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Chinese School
Chinese (1775-1900)

Macao

The oldest European buildings in China are along the once curved crescent shore of the Praya Grande, where the Portuguese explorers established and fortified their trading foothold with an entire continent. When they arrived in 1553, the small fishing village overlooked by a temple of an ocean goddess immediately became an important cultural center of the world, with the initial interactions between the East and West. Ever since, this port loaded with temples and churches has played a role in the cosmopolitan course of world trade. (The harbor is extensively filled in and built upon today.)

In this view, more than 300 years after the Dutch established contact in the early 17th Century and western ships first sailed in the harbor, a British Sidewheel Steamer is in the port of Macao, surrounded by more than 20 Chinese vessels. The artist’s perspective, looking northwest towards the Praya Grande’s center, brings Praha Hill and its stone stairway in view, with the church on top. The inlaid stone walkway of the port city is full of human figures, one wearing a special red jacket while the rest wear blue or white. One westerner in a top hat at the stern post of the closest Chinese ship directs its crew outward bound. As a natural harbor and a point of first contact, many sailors were required to remain at Macao, while some ships would anchor and others would push on to Whampoa. Only the merchants and captains directly involved in the negotiations of buying and selling were allowed access up the river beyond Whampoa to Canton. Travel would be via local craft only. From the Chinese artists who produced port and ship paintings directly for their nautical visitors, paintings of Macao are substantially rarer than other views.

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André Hambourg
French (1909-1999)

Venice in the Rain
Pluie a Venice

“Pluie a Venice” is painted in Hambourg’s preferred palate of muted blue-green, grey, and gold with splashes of ruby red, deep blue, and emerald green. The soft colors work well for beach scenes and rainy days such as the ones portrayed in this painting. The Impressionistic scene shows multiple pedestrians strolling down the boardwalk, shielding themselves from the rain with colorful umbrellas that provide pops of color and balance the overcast sky.

The background contains a three-masted ship and Piazza San Marco’s famous bell tower and Basilica. Hambourg uses the minimum number of brushstrokes necessary to portray ships, seagulls, buildings and people – as well as reflections on the glistening sidewalk. The brushstrokes in the sky have an interesting texture that is controlled yet carefree and there is heavy impasto throughout. His portrayal is both realistic and romanticized.

Hambourg was clearly influenced by the great Impressionist artists of earlier generations, perhaps none more than the one with a direct connection to his family. Hambourg’s wife, Nicole Rachet, was born into a family with a large collection of works by Impressionist master Eugene Boudin. Rachet’s grandfather was a contemporary and friend of Boudin’s, and a collector of his work. In their later years, Hambourg and Rachet donated over 300 canvases by Boudin and other artists to the Eugene Boudin Museum in Honfleur, France. It was such a large and important gift that the collection bears their names to this day.

Like Boudin, Hambourg was inspired by the changing quality of light over water, and used subtle tones to depict sea and sky, accented with pops of bright color. Any like many great Impressionists, Hambourg’s inspiration came from direct observation and a desire to elevate scenes of everyday life into extraordinary works of art. Even during his lifetime Hambourg enjoyed the distinguished reputation as the “Grand Gentleman of French Post-Impressionism.” A glance at this painting makes it easy to understand why Hambourg’s popularity is on the rise. “Pluie a Venice” is truly a superb example of his work.

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Childe Hassam
American (1859-1935)

Church Point, Portsmouth
Original Illustration Art

A charming watercolor created as the key illustration for the essay, “Pedaling on the Piscataqua” in the 1883 issue of the cycling enthusiast magazine, The Wheelman. This was the first and best of eight works that renowned artist Childe Hassam created for the article, spread into two parts over the April and July issues of the magazine.

The article details a three day journey made by “marine bicycle” along the Piscataqua River on the border of New Hampshire and Maine and out to the Isle of Shoals in the autumn of 1882. These hydrocycles, or “aquatic velocipedes”, were a recent innovation and impressive watercraft even for their day. Able to move forward by sail or the use of pedal-powered propellers, and capable of navigating the open ocean as well as the tricky waters of the Piscataqua around Portsmouth Harbor, rated as having one of the fastest tidal currents in North America.

Here Hassam illustrates them with the sail set as a sunshade as the cyclists pass Church Point, so named for the North Church of Portsmouth, New Hampshire whose spire is clearly visible in the background. A historic and important landmark even in Hassam’s day, the church dates to the 17th century and was spiritual home to several important Americans such as Daniel Webster and John Langdon as well as welcoming then President George Washington to services.

Rendered on toned paper with white bodycolor used to highlight the piece and give wonderful texture to the sky, Hassam created a refined design and striking composition. A series of small lateen rigged sailboats sit tied to the dock near a sailor, a fisherman and a small boy all of whom stare in wonder at the usual watercraft coming into view.

Unable to cycle on land due to poor road conditions, the author and his group married their first love of boating on the river with their new passion of cycling. Able to face forward while paddling was a great advantage over the rowboat and the upright seats lifted their riders high and dry on twin pontoons.

Masterfully rendered and styled by one of the most celebrated American artists of the period, this work embodies all the wonder and optimism of the late 19th century. Sophisticated and, for the time, modern graphic design elements are married to a fine landscape with American historic landmarks, the best of old and new. This excellent illustration brings to life both a specific journey and the zeal of 19th century adventurers for the sea and the latest innovations of the machine age.

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Maximilien Luce
French (1858-1941)

Sandrecourt, Le Chemin au Bord de la Riviere
The Path Along the River

In the later part of Maximilien Luce’s life, he moved away from most everything that had defined him to that point. He moved to a country home in the picturesque farming community of Rolleboise, 40 miles outside Paris, and just a few miles downriver from Monet’s Giverny. Taking to the more quiet life, he became less involved in politics. In his art, he turned from the pointillist style and returned to Impressionism, painting landscapes like this one, inspired by the beauty of his new home.

Luce was in his late seventies when this was painted and in each stroke there is a love for the serenity of the landscape and of French country life. It’s as if he needed Impressionist freedom with brush strokes, to layer his brush with thick paint leaving heavy impasto touches, depicting the softness of the landscape, an idealized world free from hard edges. A fisherman walks casually along a riverside path, setting off to cast his line into the Seine. In the background we see the town of Rolleboise. The greens are lush and rich with depth. The sky moves golden to violet, reflecting the landscape and Luce’s Fauvist influences. The river rushes past with great movement, the artist’s skill showing activity yet overall calm. This is the mature hand of a master, free to express his own vision of the natural world.

The painting includes a photocopy of a handwritten letter from the artist's son, Frederic Luce, dated June 23 1965 and stamped by Reyn Gallery, Inc., New York which authenticates the painting and confirms that it is a view of Rolleboise.

Literature: J. Bouin-Luce and D. Bazetoux, "Maximilien Luce: Catalog Raisonne de l'Oeuvre Peint", vol. II, Paris, 1986, p. 531, no.2281, illustrated.

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Francis Luis Mora
Uruguayan American (1874-1940)

On The Beach Valencia

This bright and brilliant work by Francis Mora depicts a way of life unique to Valencia, Spain. Beginning in the 18th Century, fishermen off the beach at Cabanyal trawl through the shallow waters near shore. Two boats paired and sailing, typically lanteen-rigged, drag nets behind and when full, return to the beach where teams of oxen pull the boats up onto the sand. Here is the moment of return- the fishermen's wives gather to welcome the boats back, collecting the fish in baskets to walk them into town, where fishmongers will hawk them shouting "Peix d'ara, viu!", Catalan for "Fish now, live!"

The tradition of Fishing with Bulls (Pesca dels Bous) was made famous by Spanish impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Like Sorolla, Mora embraced the Spanish artistic tradition of "costumbrismo"- the pictorial interpretation of everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, often with a romantic flavor.

It's hard to imagine a more romantic depiction of life on the Cabalyal than Mora painted in this scene. Every surface is bathed in warm light, defining the billowing sails and reflecting colors off the waves. A crowd gathers around boats on the beach while more come in, so laden with fish that their crew must jump out and push with the oxen, whose muscles tense with action. Children play in the foreground while nearby fishermen wind nets in the shallows. The colors are outstanding, particularly in sea and sky which gleam in tones of aquamarine and turquoise. It is that coloration along with excellent composition and great historical subject that put this painting at the top of the artist's output.

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Thomas Moran
American (1837-1926)

Sunset View of the Gateway of Venice

Venice, with its natural harbor and historic architecture, has drawn artists for centuries. But it is American Master Thomas Moran who brought the city to its greatest heights. His most prized scenes are inspired with a luminosity and technique unsurpassed, arguably even by the hand of J.M.W. Turner, who so influenced him.

Moran painted Venice for many years, and in this vibrant and masterful work captures the interplay of light and water that’s evident in every stroke. The sky comes alive with lively brushwork that sets the afternoon clouds aflame with deep red tones over a base of vibrant blue. Impasto touches of pure color fill the foreground with ships and figures.

Moran likely sketched for this painting from shores of San Giorgio Maggiori. This spectacular view became a favorite of the artist, the scene he called the "Gate of Venice"; showing the mouth of the Grand Canal as it passes between Santa Maria della Salute on the left and the Piazza de San Marco on the right. The Salute is almost in silhouette, bathed in warm red light along with the many sailing ships at dock. On the right, the sun reflects off the pale stone landmarks of St. Mark’s Square with the spire of the Campanile rising above the Doge's Palace.

Standing before this view of the romantic city, a young couple is highlighted on one of the moored vessels in the foreground. He stands proudly in deep blue and she in a fine dress, holding flowers. His arm is draped over her shoulders and she leans in to the embrace. Were they just married in the nearby Basilica? Or maybe they took their vows on the boat itself, the deck decorated with rich fabrics while onlookers watch from nearby vessels, their brightly colored sails adding even more to the festive scene.

A marriage on Venice’s lagoon would be particularly significant, mirroring the city’s annual “Marriage to the Sea” ceremony. Started in the year 1177 and performed to this day, each year Venice is symbolically married to the waters surrounding it, reaffirming that Venice and the sea are “indissolubly one”. Moran too clearly understood this vital relationship, nodding to it by including the practical vignette on the left, where a second group of people pull in and repair fishing nets, seemingly oblivious to the celebration nearby. Moran rarely featured figures so prominently in his Venice paintings.

Thomas Moran was indisputably one of America's most influential and visionary artists with his work celebrated and collected during his own lifetime. Moran's Venice scenes were the most prized by collectors, selling for up to $5000 each, a very high price for the time. It is believed that he made around 100 images of the city.

This painting was also published as a print by Brown & Bigelow, made in limited edition and signed in pencil by the artist. Very few of Moran’s works were made into prints and the selection of this work is an indication of its superior status among his Venice works. Moran is even more prized today, and this painting that captures the romance of Venice would be a highlight of any collection.

This painting will be included in Stephen L. Good's and Phyllis Braff's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

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