Friday, October 18, 2013

John Henry - Epilogue

John Henry


            Returning to the bullet list (Part Six) and ...modifying and blocking it to become:

            I found the painting.
            I was hired to do that.
            I discovered the painting.
            I was hired to do that.

            I understand the painting.
            I understand the painting’s history.
            I understand the painting’s heritage.
            I understand how valuable the painting is.

            I understand how much the painting is worth.
            I understand the problems of realizing the worth of the painting.

            I was not hired to do that.

            But I will write about it anyway.
            Before recording the bullet list (in Part Six) I write about the physical condition of the painting... as I discover it; at the time of discovery.  In the gallery and presented for auction, I ...discovered... a ‘destroyed’ painting.  The physical destruction is easier to record than the ‘other’ destructions.  The other destructions are more devastating ... especially when confronting “the problems of realizing the worth of the painting”.
            Physically, the painting was in its original frame when discovered.  This frame most probably was a frame selected and paid for by the artist AND was placed on the painting in the same local as the painting was painted.  It had been ‘on’ the painting from day one after the painting was painted.  It was ‘undisturbed’ in that state.  It was, additionally, very attractive and very appropriate to the painting; it ‘complimented’ the painting and created a ‘whole package’. 
The heirs did not like this frame.  They did not understand the frame.  They wanted a ‘fancier’ frame that reflected what they in their mind’s eye felt was a ‘good’ and ‘proper’ frame for what they felt was a VERY GOOD (cash valuable) PAINTING.  They took the original frame off and... no one knows what happened to it.  They allowed the auction gallery to ‘supply’ a ‘new frame’ that they (the consigners) ‘liked’.  Just what do these heirs know about frames on old oil painting anyway?
            The one heir was in contact with and being advised (?) by an antiques picker specializing in paintings she happened to meet (?) who ‘helped her’ ‘value’ and ‘sell’ the painting.  This picker, I assume, quickly determined that he was not going to be able to buy (get) the painting for himself... because the heirs/estate felt the painting was ‘worth a lot’... so decided to hang around anyway ‘just in case’.  He saw the painting in its undisturbed condition in the original frame.
            Did that undisturbed condition state mean anything to him?  It should have... with it especially having meaning to him as a commercial positive IF HE ...owned the painting himself and wanted to sell it for ‘a realizing the worth of the painting’ price.  YET he ‘stood by’ and allowed the heirs to both remove and loose (?) the original frame AND ‘have the painting cleaned’  This ‘cleaning’ the picker evidently did not just ‘stand by’ but actually ARRANGED... after the heirs, evidently, found the auction gallery’s cleaning price to be too high... in their opinion.  What do the heirs know about cleaning paintings and the cost of doing that?  What does this picker know about that too?  HE... does get paintings ‘cleaned’ but, assuredly, only those he ‘has to’ ‘to sell’ so ‘gets the cheapest job possible.  (?).  Also... this picker did not simply ‘stand by’ when the heirs sought to auction the painting but contacted, guided and middlemaned the choice of the Maine auction gallery... for a ‘compensation’.  (?).  From whom?
            The heirs had the painting BADLY cleaned.  This means the original dry surface of the undisturbed painting is... scrubbed... to ‘brighten it up’ to a TOO BRIGHT and to a ‘worn’ (as if sanded with fine sand paper) ‘surface’... that they then ‘varnish’ TOO.  Not only is all soiling removed but all traces of any age toning are removed too; the surface of the painting is ‘skinned’ to show a new shiny surface with ‘varnish’ ‘put on’ and that being so gooey on the cleaned surface that it makes the surface ‘look sticky’ when ‘it dries’.  Evidently the heirs (and the picker?) liked this cleaning job; they like the way the painting looks ‘cleaned’ and in its ‘new frame’.  What do they know about any of this anyway?  But also understand... why would the picker care what happens to the painting since he has ‘nothing in it’ for him?
            The heirs knew of the history of the painting.  The picker could have heard about the history of the painting as told to him by one of the heirs.  But:  The picker had never been to the “CAMP”.  He knew nothing of the area and the lake in Maine where the “CAMP” is.  And... he knew nothing of the heritage of the painting (Part Seven).  Too.
            The heirs, too, knew nothing of the heritage of the painting; the family contact with the artists painting in the area, on the lake and the CAMP’s roll in this as heritage of art in the region AND the visiting artist’s relations with the family, lake and the “CAMP”.  The heritage merged with the history of the painting... is NOT identified and attached to the painting.  The heirs do not configure this, the picker does not hear of it and the auction gallery knows only that “the consigners are from the Albany, New York area”.  The history and heritage of the painting... is lost.  THAT is the biggest loss; the painting is adrift with ‘no ties’ to any thing, place, time or people.  How can one fully realize the worth of the painting without this?
            The result is the physical destruction of the painting AND destruction... with complete loss... of the heritage and the history of the painting.  Left physically untouched – undisturbed with a concise ‘nothing has been done to this painting AND it is in its original frame AND it is totally as found in the estate’ condition statement... and... this condition being visibly obvious to ‘anyone who knows anything about old paintings... and ...this being here a John Henry Twachtman ‘unknown until now’ painting.  TOO.... :  WITH full single owner family documented history of ownership AT their Maine camp on the Maine Lake WHERE John Henry stayed, painted and PAINTED THIS PAINTING of the back yard of THE CAMP while he and his fellow New England artists visited this region in their ‘summers’ as is well documented and of significant artist heritage to the region, the lake and THE CAMP...:  How can one not be PLEASED to ...have a chance to... buy at auction... a highly singular work of art with... really... everything one could want for image, condition, history, heritage and collection qualities?  Why would this painting then NOT be a ‘major addition’ to ANY COLLECTION?  And bring a price well above estimate (over 100K)?  No similar ‘package’ can be found... ever.  But as it stands now... that same package is ...gone forever:
            A perfectly exceptional New England painting with outstanding heritage and history...was destroyed... by its owners... who will never ‘understand what they did’.  Wrong.
            Two more hot spots may be brought in to further compliment the fine quality of the painting AND compliment the destruction of the painting.
            The first is the... scarcely mentioned within this whole story... relative merit of THIS painting to ALL OTHER John Henry paintings.  It is the simple ‘is it a good one?’; a ‘good Twachtman’ as demarked by comparison to all ‘Twachtman’s’.  Yes it is.  I am not going to go into a scholarly tennis match of ball-hit-over-net of Twachtman paintings.  ANYONE could have done that with this painting at any time.  In briefest short, it is a middle period ‘best period’ New England impressionist composition done in Twachtman’s preferred-by-critics/collectors ‘loose’ style (as found in his Greenwich, CT back yard compositions) where he ‘just painted it’ and didn’t ...try too hard or ‘carry’ his European-French influences ‘on to the canvas’.  This is because he really was sitting in the back yard of the “CAMP” on a lake in the woods in Maine when he ... ‘YEAH COOL’... painted ‘it’.  I... can duck away from this... connoisseurship frontier of ‘relative merit’ for was... really... up to the HEIRS, the ESTATE, that PICKER and/or the AUCTION GALLERY OWNER... to do that.  TO DO THAT; measure the merit.
            It is ...the auction gallery owner... for whom that would be the paramount of that; the measured merit of this painting.  AND is the second hot spot.
            MAYBE... this auction gallery was not the best referral choice given to and taken by the estate BUT... it was not ‘bad’.  So I throw that out and look at this hot spot as it was ‘fixed’; as it was THE CHOICE.  Here then the two flaws of actions taken; the cleaning and the history/heritage attachments... merge with the early-in-the-process camera-in-purse photograph of the painting... ‘not done well’ to create a... ‘heading in the wrong direction and keep going in that wrong direction’ with Mr. Auction Gallery Owner...:  The photograph came t him (“EMAIL”) from the picker who was ‘shopping it around’.  The background on this painting... for the picker did not ‘have’ (OWN) the painting... was ...skimpy.  STILL Mr. Auction Gallery Owner ‘rose to the bait’ and... and... by the time he was able to actually SEE the ACTUAL PAINTING had been ‘cleaned’ and ...the frame gone; it was a sticky, shiny oil painting unframed... brought into the gallery by an heir in behalf of the estate presumably NOT accompanied by the picker.  SOOOO... Mr. Auction Gallery Owner was, to say the least, ‘not expecting it to look like that’ so was not only caught by surprise but also... “BUMMER” “YOU DID WHAT”... internally... while being Mr. Auction Gallery Owner ...externally... with Ms. Estate Heir... through the it out... consignment dance... ALL THE WHILE going “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS” to himself with this causing what HE called “lost my momentum” (Part Twelve); a simple ‘I don’t like it’ INTERNAL so... ‘walked away’ from the WHOLE painting package with ‘no interest’ and ...never getting to the history or heritage that he didn’t know existed anyway AND:
            That is why the painting was ‘tucked’ behind the door at the front (rear wall during the sale) of the gallery with ‘no comment’.  The one guy the estate needed most as an enthusiastic handler for ‘realizing the worth of the painting’ the estate ‘pissed off’ and ‘bummed out’ THE MOMENT he first saw ‘the painting’.  They lost the man they needed most; the man who DOES KNOW WHAT TO DO... to realize the worth of the painting... and NEVER KNEW THEY were ‘doing that’.  And still don’t.
            When I looked at the painting with him, HE HAD HIS ARMS FOLDED and was wondering WHY... AM... I... ‘looking at that’.
            How would I have handled this; the discovery and sale of the painting?  IF... I were able to purloin the painting from the estate by some unknown transaction route...:  That would probably never, ever have happened for the one heir... in her high school bedroom... had already hand built herself the highway to Hell for the painting... I would have:
            Not disturbed the painting in ANY way including touching the surface of the painting AND FRAME.. AT ALL... even with the lightest ‘wipe’ of a hanky.  THAT; disturbing the surface is for the BUYER to do AFTER I’ve been paid.
            I would have taken no photographs of the painting or allowed any photographs to be taken including by the estate (this wouldn’t have been a problem simply because in most cases they ‘don’t think to do that’).
            I would show the painting to NO ONE
            Until I had ALL of the heritage and history ducks in a row, summarized to my personal satisfaction, as a packet SO IT COULD CLEARLY ...and in writing... be handed to THE BUYER
            While I ‘meanwhile over here’ did the BASIC ‘relative merit’ of Twachtman’s work comparison... into a clear written packet TOO... that included specific collection references and examples (in museums)... :
            Then, calmly, I would have reviewed ...based on my trade experience the ‘how is the best way’ and ‘who is the best way’ and ‘auction-collector-museum-private sale?’ ROUTES... to:
            My preferred route is to PRIVATE SALE ...of a very clearly supported  UNKNOWN, undiscovered, PERFECT undisturbed condition HIGH MERIT painting to a WELL ESTABLISHED ...PRIVATE... collector/collection who know (have a track record I know well... of knowing what they are doing in cases like this) to PAY for these quality options including again the word PRIVATE... so that THEY acquire an undiscovered jewel of New England impressionist painting guaranteed by ME to be a full ‘what you see is what you get’ including all packets... “SURPRISE I LOVE IT” (when finally ‘shown the painting’)... so that THEY... MAY... DO... ANYTHING... THEY WANT... with the painting ...including auction it themselves, clean it or... most probably... place it on loan for eventual donation “TO” “A MUSEUM”... ‘in their name’ (the bronze plaque factor).
            This last is the hardest for this client type to get; a object that is that good and that ‘clean to the market – fresh to the market’ that it ‘gets them’ ‘a bronze plaque’ with their name on it... in the whatever-where ever collection; the ‘legacy’, the posterity, the kudos, the scholarly article about the ‘discovery’ the...
“They paid me.”
            And I say nothing to anyone at all ever.
            What did I actually get out of this tale about John Henry?  The club sandwich.  That’s why I started the story with that.  It was a good sandwich.  I saved the receipt.

The End.

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