Saturday, April 26, 2014

Recollections of an Amateur Art Critic.


Who'd a Thought....



In my early days as a 'Rich and Scientific Horseshoer' --- tongue inserted in cheek; I was married to a photographer, artist...one of those people that own what I always called 'the third eye.' Meaning that they seemed able to work in most any medium and transform the animate to the inanimate without ever losing the life found in the subject studied.  Me? I stumble over stick figures and am only credible if I confine my drawings to the abstract. So no matter how it turns out, I can find some ridiculous way to explain its meaning. Yeah...hard to keep an audience for long.

Our collecting was, of course, eclectic.  No surprise there.  Was fortunate in those days to own two bronzes by Pierre Mêne.  As follows: 


Pierre Jules Mêne (25 March 1810 – 20 May 1879) was a French Sculptor and animalière. He is considered the pioneer of animal sculpture in the nineteenth-century.
Mêne produced a number of animal sculptures, mainly of domestic animals including horses, cows and bulls, sheep and goats which were in vogue during the Second Empire. He was one of a school of French animalières which also included Rosa Bonheur, Pierre Louis Rouillard, Antoine-Louis Barye, Auguste Caïn, and François Pompon.
His work was first shown in London by Ernest Gambart in 1849. Mêne specialized in small bronze figures which explains why none of his works exist as public statuary. His work was a popular success with the bourgeois class and many editions of each sculpture were made, often to decorate an increasing number of private homes of the period. The quality of these works is high, comparable to Barye's. Mêne also seems to have enjoyed a longer period of success and celebrity than his contemporaries. He is considered to have been the lost-wax casting expert of his time, later surpassed only by Auguste Rodin.



Only trouble with Mêne's works was that they were extensively counterfeited by re-casting. In fact, so popular was his work that it is estimated that for every original piece, 500-1000 copies exist, mostly produced between 1860 and the beginning of World War I.  I often thought about having mine authenticated (a difficult process involving precise measurements -- copies were appx. 1/16th inch larger by volume.), but decided, at least for me, that art is about appreciation, not value.  So I just basked in blissful ignorance and enjoyed these magnificent pieces.  (Blissful ignorance is learned by regularly listening to horseowners.)
Later, I added Chinese screen prints and combined them with Victorian-era hand-painted lithographs, an odd combination that somehow seemed to work...well, actually I don't know that, but it was MY house and if somebody objected, they could go down to the barn and study the sublimity of horse turds. 
Course, being married to an artist helped...for you see she could forgive my needs for certain farriery tools in exchange for her needs for what she referred to as 'supplies.'  I think we all know this sort of woman. I didn't get her diamond studs for Xmas...I got her an industrial-grade band saw. Because she suddenly decided to restore and re-carve these guys:
 

The moral of the story?  None really, other than art manages to survive even when the marriage does not.  Yeah, she got the earrings too...eventually.  But I do remain amazed and somewhat humbled by this celebration of the horse.  A party that has lasted for over 6000 years.  Not sure a Ford Pick-Up will ever make the same claim.