The Eilshemius Phenomenon

 
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Louis Eilshemius, Supplication (Rose Marie Calling), 1916; private collection.

Eilshemius’s submission to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition attracted the attention of Marcel Duchamp who declared it to be one of the best paintings in the show. The painting was the centerpiece of a 1933 exhibition at the Valentine Gallery.

 

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Valentine Dudensing’s true love was the School of Paris and yet, during the two decades that the Valentine Gallery was in business, he sold more paintings and drawings by Louis Eilshemius (1864-1941) than any other artist. Dudensing may have first learned about the eccentric American artist when Marcel Duchamp singled out Supplication (Rose Marie Calling), the painting that Eilshemius submitted to the first Society of Independent Artists exhibition that opened in New York in April 1917. (This non-juried show was the same one that famously rejected Duchamp’s pseudonymously-signed urinal entitled Fountain.) Eilshemius confidently valued his painting at $15,000 making it the most expensive work in the show. Was Duchamp’s praise an ironic response to the high value, a glaring juxtaposition to the awkwardly painted nude? Even if his acclaim was in jest it was often repeated and served to bolster Eilshemius’s reputation for years to come.

Katherine Dreier, an organizer of the Independents show with Duchamp, gave Eilshemius his first solo exhibition at the Société Anonyme in 1922. At the time Valentine Dudensing was a salesman at the Dudensing Galleries, his father’s gallery, in New York. If he hadn’t noticed Eilshemius’s work in 1917, he noticed it now. He later wrote: “The New York art world was surprised and stirred [by the Eilshemius show]; many new converts were made.” Dudensing was one of them and he subsequently arranged for an exhibition of Eilshemius’s paintings to open at the Valentine Gallery in the fall of 1926. He made a few sales to his top collectors but the reviews were harsh. While the paintings were described by at least one critic as “poetic,” so, too, were they called “lamentably amateurish.” Dudensing did not organize a follow-up show.

The Depression brought significant changes to the New York art market. During the late 1920s, increasing interest in the work of the School of Paris painters resulted in new galleries opening and existing galleries adding modern art to their programs. From his comfortable advantage in the field, Dudensing watched the competition grow and presciently noted in his letters to Pierre Matisse, his Paris-based partner, that the lesser quality works being imported were going to harm the market. Indeed, a backlash followed. Critics noted the increased number of mediocre paintings arriving from Paris and began calling for dealers to support American artists instead. This call grew louder with the onset of the Depression and by the fall of 1931 the term, “The American Wave,” began appearing in the press and referred to a resurgent interest in art that was fundamentally American. Writing for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Helen Appleton Read declared that “The Paris label has ceased to be a mark of artistic sophistication. To proclaim derivation from the Ecole Paris is to stamp one’s self as definitely prewar and out of touch with the main current of American art.”*

In late 1931 Valentine Dudensing saw an opportunity in the market shift toward American art. Louis Eilshemius, who was 67 years old and had stopped painting a decade earlier, was a prolific artist who had made few sales. He reportedly kept over 5,000 works in his Fifty-seventh street townhouse conveniently located down the street from the Valentine Gallery. Dudensing signed an exclusive contract with Eilshemius and, in a stroke of marketing genius, billed him “An Authentic American Artist.” Dudensing’s campaign began in February 1932 when he presented over three decades’ worth of paintings divided into two groupings that he labelled himself; the two-part exhibition opened with twenty-four examples from the "Period of Searching and Concentration, 1889-1910 'Romantic Drama'" followed in March with eighteen paintings from the “Period of Creation and Freedom, 1911-1920 'Lyrical Poetry.'" By April Dudensing sold two works to museums: the Cleveland Museum bought Samoa, 1907, and Lillian Henkel Haass bought Coast Scene, 1908, as a gift for the Detroit Institute of Arts (see images of these and other works below). With Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s 1926 purchase of The Flying Dutchman, 1908, on display in her recently-opened museum and Duncan Phillips’s 1927 purchase of a Samoa painting for his public collection, Dudensing could now list the museums that owned Eilshemius’s paintings, affirmation of the artist’s reputation for prospective buyers that were considering the artist’s work. The dealer also announced his ambitious plans for Eilshemius exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, and London to take place during the summer of 1932. Ultimately only the Paris show materialized though it was impressive and considered a major success: forty-five paintings were shown at the prestigious Galerie Durand-Ruel for two weeks in June. Henri Matisse reportedly visited the exhibition and became an admirer and, in a major coup, the Louvre purchased the 1918 painting, The Gossips. As a result, Dudensing could also claim the French seal of approval: “I know many serious Parisians who agree with me that Eilshemius is always a poet who had dreams and who painted them with a lyrical charm.”

At a time of economic misery, Eilshemius’s pastoral landscapes and charming figurative vignettes offered an escape unlike the gritty paintings of the Social Realists. The artist’s stylistic range appealed to a broad clientele and with access to his extensive inventory, Dudensing could reach all level of collectors. An exhibition of watercolors he organized in May 1934 attracted many first-time art buyers who seized the opportunity to take home a piece by an artist who was represented in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The watercolors were priced at $50 and $75 and, with the endorsement of the New York Times critic who called them “serious works of art,” the show was “literally strewn with the red stars of purchase.”**

Though Louis Eilshemius’s name has been lost to history, Valentine Dudensing was responsible for elevating the artist’s reputation to the forefront of the American art market. Between 1932 and 1945 the prestigious Valentine Gallery presented eleven solo exhibitions of his paintings and, in addition to the Metropolitan, Whitney, Phillips, and Cleveland, he also sold works to the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. Leading collectors of modern art bought Eilshemius’s paintings as well, including Stephen C. Clark, George Gershwin, Chester Dale, Walter P. Chrysler Jr., Adelaide Milton de Groot, Robert H. Tannahill, and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Victor Ganz, who went on to form one of the most important Picasso collections in the country, made his first art purchase—a watercolor by Eilshemius—in 1934 when he was 21-years-old. Joseph Hirshhorn and Roy Neuberger were among the most avid collectors; the latter gave a number of Eilshemius works to museums across the country.

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*“In the Galleries: Wide Variety of Group Shows Offered by Dealers –French Art at Kraushaar’s—American Scenes and Subjects at Rehns’s” (October 4, 1931), p. E5.

**Edward Alden Jewell, “Louis Eilshemius” (May 4, 1934), p. L19.

The Flying Dutchman , 1908, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

The Flying Dutchman, 1908, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

Samoa , 1907, Cleveland Museum of Art

Samoa, 1907, Cleveland Museum of Art

Samoa , 1907, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Samoa, 1907, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

The Gossips , 1918, Louvre Museum, Paris. Now housed at Blérancourt, French-American Museum of Blérancourt Castle, France

The Gossips, 1918, Louvre Museum, Paris. Now housed at Blérancourt, French-American Museum of Blérancourt Castle, France

The Rejected Suitor , 1915, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

The Rejected Suitor, 1915, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

 
Delaware Water Gap , c. 1895-1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1932

Delaware Water Gap, c. 1895-1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1932

Adirondacks: Bridge for Fishing , 1897, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Adirondacks: Bridge for Fishing, 1897, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Springtime , c. 1901, watercolor, Worcester Art Museum

Springtime, c. 1901, watercolor, Worcester Art Museum

Piet Mondrian’s First U.S. Exhibition

“I never took down from our walls any exhibition with more regret than the Mondrian show. Each day the pictures get more interesting and more beautiful.”

In a letter to Katherine Dreier dated February 17, 1942, Valentine Dudensing wrote about closing Piet Mondrian’s first U.S. exhibition. The show, which featured twenty paintings and eight drawings, had opened at the Valentine Gallery on January 19th. Since he arrived in New York sixteen months earlier Mondrian had finished only two paintings. With not enough time to complete more new works, Mondrian reworked and updated eleven existing paintings for the exhibition. Dudensing hung these thirteen paintings in the natural light of his gallery’s front room at 55 East 57th Street. For visitors to be surrounded by the predominantly white paintings with black grid lines syncopated with small blocks of primary colors was awe-inspiring; at least one young artist was struck by the impact of the works. At the time of the show Leland Bell was employed as a security guard at Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Within earshot of the museum’s curator, Baroness Hilla Rebay, Bell was overheard telling a museum visitor: “You want to see real painting, go to the Mondrian show at the Valentine Gallery.” The comment cost Bell his job.

While Valentine Dudensing is responsible for organizing Mondrian’s first solo exhibition, Katherine Dreier deserves credit as the first to identify the artist’s work for inclusion in an important group exhibition in the U.S. One of the founders of the Société Anonyme, an organization that aimed to be the country’s “first ‘experimental museum’ for contemporary art,” Dreier organized the ambitious International Exhibition of Modern Art that opened in November 1926 at the Brooklyn Museum. She chose to show two of Mondrian’s black and white paintings among the over 300 works in the exhibition.

A decade later Valentine Dudensing became Mondrian’s U.S. representative. The artist, who was living in Paris at the time, sent two paintings to the Valentine Gallery in the spring of 1936 just as Cubism and Abstract Art opened at the Museum of Modern Art; Alfred Barr’s groundbreaking exhibition featured nine paintings by the artist. The timing was fortuitous for Dudensing who sold both works and began making arrangements for the artist’s first solo exhibition at the Valentine Gallery.

The exhibition was originally scheduled for May 1937 however after being postponed, the show was canceled. With war looming Mondrian left Paris in the fall of 1938 and moved to London until he was finally able to emigrate to the U.S. in October 1940. Once the artist arrived in New York, Dudensing arranged for a fall 1941 show which was then postponed until January 1942. In the interim Mondrian completed two new paintings: New York City and Boogie-Woogie and reworked eleven that he’d made in Paris and London. By adding more and thinner black lines and blocks of primary color, Mondrian gave the paintings what he called “boogie-woogie” — dynamism inspired by jazz music which he loved and his new life in New York, a city in perpetual motion. In an unprecedented move Mondrian added the year of completion to the original date on the canvas face. This “double-dated” group became known as the “Transatlantic Paintings” and was the subject of an important exhibition organized by the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2001. In addition to these recent paintings, the Valentine Gallery exhibition included seven early paintings from 1906 (the “Naturalistic Period”) and 1910 (the “Transition Period”) along with eight drawings completed between 1912 and 1914.

After the success of this show, Dudensing held two more exhibitions of Mondrian’s paintings at the Valentine Gallery. The first opened in March 1943 and featured six works from 1936 to 1943; the second opened in March 1946 — nearly two years after the artist’s death — and included unfinished works from his studio.

Below is the checklist of the first Mondrian exhibition in the U.S. with links to images. The identifying numbers are from the catalogue raisonné by Robert P. Welsh and Joop M. Joosten. Links to images not in public collections are courtesy of the Mondrian Edition Project on the website RKD: https://rkd.nl.

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Paintings and Drawings by Mondrian

Valentine Gallery, New York, January 19 - February 7, 1942

PAINTINGS:

1) New York City, 1941-1942 (B301; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris)

2) Boogie Woogie, 1941-1942 (B299.319; Current location unknown)

3) 1939-1942 (either this or no. 6 is: B279.308; Tate Gallery, London)

4) 1938-1942 (B285.313; Saint Louis Art Museum)

5) 1939-1942 (B286.314; Current location unknown)

6) 1939-1942 (possibly B279.308 - see no. 3 above; second painting not identified)

7) 1937-1942 (B281.312; Munson-Williams Proctor Institute, Utica, NY)

8) 1930-1942 (B295.315; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX)

9) 1939-1942 (B287.316; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)

10) 1939-1942 (B288.317; Private Collection)

11) 1940-1942 (B296.318; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY)

12) 1936-1942 (B280.309-unfinished; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

13) 1935-1942 (Unidentified)

14) 1922-1925 (B133.155; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C)

15) 1915 (B96.305; Current location unknown)

16) Eucalyptus, 1910 (B13-unfinished; Current location unknown)

17) Eucalyptus, 1910 (B22; Fondation Beyeler, Basel)

18) Naturalistic Period, 1906 (one of these is C46; Cleveland Museum of Art)

19) Naturalistic Period, 1906 (one of these is C64; Current location unknown)

20) Naturalistic Period, 1906 (one of these is C66; Current location unknown)

DRAWINGS:

21) Tree, 1914 (B62; Graphische Sammlung des Kunstmuseums, Bern)

22) Building, 1914 (possibly B61; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

23) Pier and Ocean, 1914 (either B68 or B69; both in Private Collections)

24) Pier and Ocean, 1914 (B78; Museum of Modern Art, NY)

25) Ocean, 1914 (B76; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice)

26) Scaffold, 1912 (B48; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice)

27) Buildings, 1912 (either B52; Private Collection or B43; Cincinnati Art Museum)

28) Building, 1912 (B71; Museum of Modern Art, NY)

Joseph Stella, "The Only Worthy Artist in America"

By 1924 Valentine Dudensing had been manager of the Dudensing Galleries — his father’s gallery — for four years. During this time he gradually introduced the work of younger artists to the conservative exhibition program which had predominantly featured traditional paintings and watercolors by 19th-century European and American artists since the gallery opened two decades earlier. That October Dudensing included Joseph Stella’s most recent work, Dance of Spring (Song of the Birds), 1924, in a group exhibition of American artists. The dealer was rewarded for his efforts when the painting was reproduced both in The New York Times Magazine (Oct. 12, 1924) and later in color on the cover of International Studio magazine in August 1925.

Joseph Stella, Dance of Spring (Song of the Birds), 1924, 43 3/8 x 32 3/8 inches. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO. Included in a group exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries in October 1924, Dance of Spring was sold by Valentine Dudensing to New York collector Adolph Lewisohn in April 1926.

This attention was not surprising. By 1924 Stella’s reputation was well established in New York where he first arrived from Italy in 1896. Nostalgic for his home country, he returned to Italy in 1909 for an extended stay. Stella traveled to Paris in 1911 where, dazzled by the innovations of the Fauvists, Cubists, and Futurists, he ended up staying for over a year. There he attended the Futurists’ exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in February 1912 and became friendly with Gino Severini whose dynamic style and large-scale paintings greatly impacted Stella.

Joseph Stella returned to New York in late 1912 just in time to submit paintings to the Armory Show which accepted two of his still-lifes. After a retrospective of 100 works at the Italian National Club in April 1913, Stella gained notoriety and acclaim as his paintings were shown nearly continuously in exhibitions in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, Worcester and Northampton, Massachusetts throughout the war years and into the early 1920s. Endorsed by Katherine Dreier, who showed his work at the Société Anonyme in 1923, and critic Henry McBride, that year Stella was famously deemed by the British painter, Augustus John, to be "the only worthy artist in America."

Joseph Stella,  Tree of My Life , 1919, 83 1/2 x 75 1/2 inches. Private Collection. This painting was sold by Dudensing to Carl Weeks in 1925.

Joseph Stella, Tree of My Life, 1919, 83 1/2 x 75 1/2 inches. Private Collection. This painting was sold by Dudensing to Carl Weeks in 1925.

Capitalizing on the enthusiasm for the Stella included in his group show, Valentine Dudensing organized a solo exhibition which opened at the Dudensing Galleries in April 1925. Though it featured only seven paintings, the show was a remarkable success both for the artist and the dealer. Stella’s fantastic subjects executed in his signature saturated color were dramatically lit with spotlights and glowed against the gallery’s dark wall hangings. Three of the works on view were oversized and startling to gallery-goers who were accustomed to the venue’s typical fare of small- to medium-sized landscapes and figural subjects. At nearly 7 feet tall by over six feet wide, for example, the breathtaking Tree of My Life, 1919, was unlike anything ever shown before at the gallery. Dudensing sold the painting to Carl Weeks, head of the Armand Company, the country’s leading maker of cold cream. The purchase likely inspired the Des Moines-based collector, who met and befriended the artist, to commission another large-scale work, resulting in Apotheosis of the Rose of 1926.

Joseph Stella,  Apotheosis of the Rose , 1926, 84 x 47 inches. Private Collection. Commissioned by Carl Weeks for his new home, Salisbury House, in Des Moines, Iowa, this painting was included in the first solo exhibition of Stella’s work at the Valentine Gallery in April 1926.

Joseph Stella, Apotheosis of the Rose, 1926, 84 x 47 inches. Private Collection. Commissioned by Carl Weeks for his new home, Salisbury House, in Des Moines, Iowa, this painting was included in the first solo exhibition of Stella’s work at the Valentine Gallery in April 1926.

The Dudensing Galleries exhibition of spring 1925 is credited with vaulting Stella’s career to a “new level of eminence” but the artist also deserves credit for playing a role in establishing Valentine Dudensing’s reputation and possibly inspiring him to open his own gallery. Stella’s jewel-like palette reflects the School of Paris paintings that undoubtedly inspired him; likewise, the School of Paris paintings that Dudensing showed for the next two decades were the reason for the Valentine Gallery’s success and renown. The dealer opened the Valentine Gallery ten months later and among his first shows presented Stella’s recent paintings. He organized two more solo exhibitions — November-December 1931 and January 1935 — and included the artist’s work in numerous group shows over the years.

Joseph Stella, Undine (Ondine), 1924-25, 36 x 38 inches. Private Collection. Included in the April 1925 show at the Dudensing Galleries, Undine was sold by Dudensing to Stephen C. Clark probably in the spring of 1926.

Joseph Stella,  The Birth of Venus , 1925, 85 x 53 inches. Current Location Unknown. Included in the April 1925 exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries, this was acquired from the artist by Carl Weeks.

Joseph Stella, The Birth of Venus, 1925, 85 x 53 inches. Current Location Unknown. Included in the April 1925 exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries, this was acquired from the artist by Carl Weeks.

The Paul Guillaume Collection of African Art Comes to the Valentine Gallery

According to Dr. Albert C. Barnes, Parisian art dealer Paul Guillaume's greatest contribution to the art world was that he rescued African Art "from its mere ethnological significance and converted it into a well of unsuspected spiritual richness from which the whole modern movement in art has drunk deeply."*

Paul Guillaume (1891-1934) arrived in Paris during the first decade of the twentieth-century. He worked in an upscale garage that imported rubber for tires from the French colonies. One of the suppliers included a statuette in a rubber shipment as a gift for Guillaume that he placed on display in the garage's window. There the piece attracted the attention of art critic and poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, who came inside to inquire about it. The two men became friendly and Apollinaire introduced Guillaume to his artist friends including Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. All shared an interest in African sculpture.

With access to the works of this circle of artists, Paul Guillaume opened a gallery in February 1914 but was forced to close that summer due to the war. In an effort to generate income, Guillaume gave Marius de Zayas a trunk full of sculptures to take to New York to exhibit at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery "291." Objects that had previously only appeared in natural history museums were displayed on pedestals and artfully installed on the walls against large sheets of red, yellow, and black paper. Presenting the sculpture as "the root of modern art," "291" was the first to show African sculpture as Art.

Guillaume reopened his gallery in 1917 and soon became an important venue for the School of Paris. By 1929 he was financially overextended, however, and decided to sell his collection of African art. Recognizing an opportunity to display and market such a well-known and highly respected collection, Valentine Dudensing offered to publish a lavish, fully-illustrated catalogue documenting the works. Guillaume consented and in the spring of 1930, the Valentine Gallery presented an exhibition of seventy-four pieces from the Paul Guillaume Collection.

An Exhibition of Rare African Sculptures ran from March 24-April 12, 1930 and featured statues and masks from the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan, and Gabon. The Valentine Gallery audience had come to know the School of Paris paintings that were inspired by Guillaume's African collection and now they had the rare opportunity to see and even acquire the pieces for themselves.

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*Laurie Eglington, "Untimely Passing of Paul Guillaume Evokes Memories," The Art News (October 27, 1934), 4. 

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Stuart Davis and "The Egg Beater Series" By Way of De Chirico

While the Valentine Gallery’s program built its reputation by showing School of Paris paintings, Valentine Dudensing also organized important exhibitions of American artists. In addition, he was known to have been generous with young artists and allowed them to peruse the contemporary European art in his inventory.

Stuart Davis (1892-1964) was one artist who benefitted from the dealer’s largesse. Dudensing included Davis in a group show in the fall of 1927; at that time he was organizing the first U.S. exhibition of Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings from the inventory of the Parisian art dealer, Paul Guillaume.

It seems likely then that Davis saw an image of de Chirico’s The Song of Love (1914; Museum of Modern Art, NY) at the gallery. The painting belonged to Guillaume and featured a rubber glove nailed to a wall, hanging next to a classical plaster head. While he did not end up showing this particular work, Dudensing included five paintings from 1913-14 in which de Chirico depicts arrangements of strangely unrelated objects. Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico opened at the Valentine Gallery in late January 1928 and the exhibition was a tremendous success.*

Between the late fall of 1927 and the spring of 1928, Stuart Davis devoted himself to working on what became known as “the Egg Beater Series.” He nailed a fan, a rubber glove, and an eggbeater to a table top and spent months painting this composition. Did de Chirico’s painting inspire the series? Based on the date of Davis's first study for the series -- November 6, 1927 -- it seems likely that it did.

From April to May 1928, Dudensing presented Davis’s Eggbeater series in a joint exhibition with paintings by Glenn Coleman. While Davis’s paintings remained unsold after the exhibition, they were considered a critical success.** As he later recalled his intent for the series was to “strip a subject down to the real physical source of its stimulus. Everything I have done since is based on the eggbeater idea.”***

Today the four Eggbeater paintings are in American museum collections:

Egg Beater No. 1 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Egg Beater No. 2 - Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth

Egg Beater No. 3 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Egg Beater No. 4 - Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

 

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Special thanks to Timothy Andrus for providing the dates of Davis's studies for the series and to Lynn Rother of MoMA for confirming the provenance of the de Chirico painting.

*For more on de Chirico at the Valentine Gallery, see my post of October 18, 2016.

**Edward Alden Jewell, "Davis Tames a Shrew: How What Seemed 'Abstract' Proved 'Realistic,'" New York Times (April 29, 1928), Sec. C, p. 18.

***Stuart Davis quoted in Stuart Davis, exh. cat. (NY: Museum of Modern Art, 1945), pp. 16-17.

 

 

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Twelve Portraits by Modigliani

"I have never seen a better group of Modiglianis than that now installed at the Valentine," wrote Edward Alden Jewell for the New York Times.* He was referring to a selection of portraits on view at the Valentine Gallery in early January 1940.** All but one of the dozen paintings were from the collection of Paul Guillaume, the art dealer who met and began representing Modigliani in Paris in 1914. For the next two years the dealer guided the artist's career and, as Guillaume noted, he was the only one buying Modiglianis in 1915.

Paul Guillaume had been an important source of artwork for the Valentine Gallery since the late 1920s and, because of his business relationship with Valentine Dudensing, many of the best works from Guillaume's inventory are now in American museum collections. After Paul died in October 1934, his 36-year old widow, Juliette "Domenica" Guillaume, took over her husband's business. In 1935 Domenica began shipping paintings to New York to be exhibited at the Valentine Gallery with the hope that Dudensing would sell them to his American clientele. Many of the works that didn't sell were returned to Paris after the war and are now part of the Guillaume Collection at the Musée de l'Orangerie.

Dudensing published a checklist for the Modigliani exhibition but, because it lists only titles, the works are difficult to identify. From the gallery's sales records we know that Dudensing sold three Guillaume Modiglianis after the exhibition closed: Lola de Valence, 1915, to Adelaide M. de Groot (1876-1967), an artist and collector, in January 1941; the following month Billy Rose (1899-1966), the American entertainer, bought Jean Cocteau, 1916. In May 1943 Dudensing sold Jean de Rouveyre, 1915, to Maria Martins (1894-1973), the sculptress and wife of the Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Only one painting in the exhibition was a loan: Lunia Czechowska, 1919, came from the collection of the Chester Dale Foundation. The painting was not part of Dale's bequest to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Below is the checklist with my attempt to reconstruct the exhibition based on provenance information gleaned from catalogues and museum records; images of the works appear at the bottom of this page. Because I cannot confirm the inclusion of all the works with absolute certainty, I welcome input from readers who may have additional provenance information. Other paintings by Modigliani that passed through the Valentine Gallery and are in American museum collections today can be found in the section of this website titled "Artwork."

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1) Jean Cocteau (1916, Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey; on long-term loan from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation) 

2) Moise Kisling (likely c. 1915, Private Collection)

3) Mademoiselle R. (likely Raimonde - painting not yet identified)

4) Lola de Valence (1915, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

5) Beatrice Hastings (likely 1915, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)

6) Antonia (c. 1915, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris)

7) J. de Rouveyre (Jean de Rouveyre, 1915, Private Collection)

8) Madame C. (painting not yet identified)

9) Tête de Femme (likely Red-Haired Girl, 1915, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris)

10) Portrait (possibly Portrait of a Woman, c. 1917-18, Cleveland Museum of Art) 

11) Femme au chignon (likely Woman with Velvet Ribbon, 1915, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris)  

12) Lunia Czechowska, loaned by Chester Dale Foundation (c. 1918, Private Collection)

 

*"Modern French Painting," The New York Times (Jan. 21, 1940), X9.

**The show ran from January 8 - February 3, 1940.

John Kane: America's Henri Rousseau

"Genius Has Been Discovered!" declared a cover story in the Pittsburgh Press (Oct. 15, 1927) regarding John Kane (1860-1934), a first-time participant in the highly esteemed Carnegie International. The Scottish-born, self-taught artist, Kane, a Pittsburgh resident, had worked as a coal miner and a block paver before he lost his leg in a train accident. Unable to find work, he became a railroad watchman and then a freight car painter which is how he learned to mix paint colors. Kane failed in three attempts to gain admission to art school so he taught himself by painting over photographs. This is how he found work as a portraitist and painted over enlarged photographs of his subjects. Kane summed up what he learned about the portrait business: "It wasn't the way she looked. It wasn't even how she thought she looked. It was only the way she wanted to look and so, was pleased to have a picture like that."*

In 1927 when his painting, Scene from the Scottish Highlands, c. 1927 (Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh) was accepted by the annual exhibition at the Carnegie, Kane was employed as a house painter. His painting sold to a juror for $50 and with that his career as an artist began when he was 67 years old. Subsequent invitations to participate at the Carnegie and inclusion in group exhibitions at the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Art led Kane to the ultimate prize: the sale of his painting Homestead, c. 1929? (Museum of Modern Art) to Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948).  

Valentine Dudensing was aware of Kane's ascending career and had even made tentative plans to hold what would have been the artist's first solo exhibition at the Valentine Gallery in 1931. Unfortunately Dudensing cancelled the exhibition at the last minute. This misstep was corrected soon after the artist's death in August 1934 when the dealer signed on to represent the artist's estate. He organized a memorial exhibition that opened at the Valentine Gallery in January 1935. Because Kane's work was reminiscent of Henri Rousseau's, modern art collectors: Dr. Albert C. Barnes, Walter P. Chrysler Jr., Adelaide Milton de Groot, and Robert H. Tannahill all bought paintings from Dudensing. In the coming years other prominent clients of the Valentine Gallery acquired Kane's work: Lee Ault, Aline Barnsdall, Cecil Beaton, Stephen C. Clark, Morton R. Goldsmith, Henry R. Luce, Mrs. William Paley, Duncan Phillips, the Albright Art Gallery (later the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), and the Museum of Modern Art.

Dudensing organized exhibitions of John Kane's paintings at the Department of Labor, Washington, D.C. (1935), and at museums in Detroit (1936) and Chicago (1939). When he closed the Valentine Gallery in 1947, Dudensing arranged for representation of the Kane estate to be transferred to Knoedler Galleries.

John Kane, Painter, compiled by Leon Anthony Arkus, (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1971), 59.

From My Studio Window , 1932 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot, 1967)

From My Studio Window, 1932 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot, 1967)

 

PAINTINGS BY JOHN KANE SOLD BY THE VALENTINE GALLERY

NOW IN U.S. MUSEUM COLLECTIONS:

Joan Miró: The First U.S. Exhibition

The first solo exhibition in the U.S. of the paintings of Joan Miró (1893-1983) took place at the Valentine Gallery from October 20-November 8, 1930. As Valentine Dudensing's Paris-based agent, Pierre Matisse helped organize the show and the twelve canvases, all dated between 1926 and 1929, came from Galerie Pierre in Paris. Pierre Loeb (1897-1964), the gallery's director, first showed Miró's work in 1925 soon after the artist became associated with Surrealism. 

The New York gallery-going public and the critics were not prepared for the works they found at the Valentine Gallery. Lloyd Goodrich, the critic for Arts, found similarities in the paintings to the comic strip character Krazy Kat and declared that the cartoon was "a distant cousin of [Miró]'s inventions." Henry McBride, a leading proponent of contemporary European art, acknowledged that the work was difficult and deemed the artist's "vision and execution startling." Ruth Green Harris of the New York Times wrote: "It is impossible whole-heartedly to carry yourself along with a work of art when you feel unsure whether it is laughing with you or at you or whether it is in a state of tears." Insightfully she concluded that "Certainly these paintings are not merely abstract decorations. The design is superb and the color full of surprising variation."

Dudensing's clientele apparently was not ready for Miró's paintings; none of the works that he exhibited were sold. While nine of the paintings were on loan from Loeb, Dudensing and Matisse had acquired three (nos. 10-12, see below) prior to the exhibition. When their business partnership ended shortly after the exhibition closed, they divided their inventory and Matisse kept Potato and Still Life with Lamp; Dudensing gave Portrait of Mistress Mills to his wife, Bibi. James Thrall Soby spent years trying to convince Bibi to sell him this painting and she finally acquiesced in November 1943. Upon Soby's death in 1979, the painting, along with the rest of his collection, was bequeathed to MoMA.

After he opened his own New York gallery, Pierre Matisse presented several Miró exhibitions during the 1930s. By the time of MoMA's Miró Retrospective in 1941, the artist's work had gained acceptance and Dudensing went on to sell a number of important pieces during the 1940s.

The Miró catalogue raisonné makes no mention of the Valentine Gallery exhibition. Fortunately, Dudensing printed a leaflet that lists the titles and dates of the works that were shown. This information combined with provenance details from the catalogue raisonné resulted in the attempted reconstruction of the gallery's 1930 exhibition as listed below.

1) Paysage au bord de la mer, 1926 (Private Collection)

2) Grand paysage, 1927 (likely Landscape [The Hare]Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

3) Grand paysage, 1927 (likely Paysage au coqBeyeler Foundation, Basel, Switzerland)

4) Nu, 1926 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

5) Queen Louise of Prussia, 1929 (Meadows Museum, Dallas)

6) Portrait de la Fornarina, 1929 (Private Collection)

7) Portrait d'une dame en 1820, 1929 (Private Collection)

8) Interieur Hollandais, 1928 (likely Dutch Interior [I]Museum of Modern Art)

9) Interieur Hollandais, 1928 (likely Dutch Interior [II]Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

10) Pommes de terres, 1928 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

11) Nature morte, 1928 [Still Life with Lamp] (Private Collection)

12) Portrait de Mrs Mills en 1750, 1929 (Museum of Modern Art)

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  • Goodrich, "November Exhibitions," Arts (November 1930), 119.

  • McBride, "Exhibitions in New York," Art News (October 25, 1930), 11.

  • Green, New York Times (October 26, 1930), 14X.

 

How 57th Street Became the Center of the Art World

In January 1912, when the New York Times announced that the Durand-Ruel Galleries had bought the private residence at 12 East 57th Street with the intent of tearing it down and replacing it with an eight-story gallery and residence, the newspaper called it "the first big business structure to be erected in the block."* In doing so, the gallery boldly moved from its location in what was then New York's art center -- the blocks surrounding the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street -- to an affluent residential neighborhood. The pioneering Parisian gallery that first opened in New York in 1887, Durand-Ruel was known for its exhibitions of the French Impressionists and as an important source for artwork for a new breed of American collectors.

It turns out that Durand-Ruel was on to something. Fifth Avenue had maintained its reputation as an elegant boulevard of mansions, churches, and clubs; since 1907, any development was rigorously overseen by the Fifth Avenue Association which had strict planning codes and regulations. Absent the elevated or “El” trains, billboards, parking lots, and even funeral homes, the avenue attracted what were known as “smart” businesses -- Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Tiffany Studios -- that catered to an elite clientele. With the glamorous Plaza Hotel anchoring the north end of the avenue at 58th Street, it was only a matter of time before businesses recognized the appeal of 57th Street's wide swath through this upscale neighborhood. In the post-World War I development of the area north of Grand Central Terminal, other galleries soon followed Durand-Ruel's example and relocated to 57th Street.

Undoubtedly a turning point for the neighborhood was the 1919 sale of the formidable Stevens-Whitney mansion that occupied the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. In its place, the Heckscher Building, a twenty-six-story residential and commercial building designed with gallery and exhibition spaces in mind, was completed in 1922 (image below). There the Museum of Modern Art rented rooms where it held its exhibitions on the twelfth floor when it first opened in November 1929.

Likewise, the American Art Association, one of the nation's leading auction houses at the time, combined several lots on the east side of Madison Avenue between 56th and 57th Street in order to construct its new state-of-the-art headquarters. Prior to the building's completion in November 1922, the Association frequently held important sales in the grand ballroom of the Plaza.  

In early 1924, Knoedler & Co. moved into its new galleries next door to Durand-Ruel at 14 East 57th Street. They were soon joined by Joseph Brummer whose gallery was located in a townhouse at 43 East 57th Street. Two years later, Brummer moved further west and the F. Valentine Dudensing Gallery opened in the same rooms Brummer had rented on the 2nd floor. With real estate values skyrocketing, in April 1928 it was announced that the Central Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue would be torn down and replaced by the forty-story Fuller Building. The lower floors of the building were designed to house galleries and, until the allure of larger spaces and lower rents in the Chelsea neighborhood drew them away, the Fuller Building remained a center for many of the leading galleries for over seven decades. In fact, Pierre Matisse, Dudensing’s original partner in the Valentine Gallery, ran his eponymous gallery there for fifty-eight years.

The Valentine Gallery occupied four different buildings on east 57th Street during its two decades of operation. In addition to 43 East 57th Street, the gallery was located in townhouses at numbers 69, 16, and 55, all of which have since been replaced by much larger office and commercial buildings.

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 *"The Real Estate Field," (January 18, 1912), 19.

[Bird's eye view looking south from Fifth Avenue at 58th Street at the 26-story Heckscher Building (c. October 1921), southwest corner of Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, with Vanderbilt Mansion (since replaced by Bergdorf Goodman) in foreground]. 1921. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004673286/>.

[Bird's eye view looking south from Fifth Avenue at 58th Street at the 26-story Heckscher Building (c. October 1921), southwest corner of Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, with Vanderbilt Mansion (since replaced by Bergdorf Goodman) in foreground]. 1921. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2004673286/>.

Selling Men on Modern Art

In the early decades of the twentieth-century, women dominated the modern art market in the U.S. For example, of the group of twenty-three individuals who financially backed the Armory Show of 1913, eighteen were women. Typically those who ventured into collecting modern art had traveled to Europe and spent time studying art or art history in Paris. Because of the dearth of modern art museums in the U.S., these women made it their mission to educate the public about the latest artistic developments. They opened galleries, founded museums and art clubs, organized exhibitions and lectures, hosted salons, served as advisors to collectors, and, as fundraisers, welcomed tour groups to see the art in their homes.

Valentine Dudensing was well aware that women were intrepid collectors of modern art. When he opened the Valentine Gallery in February 1926 the first seven sales he recorded in his ledger were to women. Seizing an opportunity, Dudensing alerted the press that he would begin using his gallery for bi-weekly art appreciation classes for men. "When men come into a gallery unaccompanied by their wives and express themselves freely they often have interesting ideas," Dudensing stated. He planned to help men gain confidence in their taste for modern art by showing them what to look for when judging the quality of a painting.

While no accounts of Dudensing's classes are known to exist, several prominent male collectors have credited Dudensing with selling them their first significant work of art. Joseph Pulitzer Jr. (1913-1993), the grandson of the newspaper magnate, is one of them. Pulitzer was a senior at Harvard in late 1935 when he came in to the Valentine Gallery, was inspired by a painting by Amedeo Modigliani and made his first major art purchase, Elvira Resting at a Table of 1919; the painting first hung in his room on campus. Pulitzer later gave it to the Saint Louis Art Museum. William Paley (1901-1990) first saw Cézanne's work in France in 1933 and was determined to buy an important painting by the artist. It took two years before he found what he wanted and from Dudensing bought L'Estaque, 1879-1883. In 1959, he gave the landscape to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Stephen Clark was introduced to Henri Matisse's paintings at the Valentine Gallery shortly after the gallery opened. He bought his first Matisse from Dudensing in 1926 and went on to buy twelve major works from the dealer over the years.*

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*For more on Stephen Clark's collection of Matisse paintings, see my post of November 5, 2016, "The Matisse Connection."  

The Washington Post ( March 21, 1926),&nbsp;AF11

The Washington Post (March 21, 1926), AF11

Bibi Dudensing

Rather than her husband who was rarely photographed, Bibi Dudensing was literally the face of the Valentine Gallery. While Valentine Dudensing managed operations, selected artwork, and negotiated purchases and sales, Bibi sat at the front desk where she greeted visitors and oversaw the galleries, assembled checklists and proofread catalogues. She was responsible for decorating the gallery and selected the notable silver-blue wall color as well as the chrome light fixtures and modern furniture; undoubtedly she was involved in designing the distinct Art Deco-style letterhead. Bibi's letter to the editor of Town & Country magazine in January 1938 offers a rare glimpse of her involvement in the gallery's operations. The gallery's Picasso retrospective held the previous November attracted an overwhelming number of visitors. In an attempt at crowd control, the Dudensings began charging a quarter for admission which the magazine's art critic called a bad precedent. In her letter Bibi explained the tremendous effort involved in organizing such a show and how the couple hoped that the small admission fee would allow serious visitors to enjoy the works "in peace."

Margaret Elizabeth Gross (1898-1971), whose nickname derives from the nineteenth-century French nursery rhyme, "Bibi Lolo," was born in San Francisco. All birth records that predated the city's devastating earthquake of 1906 were lost in the resultant fire that consumed the municipal records building. Conveniently for Bibi this loss of official documentation allowed her to slowly change the year of her birth; by the time of her death she had shaved almost a decade from her age. Bibi was educated in Lausanne and studied painting in Paris before she moved to New York in 1916; soon thereafter she met Dudensing. The couple married in 1920 and their daughter Valentine Antonia was born in late 1921.

By all appearances, the Dudensings lived a glamorous life. They socialized with artists and collectors while in New York during the art season (fall through spring) and spent extended summers at their villa in the elegant, seaside resort town of Le Touquet, France, where they enjoyed the company of the artists whose work they showed. Bibi posed frequently resulting in a number of portraits: paintings by Jules Pascin and Robert W. Chanler, drawings by Henri Matisse and Tsuguharu Foujita, photographs by Man Ray and Carl Van Vechten (below); Pablo Picasso and Louis Eilshemius each inscribed a painting of a nude to her. 

Bibi appears in The Cathedrals of Fifth Avenue of 1931 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Florine Stettheimer's allegorical commentary on the consumer "temples" of New York City. Under the blaze of signage for Tiffany's, Altman's department store, and Delmonico's restaurant, a bride and groom are surrounded by witnesses -- actually friends of Stettheimer's -- who represent the city's cultural elite. Along with Edward Steichen and Charles Demuth, the three Stettheimer sisters are grouped at the far right of the canvas and Bibi is to the left of them. Fashionably dressed, she has her hands on her daughter's shoulders as the girl restrains the family dog.  

Carl Van Vechten,  Portrait of Bibi Dudensing , April 14, 1937; Library of Congress, Prints &amp; Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, Lot 12735, no. 346

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Bibi Dudensing, April 14, 1937; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, Lot 12735, no. 346

The Matisse Connection

Valentine Dudensing knew that if he wanted to sell contemporary European art in New York he would need an agent in Paris who could source artwork for him. It was serendipitous then that he met Pierre Matisse (1900-1989), the younger son of the artist, who was looking for opportunities to launch his career as an art dealer. Dudensing recognized that Matisse could offer access to the artists, dealers, and collectors of Paris and, most importantly, to Henri Matisse himself. In the fall of 1925 the two began discussing a partnership that would last for five years.

Henri Matisse's work had been introduced to the U.S. in the Armory Show of 1913 and in subsequent solo exhibitions in New York at Montross Gallery (1915) and at Brummer Gallery and Fearon Galleries (both in 1924). The retrospective exhibition that Pierre Matisse arranged for the Valentine Gallery for the month of January 1927 -- the first major Matisse show since 1924 and the first retrospective of the artist's work held in the U.S. -- was a welcome opportunity to see the artist's latest stylistic developments in context with his earlier work. Visitors crowded the gallery for the month-long show before it traveled to the Arts Club of Chicago for ten days. 

The exhibition featured nineteen paintings from 1890-1926 and included such highlights as:

  • Still Life, 1899 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

  • Woman on a High Stool, 1914 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

  • Marguerite au chat noir, 1910 (Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Pompidou, Paris)

  • The Moroccans, 1915-16 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

  • White Plumes, 1919 (Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN)

  • The Moorish Screen, 1921 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA)

  • Young Woman in Pink, 1923 (de Young/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA)

  • Figure décorative sur fond ornemental, 1925-26 (Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Pompidou, Paris)

1927 became an important year for Matisse whose acceptance in the U.S. was confirmed when he won first prize for a still life submitted to the Carnegie International. With this award, Matisse became the first modern artist recognized by this venerable survey exhibition which began in 1896 and was held each fall at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

Two years later, Pierre Matisse arranged a second solo exhibition -- this time of his father's recent paintings from 1923 to 1929 -- that opened at the Valentine Gallery in December 1929 and ran through early January 1930. 

Of the seventeen canvases included, at least seven are in U.S. museums today:

As Dudensing predicted, in addition to drawing crowds, Matisse's paintings attracted a number of well-known collectors and helped establish the Valentine Gallery's reputation as a leading source for the finest examples of modern art in New York. Dudensing's promotion of the artist arguably had the greatest impact on Stephen C. Clark (1882-1960), an important New York collector who in 1939 became Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Modern Art. Clark bought his first Matisse painting from the Valentine Gallery in March 1926 and over the next six years acquired twelve more paintings from the gallery. By 1930 he had converted the grand room on the top floor of his East 70th Street townhouse (now The Explorer's Club) into a "Matisse Room" that was decorated to match the brilliant colors and patterns in the paintings that hung on the walls.

Despite the fact that Clark had a change of heart and sold or gave away all of his Matisses by 1954, at least four paintings that he had acquired from the Valentine Gallery are now in U.S. museums: Coffee, 1916 (Detroit Institute of Arts, MI); White Plumes, 1919 (Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN); The Three O'Clock Sitting, 1924 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); and Seated Odalisque, 1926 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).  

 

 

Introducing Giorgio de Chirico

When one thinks of the work of Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), one typically thinks of his highly-prized, prewar paintings: crisply rendered architecture, intense sunlight contrasted with deep shadows, and hauntingly empty plazas in the distance often with an unexpected combination of objects in the foreground. When the Valentine Gallery presented de Chirico's first solo exhibition in the U.S. in January 1928, five examples of these metaphysical paintings were on display: The Philosopher's Conquest, 1913/14 (Art Institute of Chicago); The Endless Voyage, 1914 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT); The Serenity of the Scholar, 1914 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); The Destiny of the Blasphémateur, 1914 (unidentified); and The Delights of the Poet, 1913 (Current Location Unknown).

At that time, however, the critics and collectors preferred de Chirico's recent paintings that comprised the bulk of the exhibition. Described by one reviewer as "a full blast of modernism," the large, colorful canvases featured cartoon-like depictions of faceless mannequins seated within architectural elements, variations on classical imagery such as gladiators or nudes inexplicably crowded into rooms, or figures frozen in spaces that suggest stage sets. A number of paintings depicted pairs of horses cavorting on the seashore with broken columns or antique temples in the distance. In this exhibition, Dudensing presented seventeen paintings completed in 1926 and 1927. While he sold the bulk of this group, the dealer was unable to sell any examples of the artist's early work. The show was called "the sensation of the season" leading Dudensing to immediately arrange for a follow-up exhibition comprised exclusively of recent works from 1925 to 1928.

The second de Chirico exhibition opened at the Valentine Gallery in late December 1928 and continued through the following month. Once again the paintings attracted crowds as well as praise from the press who dubbed them de Chirico's "masterworks." At least three paintings from this exhibition are in U.S. museum collections today: The Eventuality of Destiny, 1927 (Art Institute of Chicago); Conversation among the Ruins, 1927 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); and Horses, c. 1928 (Phillips Collection, Washington, DC).

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For more on Giorgio de Chirico's critical reception in the U.S. and his first extended visit to this country, see the exhibition catalogue Giorgio de Chirico and America (New York : Hunter College of the City University of New York ; Rome : Fondazione Giorgio e Isa De Chirico ; Turin : Umberto Allemandi, 1996). 

The Inaugural Exhibition: Tsuguharu Foujita

For the Valentine Gallery's inaugural exhibition, Dudensing presented the recent paintings and drawings of Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) in what would be the artist's first one-man show in the U.S. At that time in early 1926, Foujita's work was the rage in Paris where the artist had lived since 1913. Befriended by the School of Paris painters and with his works accepted by the annual Salons since 1919, Foujita was known as "the Japanese Ingres" because of the distinct flat white he used in painting his figures. His submission to the 1923 spring Salon at the Grand Palais in Paris entitled En famille -- a watercolor that he varnished and then rubbed with pumice stone -- caused a sensation and made headlines when it was deemed the best work in the show. By the Salon d'Automne of the following year, Foujita's paintings drew crowds.

The F. Valentine Dudensing Gallery exhibition opened on February 8, 1926. No checklist survives but there was copious press attention to Dudensing's new gallery and to his partnership with Pierre Matisse who organized the exhibition. Reviewers noted a number of the works; this information helps in the reconstruction of the exhibition: "graceful nudes in boudoir settings"; "two women reclining on a beach"; Le pot à tabac ("the only still life"); "drawings of French street scenes"; Panneaux decoratifs, described as a screen with "clowns perching precariously on a pile of blocks" against a silver- and gold-leaf background; Les enfants; Les enfants aux chats; and, of course, the cats for which Foujita is probably best known. The only work that has been identified with certainty is Deésse de la neige of 1924a painting over six feet in length of a nude reclining with abandon -- undoubtedly a highlight of the exhibition. 

Dudensing sold Deésse de la neige to Carl Weeks, a collector from Des Moines, Iowa. He had been one of Dudensing's clients when the dealer worked as a salesman at his father's gallery, Richard Dudensing & Son. Weeks made a fortune through his cosmetics company -- the Armand Company -- and in 1926 was in the process of building his residence, Salisbury House, a grand manor house that he planned to fill with his extensive art collection. The sale of this Foujita painting exemplifies Dudensing's skill as an art dealer: he sold a masterpiece by an artist reputed for depicting his subjects with porcelain skin to a collector whose company's best-selling product, Armand's Cold Cream Powder, was the leading face powder in the U.S. 

Weeks's son, E. D. Weeks, presented the painting to the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1974.

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Special thanks to Jessica Ficken, Curatorial Assistant for the Collection, Harvard Art Museums, for her generous assistance with my research of the Fogg's painting.

Valentine Gallery stamp

Several works in the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, a promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, were sold by Dudensing and one, a work on paper, has a Valentine Gallery label on its backboard.  

As part of the 2014-15 exhibition of the Lauder collection, the Met created a microsite on its website dedicated to the archival labels found on the works in the collection. Labels and markings offer critical clues for the provenance researcher and I was fortunate to have been a member of the research team tasked with identifying and discovering the significance of the labels.

Tracking the provenance of works on paper is challenging for the researcher because labels are not affixed to the back of the work but rather to the backboard of the frame. As works are reframed by different owners over the years labels are often lost. Fortunately, the 1908 gouache by Picasso, Landscape, still had the original backboard. Not only does it have the Valentine Gallery stamp from 1944 but it also has the label affixed by Picasso's dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, sometime before he left Paris on holiday in July 1914 just weeks before the start of WWI. The label, located in the upper left corner of the backboard, has the title and date of the work: Paysage, 1908 written in Kahnweiler's distinctive handwriting.

Valentine Gallery stamp