The whereabouts of Allegory of Smell by Utrecht painter Jan van Bijlert (1597-1671) were unknown until it appeared on the art market in 2016. In 1631, the civic guard in Delft organized a lottery to raise money for its financial wellbeing. The first prize for a shooting competition was a series of paintings of the five senses made by the Utrecht artists Gerard van Honthorst, Abraham Bloemaert, Paulus Moreelse, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Jan van Bijlert. The only other known example from this series is Terbrugghen’s Allegory of Taste, now in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Both paintings follow the prints by Frans Floris from 1561, showing a woman with an attribute and animal. In Allegory of Smell, the sensual woman, surrounded by flowers and a dog, whose ability in using this sense is better developed than in humans.
William Degouve de Nuncques’ (1867-1935) The Servants of Death (Nocturne) from circa 1897 is a typical example of Belgian fin de siècle art. The morbid but fantastical scene shows us how Symbolist poetry was a source of inspiration at the time. A dark palette of all blue pastels, reveal a morbid nightmarish scene of two gloomy workers sawing trees in a moonlit forest. The felled tree they labor over, braced above a grave-like pit, from which one of the men gazes ghoulishly upward, seems to barely cover the underworld. Another, version with the same subject but executed with different colors is on view in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Still indebted to symbolism are the two large paintings by Willem van Konijnenburg (1868-1943) executed in 1899 in The Netherlands. Surrounded by art nouveau ornamentation, the paintings are occupied by Manchurian cranes and deer. The choice for Manchurian (or Japanese) cranes shows the interest in Japonism, fashionable throughout Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Inspired by Japanese woodblock prints from the eighteenth century, artists like Konijnenburg invented entire new arrangements void of traditional backgrounds and nature settings, creating decorative patterns and imagery with stark contrast.
L.S. Lowry’s (1887-1976) St Augustine’s Church, Pendlebury from 1924 was prominently featured in the Tate’s monographic exhibition in 2013, but has never been publically shown in the United States. This portrait of a church, nicknamed Miners’ Cathedral, shows Lowry’s preoccupation with the struggle of the worker’s as a consequence of industrialization. The emptiness of the air and the fragile scatter of gravestones surrounding the church are spotlighted by the play between the bone0white sky and coal-black building.
Koloman Moser (1868-1918), one of the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte, was one of the most influential artists in Vienna around the turn of the century. Involved in arts, design, fashion and architectural commissions, Moser’s style is omnipresent in Austria. His Madonna and Child, executed with gold paint applied in blocks, typical for Klimt and other Viennese artists, in an original frame designed by Josef Hoffmann, was most likely a presentation drawing for a never executed wall or stained-glass decoration.
The last artists to join the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Simeon Solomon (1840-1905), is represented with two watercolors: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnac from 1863 and Evening Star dated 1871. Attracted to men in defiance of the law, at the height of his career in 1873, Solomon was arrested for indecent exposure in a public bathroom. After his incarceration, Solomon lost his place amongst the Pre-Raphaelites and died in destitute. Both watercolors stem from the artists’ best period and are among his most important contributions to Pre-Raphaelite art.
Elisabeth Sonrel (1874-1953) was one of the few female artists accepted to participate in the Salon in Paris in the nineteenth century. Until 1897, women were excluded from the École des Beaux-Arts and from the salons of the Rose+Croix. Although allowed to illustrate postcards, posters and books, tasks deemed appropriate for women at the time, Sonrel’s ambition was larger. Sonrel’s painting Les Rameaux (Palm Sunday), exhibited at the Salon of 1897, is a testimony to her contribution to French art at the turn of the century. A watercolor, Sonrel’s preferred medium, of the same composition and size will be shown for the first time in the United States.