Collecting: 19th Century is the Place To Be!
Major New York auctions coming Oct. 30th to Nov. 2nd
of 19th C. European Paintings
oaring ever higher in prices, more collectors are recognizing, that the 19th century is the place to be. While prices for the art of other periods has languished or in some cases even fallen, paintings created between 1840 and 1910 have increased in value at breathtaking speed over the last 25 years.|
To demonstrate this, following are just a few examples of estimated average percentage increases in some of the leading names in 19th Century European and American paintings. Keep in mind that the very best works, the masterpieces, by these artists increased in value at three times the pace of their average works. These are rough estimates, but are not off by more than plus or minus 20 % of the listings below.
William Bouguereau (average works increased 55 times in value) ................. 5,500 %
(1825-1905: President of the French Academy and head of the Salon).
In 1977 the world record for a Bouguereau painting sold at auction was $17,000. Today the record is $3,450,000 for his painting "Charity" That sold at Christie's NY in May of 2000. The prior world record of $2,650,000 for "Alma Parens" sold at Sotheby's NY in 1999, after many other works had already broken the million dollar mark.
Jean Leon Gérôme..................................................5,000 %
John Singer Sargeant...............................................3,500 %
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.....................................6,000 %
Edward Coley Burne Jones......................................4,000 %
William Merritt Chase.............................................4,000%
John William Waterhouse.......................................5,500 %
(Currently the world record for any non-Impressionist 19th century painting is held by the sale of Waterhouse's Saint Cecilia for just over $10,000,000 to Andrew Lloyd Weber, June 14, 2000)
Sir John Everett Millais.......................................6,000 %
(A Founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, in 1978 the highest price he had brought at auction was about $35,000 in 1978. Today the world record for his works have soared repeatedly until two works over the last two years, sold for $2,600,000 and $3,500,000 in London).
Even the second and third-rate artists of this period have shown meteoric increases in pricing, of at least 1000 to 3000 percent since 1975.
Your first reaction might be that it's too late to take advantage of this trend, but in fact the valuations were so absurdly suppressed in the mid 20th century, that this entire period is still grossly undervalued, probably by yet another 2000 to 4000 %. You can still purchase a first rate Bouguereau (not his top masterpieces) for $400,000 to $1,500,000. We believe he, along with the other masters listed above, will soon be ranked amongst the greatest artists in all of human history, shoulder to shoulder with names like Leonardo, Raphael, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Masterpieces by any of these names would sell for more than top line works by Monet, Renoir, Manet, Picasso, Modigliani and Van Gogh, all of whose works have seen prices between $20,000,000 and $50,000,000 per painting over the last 15 years.
It doesn't defy probability at all to predict that Bouguereau's greatest works will sell for similar prices within the next 10 to 20 years, with room to go still higher during periods of peace and prosperity. Additionally, there are other major masters of the period, who have not yet been sufficiently appreciated by the marketplace. Jean George Vibert, Alexander Cabanel, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, Ernst Louis Meissonnier, William Paxton, Raimondo Y Madrazo, Julien Dupré, Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, and Leon Lhermitte, are just a few names of truly great artists, true masters whose major works can still be had for prices ranging from $30,000 to $300,000.
Opportunities to purchase works like these abound, either from dealers, or from the major auction houses in New York and London. Many collectors have reported similar successes through both venues, and quite frankly it makes investing in the stock market pale by comparison.
"It's having your cake and eating it, and the cake just keeps growing bigger the more you nibble" I overheard one major collector say. "I get to spend my money on the very thing I love the most, and not only haven't I used up the funds, but while I'm continuously enjoying my purchase, it's value keeps growing," said another. "One such purchase of $60,000 for an Alma-Tadema in 1984 paid for the $350,000 addition to my house in 1991, and I kick myself for selling it too soon. It would be worth at least twice that in today's market."
Certainly prices don't go straight up in any field. A recession like we are in today, will present some of the best buying opportunities we've seen, perhaps in the last 8 to 10 years.
Between October 30th and November 2nd, there are due to be 3 or 4 auctions held at Sotheby's and Christie's in New York. Unable to obtain information on the Christie's major sale at the time we went to press on this article, I can only report on some of the fine opportunities at Sotheby's sale now set for November 2nd. There will also be a large number of works from this period offered at Christie's East, to be sold on Oct. 30th., Works being offered, are always placed on exhibit for several days in advance, for observation and examination by purchasers or their expert advisers. (As a side note here, the Art Renewal Center can help refer interested collectors to ARC Accredited Advisers who can help expert advice on condition, historical importance, comparable values and purchasing and negotiating methods, either from dealers or the auction houses. If we can help, you can send a note to email@example.com.)
There will be some real gems being offered this time at Sotheby's major sale:
William Bouguereau, La Lecon Difficile signed and dated 1884, oil on canvas 38 x 26 inches. Estimated at a mere $350,000 to $550,000 this is a highly characteristic work from his best period. See:
Next at this sale, there is an incredible first rank masterpiece by Leon Lhermitte (1844-1925), called Le Pardon de Ploumanach'h. Lhermitte was Van Gogh's favorite artist, and along with Jean Francois Millet, he often tried to model his own work after their inspiration (published letter of Vincent Van Gogh). To quote from the upcoming catalog entry:
"The penitential pilgrimages of Breton peasants were a fascinating subject for French painters in the nineteenth century. Brittany was a deeply Catholic region of France, where the recognizable peasant women in their white caps appeared frequently in the works by Lhermitte, Jules Breton and Paul Gauguin, among others."
Actually two of the most stunning masterpieces of the nineteenth century were painted by Pascal A. J. Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929), both on this same subject, and can be viewed in our Museum at Dagnan-Bouveret
The strong compositional elements of this work, captures the intensity of this religious ritual like few works this writer has ever encountered. A solemn intensity bathes this work with palpable and hushed silence, nearly making the viewer fear committing a sacrilege by not paying due respect by removing one's hat or bowing one's head in appropriate deference. This work, if framed properly, should dominate an entire gallery in a major museum. This is a masterpiece, clearly one of the last century's great works, only estimated to bring an absurdly low $250,000 to $300,000. Every major museum in the civilized world should be vying to purchase it.
All great art captures intense and shared humanity. Thus, in sharp contrast, and placing the viewer on an emotional roller coaster of sorts while touring this exhibit, we come to a remarkable example of one of the English Aesthetic Movements most renowned representatives, John William Godward's (1861-1922) exquisitely beautiful circular canvas called The Answer (30 inches across). Suddenly we are gazing at a beautiful woman in ancient Rome, sensually clad in a red garment plush with deep furrows and cascading folds that delight the eye and enchant the imagination. She is seated on a characteristic marble bench and bathed in brilliant sunlight with the Mediterranean Sea and faint mountain peaks visible in the distance. A poignant tugging of one's feelings occurs as you realize that despite all this beauty she is overcome by melancholy as she carefully considers her response in a letter she's composing. This work is estimated to bring $200,000 to $300,000.
Additionally in this sale one will find important works by Eugene de Blaas, Jean Francois Millett, Gustave Courbet, Virginie Demont Breton, and Federico Zandomeneghi, as well as scores of other works well worth the time it takes to come and view the presale exhibition. For information call Sotheby's 19th Century European Paintings Department at 212-606-7140, or Christie's 212-636-2000. If you are in striking distance of New York between Oct 29th and Nov 2nd don't miss these sales, and while you're at it take the time to visit some of the finer dealers who make a market in this period: Rehs Fine Art, Ira Spanierman Gallery, Joan Michelman, Schiller and Bodo.
["Please keep in mind that our comments are the opinion of our experts, editors or staff, and that we have not necessarily examined many of these works in depth, which should be done by all would be purchasers, and preferably with the aid of a professional. While we believe that the works mentioned are good values, we cannot be held responsible for losses nor do we benefit from gains which may occur from any purchases."]