Yaacov Agam

The work of Yaacov Agam is not easy to digest. It forces the viewer to move, inspect, follow the curves, lines, and shades of his work. Agam was, and is, a leader in kinetic art, creating works that are holographic, fragmented geometric forms, or involve light, sound, and water. In his prints and architectural pieces he brings kinetic energy to the visual plane.

Yaacov Agam, Fire and Water Fountain, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Agam was born in Rishon Lezion, Israel in 1928 and pursued art education at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He later moved to Zurich and studied under Swiss expressionist Johannes Itten, whose color theory technique is evident in Agam’s works. Agam currently lives and works in Paris, but has recently opened a museum dedicated to his work in Tel Aviv. His silkscreens have been in exhibits and collections at the MOMA and the Guggenheim in New York, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, and a piece of his was even presented to Pope Francis in 2014.

Yaacov Agam, Hope, silkscreen on plastic, sold in Fine and Decorative Arts of the Globe, January 9, 2019.

Agam’s silkscreen entitled Hope takes a seemingly simple colorblocked checkered field and fragments it with nineteen columns of stacked hues of blues, purples, reds, oranges, and yellows. This layering of shades and shapes transforms the work from two to four dimensional, bringing it off the canvas not with linear perspective but by using strategic color blocking. Agam manipulates more than just familiar shapes like the Star of David, but changes the effect color has on his audience too. For example, his silkscreen Winter is made up of in different shades of blue, purple, green, grey, and white, color traditionally known and used in painting for their calming effect on the eye. However, by ‘pixelating’ the shape, Agam agitates the scene and a tranquil color field is turned into one of dynamic movement.

Yaacov Agam, Winter, silkscreen on paper, sold in Fine and Decorative Arts, March 30, 2019.

Similarly, his architectural pieces bring color and vibrancy to the spaces they inhabit. His fountains, dynamic works of colors, shapes, and water, as well as his rainbow buildings, do not blend in with the environment around them. They catch the eye and bring you out of your walk down the street and into a world of neon color and abstract shapes. Agam’s versatility and bold approaches to color and composition have led to international acclaim, with his work being broadly collected in France, America, and Taiwan.

Please contact Revere Auctions if you are interested in buying, selling, or getting an appraisal on a Yaacov Agam piece.

“Inserting Ink”: the Hidden Ties Between Japanese Woodblock Prints and Traditional Tattoos


Utagawa Yoshiiku (1833-1904) triptych of tattooed firemen, available in Fine Asian Art, April 26, 2019.

Irezumi, the art of Japanese tattoo, translating literally to “inserting ink,” is an ephemera that has lasted hundreds, if not thousands, of years in Japan’s cultural history. No definitive reason has been discovered for the very first tattoos of prehistoric Japanese peoples; the scholarly pendulum swings between forms of spiritual protective symbols to markers of criminality. Even during the Edo period (1603-1868) it is not completely clear as to what members of society would undergo the long, detailed, and often painful process of traditional Japanese tattooing. However, one thing is very clear about irezumi during the Edo period, and that is its inseparability from the art and manufacturing of Japanese woodblock prints. Both woodblock print artists and tattoo artists took on the title hori, meaning ‘to carve’. Many of the same tools and ink used in printmaking workshops, specifically nara ink known for turning blue-green on skin, were utilized in tattoo shops.

Man with irezumi, c. 1890. Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images.

It was not until the Meiji period (1868-1912) that tattoos were outlawed in Japan and associations of tattoos turned seriously to criminality and the Yakuza. Preceding this, Edo period laborers and firemen have been the most identified customers of irezumi shops, decorating themselves in intricate tattoos as a form of spiritual protection. Firemen themselves were seen as roguish, handsome characters of society and thus incorporated into prints as dashing heroes, richly dressed in irezumi. Regardless of who the customers were, most levels of society during the Edo period were consuming irezumi art one way or another. The relationship between irezumi and woodblock prints is circular. Many popular tattoo designs first appeared in the woodblock print novel Suikoden, the designs from which were adapted for actors in Kabuki theater. Scenes from theater were reused in woodblock printmaking, and the tattoos were then further developed and copied onto human skin.

The irezumi designs came from many sources, not unlike the woodblock prints that catapulted them into popularity. Designs and imagery themselves varied widely and were never an isolated element in the tattoo itself. Many full body tattoos incorporated multiple themes and motifs, brought together by a color palette dominated by blues, reds, and blacks. Mythical beasts such as dragons and foo dogs were fashionable, but more common animals like birds, koi fish, tigers, and snakes were favored too. Flora was as important as fauna in irezumi. Specific species of flowers were singled out including peonies, cherry blossoms, lotuses, and chrysanthemums, for their different spiritual properties and symbolic meanings. Figural images were not unusual either; characters from the woodblock print novel Suikoden, samurai, geisha, and Shinto spirit masks also made appearances. Tattoo scenes were then often detailed with clouds, waves, and wind bars.

The middle of the 19th century facilitated much change and evolution in attitude toward irezumi as it was adapted by Westerners and became more of a tourist industry. Although contemporary tattoo methods are now practiced in Japan it is still possible to find a true irezumi shop. You can still be tattooed with traditional woodblock chisels and nara ink, and at the end feel like an Edo period fireman emerging from a woodblock print.

Please contact Revere Auctions if you have a Japanese woodblock print you are interested in selling or getting appraised.

Louis Comfort Tiffany: the Man, the Lamps, the Legend


Tiffany Studios Leaded Glass and Bronze Nasturtium Table Lamp, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

Interior designer and artist Louis Comfort Tiffany is known as one of the great contributors of art and design in the Art Nouveau movement. From his studio in Queens, NY, Tiffany created his famous lamps, a staple of turn of the 20th century art. Tiffany started his company with the development of stained glass and eventually expanded to the design of intricate leaded glass floor, table, and hanging lamps. These lamps took inspiration from his travels around the globe and the natural world around him, and were distinguished by their bronze base and stained glass designs featuring natural motifs in harmonious color schemes.

Tiffany’s lamps are notable for many reasons, but one of them is the integration of new techniques for creating intricate stained glass designs. This includes his use of favrile glass, which is created by the mixing of different colored glasses when hot to avoid the use of artificial colors and paints. Additionally, Tiffany developed a thin and flexible foil to connect pieces of glass without heavy lines or joints. These developments allowed him to make shades that kept true to his natural inspiration.


Tiffany’s mastery of the art of favrile glass is evident in many of Tiffany Studios’ delicately patterned lampshades. Tiffany Studios Bell Floor Lamp with Favrile Shade, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

Although there were some motifs and images that came up on the lamps with more frequency than others, most draw on inspiration from the natural world. They incorporate designs of flowers, plants, animals, or insects. The form of the lamp was usually intended to look like a tree, with the scalloped and uneven edges of the shade replicating the shape of petals, leaves, or even wings, and the base often in the shape of a tree trunk. Some more common motifs were dragonflies and flowers, although some Tiffany lamps incorporate more geometric shapes and designs. The vibrant color schemes on the shades and sometimes in the base correspond to colors found naturally in the environment. For example, the peacock table lamp shade’s stained glass colors coincide with the beautiful feathers of a real peacock. The proportion of shade to base was very crucial, especially since most were made to replicate proportions and irregularities found in nature, and a lamp with odd proportions would be less harmonious. There were certain shade designs that are meant to be paired with certain bases, but other designs had more flexibility in their creation.


Tiffany Studios Leaded Glass and Bronze Dogwood 2 Lamp, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

These lamps were so desirable, and still are in the auction market today, that even with cracks and imperfections they can sell for thousands to even millions of dollars, depending on the rarity of the lamp. Most sell between $4,000 and over $1 million, but the most expensive, the rare Pink Lotus lamp, sold for $2.8 million. With their technical craftsmanship, beautiful design, and continued popularity, these lamps are truly a shining example of Art Nouveau art and design.

Revere Auctions is actively seeking consignment of Tiffany lamps. If you are interested in finding out how much your Tiffany lamp is worth, reach out to us at info@revereauctions.com for a free auction estimate!

Paul McCobb

American artist Paul McCobb is known for his accomplishments in mid-century furniture design. Born in Boston in 1917, McCobb’s interest in art began at a young age. He studied at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston for a short time before enlisting in the army. After his discharge in 1943, McCobb settled in New York where he began working for Martin Feinman’s Modernage Furniture. His first company, Paul McCobb Design Associates, was established just two years later in 1945. By 1948, McCobb was a respected designer and consultant for corporations such as Remington Rand, Columbia Records, Goodyear, Singer, and Acola. The Planner Group was released in 1950 by McCobb and his friend B.G. Mesberg, whom he had met during his time at Martin Feinman’s Modernage Furniture.


Paul McCobb was a five-time recipient of the MoMA’s Good Design Award between 1950 and 1955. He later received the Contribution to Better Design Award by the Philadelphia Museum of Arts in 1959. Since his death in 1969, McCobb’s designs have been showcased at the MoMA, Los Angeles’ Reform Gallery, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson, Volcanic Magic XVII, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

“I feel what people call by the word scavenger is really a resurrection. You’re taking a discarded, beat-up piece that was no use to anyone and you place it in a position where it goes to beautiful places: museums, libraries, universities, big private houses… These pieces of wood have a history and drama… [a]nd someone comes along who sees how to take these beings and transform them into total being.

–Louise Nevelson, Dawns and Dusks

Louise Nevelson was a powerhouse of modernist sculpture. Her bold constructions using found objects shook the art world, as did her often scandalous, larger than life persona. Her work was cutting-edge during her lifetime and remains relevant, her unique approach to storytelling and her breathtaking, gothic silhouettes as fascinating to modern viewers as they were to her contemporaries.

Louise Nevelson was born to a poor Jewish family in Kiev in what was then the Russian Empire in 1899, but immigrated to the United States with her family in 1901. The family settled in Rockland, Maine, where her father ran a lumberyard. She often played with the scraps as a child, taking an early interest in sculpture. In school, she had no aptitude for academics, but excelled in her art classes, and enjoyed creating whimsical clothing for herself, constructing hats and other items.

When she was eighteen, she was introduced to Charles Nevelson, a wealthy New Yorker, by his brother Bernard, with whom she had become friends when his work in the shipping business had taken him to Rockland. They married in 1918, and she moved to New York City. She was immediately enraptured by the city, and took full advantage of the opportunities it offered to a young woman with a thirst to learn: she took acting and music classes, attended concerts and lectures, and visited museums. Despite her love for her new home, Nevelson found herself very unhappy in her marriage, particularly after the birth of her son. She found escape in visiting museums, where she was inspired by things as diverse as Japanese Noh theater costumes and cubist artworks, and by attending art classes at the Art Students League.

Finally, in 1931, she left her husband and traveled to Munich to study with Hans Hofmann. Cubism as he taught it resonated with Nevelson, and had a major effect on shaping her later work. In her words, “[i]f you read my work, no matter what it is, it still has that stamp. The box is a cube.” After traveling for a few more months, she returned to the United States to be with her family, but soon returned to Europe, eager to learn more in the art schools of Paris. After a brief stay there, she returned to the United States and the Art Students League. She soon met Diego Rivera, and began working as an assistant to him. She continued to take every opportunity to expand her art horizons, even taking up modern dance as part of her ongoing fascination with space and how space is occupied.

In 1941, Nevelson had her first show at Nierendorf Gallery, marking her breakthrough in the fine art world. She displayed sculptures created from boxes, leveraging her Cubist roots and obsession with space into something entirely new. She began receiving critical recognition, and continued expanding her work, moving literally outside the box. Around this time, Nevelson first began working with found objects. She felt that found objects already had stories of their own to tell, and assembling them as she was allowed her to contribute to those stories, and to keep the stories of discarded objects alive in a powerful way. While the way she manipulated these objects in her sculptures varied significantly throughout her career, their presence remained a constant.

In the mid-1940s, she began exhibiting her work regularly, and her success continued from there. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, her work was purchased by major museums, and she began receiving commissions to create the kinds of found-object sculptures for which she had become well known. These iconic sculptures were dark, monochromatic spires, disguising and making majestic the most mundane of objects. She was often grouped in exhibitions with the most influential artists of her time. Through the 1970s and 1980s, she received numerous honorary degrees and even had several books published on her.

She continued working and experimenting until her death in 1988, pushing the boundaries of color, texture, and form. She continued to try new sculptural media—though always admitting that wood was her favorite—along with making prints, designing costumes, and writing poetry. Volcanic Magic XVII, featured in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, was part of one of the final series Nevelson made, and in many ways shows a rounding out of her career as an artist. This piece displays several of the most quintessential Nevelson elements: found objects, surprising textures, and a usage of space both carefree and confrontational. However, it shows less typical elements as well. It is not monochromatic , but instead a gradation of color, showing depth through shades of brown instead of though the massive forms of her earlier work. It is in some ways a flattened version of her classic box constructions, with the exaggerated frame serving as the sides of a simple wooden box, the kind she often favored. This piece shows Nevelson continuing her lifelong exploration of space in a subtle, sophisticated direction, creating the illusion of space rather than creating ways to occupy it.

Volcanic Magic XVII includes an intriguing variety of found objects including the separated back and legs of a chair, a wooden oval, and fragments of paper, fabric, and a can. The chair back is well worn, with use-roughened edges and a mottled finish from loss of varnish—it is clear it has the kind of history Nevelson liked so well. The placement of the chair legs causes the viewer to wonder whether these had once been part of the same chair, which had been dropped on to the frame, breaking in the process. Volcanic Magic XVII constantly brings these questions to the viewer’s mind, involving them in the story, spinning new possible scenarios to connect these seemingly unrelated objects—is it a table setting, spinning in a cyclone? This is the true power in this work—Nevelson has chosen objects just right to keep their story continuing and changing, being speculated on and expanded upon by each viewer.

George Morrison

George Morrison Wood Collage, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

George Morrison was born in 1919 in Grand Marais, Minnesota. He grew up primarily in neighboring Chippewa City, with his family, who were part of the Grand Portage Band of Anishinaabe (Ojibwe). His family was poor, but very loving, and very supportive of his constant desire to create. Morrison spent his early childhood roaming the shores of Lake Superior and creating toys and art out of any object he could find. His first introduction to formal art classes came when he was sent to attend the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school in Hayward, Wisconsin. After a year in Hayward, a case of tuberculosis in his hip led him to be sent to St. Paul for treatment. While bedridden, he was able to spend all his time reading, learning, and creating art with supplies provided for him by the hospital, solidifying his excitement in learning and love of art.

Morrison finished high school in Grand Marais with his family, excelling in his academic classes and also in his shop classes, where he learned skills, such as woodworking, that he would use throughout his later career. To make money, he learned traditional crafts and sold them to tourists. His artistic abilities were already gaining recognition in his hometown, and upon his graduation from high school, he was given a scholarship by the Consolidated Chippewa Agency to attend the Minneapolis School of Art. While there, he learned traditional artistic techniques and ideas, but was also introduced to newer, more radical ideas about art, such as abstract art and cubism. His instructors encouraged him to express himself in his art. Also while in Minneapolis, Morrison, always full of a voracious desire to learn, took advantage of all the cultural opportunities available to him there, attending lectures, dance performances, and many other things.

After graduation, Morrison received a scholarship to study in New York City, where he spent much of his artistic career. He took classes at the Art Students League, where he was part of a group of radical students, experimenting with new ideas on the forefront of art innovation. His work became increasingly Expressionist during this period, and he began participating in shows and receiving some positive critical reception. It was also during this period that he first traveled to Provincetown, which had a large effect on Morrison and his art. He had always felt connected to large bodies of water, something he attributed to his childhood on Lake Superior, and being in Provincetown provided Morrison with a great deal of inspiration. Horizon lines began appear in his work around this time, a major theme based around these large, powerful bodies of water, which would continue to be important in his work throughout his career.

Morrison began gaining more significant professional success in his last year at the Art Students League, exhibiting his work in major shows alongside important artists at the time. His art was featured throughout the United States to critical success, particularly in his home state of Minnesota. In 1947 he was offered his first teaching position, the first of many throughout his career. His work began to lean more toward abstraction at this time, a concept Morrison defined as “no longer recognizable; completely devoid of any kind of reference to realism or naturalism.” He held his first one-man show in 1948 at Grand Central Moderns. With his growing success came more accolades: he received a Fulbright to study in Europe, where he traveled with his dog and his new wife, Ada, visiting Paris, where he studied at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, along with other parts of France, Italy, and Spain. His work was displayed in Paris, where it received a great deal of positive attention.

While in France, he received the John Hay Whitney Scholarship, which he used to return to Minnesota and paint. This was a tremendously productive period for him, and he spent his time there either in his studio or with family. His work continued to be selected for shows, and his success grew. When he returned to New York in 1954, he and Ada divorced and he threw himself into his painting. He became involved with groups such as the Audubon Artists and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, and continued showing his work. He rubbed shoulders with the major Abstract Expressionists, and his work began to take on more of those qualities.

While his work gained more critical acclaim, Morrison’s relationship with the press was always complicated. Racism was abundant, and often Morrison felt as if people looked to his identity as a Native American to define him instead of to his art. While he was strongly connected to his culture, he did not make what was understood as “Indian art”—in his words, “I was a painter, and I happened to be Indian. I wasn’t exploiting the idea of being Indian at all, or using Indian themes. But as my work became better known, some critics would pick up on my Indian background, and they’d make something of it. I guess they were looking or a way to understand my work.”

In the early 1960s, Morrison turned to teaching for steady employment. He taught at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio, where he met his second wife, Hazel. He bounced around the United States, taking semester-long positions, until in 1963 he got a job as a faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design. He and Hazel settled in a historic house in Providence and had a son, Briand. Morrison loved working in Providence, with his love for the ocean providing continued inspiration for him. They continued to summer in Provincetown. He began making forays into sculptural work at this time, creating wood collages from driftwood he found on the beach.

Despite his love for the ocean, Morrison eventually decided it was time to move back home to Minnesota, accepting a visiting professorship at the University of Minnesota in both the American Indian Studies department and in the Art department, where he taught painting. The position soon became permanent, and the Morrisons settled into St. Paul, building a vibrant community around themselves of artists and thinkers. Morrison was additionally very active in the local Anishinaabe community. After his retirement, Morrison moved back up to live on Lake Superior, at Red Rock, where he lived until his death in 2000.

The two sculptures in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019 are unique examples of Morrison’s later work. He had begun working in wood in earnest when he returned to Minnesota, and had continued to shift and hone down the way he used the medium. This collage, completed in the 1980s, is the first one ever to come to auction. Its smoothly polished pieces tightly interlock with one another, forming ripples and swirls. Morrison said of his collages that they were “clearly based on landscape.” If the viewer takes a step back, it is easy to imagine this as a landscape, the curves implying hills and rivers, the variants in color reminiscent of topography. The shapes of the pieces suggest that they might continue out of the frame, that this is a map of a limited part of a larger landscape.

George Morrison Circular Wood Sculpture, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

Lot 55 is an intriguing mixture of Morrison’s sculpture styles. It is similar in many ways to his Chiringa Forms, which were inspired by aboriginal Australian churinga stones. Morrison understood these as a form of totem, an important motif through his sculptural work. Morrison began creating totems in 1977, and in many ways viewed them as a way to return to his cultural roots with his artwork. Totem means “family mark” in Anishinaabe, and Morrison had viewed his return to Minnesota as a return to his family and his culture, and honored this in his sculpture. His Totems and Chiringa Forms, like this sculpture, remained abstract and focused on shape, but they were tied for him to his re-involvement with his native culture. Additionally, the way the joints in the wood follow the curve of the form bring to mind Morrison’s famous horizon lines, always just vanishing with the curve of the earth.

G. Harvey

G. Harvey, The Picnic, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

“Art should communicate. If I provide only an exact rendering, then I have failed. But to paint with your heart and soul will give one’s mind and emotions an impression that no one can take from you. This is what I endeavor to accomplish.”

–G. Harvey

G. Harvey was born Gerald Harvey Jones in San Antonio, Texas in 1933 to a family with deep Western roots. His grandfather had been a cowboy in his youth, working as a trail boss driving longhorns up to Kansas. Jones grew up roaming the Texan plains and hearing his grandfather’s stories about the exciting people and events that once filled them. He had always liked art, but was not sure quite how he wanted to make a career out of it. After graduating from UT Austin, he got a job teaching technical art at O’Henry Junior High School in Austin. His wife, Pat, bought him paints, and he began painting as much as he could on weekends. Although he enjoyed his trade and his students, he soon found that he was not getting enough time to paint, so he quit his job to paint full time.

Initially, Jones was interested in landscape painting, and spent his days out sketching in his favorite Texas landscape. Soon, however, he began turning to more human subjects, looking for inspiration to the romanticized West from his grandfather’s stories and to his devout Christian faith. Jones’ technique, particularly with historical paintings, was always a research-heavy approach. He would spend several days at a time living with cowboys at a local ranch that did things the old-fashioned way, sketching and getting a feel for how they lived. Having that feel was important to Jones–he felt strongly that his art must be evocative, providing its viewers with a thorough sense of a place instead of simply the sight of it.

G. Harvey’s paintings quickly became successful. His dedicated fan base included presidents and governors, and his art was displayed in governor’s mansions and even the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where he held a one-man show called “The All-American Horse.” He was also becoming a household name, and made an effort to make his art more widely available by releasing popular print editions of his paintings. As he continued in his career, he broadened his subject matter, painting an increasing number of city scenes and different, moodier, genre pieces. However, he generally remained within his favorite time period–the turn-of-the-century “Golden Age,” a time Jones thought of as one of great excitement and change. Gerald Harvey Jones died in 2017 after a long and fulfilling career in art.

The Picnic, featured in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, depicts a family having a riverside picnic. It is a brilliant example of G. Harvey’s work, featuring in particular his fascination with painting light. Sunlight dapples the leaves on the trees and glistens on the ripples in the water. The subtle shadings of light lend a feeling of movement to the piece, as the viewer is drawn downstream from the watery foreground to the picnicking family further toward the background. This family, although small, draws focus and contains one of Harvey’s favorite elements. The parasol the woman holds makes it clear that this painting depicts Jones’ favored “Golden Age,” but it is a subtle nod; the painting is in some ways more similar to his earlier landscapes, and shows his dedication to subtle blending of the two genres–the way he painted places that mattered to him, but then filled them with the people he imagined must once have inhabited them.

Alphonse Mucha

Alphonse Mucha Cycles Perfecta Poster, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT.

Alphonse Mucha is considered one of the foremost figures in Art Nouveau, helping to define the aesthetics of the movement with his widely distributed and diverse work. Mucha, who counted among his friends and collaborators Paul Gauguin, the Lumière brothers, and Auguste Rodin, was an extremely talented and versatile artist whose continual experimentation and pursuit of beauty in art made him well-loved by both the artistic establishment and the masses.

Mucha was born in 1860 in what was then Bohemia. Always drawn to the arts, Mucha received a choir scholarship for secondary school, and while he did not excel academically, it was in the churches he sang in that he saw the art frescoes that led him to decide he wanted to be an artist. Mucha began his art career by doing freelance design work while working at a clerical job. At the age of 19, he made the jump to a full-time career in art, working as a set designer in Vienna. After the theater at which he was working burned down, he returned home and continued freelancing, eventually gaining the patronage of Count Karl Khuen-Belasi, who funded his education.

With this support, Mucha went to Munich and enrolled in the Academy of Arts. After two years, he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, where he fell in with a group of students who were proponents of the then-shocking idea that design should be respected at the same level as fine art. This idea would have a profound effect on the young Mucha, who was already going back and forth between the two genres, and would continue to seamlessly blur the line between them throughout his career.

In Paris, Mucha finished his studies at the Académie Colarossi and began working as an illustrator and theater set and costume designer. At this time, he became friends with many of his artistic compatriots who would also become great artists, such as Paul Gauguin, with whom Mucha shared a studio for a time. By the early 1890s, Mucha had achieved moderate success as an illustrator and designer, filling in the gaps by making forays into teaching and photography. His big break came in 1894 with his design for the poster for a production of Gismonda at the Théâtre de la Renaissance. This poster became so wildly popular that people began stealing it in large numbers, causing a major problem for the theater.

Mucha’s success led to many job offers: he took a six-year contract with Sarah Bernhardt to design all her posters, sets, and costumes, became involved with several publications, and signed a contract with the Imprimerie Champenois. The Imprimerie Champenois was a major force in the printing world at the time, and distributed his work widely, making him a household name. While he was busy with posters and other design work, he was simultaneously gaining success as a painter, and he held his first solo exhibition in 1907. This led to further exhibitions of his work throughout Europe and even in America. His success only encouraged his tendencies to branch out, and he accepted offers to design jewelry and even a pavillion at the Exposition Universelle, for which he was awarded the légion d’honneur by the French government.

In the early 20th century, Mucha’s success continued to grow. He continued to take widely varying commissions and travel. In 1906, he married Maruška Chytilová, a former art student from Prague whom he had met in Paris. They moved together to Chicago, where Mucha had gotten a position as an instructor at the Art Institute. While in the United States, Mucha secured funding for his Slav Epic, a series of twenty massive works which he viewed as his magnum opus. He returned to Bohemia in 1910, where he continued to paint, and was very involved in the movement for the founding of Czechoslovakia. Mucha died in 1939, after a case of pneumonia was exacerbated by his arrest by the Nazis.

Mucha was very much a person of his time, and his advertising poster for the British bicycle company Cycles Perfecta in many ways captures the spirit of the age. A beautiful woman leans over the handlebars of a bicycle, her movement suggested only by her wild and energetic hair, which commands much of the frame, flowing up from her head in graceful, viny tendrils. Mucha, whose name is often synonymous with Art Nouveau, brilliantly demonstrates the aesthetics that defined the movement with his striking typography, focus on costume, and stunning, graphic linework.

The fact that the cyclist is a woman is also significant to the era in which this poster was created. While beautiful women are, of course, a common marketing strategy, women were likely a large part of the audience for whom Mucha’s poster was intended. Cycling was gaining popularity at the turn of the 20th century, and a growing number of its devotees were women, who found that cycling allowed them an unprecedented level of freedom. Particularly in Britain, where Mucha’s poster was commissioned, women were taking to cycling in large numbers, and, with their growing freedom in other spheres, were forming a significant audience for marketers to target. Mucha acknowledges this, as he captures the freedom and joy created by cycling in his figure. The Cycles Perfecta poster is a perfect testament to the marriage of beauty and function that defined Art Nouveau.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol Marilyn Screenprint, available in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, 10 AM CDT

It is not an exaggeration to say that Andy Warhol’s Marilyn is one of the most recognized images of all time. Marilyn Monroe’s face extends to the edges of the frame, smirking at the viewer under heavy-lidded eyes through exaggerated, psychedelic swaths of color. Her arched eyebrows invite the viewer in. It is a face—and an interpretation of a face—that is instantly recognizable. Warhol himself was a 20th century icon, a force in the art world but also in the wider world. Warhol created art that was not only accessible to but fundamentally about the American public. An early adherent of the pop art movement, Warhol is easily its most famous figure, with his unusual talent for selecting the most ubiquitous of images and portraying them in a manner extremely fitting to pop culture: bold, exciting, and shamelessly overproduced and artificial. As art philosopher Arthur Danto explains it, Warhol was the master of capturing into art “the defining images of the American consciousness.”

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola to a poor immigrant family in Pittsburgh. His early childhood was difficult, and young Warhol was frequently ill. During these periods of illness, he stayed at home from school with his mother, Julia, who he adored. To keep him occupied during bedridden periods, she and his siblings would bring him coloring books and magazines. This sparked an early interest in art, as well as a fascination with the movie stars in the magazines. Coloring, collaging, and dreaming of Hollywood got Warhol through these early illnesses, and this experience—and his choice of escape—stuck with him. After his recovery, he attended the movies weekly for the rest of his childhood, and continued this tradition with few interruptions through his adulthood.

After high school, Warhol attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology to study art. He struggled initially, since the school had a fairly traditional and academic art department, something Warhol chafed against. He struggled in his theory classes—his frequent absences from school and his immigrant parents had left him somewhat behind his peers academically—but even more than that, he longed to be creative in a way his assignments wouldn’t allow. Soon, however, things began to look up, as he gained the support of many of his professors and struck up friendships with many of his most creative classmates, many of whom, notably Philip Pearlstein, went on to become successful artists themselves.

Following graduation, Warhol moved to New York City, where he made his home for the rest of his life. He began his career working as a freelance commercial artist, something many of his artistic contemporaries were also doing, and he soon began doing well in this field. His first notable success came when the director of Glamour Magazine commissioned him to illustrate women’s shoes, something he became known for as a commercial artist. He spun this theme into his first professional success as an artist, a 1956 series of paintings of shoes. Fittingly for someone with his pop culture obsession, these shoes were named and themed after major celebrities and movie stars.

While Warhol’s career as a commercial artist had brought him financial success, his career as a fine artist took longer to take off. He did some gallery shows, which led to mixed reviews and no financial success. He began to be increasingly influenced by—and jealous of—the pioneering pop artists who moved on the edges of his circle, particularly Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who had, by the late 1950s, managed to achieve both the success and the controversy that Warhol craved. By 1960, Warhol was making pop art in earnest. Eventually, a crisp, accurate painting of a Coca-Cola bottle—a tidy and frustrated response to the abstract expressionism he was increasingly fed up with—attracted the attention of the assistant of influential gallery owner Leo Castelli. However, getting picked up by a gallery took time. Warhol was in a constant state of production throughout the first two years of the 1960s, but had trouble striking on a subject he felt was just right. When a friend suggested he paint everyday objects that were dear to him, he began his series of money and Campbell’s soup cans, for which he had an affection due to his mother making Campbell’s soup for him in his childhood.

These series of paintings quickly attracted notice, with critics extolling the unique way he presented his objects, repeated but isolated. His career began to pick up; he showed his soup cans in Los Angeles, and was soon picked up by the Stable Gallery in New York, allowing him increased stability as a fine artist. He continued to produce series of duplicate works, and in 1962, he was introduced to silk-screening, a technique that would change the course of his career. Screen printing allowed Warhol to produce the vast quantities of identical pieces he wanted. He took a very detached view of his own—and all—art, and this new production method provided him the emotional space from his works that he desired. During this early period of his success, Warhol would work in his studio in a state of constant stimulation from the outside world, keeping a radio and a television on at all times. It is no surprise, then, that he was engrossed in the news of Marilyn Monroe’s death as soon as it occurred.

Warhol had always been fascinated with fame, but this included, and perhaps even centered on, the darker side of it. He once explained that “vacant, vacuous Hollywood was everything I ever wanted to mold my life into. Plastic, white on white.” Marilyn Monroe, at the time, was the pinnacle of this side of Hollywood. Her rise to fame from being Norma Jeane Baker had long since become the stuff of legend, and her subsequent status as the ultimate sex symbol was unrivaled. She had the most famous face in the world, a glamorous life envied by the public, and yet all of that was empty. Her highly publicized marriages had ended in divorce, and she seemed to be increasingly unhappy, struggling with substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. Warhol watched all of this unfold through the media and his regular attendance of the movies. He was intrigued by the tragic arc of her scandalous, beautiful career. Since his early childhood, he had been “preoccupied” with death, particularly when it was public, and Monroe’s death, with the context of her life, which Warhol viewed as the shell of fame hiding a deeply troubled individual, was particularly compelling to him.

The summer after Monroe’s death, Warhol began making screen prints of her. These were based on her publicity photo for Niagara, a 1953 noir film that helped solidify Monroe’s status as a star. Warhol’s fascination with her and her grisly death consumed him through the end of the summer of 1962, and he eventually made 23 series and portraits depicting Monroe. He felt screen printing was the perfect way to depict her, his bold, unfeeling lines of color reducing her captivating face into a mere “mask,” a nod to the turmoil underneath. The response to these Marilyn prints was immediate and divisive. Much of the public was enthralled, and the Museum of Modern Art purchased one of these prints; on the other hand, many critics were disgusted and shocked by his work, thinking of it as unfit for the tasteful, high-class world of art. Finally, Warhol had achieved both the recognition and the controversy he had been seeking.

The rest of Warhol’s career, despite occasional bumps, continued this upward trajectory. His bright, repetitive works were something something something. In 1964, he finally entered into the partnership with Leo Castelli he had wanted so badly in his early career. Something more about his works here. In the mid 1960s, Warhol began exploring film, and soon turned to it as his primary focus in making art, a natural move for someone as obsessed with cinema as he. Soon, he was creating stars instead of simply idolizing them. In the 1980s, he returned to painting, managing to stay cutting-edge with his works, exhibiting with up-and-comers such as Jean-Michel Basquiat. By his untimely death in 1987, he was himself a huge public figure, the kind of cultural icon he had always been obsessed with. Warhol’s constant outward focus was one of his biggest strengths. He created images everyone could relate to. He saw himself as very separate from the intellectual elites of the artistic world, choosing instead to mass-produce images of the items and people accessible to the masses. While his usage of this mass-production certainly seems to be an intellectual commentary on society—Warhol was nothing if not full of contradictions—he insisted that he was not making anything deep. In his words, “Just ordinary people like my paintings.”

Vito Acconi

Vito Acconi was a renowned performance, video and installation artist from New York. His art is characterized by its wit, provocational nature and is known for the “existential unease” and discomfort that it instilled in viewers.

Acconi’s art was featured in Dayton’s Gallery. To learn more about Dayton’s Gallery and Revere Auction’s interest in preserving Dayton’s legacy in the art world, visit http://dev-revere-auctions.pantheonsite.io/2018/07/17/daytons-gallery-12-2/