- Gari Melchers
- Sunday Mass
- signed l.r.
- oil on canvas
- 120,5 by 97 cm.
Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), Berlin (probably acquired at the 1895 Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung)
Mathilde Rathenau-Nachmann (1845-1926), Berlin
Bequeathed by the above in 1926 to the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main in memory of her son, Walther Rathenau
De-accessioned by the Städel Museum in 1991 and presented to the Walther Rathenau Gesellschaft
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009
Walther Rathenau was an important Berlin industrialist, writer and founder of the German Democratic Party. As Minister of Foreign Affairs he was murdered in 1922 by officers of the extreme right wing party because of his Jewish background and political ideas.
Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung 1895, no. 3190
Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung 1900, no. 2629
Diane Lesko; Esther Persson, Gari Melchers, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1990, Museum of Fine Arts; illustrated on p. 64.
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During the nineteenth century, every self-respecting American artist would travel to Europe. Studying at the academies in France and Germany, they travelled to Holland in summer to see the famous Old Master paintings. In the last quarter of nineteenth century, when the Old Masters became more widespread, sketching the contemporary Dutch life and landscape became their main goal. Many painters who used to visit Holland only during summertime, stayed for months and came back year after year or even settled at art colonies in the Dutch countryside.
Attracted by the pictorial marine views, shipping and fishing industries and farm life, Julius Garibaldi (Gari) Melchers moved to Egmond-aan-Zee in 1884. There he founded an art colony together with George Hitchcock (1850-1913), and built reputation as chroniclers of Dutch peasant life. Their contact with the local people didn't withhold them from painting the Dutch in a stereotyped manner: independent, honest, devotional and strong. The inhabitants of Egmond felt honoured to be portrayed, as they used their devotion as a model for the world.
During his first months in Egmond, Melchers painted mostly genre paintings with fisher folk, in the grey colours familiar of the Hague School painters. Soon he started painting in more fresh colours. In the present lot the influence of the Hague School has disappeared. Instead the fresh green, red and purple colours show impressionistic influences. The painting shows the interior of a church, possibly the Reformed Church of Egmond-Binnen. The attention given by Melchers to depicting the different figures demonstrates Melchers' qualities as a storyteller. Not only their faces, but also their poses are carefully depicted. Their traditional Dutch clothes, of which Melchers owned a large collection from all over Holland, are also shown to the smallest detail. In this painting he combined the regional Veluwe cap with a North Holland dress on the center figure and placed a worshipper in typical Egmond headdress next to her. Like the famous Dutch flower painters who mixed winter, spring and summer blossoms in one picture, Melchers asssembled costumes from various provinces for greater pictorial effect.
The painting shows some similarities to 'The Sermon', (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington), which he painted in 1886. For this painting Melchers was rewarded with an honourable mention at the Paris Salon, a first class golden medal at the Exhibition of Living Artists in Amsterdam and awards in Munich, Brussels and Chicago.
In 1889, Melchers reached the height of his career when he and John Singer Sargent became the first two American painters to be distinguished with a Grand Prize at the Paris Universal Exposition. This honour stamped the twenty-nine year old Melchers as the leading American proponent of Naturalism.