London – In 1865, the Spanish painter Ramón Tusquets y Maignon (1838-1904) left his homeland and headed for Rome. At a time when the centre of the art world was rapidly pivoting to Paris, this may have seemed a strange decision, but Tusquets believed that the close study of classical art was essential to his future as an artist. That his instincts were entirely right can be seen in the magnificent oil painting Le Opere, Campiña Romana which leads Bonhams 19th Century and British Impressionist Art sale in London on Wednesday 30 March. Painted in Rome in 1871 and shown the same year to great acclaim at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, Madrid, the work has been in the same family for at least the past 120 years and has never been offered at auction before. It is estimated at £120,000-180,000.
Charles O’Brien, Bonhams Head of 19th Century and British Impressionist Art, said: “When this wonderful work was exhibited in Madrid in 1871, critics and public alike were unanimous in praising its harmony, light, colour and naturalism. It has lost none of its impact over the intervening years. Tusquets knew his subject well. He captures the landscape and the light of the Roman Campagna beautifully and imbues his depiction of workers toiling on the land with great dignity, even nobility. Entirely fresh to the market, Le Opere, Campiña Romana can lay claim to be the artist’s masterpiece and I am anticipating a great deal of interest from private collectors and public institutions alike.”
Le Opere, Campiña Romana was purchased by the great art collector Eduardo de Carandolet Donado y Castaños, Marqués de Portugalete and Duque de Bailén (1820-82) and it hung alongside masterpieces by other great Spanish artists in his Palacio on Madrid’s Calle de Alcalá. The painting was subsequently owned by the Spanish banker and businessman Gustavo Baüer (1865-1916) who displayed it at his Palacio on Calle San Bernardo, Madrid. Finally, it was acquired in Brazil at the turn of the 20th century by businessman and art lover Domingos Demarchi, the great grandfather or the current owners.
Other highlights of the sale include:
• Bacino di San Marco, Venice by Friedrich Nerly (1807-1878). Born in Germany, Nerly settled in Venice in 1835, Italianizing his name from the original Nehrlich. He set up a studio in the Palazzo Pisani, near the Campo San Stefano, and soon gained a reputation as one of the finest vedute painters of the age, producing numerous highly sought-after views of the city. Bacino di San Marco, Venice shows a Romantic side to the artist’s oeuvre in contrast to the strictly realist style of much of his other works. Estimate: £200,000-300,000.
• Après le bal by Jan Van Beers (1852 – 1927). Born in Antwerp, Van Beers moved to Paris in the late 1870s, concentrating on modern subjects, often scenes with fashionable women and those of the demi-monde. Après le bal is a striking example of the artist’s work during the Parisian years. The highly suggestive subject was shocking to the eyes of many contemporary critics although that did not prevent it being exhibited widely including in London. Après le bal, should however, be seen as more than a titillating depiction of a Parisian courtesan. It is also an aesthetic, almost Whistlerian colour experiment, the work’s restrained colour scheme having an extremely limited range. Estimate: £60,000-80,000.
• Three works by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) including In the Autumn’s Waning Glow (estimate: £150,000-200,000); Glasgow Docks After Rain (estimate: £100,000-150,000) and an intriguing early work from the first decade of his career, April Weather – Honister Crags (estimate: £10,000-15,000). This work dating from 1868 clearly shows, in both subject matter and technique, the influence on the artist of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. By 1870, Grimshaw had started to produce the crepuscular paintings for which is he most famous, but the close observation of nature seen in April Weather – Honister Crags remained a fundamental part of his approach for the rest of his career.