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How to Start an Art Collection


How to Start an Art Collection

“How rich art is, if one can only remember what one has seen, one is never without food for thought or truly lonely. “Vincent van Gogh

Vincent was driven by emotion as we can see from his writings and his paintings. He truly believed that art “gives meaning to life. “

My premise is…. DOES ART IMITATE LIFE? Vincent believes that art “gives meaning to life“. It certainly has to me. One of my favorite paintings is by British artist Henry Strachey titled “Woman Picking Flowers“dated 1905 (see paintings below). Strachey presents an older woman wearing a babushka and tending her flowers. She is eerily like my Grandmother who raised me and who also had a beautiful flower garden.

Every painting has a meaning and the meaning can be different for each of us.  This painting is very personal to me and I would never sell it. Babushku (pronounced bah-bushka ) is a headscarf and also means “Grandma” in Russian. There is a Russian song which goes “ya’ lublu moyu babusku“. The words mean I love my Grandma. This painting represents art imitating my Grandmother’s life. She was a very creative gardener and what she created gave meaning to her life. To you, the painting might just represent an older woman picking flowers.

Now, what about HOW TO START AN ART COLLECTION FOR YOUR NEW HOME. Collecting art is a lifelong affliction, but a marvelous one. Art is a powerful aphrodisiac and when combined with fine music and fine literature…. ah, what a charming way to enjoy life.

First, you must find out what you like, so you must do some searching. There are many art fairs and many fine art galleries in Louisville. Joining the Speed Art Museum is a high priority and taking part in their numerous programs is a must. They have first class exhibitions and their permanent collection is outstanding. What a great opportunity to explore new approaches to color, form and content which will help you find your own art calling.

You need not be in any rush to buy, but exposure to all forms of art will help your development and your personal intuition which, after all, is your best asset. You will, through maximum exposure, find out what type of art you are drawn to; will it be landscapes, seascapes, genre scenes (art representing some phase of everyday life such as a village scene), portraits, abstract art, etchings, still life, or specific or “listed” artists (generally a deceased artist who is listed in multiple art reference books and other important publications). Maybe you will find that you only want to collect the works of a single artist, generally referred to as his or her oeuvre, or develop an electric collection from a diverse range of periods and techniques.

Don’t forget your local antique shops and malls. I like genre scenes and bought a painting by German painter Hans von Bartels titled “Two Girls in a Field” at a Louisville antique mall in 2018 for $1,600 dollars. A work by Bartels has sold at auction for as high as $18,670.

If you want to start an art education at home, I would recommend these publications. Goggle “The Annotated Mona Lisa – A Crash Course in Art History“ by Carol Strickland, Ph.D. It is a terrific starter publication with an introduction on “How to Look at Paintings“. It features all the major art periods, art schools and the artists involved. You can purchase this informative and attractive work for as little as four to seven dollars. Also, there is “Art Terms and Techniques“ by Ralph Mayer starting at less than two dollars. A very comprehensive book that will help you understand common art terms like “chiaroscuro” and “impasto“.

Frames are very important in displaying a work of art. I have included three that are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The first is a gilt museum quality frame surrounding a work “after”, meaning “in the manner of“, the Italian painter Domenico Morelli ( 1826 to 1901 ). The second is a custom frame around a work by current painter Marc Harris (Russian/American) titled “Cypress Trees“, and the third is a large painting by Sargam Griffin (German/American) titled “Sunflowers“, unframed like many abstract works.

Lastly, search the web for “How to Start an Art Collection“ and you will get a multitude of responses. You will also get dizzy reading all the information presented and will probably be more confused after plowing through this data. My advice would be to find an affordable art consultant who has access to all the records of what various artists have sold for over the years and can direct you to up-and-coming local artists. You can find art consultants on the net or in the yellow pages.

An important gallery owner in New York said “ Art Changes Everything “. Are you ready for a CHANGE?

Hope this has been informative …..if so, you are on your way…… A house without art is a house without soul !!!!!!!

Richard Ragan – Guest Blogger and noted local art historian