Saturday, February 16, 2008


On The Banks of the River Bougival by Nozal

GRRR, My heart's abhorrence!
A three hour appointment on a Saturday morning is prime-time real estate, and my client blew me off for the third time. But I'm a servant, I'm a servant. I'll smile and pretend there is nothing lost and everything gained.

Translation: I need this job.

The morning wasn't completely wasted. Another, quick appointment to drop off a lamp and finial at another client's home was rewarded with a longer-than-planned visit and great conversation.

This, second, client happens to be the nephew of Cy Twombly, the American Abstract Expressionist of the latter 20th C. The nephew is not an artist, but has great taste in art, and is an altogether interesting person. On the largest wall of his small apartment in Madison hangs an altogether UNtwomblyesque painting, a large mural by the French pseudo-Impressionist Alexandre Nozal. He was a contemporary of the French Impressionists Degas and Monet. His background was Realism, but you can see in my client's painting the influences of Impressionism.

The painting is enormous--five feet high and perhaps ten feet across. It is housed in an old gesso'd, gilded frame of appropriate grandeur. It is really fun to study this painting: a large lake--perhaps Swiss--ensconced between towering mountains, with a pink sky in the center background. Impressionistic is the sky and its reflection in the lake. Realistic is the little hut on top of one peak, and the jetty with its boats and men clearly visible when you come close to the painting. But my client had hung a large mirror on the opposite wall, and encouraged me to view the painting through its reflection. This put the painting at a good twenty five feet away, and now one could see its overall magnificence, and the wonderful effect Nozal managed to portray of a vivid sky and lake. A museum piece, hanging on an apartment wall in the Midwest. Very peculiar.

It brought to mind a time a few decades ago. I had been hired by the late Oscar Mayer, Jr (his wife, actually)--yes, the very same whose name graces many a bologna product. They lived part of the year in Madison, and I was the latest in a line of furniture restorers to be of service to Mrs. Mayer in the maintenance of her many fine antiques. In addition to fine antiques, the Mayers had invested in many rare paintings over the years. I remember walking down a wide hallway in the upstairs of their mansion in Maple Bluff, as Mrs. Mayer casually pointed out to me the odd Degas, Paul Klee, or Marc Chagall hanging in what amounted to a fine art gallery. What an experience.

Today was more fun, though, as this client is so very enthusiastically in love with his Nozal, and in fact with most of the things he owns. Everything has a story, and the stories are so very unusual. Here is a Grecian urn, here a huge old, tapered ceramic French pot used to make pate de foie gras. And here, a Marleen Dietrich crystal cigarette lighter, complete with matching ash tray and lamp.

And here:

One of his uncle's works.


scott said...

I hope none of your clients are dumb enough to have "professional" movers move their artwork.

Bruce Gee said...

No, you don't want to move this thing yourself. He had a professional third party crate and pack it, and then insured the heck out of it.

My business activity to the contrary, only about 3% of moves result in claimable damage; that is, damage which is formally claimed.

I'd like to see it at 5%, but what can I do? That's not the kind of thing advertising will acquire for you.

Gotta go! Fax incoming!