Before the mid-18th century, Britain could boast very few native-born artists of the very highest order. But thereafter, the unique economic and cultural climate of this physically separate yet outward looking island, with its exploding industrial wealth and strong tradition of patronage and collecting, produced a host of brilliant and distinguished painters, draughtsmen and watercolourists. In the Old Master Drawings sale in New York on 25 January, the British works include important drawings and watercolours by major figures such as Lawrence, Turner, Gainsborough, Blake and Burne-Jones, which together give an impressive account of a golden 150-year period in the history of British art. Click ahead to see highlights. LAUNCH SLIDESHOW
Ahead of this week’s Old Master sales in New York, Head of Old Master Drawings Greg Rubinstein looks at some of the remarkable discoveries made by the department that have featured in this year’s and previous year’s sales. In our instant-access age, when it is easy to think that pretty much all human knowledge is immediately available through a couple of judicious clicks, it is both exciting and refreshing that major artistic discoveries continue to be made with some regularity. In the field of Old Master Paintings and Drawings in particular, lost or previously unknown masterpieces emerge every year, thanks to a magic combination of the level of specialist knowledge needed to identify some of these works correctly, and changes in tastes and fortunes over the centuries, which have caused the works – often correctly identified in earlier times – to slip gently out of public view.
François Boucher’s art, together with that of Watteau and Fragonard, defines the taste, culture and refinement of 18th-century France, and embodies an even broader, timeless essence of French-ness. Boucher was one of the greatest draughtsmen of his time, whose best drawings are object lessons in the mastery of their chalk or pen-and-ink media. His drawn work is also immensely rich and varied in subject and compositional type. The Old Master Drawings sale in New York on 25 January presents the most complete account of Boucher’s drawings to be seen at auction for a very long time: no fewer than seven outstanding drawings – most of them consigned from the Berger Collection Educational Trust, Denver – encompassing all periods, techniques and subjects. Click ahead to see the works. LAUNCH SLIDESHOW