The Young Bull by Paulus Potter

The Young Bull by Paulus Potter (c.1647)

After yesterday’s controversial and somewhat depressing painting by Klimt I thought I would lighten spirits with not one but two paintings which have a connection to each other.   I don’t really have a forward plan of what my next featured painting will be, the choice is often coincidental.  For example, today I received in the mail a long awaited catalogue which goes with the Dutch Landscapes exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.  A couple of weeks ago I had intended to visit the exhibition and was not best pleased that the catalogue had not arrived before my trip to London.  However if you read my blog on that day you will know I never made the exhibition as the Gallery was closed owing to the state visit of Barrack Obama.

So I was looking through the catalogue this morning and came across a work that is on display in the exhibition by Paulus Potter.  I had intended to feature that painting but when I was researching the artists and his paintings I changed my mind and My Daily Art Display features his most famous painting entitled The Young Bull.  The reason I changed my mind was because of an interesting connection his painting has with one by a American Modernist painter, Mark Tansey – but more about that later.

Paulus Potter was born in 1625, in Enkhuizen, a harbour town in Northern Netherlands.  His painting speciality was that of animals, especially cows, horses and sheep in landscape settings.  From Enkhuizen he and his family moved to Leiden and later Amsterdam.  His father, an artist, taught his son the basics of painting.  We know that Paulus eventually arrived in Delft because it is recorded that when he was in his early twenties he became a member of the Guild Of St Luke in Delft. In 1649 he  moved on to The Hague where he married.  His father-in-law was a wealthy builder and through him Paulus was introduced to the rich and privileged of Dutch society and with this fortuitous turn of events Paulus had a market for his paintings.  He wasn’t to capitalise on that for long as his life was cut short by tuberculosis in 1654 at the young age of 28.

Today’s painting, an early example of Romanticism, entitled The Bull, was painted by the twenty-one year old Paulus Potter around 1647  and can now be found at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.  This remarkable life-sized painting was, in the early nineteenth century, as popular with the Dutch people as Rembrandt’s Nightwatch.  Paintings featuring cattle were de rigueur in Holland at this time.  The scene of a bull in the meadow in itself is unremarkable but what makes it so special is the amount of detail in the painting.  Look at the flies hovering around the back of the bull which stands in the shade of the tree.   Look too on the ground by the feet of the cow and you can just make out a small frog which is being watched closely by the cow which is lying on the ground.    The standing bull takes centre stage in the picture and the artist has added a cow, three sheep and a farmer.  To the right we see a low-lying meadow with some cattle grazing and in the distance, just visible on the horizon sheltering below a low dark threatening sky is a church spire.  This has been identified as the church spire of Rijswijk which is now a suburb of The Hague.

The Innocent Eye Test by Mark Tansey (1981)

So now to the second painting I promised.  This is a much more modern painting.  The painting entitled The Innocent Eye Test is by the American Postmodernist painter Mark Tansey.  His forte is monochromatic paintings, which are often amusing, sometimes mocking and often touch on the subject of art critics and their critiques.   The picture (above) which he painted in 1981 depicts a group of officials looking at a cow who in turn is staring at a painting.  They are wanting to take note of the cow’s reaction to seeing a life-sized painting of a cow and a bull .  The painting which is being observed closely by the bull is the Paulus Potter painting The Young Bull.  I am amused to see all the bespectacled officials in business suits or lab coats especially the one holding the mop which one must presume is in case the bull gets too excited by the painting and has an “accident”!!!

……….and finally another twist to the story of the paintings, below is a recent article from the  New York Times newspaper dated May 11th 2011, regarding Mark Tansey’s painting The Innocent Eye Test…….

“..British collector Robert Wylde filed federal suit against the Gagosian Gallery on Thursday over a Mark Tansey painting, “The Innocent Eye Test.” Wylde alleges that the Manhattan gallery concealed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 31 percent partial ownership of the work, and the fact that the museum planned to eventually to reclaim the painting altogether.

The Innocent Eye Test was originally owned by Artforum publisher and established art dealer Charles Cowles, then partially owned and promised to the Metropolitan Museum in 1988.  In 2009, collector Robert Wylde was shown the Mark Tansey painting at Cowles’ SoHo apartment, when Cowles was closing his Chelsea Gallery after 30 years.

Wylde, who lives in Monaco, purchased the Tansey through the Gagosian Gallery for $2.5 million on August 5th, 2009. In spring of 2010, a Gagosian lawyer contacted Wylde, when the gallery learned of the Metropolitan Museum’s partial ownership.

Gagosian Gallery is internationally renowned as a foremost art market institution, and rarely discloses transactions on the basis of client confidentiality and business discretion. Although this is not the first suit against the gallery – most recently, misidentified protester Ingrid Homberg filed after being removed from an Anselm Keifer show in February–the Tansey suit is uniquely sale-related.  Robert Wylde additionally contends that Gagosian Gallery canceled his Richard Prince sale when a higher offer was received.

Gagosian Gallery spokeswoman Virginia Coleman told the New York Times that Charles Cowles claimed clear title to the painting, and that, “the gallery acted in good faith.”

In lieu of the lawsuit, Cowles himself told the New York Times he considered the 2009 sale his mistake. He “didn’t think about” the Metropolitan Museum’s stake in the painting once it was returned from its initial showcase, and sold it through Gagosian in 2009 for financial reasons.

The Beverly Hills  Gagosian Gallery is set to show its latest Mark Tansey works in an upcoming exhibition from April 19th to May 28th. The gallery’s artist summary alludes to complex uncertainty, inviting the viewer to engage in the metaphorical aesthetic disorientation during exhibition..”

….and all this because my gallery catalogue arrived in today’s mail !!!