Robert Van Vorst Sewell (American, 1860-1924) Psyche seeks love (in a Standford White-style basket weave frame.)

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Lot 108*
Robert Van Vorst Sewell
(American, 1860-1924)
Psyche seeks love

Sold for £ 37,500 (US$ 45,527) inc. premium
Robert Van Vorst Sewell (American, 1860-1924)
Psyche seeks love
signed with initials 'RVVS' (to the palette lower right)
oil on canvas, tondo
121.9 x 121.9cm (48 x 48in).
in a Standford White-style basket weave frame.

Footnotes

  • Exhibited
    Rome, International Exhibition of Art and History, 1911 (according to a label on the reverse).

    Robert Van Vorst Sewell was born in 1860 in New York. He studied in Paris under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre, both of whom instilled in him an interest in the female form and mythology.

    Sewell was a member of New York's Hotel Des Artistes and was also an original stockholder for the Sixty-Seventh Street Studios at 27 West 67th Street. Completed in 1905, this building was designed by Sturgis and Simonson to overcome the difficulty of finding a suitable studio for artists living in New York at the turn of the century. Sewell was joined in this endeavour by artists such as Frank Dumond, Edward Naegele, Paula Dessa and Childe Hassam. The Gothic limestone façade of the studios was complemented by a cavernous lobby decorated with murals expertly painted by Sewell. The building was so popular that several other studios were realised nearby, including the Hotel des Artistes (1 West 67th Street, 1915-18). Sewell also painted a series of murals depicting Psyche, the subject of the present lot, for the Palm Court in the St. Regis Hotel. Two paintings from this series were sold on April 30 1969 at Parke Bernet Galleries New York, lot 264. More recently, one arched top oil on canvas from this previous sale was sold at Sotheby's New York, March 6 2008, lot 143.

    Sewell received many accolades over the course of his career – including the Hallgarten prize from the National Academy of Design – and was widely exhibited, appearing in the New York Architectural League, the Pan American Exposition of 1901, and the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis.

    In the present lot, a large circular canvas captures part of the story of Psyche from Greek mythology, who is an embodiment of the soul and desperately seeks love in the form of Eros. Sewell's interest in decorative schemes and mural design is evident. The pictorial space incorporates elements of Psyche's story, including the coin and the ferryman in the centre left. At one point in the myth, Psyche goes to the underworld to ask Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, to fill a box with beauty ointment, to return with it to Aphrodite. Sewell has also added to the story by including a self-portrait and a depiction of his wife and child in the lower right quadrant. Psyche's billowing dress frames her in the centre of the picture, her extraordinary beauty evident and the gaze and pointing hands of certain figures also encourages the viewer to look to her. The twisted branches in the background in some ways mimic the outstretched limbs and reclining figures in the foreground and add to the overall drama and impact of the work.
Contacts
Robert Van Vorst Sewell (American, 1860-1924) Psyche seeks love (in a Standford White-style basket weave frame.)
Robert Van Vorst Sewell (American, 1860-1924) Psyche seeks love (in a Standford White-style basket weave frame.)
Robert Van Vorst Sewell (American, 1860-1924) Psyche seeks love (in a Standford White-style basket weave frame.)
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