Detail of Union troops playing morning taps during the Civil War.

A Break From the News: 7 Artworks We Love

By Jonathan Boos, Valerie Stanos and Beth Hamilton

It has been a few weeks since New Yorkers were asked to stay indoors. From museums, such as The Whitney, donating their masks and gloves, to the commitment of the incredible first responders, including the doctors and the nurses, we are so humbled by those fighting daily. The Gallery has donated to New York City’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and to Food Bank for New York City in our attempt to help in this crisis. During this unusual time, we also find ourselves feeling reflective. What is the role of art, when we are not able to enjoy masterpieces in galleries and museums? How can we find comfort in the masterpieces of the past, to address today’s context? Our team is thankful and proud to work with many passionate collectors from across the country who, we hope, are finding a bit of respite in the artworks they are lucky to live with every day.

With this in mind, we invite you to take a break from the news and to spend some time with seven exemplary American and European works that we have recently had the opportunity to place, as our clients continue to build first-rate, museum quality collections. While we all recognize this does not match the true joy of seeing these in person, we hope you’ll join this digital journey: whether it’s the use of color, innovative brushwork or subject matter, we share why each of these works stood out below.

1. Claude Monet, La maison de l’artiste à Giverny (1912)

The lush, green garden in front of Claude Monet's home.
Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926. La maison de l'artiste à Giverny, 1912. Oil on canvas. 29 x 29 inches.

Notice how Claude Monet’s mastery of oil and brushwork bring the lush French foliage to life. In a way, he makes us feel as if we were standing directly outside of the artist’s home and taking in the scene. If, like us, you’ve been missing the great outdoors, take a closer look at Monet’s depiction of his house and garden in Giverny, painted in the late summer of 1912. It is a modern explosion of color and our eyes are drawn to the shades of pink, blue, white and green throughout the scene. La maison de lartiste à Giverny is both beautiful and “messy.” Incredible!

2. Vincent van Gogh, Orphan Man (December 1882)

A portrait of a homeless man in profile by Vincent van Gogh.
Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Orphan Man, December 1882. Pencil and ink and watercolor wash on paper. 13 3/8 x 10 3/4 inches.

One of Vincent van Gogh’s early drawings done in The Hague in late 1882, this poignant piece captures the grittiness of the sitter, a model often depicted by the artist during this period. “I am very busy working on drawings of an orphan man…don’t you think the expressions are superb?” Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his friend, the Dutch painter Anthon van Rappard. With our focus on the sitter’s visage, which seems to contain a deep wisdom, we wholeheartedly agree: superb indeed!

3. Jacob Lawrence, The Carpenters (1946)

Four carpenters at work in their shop.
Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917 - 2000. The Carpenters, 1946. Gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper. 19 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches.

One thing is for sure: The Carpenters is a masterwork of mid-century modern American art! Painted in 1946 and acquired in the same year from Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery, this work by renowned American modernist Jacob Lawrence remained unknown until it was recently offered at Sotheby’s. The picture was as fresh and untouched as any we can recall. Lawrence’s depiction of a busy carpentry shop transforms the workplace into a series of angular planes and fractured forms. The work’s cubist composition and bold colors create a sense of dynamism, driving the viewer’s eyes across the picture to study the work of each carpenter.

4. Tschabalala Self, Princess (2017)

Mixed media female figure.
Tschabalala Self, American, b. 1990. Princess, 2017. Fabric, acrylic, flashe, oil and human hair on canvas. 83 7/8 x 72 inches.

Now let’s take a jump into contemporary art: edgy, powerful, full of energy are just a few words to describe the presence of this picture, which includes real human hair! Notice how, like Jacob Lawrence, the artist uses bold colors, while establishing a totally different technique, style and composition. Given Tschabalala Self’s meteoric rise since completing her MFA at the Yale School of Art in 2015, researching and acquiring this monumental work was one the Gallery’s highlights of the year.

5. Winslow Homer, Sounding Reveille (1871)

A Winslow Homer painting of Civil War military band.
Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910. Sounding Reveille, 1871. Oil on canvas. 13 x 19 ½ in. Signed and dated lower right.

One of the most iconic American artists of the 19th century, Winslow Homer made at least two trips to the front lines to chronicle the Civil War. Sounding Reveille depicts a focused moment before the morning routine. Homer expertly brings our attention to the central bugle player through a diagonal line extending across the canvas from the drum, up the player’s arm and to his red cap, which stands out against the blue sky and the traditional Union caps of the other musicians. Sounding Reveille also captures the expanse of the Union soldiers’ encampment, which extends as far as the eye can see in the background of the work. Civil War paintings by Homer rarely come on the market, making this a very special acquisition!

6. Georgia O’Keeffe, Pink Spotted Lillies (1936)

A close up of a pink spotted lily flower.
Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887-1986. Pink Spotted Lillies, 1936. Oil on canvas. 20 x 16 inches.

No one can say it better than the artist herself… in 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower—the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower—lean forward to smell it—maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking—or give it to someone to please them. Still—in a way—nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small—we haven’t time—and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time… So I said to myself—I’ll paint what I see—what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.” [1] Viewing this work, one can appreciate O’Keeffe’s ingenuity: what are the “small” things you have come to appreciate during your time at home?

7. Donald Judd, Untitled (1987)

Donal Judd's minimalist geometric sculpture with rectangles of various colors.
Donald Judd, American, 1928 - 1994. Untitled, 1987. 11 3/4 x 59 1/8 x 11 3/4 inches.

The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition about Donald Judd is just one of the many fascinating shows that have been disrupted by the current crisis; did you have a chance to see it? Our team has been studying works by Judd for years, and this one immediately stood out with its bold organization of color. The contrasting black and white elements, combined with the vibrant segments of red and orange, are perfectly arranged. Simultaneously refined and bold, Untitled, typifies the artist’s revered body of multi-colored wall pieces and is a prime example of Judd’s contribution to Minimalist Art. Clearly, less is more!

Cover image: Winslow Homer, American, 1836-1910. Sounding Reveille, 1871. Oil on canvas. 13 x 19 ½ in. Signed and dated lower right.  (detail).

[1] As quoted in N. Callaway, ed., Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers, New York, 1989, n.p.