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Friday, October 29, 2010

Erté and the Art Deco style

In the early 20th century Art Nouveau gave way to Art Deco. The shift in style and design was heavily influenced by a Russian-born, French artist and designer known as Erté. Born Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, he chose to be known under the pseudonym Erté; how the French pronounced his initials R.T.

Erté thrived in the 20th century. His innovative designs were elegant and sophisticated, and appealed to the popular culture and style of the time. Erté’s versatility as an artist and transitional designs catapulted his career in the 1920's.

November 1929 issue of Harper’s Bazaar

Symphony in Black

Ertè’s designs and unique style were influenced by a childhood fascination with his father’s collection of Persian miniatures. Colorful and exotic with intricate patterns, he was drawn to them. As he developed as an artist, they became his source of inspiration.
Over 200 of his illustrations graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine between 1915 and 1937 and also appeared in other publications such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Ladies’ Home Journal. His images feature delicate and glamorous women in decorative clothing and style, and showcase Ertè’s appreciation for the graceful, lyrical form of a woman. The most popular of his drawings, Symphony in Black, has been reproduced and copied countless times.

Ertè not only contributed illustrations to the art world, but influenced theatre, film and fashion. He designed sets and extravagant costumes for films and for the stage at such venues as New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Folies-Bergère in Paris and George White’s Scandals in New York, and for such films as Ben Hur, The Mystic and the silent film, Paris. He also created original fashion designs that were worn by the Hollywood and Broadway elite including, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Anna Pavlova and Irène Bordoni.

Besides contributing art for magazines, designs for fashion, theatre stages and film sets, Ertè most importantly influenced the art movement of “Art Deco”, which was revived in the 1960s. Art Deco incorporated interior design and fashion and had a modern style that was defined by glamour and functionality. Everything from art and fashion to furniture and architecture was influenced by Art Deco in the 1920s and 1930s, and Ertè was among the pioneers.

Set design for Machinerie, The Tabarin, Paris, 1948 (left) Pearl of the Orient (right)

Late in his career, he continued to create and designed revues, ballets and operas. He also turned to the mediums of bronze and serigraphy to remake designs of his youth. As an international success, his work can be seen in exhibits and museums all over the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Miniature to Micro: Louis Rosenthal and Willard Wigan

Louis Rosenthal was a master sculptor in the early 20th century. His miniature bronze sculptures received international acclaim for being no more than an inch in height. Even the Royal Society of Miniature Painters changed their name in 1923 to the Royal Society of Miniature Painters & Sculptors solely to allow in the American sculptor.

Miniature silver deer bust and Bacchantes in bronze.

Today, Rosenthal’s tiny works of art are being challenged in size and in awe by micro sculptor, Willard Wigan. Born in Birmingham, England in 1957, Wigan suffered from dyslexia and learning disabilities, and found solace in creating art of minute proportions.
“It began when I was five years old,” says Willard. “I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticise me. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”

Wizard of Oz

Wigan’s sculptures cannot be seen with the naked eye and therefore, viewed under a microscope. Each piece sits within the eye of a needle or on a pin head. The effort put into making each piece is inconceivable. In order to achieve the detail on such a miniature scale, Wigan enters a meditative state to slow his heartbeat, which in turn, reduces hand tremors and increases concentration. He works at night when there are less distractions and minimal disturbances. On average it takes about eight weeks to complete a sculpture.

The Thinker (L) Peter Pan (R)

While Rosenthal used wax cast in bronze for his miniatures, Wigan’s micro sculpting warrants using untraditional materials such as grains of sand, nylon, dust fibers and spider’s cobweb to construct his sculptures. He uses such handmade tools as a hair off a housefly’s back and a human eyelash for painting.
Church of St. Bartholomew

Wigan’s pieces relate to all audiences. His subject matter ranges from popular culture to classical inspirations, such as, Michelangelo’s David, to Disney characters, to replicating historical events. Although Wigan’s sculpting methods are unorthodox and his work barely visible, his art has become an international fascination and his creations have taken sculpting to the extreme. Nearly a century apart, the sculptures of Rosenthal and Wigan stunned the world in their own time. Different in style, technique and material, both sculptors realized the potential and true meaning of their art; that size does not define art, but vitality, conception and spirit go along way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Domestic Interior--Roman Painting, Rococo, and Matisse

Since the beginning of human existence, people have required shelter. This fact has not changed, though the way people choose to adorn their domestic surroundings certainly has. Decorating one’s home to reflect personal i
nterests, for the purpose of entertaining or doing business, or to display wealth and power is a practice that dates back to the beginning of civilization. This post will contrast some examples of various artistic movements that have contributed to the way we construct our interior environments.

Roman Painting—Four Styles of Wall Décor

Roman homes were constructed with the specific needs of the owners in mind. Certain rooms were designated for business meetings, others were for entertaining. The paintings that adorned the walls of Roman homes developed over the course of centuries. The paintings are categorized into four styles, which correspond to the dates at which they were popular. The main factors that distinguish the styles are levels of ornament, perspective, and human presence.

First Style painting

Our knowledge of Roman Painting largely comes from the remarkable amount of stunning artifacts that were preserved by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii in 79 AD. When the volcano erupted, it completed smothered the Roman city with volcanic ash, completely preserving the city and providing us with an unparalleled tool for the study of ancient times. Thanks to the homes preserved in Pompeii, many examples of Roman painting styles can be observed today, allowing scholars access to information about the way ancient Roman citizens lived that might have otherwise been unavailable.

Fourth Style painting


In 18th century France, the Rococo movement reinvented many aspects of Roman Interiors. The arabesque is one type of depiction in particular that was inspired by Roman Painting, but features more elaborate and ornate displays of wealth in a Baroque fashion. The term arabesque refers to a decorative scene painted on panels built into the walls of a home. The scenes usually feature aristocratic characters, often engaged in leisure activities. The narratives are then surrounded with organic patterns that mirror the second style of Roman painting. Where Roman paintings used renderings of fabric or organic material to frame painted scenes, Rococo interiors boasted gold leaf and relief sculpture. The paintings of the Baroque period were equally ornate. Francois Boucher depicted scenes of robust nudes in lush organic settings, with light color palettes made up primarily of pinks and other pastels. Jean-Honore Fragonard was famous for portraits with a distinctly quick and expressive brushstroke. He also painted vibrant landscape scenes with organic environments that seemed to have a life of their own. One example is his famous piece entitled The Swing, pictured below. Like arabesques, The Swing features an aristocratic scene of leisure.

Fragonard, The Swing


One of the great modern masters specialized in unique portrayals of interior spaces, namely Henri Matisse. As a post-impressionist, specifically a Fauvist, Matisse used vibrant color palettes and focused more on surface rendering than perspective. His famous piece entitled “Harmony in Red (Red Room)” features a continuous pattern that stretches across both the surface of the table cloth and the interior’s walls.

Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red (Red Walls)

Researched and written by Emma Stein.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and antiques appraisal company that places a premium on research and client satisfaction. Employing a team of experts knowledgeable in various fine arts objects, MIR’s employees go the extra mile and dig deep into the interesting histories of the pieces brought to their attention by clients. Far from just giving an accurate monetary appraisal MIR offers clients true insight into the deeper value of their treasured items. 

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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.