The Complete History Of American Art On A Single Webpage

Inspired By – the Duc d’Aumale

This summer I visited the fabulous Chantilly Chateau, located just a few miles north of Paris. The Chateau is home to the second largest collection of pre-1850 art in France (no prizes for guessing the winner).

One of the galleries there, La Tribune, may be small, but it is home to a truly exceptional display of paintings. These represent an attempt by the Duc d’Aumale to depict the complete history of European art. (The Duc d’Aumale, who owned the Chateau in the middle of the 19th century, was an obsessive and very wealthy collector.) The Duc’s choice starts with the renaissance, runs through neo-classicism before ending up with romanticism.

Where the Duc leads, I dare to follow. Funds may be more limited, but thanks to the virtual world we live in, a collection need not bow to monetary concerns. My aim is to present a history of American Art within the confines of a single webpage.

Campbells Soup Cans – 1962

MoMA – Pop Art

Admittedly it’s a temptation to leave any Andy Warhol artworks out of my collection. Let’s face it, out of ‘The Factory’ came production line art; surely this can have not much more value than a poster.

But the visitor to my gallery would probably exclaim, ‘What no Warhol!’, so I have bitten the bullet and plumped for a archetypal piece of pop from 1964. Not as technically excellent as Warhol’s excellent commercial art from the mid 1950s. These drawings actually do show the clarity, skill, and originality of which Warhol is capable. Most of this went missing when Warhol became obsessed with celebrity and ‘Business Art’.

Only $86 million spent. Valued in comparison with the $71,720,000 paid at auction in 2007 for a very dark and dreary piece of pop-art entitled ‘Green Car Crash’.

The Key – 1945

59×84″ Art Institute of Chicago – Abstract Impressionism

After the profound inanity of my first item (one of the gallery assistants will have to write the small accompanying plaque, for I fear I may be too dismissive), the only way is up. Let’s travel backwards to the golden age of American art, when for the first time the feeling existed that the Europeans had been well and truly trounced. Yes, appearing center stage is Abstract Impressionism.

Perhaps the greatest exponent is Jackson Pollock, and I take great pleasure in unveiling the gallery’s second acquisition ‘The Key’, painted by Pollock in 1945. It’s a wonderful creation, evoking fantastic mixtures of shape and color. Pollock was truly gifted – see a video of him at work to gain a better insight into his thought processes.

Sadly our finances have taken quite a hit. $102 million was necessary to secure the piece.

Death On The Ridge Road – 1935

Williams College Museum Of Art – American Regionalist

‘Never overtake on the brow of a hill’. Wise words, and judging by this painting by Grant Wood, as applicable in 1935 as now. I just love both the construction and execution of this painting. A sinous sweeping road, the imminent swerve of the foolish driver’s auto, the onrush of the menacing red truck. An instant of time concisely captured, making for a very engaging painting.

Grant Wood belonged to the so-called ‘American Regionalist’ school, so I’ve ticked one box. But to me this seems a strange rather quaint tag overly drawing attention to the rural theme of his output. His work is surely more of a new-wave Impressionist genre, describing, not faithfully reproducing, the subject matter.

Having completed my first purchase ($27 million spent at a frenetic auction) I now look to go backwards along the timeline. Perhaps one of those fighting pictures from George Bellows. Typically he’s labelled a ‘Social Realist’, but surely if Woods is an ‘American Regionalist’ then Bellows would be an ‘American Urbanist’.

Stag At Sharkey’s – 1909

The Cleveland Museum of Art, 36″x 48″ – Social Realism

This is one of my favorite George Bellows canvas, and a easy pick as an addition to my collection. The painting captures the toil and sweat of a bout magnificently, with the boxers battling in a determined grapple. Another favorite is of course ‘George Dempsey and Firpo’, but this, as a monochromatic lithograph (often colored in), can be ruled out of the final cut.

Sharkey’s boxing club was just across the street from Bellows’ studio, and provided the sports-mad artist with some wonderful material. Though the artist was terrifically versatile, producing a beautiful intimate portrait one week, then a large ambitious urban scene the next.

Estimated cost (through a discreet private purchase) $42million.

Putting my collection together is beginning to feel almost exhilirating (or so a schizophrenic-like voice inside my head tells me). I’ve never really collected anything before, and it’s starting to dawn that I’ve missed out on a pleasant feeling, best described as crazed possessiveness.

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