Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Cartier Legacy

Cartier bib necklace made for the Duchess of Windsor, 1947

Cartier in America, a fascinating exhibition at the Legion of Honor through May 9, 2010, blends social history, fashion and jewelry design. The exhibition takes the viewer through the eras of Cartier’s reign as the “King of Jewelers” since its foundation in Paris by Louis-Fran├žois Cartier in 1847.

The pieces displayed, most from the private Cartier collection, range from traditional white diamonds placed into magnificent tiaras, bangles and rings, colorful baubles like the famed “Tutti Frutti” necklace, small accessories and purses and the infamous Mystery Clocks, produced between 1913 and 1954, collectibles that still remain an innovative Cartier secret.

Cartier opened its first US store in New York City in 1909, and for the first time celebrities and socialites in America had to look no further than their own backyards for their desired jewels. Many of these famous socialites, actresses and the international elite had their stories told throughout the exhibition with pictures of them and the jewels they once wore. The exhibition also centers on Cartier as a pioneer, one of the first to use platinum settings and to use cultural influences from Asia, India and Egypt in his designs while always using the finest and most precious gems.

This breathtaking and informative exhibition also includes examples of drafts and drawings of the jewelry in the first stages of design and a video showcasing the many laborious steps and hours needed to creating such fines pieces of art. Many of the pieces displayed had been altered or reset over time, in order for their wearer keep up with the ever changing fashion and style trends throughout the 20th century.

Cartier, the man and the brand, is truly pioneering in all fields of accessory and jewelry design and manufacturing, having lavished the most precious jewels on some of the most famous members of 20th century society and creating the most outstanding empire of jewelry worldwide for over 100 years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Bird Man", a splendid biography on John Gould

This lively account of the life and work of John Gould,'The Bird Man; The Extraordinary Story of John Gould' by Isabella Tree, reveals a fascinating story of how John Gould, a self taught man of modest origins, became the most celebrated ornithologist of Victorian Britain, producing over forty folio volumes of scientifically revolutionary and aesthetically magnificent ornithological works containing more than 3,000 hand colored plates.

Tree vividly portrays Gould as a shrewd business man fiercely devoted to the pursuit of ornithological study and the financial success of his vast and celebrated publications. She sheds light on the inner workings of what she coins, ‘the Gould Machine’, Gould’s massively successful publishing ventures made up of illustrators, colorists and specimen collectors.

Tree suggests that Gould may have been a less than desirable colleague and employer as she recounts one example after the next of the many people employed by, yet not acknowledged by Gould - several of which, including his wife, Elizabeth Gould, who illustrated many of the plates in Gould’s works, lost their lives under his seemingly never tiring demands. She contrasts the romantic artist, Edward Lear, who illustrated many of the magnificent plates for ‘The Birds of Europe’ and ‘A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans’ with the pragmatic and rigid Gould who failed to acknowledge Lear’s artistic brilliance that transformed Gould’s somewhat stiff and rigid scientific depictions of birds into expressive work of art. Tree inserts an image of Lear's plate of the Culminated Toucan '(Ramphastos cumenatus), which we at Arader Galleries have in our outstanding collection of exceptionally fine lithographs from the works of John Gould, as an example of Lear's dynamic and expressive artistic abilities.

Tree devotes a large portion of the book to Gould’s travels in Australia. In September 1838, John Gould and his wife, Elizabeth arrived in Van Diemen’s land (Tasmania) and spent the following 18 months exploring Tasmania and the adjacent islands, South Australia, and new South Wales. Upon the discovery that she was pregnant, Elizabeth resolved to remain in Tasmania while her husband set about discovering the birds of Australia’s interior. She was to stay with the Governor of Tasmania, John Franklin, during this time and became fast friends with the Governor’s wife. Thus, it was that Captain Franklin became a subscriber to ‘The Birds of Australia. At its time of publication the birds of this region were essentially unknown to a European audience and as Gould himself admitted in the preface to the book, “the field was comparatively a new one”.

‘The Birds of Australia is John Gould’s largest and most important work. Because he himself spent so much time in the field making his own observations, the text that accompanies the illustrations is by far the most accurate and detailed of all his works. Moreover, it is such a complete study that very few additions have ever been made to the study of Australian ornithology.

We, at Arader Galleries are proud to have a complete set of John Gould’s monumental ‘Birds of Australia including many birds that were first described by Gould such as this stunning and vibrant depiction of Platycerus semitorquatus.

A letter accompanying our complete set, dated April 1877 and written by Henry Elliot, sheds light on the provenance of the present edition. He writes:

“This copy of Gould’s Birds of Australia belonged to Sir John Franklin to whom I was aide de camp, and in whose house, while Governor of Tasmania, Gould lived many months while making his Collection. I had myself made a collection of the Birds of Tasmania, and gave many of the specimens to Gould. After the death of Sir J. Franklin’s widow in 1876 this copy of the work was given to me by his niece . . .”

The letter is inserted into the first volume of the book and indeed, Gould acknowledges the assistance of both Elliot and Franklin in his preface.

Isabella Tree’s biography, ‘The Bird Man’, eloquently recounts the amazing and astonishing life and work of John Gould peppered with excerpts from Gould’s correspondences with such influential people such as Sir William Jardine, members of the Zoological Society, and Charles Darwin, who Gould aided in his theory of natural selection. I encourage all that are interested in learning more about one of the most influential pioneers of ornithological study and illustration, John Gould, to read Tree’s biography and to visit our gallery to view our impressive and complete set of Gould’s‘The Birds of Australia’ and our large selection of exquisite hand colored lithographs from many of his other monumental works such as‘The Birds of Europe’, ‘A Monograph on the Trochilidae’, ‘The Birds of Asia’, and ‘The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands’.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Printmaking: A Continuous Dialogue

Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1567)
From De Historia Stirpium
Basel: 147
Hand-colored woodcut engraving

On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, Arader Galleries in San Francisco had the pleasure of attending “Art Sandwiched In,” a series of noontime luncheons held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which presents prominent members of the art community in panel discussions on a myriad of art related topics. “Printmaking at the Heart of the Creative Process,” a discussion on the history and current practices of printmaking, featured a panel including Kathan Brown, founder of the Crown Point Press artist Laura Owens, Griff Williams, owner of Gallery 16/Urban Digital Color, artist Darren Waterston and was moderated by the SFMOMA’s curator of painting and sculpture, Janet Bishop.

An informative video, filmed at the Crown Point Press, introduced the process of printmaking. Viewers witnessed the different steps to making prints and saw as Laura Owens, an artist-in-residence at the time, carefully created her works. Kathan Brown and Griff Williams spoke about their interests in printmaking and how their respective workshops and galleries have developed the process with modern technology while using the same skill, dedication and preciseness as artists in the 15th century. Laura Owens spoke about her influences in printmaking, the images and ideas she uses and her process and how they may relate to, but become far removed from her other formal paintings and works.

Griff Williams and Darren Waterson also discussed their interests in using digital technology to create images which are then engraved and printed. In their collaborative book, “The Flowering,” thirteen images by Waterson were inspired by the experience and readings of St. Francis of Assisi and produced through relief printing, digital pigment printing and hand-coloring.

The dialogue between original and contemporary printmakers is still strong, as the process and desire for originality remain the same. Arader Galleries is proud to have numerous printmaking artists in its collection including Leonhart Fuchs’s woodcut herbals from the 16th century, Giovanni Battista Ferrari’s copperplate engraving from the 17th century and Pierre-Joseph Redoute’s botanical stipple engravings, all of which are meticulously created and expertly hand-colored.