Salon du Dessin 2012

Endowed, as usual, with very beautiful sheets many of which in fact have not been viewed (at least in our case) often, the Salon du Dessin 2012 for once reflects a drawback : the number of galleries and drawings from the second half of the 20th century and even more contemporary ones, is a bit extensive. Despite the quality of works displayed, the Salon runs the risk of losing its identity, which would be a shame in our opinion. There is not really anything in common between a stand covered in old master drawings and another showing a few sheets in a row which might just as well be presented at the FIAC. Of course what we find unfortunate is probably appreciated by someone else, each for legitimate reasons. However, for our part, we were perfectly satisfied with the original chronological boundaries of an event corresponding almost exactly to the ones we observe here, that is Western Art from the Middle Ages to the 1930’s.

1. French School, 18th century
Study of Wings
Watercolor and gouache - 41.5 x 26 cm
New York, private collection
Sold by Galerie Eric Coatalem
Photo : Galerie Eric Coatalem

Having said this, it would be difficult indeed not to appreciate this year’s offerings. As always, we visited the Salon taking in drawings which particularly struck our interest, whether by familiar artists or not, regardless of their price, high or low. In spite of the statements of a highly regarded evening newspaper - some of its articles deserve even more biting criticism - potential buyers do not necessarily need to spend 40,000 or 50,000 euros to purchase a very beautiful sheet or to "appear serious". We would point out, for example, a Study of Wings from the 18th century French school (ill. 1) presented by the Galerie Eric Coatalem on the stand entitled "Anonymous" (sheets with no attribution, at a relatively modest price) which was judiciously acquired by a New York couple for the extremely reasonable sum, given its very high quality, of 5,000€. In any case, how can one reproach a Salon [1] presenting old master drawings of museum quality for selling them at market price ? The very beautiful old master or 19th century sheets are often expensive, true, but infinitely less so than those by 20th century stars.

2. Pierre Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Saint Ildephonsus Receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin’s Hands
Black and white chalk, pen and black ink - 52.4 x 35.7 cm
Agnew’s Gallery
Photo : Agnew’s Gallery

3. L. Monbrison (active 1812)
Portrait of a Young Man, 1812
Charcoal, heightened with white - 49 x 37.5 cm
Galerie Terrades
Photo : Galerie Terrades

The range of artists presented here also accounts for the attraction of this ephemeral drawing cabinet room. Great names can be found alongside less familiar ones. Among the first, we might choose for instance at Agnew’s a sheet by Rubens which is preparatory for an engraving, representing Saint Ildephonsus Receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin’s Hands (ill. 2). For the second, visitors might stop at the stands of Gabriel Terrades and Antoine Cahen - who also offer drawings by masters such as Guercino, Hubert Robert... - before a sheet by an artist whose first name, dates of birth and death are unknown. This Portrait of a Young Man (ill. 3) is just signed L. Monbrison and dated 1812. Without this inscription, it would have been absolutely impossible to find an attribution and there is no doubt that some might have suggested more prestigious names due to the beauty and impeccable quality of the work.

4. Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716-c. 1803)
View of the Port of Castellamare
Pen, brown and grey ink, brown and grey wash,
heightened with white - 31 x 51.7 cm
Galerie Jean-François Baroni
Photo : Galerie Jean-François Baroni

5. Auguste Garneray (1785-1824)
Troubadour Scene, 1821
Watercolor and gouache - 19.3 x 14.1 cm
Paul Prouté S.A.
Photo : Paul Prouté S.A.

6. Federico Barocci (1526-1612)
Studies of Legs and Hand of a Child
Colored Chalks - 37 x 24 cm
Photo : Arnoldi-Livie

Certain artists also attain a level of quality much higher than their place in art history. This is the case, for example, for Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, a fine but sometimes dull landscapist, in a View of the Port of Castellamare (ill. 4) at the Galerie Jean-François Baroni, a drawing which stands almost on an equal with those of Joseph Vernet, or at Paul Prouté’s stand for Auguste Garneray, a troubadour painter responsible for a watercolor (ill. 5) which is fascinating in its treatment of stained-glass windows with colors so intense they can be seen at a distance, despite the drawing’s small size.
In our walk through the stands, the sheet which most impressed us is undoubtedly a double-sided drawing, in pastel, by Federicco Barocci (ill. 6), presented by Arnoldi-Livie. Apparently, it had been shown at Maastricht but we missed it. The sheet is truly magnificent and, not having found a buyer at the TEFAF, was sold immediately at the Salon’s inauguration.

7. Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714-1789)
Young Woman in Profile, c. 1750
Oil on paper - 33.5 x 26.8 cm
Didier Aaron & Cie
Photo : Didier Aaron & Cie

8. Florentine School, end of 16th century
The Fall of Phaeton
Pen and brown ink - 32 x 44 cm
Didier Aaron & Cie
Photo : Didier Aaron & Cie

At Didier Aaron’s, we were struck by an oil on paper of remarkable spontaneity, by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (ill. 7), while on the same stand, an intriguing The Fall of Phaethon (ill. 8), of the 17th century Florentine school, had still not found an attribution. As the Salon was attended by world renowned drawing specialists and museum curators in this field, identifications were suggested and it is likely that the artist is Antonio Tempesta, although this needs to be confirmed.

9. Francesco Michetti (1851-1929)
Lucifer, 1882
Charcoal and black chalk - 23.9 x 36 cm
Pandora Old Masters Inc.
Photo : Pandora Old Masters Inc.

10. Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Place Vintimille, c. 1928
Pastel and charcoal - 47.4 x 29 cm
Le Claire Kunst
Photo : Le Claire Kunst

We will conclude our visit with a strange Lucifer in a top hat (ill. 9) at the New York Gallery of Pandora Old Master Inc., by the Italian Francesco Paolo Michetti, and a 20th century drawing concerning a painter who falls exactly in our chronological boundaries as he was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries : Edouard Vuillard. This pastel (ill. 10), offered by Thomas Le Claire, is a true masterpiece.

11. Jan Boeckhorst (1604-1666)
Apollon Killing Python
Pen, brown ink, brown wash,
heightened with white gouache - 37 x 28.3 cm
Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété
Photo : Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété

12. Simon Vouet (1590-1649)
Study of Drapery
Charcoale heigtened with white - 34,5 x 22,7 cm
Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété
Photo : Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété

13. Louis Licherie (1629-1687)
The Nine Orders of Celestial Spirits, 1679
Red chalk, black wash - 49.5 x 30 cm
Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété
Photo : Bergues, Musée du Mont-de-Piété

However, a visit to the Salon does not end after viewing the galleries. We should commend the Salon’s initiative for inviting a private collection or museum every year to present unknown or unfamiliar sheets.
This time, the discovery is outstanding as it consists of a selection of drawings from the Musée in Bergues. This city in northern France, of less than 4,000 inhabitants, does not only hold a painting by Georges de La Tour. In 1877, it received a bequest from a painter, art dealer and painting restorer, corresponding to almost 1,500 drawings very few of which had been published until now. Thanks to the arrival of a very dynamic curator, Patrick Descamps, along with the Salon’s invitation but also the interest of the city for its heritage, this unique ensemble finally was brought to light and will also be exhibited at the museum (from 5 May to 30 September 2012). _We will simply mention in passing some of the most beautiful sheets exhibited here at the Salon du Dessin, in a very eclectic selection which includes Italian as well as Northern European, French or even Spanish works (an Angel Holding the Holy Face of Jesus by Eugenio Cajes). Among the first, we would point out a Head of a Woman by Sebastiano del Piombo, in charcoal with chalk highlights, which strangely resembles a Degas ; among the second, a Study of a Sitting Figure by Abraham Bloemaert ; an Adoration of the Shepherds in ink, of exceptional vitality by Anton van Dyck and also an ensemble of drawings by Jan Boeckhorst (ill. 11) preparatory for a tapestry of The Story of Apollo. Finally, in French drawing, of note are the Drapery Study by Simon Vouet (ill. 12), a very accomplished red chalk drawing by Louis de Licherie for a painting held at the church of Saint Etienne du Mont (ill. 13). The fact that the collection also holds a double-sided drawing by Nicolas Poussin (also exhibited) only serves to underscore its importance. When the Louvre annex opens at Lens...visitors might do well to visit the Musée in Bergues instead.

Visitor information : From 28 March to 2 April 2012. Palais de la Bourse, Place de la Bourse, 75002 Paris. Hours : from 12 noon to 8:30 p.m.

Site du Salon du Dessin.

Didier Rykner, samedi 31 mars 2012


[1] Described in this article as a "brocante de luxe" or second-hand luxury sale. It takes some cheek.

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