set up an appointment for a verbal evaluation of your most prized works of art.

Written and Researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-8510

Works Cited:

Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1991.

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    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.