September 23, 2021

The Vampyre and The Party That Started it All

The Villa Diodati in Geneva, Switzerland 2008.07.27, view 5 out of 6, Image Source: Wikipedia

Lake Geneva, Switzerland, June 1816

It was June of the year without a summer, when the skies were perpetually dark and the crops didn’t grow, that English poet Lord Byron took to Lake Geneva looking for an escape. There, he and his personal doctor, John William Polidori resided at Villa Diodati, where they frequently entertained the company of close friends; Percy Shelley, his fiancé Mary, their 4 month old daughter, and Mary’s step-sister Clare Clairmonte who, after a dalliance in London, was carrying the daughter of Lord Byron. It was during one such visit, that the friends' stay was dismally extended and the unrelenting weather exhausted their soirée.

John William Polidori, by F.G. Gainsford (floruit 1805-1822), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1895, Image Source: Wikipedia

The weather in Switzerland that summer was atrocious and this weekend was no exception. Tumultuous skies and torrential rain cast a shadow on the friends' getaway and as the waters of the Lake Geneva rose, so did the tension in the rooms of Villa Diodati; Claire’s unrequited pursuit of Lord Byron’s affection provoked his attitude, while Dr. Polidori’s unbecoming advances towards Mary unsettled her and left Percy with certain distaste. As the nights drew on, the party imbibed and debates over the effectiveness of galvanism permeated the conversation. On one particular evening, their entertainment was found in the candlelit reading of Fantasmagoriana and other series of ghost stories, which sparked the idea of a challenge. A challenge that would come to change literary history. Byron proposed each guest write a story, a horror story that was more terrifying than any they had heard that evening or any evening before.

As a part of this challenge, Mary Shelley produced one of the most important and influential horror stories of all time, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Lord Byron's contribution was an incomplete tale titled Fragment of a Novel, in which the narrator recounts his journey with vampire Augustus Darvell in a fictitious letter to the reader. Though unfinished and hardly worth mentioning among Byron's other works, this fragment inspired John Polidori to write his own novella, The Vampyre, a harrowing narrative involving deception, seduction, and murder that revamped the folkloric villain into the aristocratic incubus that we know today.

It is rumored that the main character in this tale, Lord Ruthven, a sexually deviant, blood-lusting powerful vampire who was attracted to the virtuous and the virginal, was inspired by Lord Byron himself and his situation with Clare Clairmonte. As the summer holiday drew to a close, an infuriated Byron terminated the doctor's position and upon his dismissal, Polidori subsequently sent his writing to the Countess of Breuss to be published in an act of revenge on his former boss.

In April of 1819, The Vampyre was published in the New Monthly Magazine under the false attribution of Lord Byron. Despite the multiple attempts by both Lord Byron and John Polidori to correct the attribution, the story would go on to be published in book form with the misattribution. The first edition work did have Byron's attribution but it was removed by the second state.

Polidori, John. The Vampyre, A Tale, Paris, 1819 Image Source:

One of these 1819 first editions of The Vampyre can be found in a sale of Antiquarian and Other Books that is live on now to October 12, 2021.

July 23, 2021

About the Patek Philippe Nautilus Wristwatch

The Patek Philippe Nautilus was designed in 1976 by Gerald Genta. Supposedly designed in 5 minutes, Genta drew his inspiration from the portholes of a ship. This nod to sailing was made as he knew the owners, the Stern family, had a love of sailing. This watch has remained one of the most desirable Patek Philippe designs for almost 5 decades. These watches are in such high demand that there is a waiting list of eight years from Patek Philippe, if you can even get on it. The value of the watches has risen substantially over the years and is unlikely to slow down as the Nautilus 5711 was discontinued with a new unique version being released due to demand.  The dedication of the Stern family to the company and to maintaining the same level of quality almost guarantees the longevity of these watches.

Patek Philippe 18K White Gold Nautilus Wristwatch with Original Certificate and Box, Ca. 2009.
Patek Philippe 18K White Gold Nautilus Wristwatch with Original Certificate and Box, Ca. 2009, sold for $53,750 in July 2021

Advertisement for consigning luxury watches
July 20, 2021

Artist Profile: Charles Umlauf (1911-1994)

Mother & Child (Refugees) by Charles Umlauf
Mother & Child (Refugees), 1950, bronze
(Image courtesy of The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum)

It is clear from his emotional depictions of Refugees to the lively models of his children, that Charles Umlauf drew inspiration from current and life event. What sets Umlauf apart is the exaggerated elements that set the tone for his pieces. Umlauf enlarged the sized of the hands in his figures to symbolize maternity, and elongated extremities to evoke movement all which is manneristic by design.

Diver, 1956, bronze
(Image courtesy of The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum)

Charles Umlauf was a German American born in Michigan who studied at The Art Institute of Chicago from an early age. His professional career began when he received his first commissioned sculpture, in 1922, at the age of 11. He was mentored by Albin Polasek and Lorado Taft, both technical sculptors who help to establish skill and helped the young artist discover his independent style. His subsequent assistantship with Viola Norman at the Chicago School of Sculpture led to his showing at the 1933 Chicago World’s fair. During the Great Depression Charles worked to develop many public works for the WPA Federal Art Project, several of which continue to be exhibited in the public spaces they were created for.

Crucifiction by Charles Umlauf
Crucifixion, 1946, aluminum
(Image courtesy of The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum)

Throughout his career Umlauf received many commissions by churches and private collectors alike. A notable commission was one by Marion McNay, a prominent patron of the arts from San Antonio, who’s crucifix was more than she ever expected. Katie Robinson Edwards, Executive Director and Curator of the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum has an interesting story behind that commission.

Click here to hear about the commission of Crucifix

Umlauf’s career continued to develop as he took the position as the Instructor of Sculpture at University of Texas in Austin. There he was successful professor and mentor of forty years with a vast number of students, one of whom happened to be Farrah Faucet who, on occasion, sat as his muse. His reputation as a tough but caring professor proceeded him and tales of his extinguishing kiln-fires can still be heard around campus.

Lotus by Charles Umlauf
Lotus, 1960, bronze
(Image courtesy of The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum)

Charles and his wife Angie raised their children at their home and his studio in Austin Texas which has since been gifted to the city of Austin and is now an incredible sculpture garden filled with 59 of Umlauf’s gifted sculptures from his private collection.  The gardens continually have exhibitions and events that make for the perfect way to experience the works of Charles Umlauf, the next time you find yourself in the Heart of Texas be sure to add this to your itinerary.

The Kiss, 1970, bronze
(Image courtesy of The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum)

“Under the Sycamore” by Angie Umlauf
My Love for You:
You can never know how
Much I love you,
And I can never tell you
No matter how I try.
So just believe me—
It’s more than the
Farthest reach of the ocean’s
Rolling waves,
Endless as the blue of sky.

May 21, 2021

America On Stone: the Rise of Commercial Lithography in the 19th Century

The Development of a Mass Visual Culture in American Society, and its grounding and enlivening effects in the reaffirmation of the mythos and social imaginary of the American populous

Thanks to the efficiency of production and the massively economical nature of its distribution, lithography took America by storm in the 19th Century, nestling itself into a vast range of applications in art, commerce, and advertisement. Though there were many printmaking firms in operation at this time, none have stood the test of time as fortuitously as Currier & Ives (1835-1907). the firm called itself "the Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints'' and advertised its lithographs as "colored engravings for the people"—Currier & Ives effectively managed to streamline production to such an extent that, over the course of their 70-year career, over 7500 original lithograph prints were brought to market, the prints produced and sold in unlimited editions, amassing to estimates of well over one million total prints put into circulation. More essentially, a Currier & Ives print was sold for no more than a few dollars, from the beginning of their printing career up until the very end.

Currier & Ives found their start in the economic uncertainty and technological catastrophe of the 1830s, a series of large-scale calamities that unsettled Americans and created deep, lingering insecurities in the American social imaginary; a sensibility comprised of a stubborn faith in progress above-all-else and an oft-professed determination to overcome adversity. The 1830s saw the initial developments of the market for self-help and advice manuals, alongside which the lithograph prints of Currier & Ives and their contemporaries aided the American masses in reaffirming a national identity, a sense of self in the face of uncertain fate, by way of imagery and imaginative space that in a cathartic manner served to voice widespread fears, hopes, ideals, and entirely American victories and pleasures.

Whether it was the warm, comforting simplicity of the bucolic scenes of everyday American life (American Country Life, Pleasures of Winter, Litho, 1855)

N Currier, American Country Life, Pleasures of Winter, Litho, 1855
N Currier, American Country Life, Pleasures of Winter, Litho, 1855, Available on iGavel Auctions until June 3, 2021

the sensitively, emotionally memorialized representations of contemporary disasters (A The Great Fire at St John, NB June 20, 1877),

The Great Fire at St John, NB June 20, 1877
Currier & Ives, The Great Fire at St John, NB June 20, 1877, Available on iGavel Auctions until June 3, 2021

or the freedom-laden, youthful opportunity expressing portrayals of the frontier and American Manifest Destiny (Across the Continent),

Currier and Ives (Publisher): Through to the Pacific, Hand Colored Lithograph, 1870
Currier & Ives, Through to the Pacific, Hand Colored Lithograph, 1870, Available on iGavel Auctions until June 3, 2021

the visual culture formed and promulgated—even though it is a mythical vantage, not necessarily linked to a real lived American reality—by way of lithograph prints in 19th century America served to vividly enliven and reaffirm the righteousness of American identity and all that it entailed; the prints thusly best understood as compositions combining memory, myth, and progress-oriented hopes of a nation that had been shaken to its core, but refused to fall into the annals of history.

April 16, 2021

Hasui Kawase: A Master of Rain

At the start of Hasui’s career, Japan was in a period of transition from the Meiji into the Taisho. Within two generations, the country had moved from a feudal into a model modern society. Foreign investments and industrialization opened Japan to an international audience for trade and exchange of culture through art, in particular printmaking. 

Portrait of Hasui Kawase, 1939

Demonstrating an affinity for drawing as a toddler, Kawase Hasui’s (1883-1957) parents recognized and nurtured their son’s ability, and when he came of age he was sent to the school of the painter Aoyagi Bokusen. There Hasui learned brush painting and drawing, assimilating specific Western painting styles into his oeuvre. After his studies Hasui, with great reluctance, returned home to manage the family business as a silk braid merchant. Luckily, at the age of 26 he was emancipated from his familial obligations and returned to the pursuit of art as a career. 

He studied Western-style painting for two years under the tutelage of Okada Saburosuke, a leading figure in Yōga style painting, a movement known for its heavy mimicry of European painting traditions. Two years later, Hasui changed teachers and began studying under Kaburagi, the leading artist for what is known as Bijin-ga, “the beautiful person” genre, which focused mainly on depicting lovely young Japanese women as seen in ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Saburosuke was the founder of Kinreisha School which Hasui attended. The rigor of the school’s programming led to a partnership with Shōzaburō Watanabe, an erudite English-speaking, business-savvy print dealer and publisher with formidable sales channels to the North American and European markets. Watanabe was the champion for the emerging Shin-Hanaga movement, which revitalized traditional ukiyo-e art rooted in the Edo and Meiji periods. His publishing company maintained the traditional ukiyo-e collaboration system of printmaking production, with 1) Artist 2) Carver 3) Printer and 4) Publisher all engaged and devoted to their assigned division of labor. By maintaining this strict production regimen, Watanabe was able to offer the precepts of traditional printmaking practice as a selling point to his Western audience. At this time printmaking in Japan proper was considered base and commercial, but Watanabe successfully tapped into the Orientalist fervor sweeping Europe and North America, and his ability to appeal to the Japonisme craze subsequently elevated printmaking as fine art in the West.  

Despite Hasui being an inexperienced printmaker, Watanabe recognized the artist’s talent and quickly added him to his roster of artists. This new partnership established Hasui, and allowed him to extensively travel Japan, gathering material from known tourist attractions, temples, shrines, pagodas, and of course Mt. Fuji. Somewhat akin to the French Impressionists, Hasui would complete his drawings en plein air; due to his short-sighted vision and need for thick-lense glasses the traveling artist would later have to add in color and smaller details at whichever local inn he was residing at. Eventually, Hasui became best known abroad for his work rather than in the country of his birth. 

Kawase, Hasui, Japanese Woodblock Print, Rainy Night at Maekawa
Available of iGavel Auctions until April 27, 2021

Traditionally, rain was not depicted in Japanese printmaking, nor was the use of shadows. Yet these two elements are what distinguished Hasui in the Shin-Hanaga movement. Distinct features of the artist’s visual vignettes, such as Rainy Night at Maekawa, where he used lighting and shadow to depict a nostalgic, romanticized Japan, drawing from his Western Impressionist counterparts, Hatsui easily attracted international collectors to his work. Unabashedly playing into the Occidental taste and nostalgia for  ‘feudal’ Japan, his city-scenes, despite Tokyo being a sprawling urban center, are presented as quiet, somber, and village-like.

Kawase, Hasui, Japanese Woodblock Print, Rainy Season at Ryoshimachi Shinagawa
Available on iGavel Auctions until April 27, 2021

Hasui evokes a calm of tranquility with atmospheric compositions encapsulating the sound of pattering rain, chill air, wet, squelching footsteps. Often he steered away from using bold hues and maintained thin, soft washes of muted color. Though he regarded himself as a realist, Hatsui did not like to invest too much effort depicting people; given his poor eye-sight, it was vexing to draw with minute detail because of people being moving subjects. 

Regardless of his esteemed reputation abroad and demand for his prints, he never lived the wealthy life - his travel expenditures were large, and many times he had to take advances on his earnings from his publisher. He acknowledged with pride that he was an artist who lived sustainably, never having to moonlight at other occupations, though misfortune was to follow. 

On September 1st, 1923, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Mw scale struck Kanto, just outside of Tokyo. In the cataclysm, Hasui’s home and studio were destroyed, the bulk of his woodblocks, paintings, equipment, and other works lost in the devastation. He was never able to recover from the loss. A decade and a half later Japan was at war against the Allied powers. The Army Art Association of Japan tightened control on the arts and culture, with a focus on promoting propagandistic war artists. Given the reallocation of Japan’s already scant resources, artist materials became rationed. Futhermore, Hasui’s home was destroyed a second time from aerial bombings. The market for Japanese art abroad collapsed; Hasui never recovered and the Shin-Hanaga movement never re-attained popularity in the post-war years.  

In 1956, in acknowledgement of his outstanding career, Hasui was named a Living National Treasure by the Japanese Government. The Committee for the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage designated Hasui's Zojo Temple in Snow as an Intangible Cultural Treasure, the greatest artistic honor in post-war Japan. Approximately one year later, he died of cancer.