Art in the Home

By Karen Parr-Moody


Travelers who visited the 17th-century Italian art collector Hippolito Vitellesco said he was prone to embracing – and even kissing – the statues in his collection. But even if you aren’t as passionate about collecting as Vitellesco, developing one’s own art collection can still be an inspiring journey.


GasLamp and GasLamp Too are filled with paintings that represent a variety of tastes, genres and decorating styles. The 4-by-6-foot painting, right, is perfect for a large room that demands a dramatic focal point ($1,675 at Booth B-222). Its subject matter is of Dutch ships in a harbor (note the striped Dutch flag on two of the ships).


Such a scene bears resemblance to those painted by Salomon van Ruysdael (c. 1600-1670), an artist born in the Netherlands. A landscape painter of the Baroque style, van Ruysdael painted “View of a Lake with Sailing Ships” and “A River Landscape with Sailing boats,” among others.


The painting at GasLamp is signed simply “Kaufman,” and we don’t know more about its provenance or date. But it is in the style of maritime painting that was a popular genre from the 17th to 19th centuries. Maritime painting was particularly strong within the larger genre of Dutch Golden Age painting, as it championed the Dutch Republic’s strength in overseas trade.


The painting at left is of a young girl wearing pink and green and was done in oil paint on board ($300 at W-499). It is 21 ½ inches by 12 ¼ inches. It was created by Arno Bretsnyder, an artist who was born in 1885 in Chicago. Bretsnyder studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under John Vanderpoel, the leading force at the Art Institute School.


Bretsnyder was a member of two groups, the Illinois Society of Fine Arts and another group called Sanity in Art, which was formed a reaction against Modernism. He spent time in his later life painting western scenes from life. He died in 1969.


The landscape painting, right, is an antique landscape painting that was done in the Hudson River School style ($495 at Booth B-230). One can see the impressionistic brush strokes and the highly romantic treatment that place it in this genre.The name Hudson River School was coined to identify a group of New York City-based landscape painters that emerged about 1850; the style flourished for about 50 years and inspired other painters, as well. Its founder was the English émigré Thomas Cole (1801–1848)) and the most famous painter of this genre was Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900).


The style was typified by outdoor sketching in oils. This plein-airism and other aspects of the genre lead to its features being the light and air influencing the land.


The oil painting, left, was done on an oversized canvas and has been marked down from $1,600 to $750; one can view it in the foyer of the original GasLamp. It falls into the wake of paintings created by the English Romantics such as Henry Brittan Willis (1810–1884) and John Constable (1776-1837).


Willis is known for his works “Cows on the Bank of a Stream” and “Cattle Watering at a Stream.” Constable’s most famous paintings include “Wivenhoe Park” of 1816, which features an English landscape park and a handful of grazing cows.


According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789. In Romantic art, nature—with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought.”


Any one of these four paintings would fit into a budding collection. There are maritime, figural and bucolic subjects; take your pick. Each provides a sense of harmony that acts as a counterpoint to the hectic pace of a metropolitan lifestyle.


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