Wednesday, October 12, 2016

272. A Parable Painted by Charles Ricketts

In 1945, a painting by Charles Ricketts was sold at Sotheby's Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. It was acquired by The Newark Museum (New Jersey). This week the museum is selling the painting to benefit the acquisitions fund. The painting is called 'The Prodigal Son', and measures 44.5 x 57.2 cm. Christie's auction of 12-13 October, lists the painting under lot number 23, and expects to sell it for an estimated US$ 3,000-5,000. 

Charles Ricketts, 'The Prodigal Son'
Ricketts had used several subjects from the Parables for his paintings, and this is one of them. He also executed two wood-engravings on this subject for his Vale Press publication of The Parables from the Gospels (1903). Sketches, proofs and prints of these are now on view at the commemorative exhibition in Museum Meermanno in The Hague, celebrating Ricketts's birth in 1866, 150 years ago. 

More information about the Meermanno exhibition can be found on the museum's website.

Ricketts's birth was registered at Geneva, where his parents were staying at the time. Of course, his birth was also registered in the British Consular's administration: Ricketts was British by birth. 

However, Christie's, in their catalogue of Sale 12198 ('Living with Art'), calls him a 'Swiss' artist. I am not confident that Ricketts would have liked that. From the recent publication, Charles Ricketts's Mysterious Mother, we may gather that Ricketts was born in Geneva, moved to Great Britain, France, and Italy, before finally returning to London where he would live for the rest of his life. His mother was Italian, with a drop of Spanish blood, and had lived in France before she met Ricketts's father in Naples.

The book about the European background of Ricketts's mother was presented in Museum Meermanno a week ago. (Price, including postage: €40).

Presentation Museum Meermanno, 1 October 2016
Front row: Corine Verney (author), Huug Schipper (designer) and Paul Delaney (author)

Photo: Aafke Boerma/Museum Meermanno
Christie's also sells a second Ricketts painting from the holdings of The Newark Museum. This is 'The Horses of Achilles', estimated to sell for US$5,000-7,000.

The museum states that these deaccessions are a logical step, as the museum, since its establishment in 1909, 'has always focused on painting and sculpture by American artists, especially because at the time we were founded it was difficult for modern American artists to exhibit or be acquired by many American museums'. 

However, a selection of European works of art were given to the museum by several patrons. These donations resulted, as the museum says, 'in a random assemblage of non-American painting and sculpture of varying quality and having no relationship to the focus of the American art collection'. 

Thirty years ago, it was decided to sell these European paintings and sculptures.

'All proceeds from deaccessioning become part of an endowment dedicated to acquisitions'.

So, the Ricketts paintings had to go.

[Note, 14 October 2016:
Prices realized are: US$1,000 (The Prodigal Son) and $3,000 (The Horses of Achilles).]