March 22, 2007

Meanwhile, Back in Paris...The Drawings Fair

The annual Salon du Dessin opened on Tuesday in the venerated Palais de la Bourse, the former home of the French Stock Exchange now transformed into a premier venue for meetings and shows. This historic and beautiful building is an appropriate location for such an assembly of choice European and American drawings dealers. Spanning the ages from Old Master to Modern, these 29 specialists filled their booths with prime examples for collectors of fine drawings.

From Tiepolo pen and ink studies, to Picasso pencil sketches, all presented in an elegant, intimate setting, the visitor was invited to study and enjoy a wide variety of superb offerings. I found many lovely pieces like an exquisite pencil drawing with watercolor by Gustav Klimt on the stand of Jean Luc Baroni, London. Executed in 1917, it is a portrait of a woman, done in pencil, wearing a colorful scarf around her neck, done in watercolor. Or the marvelous black pencil study "Deux chats dans l'atelier de l'artiste (Two Cats in the Artist's Studio)", 1922, by Theophile Steinlen, on the stand of Martin Moeller Kunsthandel, Hamburg. There was an amusing watercolor of two penguins by Jacques Cartier that was sold in the first 30 minutes of the fair! There was also a beautiful pencil portrait of Paul Helleu's wife "Madame Helleu au tricot (Madame Helleu Knitting)" at Talabardon & Gautier, Paris. Helleu's depictions of his beloved Alice are his most touching works, imbued with a tenderness that exists only between people who love each other. This drawing, capturing her in a quiet moment of concentration, has exactly that quality.

My very favorite piece at the 2007 Salon du Dessin was by Eugene Lami (1800-1890) at the booth of Didier Aaron & Cie, Paris. It was a very large watercolor of the terraces of the Grand Trianon at Versailles, in almost lifelike detail. Executed in 1867, but in the style of the 18th Century, this fully finished painting depicts a royal outing on a lovely summer day. In the center is the king's carriage pulled by magnificent white horses. It is surrounded by uniformed officers on their steeds, lovely ladies being wooed in rowboats on the canal, sumptuous picnics being consumed on the lawn and general merrymaking overall. Formerly a part of the de Rothschild collection, this watercolor is now offered at the princely sum of 90,000 Euros.

Once again, the Salon du Dessin has succeeded in presenting the visitor with a wide variety of fine drawings of the very highest quality. It is not the "Art Carnival" atmosphere of Art Basel, or TEFAF. It is more an understated invitation to enjoy some precious objects in a dignified setting. Rather a rare treat in this hyperactive world!

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