Issue 50, Spring 2017

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin "Last month I was in Antibes standing on the terrace of the Picasso Museum. It was a glorious day. To my left in the far distance were the Alps, lightly dusted with snow against a china blue sky; in front of me were the sea and a line of elongated figures – sculptures by the French artist, Germaine Richier. A year ago, Bonhams' Post-War & Contemporary Art sale in London had a section that drew attention to a particular truth in the art market: works by artists who are women are often undervalued compared to their male counterparts. Richier, who featured in that auction, is a case in point. A contemporary of Giacometti, her work is valued currently at one-tenth of his and yet, at the Picasso Museum, takes pride of place.

This season, Bonhams continues to mine the theme. The two artists leading the Post-War & Contemporary Art sales in London and New York are Bridget Riley and Helen Frankenthaler, both of whom have had buoyant positions in the art world – and art market – since they burst on the scene. On page 28, Gareth Harris writes about how Riley's work mesmerized New York in the 60s, while Francesca Gavin discusses Frankenthaler's innovative contribution to Color Field painting.

This issue has a strong presence of powerful women. A.N. Wilson writes about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who freed herself from her overbearing father and subsequently proved herself a far more radical political thinker than her husband, Robert. Her original manuscripts are on offer in New York's Fine Books Sale in March. What she scratched out is as interesting as the words that stand.

The Jackie Collins Sale in Los Angeles gives a perspective on another author. Collins wrote in a different time for a more diverse audience. One of her skills was to use her life in Hollywood as inspiration, and many of the works of art and pieces of jewelry in the sale appear in Collins' novels, as Jane Shilling points out on page 32.

Collins was a style icon for the 80s, but the indisputable figurehead for the 60s was Jacqueline Kennedy. We all know the glossy image of Jackie O, as she became, but a series of letters found in a locked box in north Wales written by her to David Ormsby Gore, Lord Harlech, show the vulnerability beneath her carapace. These letters, which are among the lots offered in London's Harlech Sale this March, reveal for the first time her reasons for marrying Aristotle Onassis – and turning down Lord Harlech's marriage proposal. In the words of Felix Pryor, who cataloged the letters, it is a heart-rending insight into her anguish."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 10

    Dying to meter

    Married against father's wishes, they became the power couple of Victorian poetry – but it was Elizabeth who was the radical Browning, writes A.N. Wilson

    When she died in her husband's arms in Florence, in 1861, the glossy-eyed, tiny, black-ringleted poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was just 55-years old. There was an upsurge of grief in her adopted Tuscany ...

  2. Page 12

    A rum time

    The days of Hemingway and Revolution are fading like a puff of Cuban cigar smoke. Christopher P. Baker visits the new Havana

    Before the revolution, Havana was a place of intrigue and tawdry romance. Walking Havana's streets you sense you're living inside a romantic thriller, with all the sharp edges and sinister shadows that made Ernest Hemingway want ...

  3. Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) Figura de perfil (Painted in El Sortell, Cadaqués, 1925)

    Page 16

    Hind sight

    With the early death of his mother, incestuous feelings for his sister and a lifelong obsession with the promiscuous Gala – Dalí's life was governed by women, reveals Alastair Smart

    In the night of 31 August 1984, a fire swept through Salvador Dalí's castle in Púbol, Catalonia. The octogenarian artist, who had been fast asleep, suffered second-degree burns to ...

  4. Hanyu Ichiro's Full Cards Series (54)

    Page 25

    Cask in hand

    Ichiro Akuto, the founder of Chichibu Distillery, tells Matthew Wilcox how he took his family's whisky business off the rocks

    In August 2015, a full 54-bottle set of Ichiro's Card Series of Japanese whisky sold for US$489,978 at Bonhams sale of Fine and Rare Whisky in Hong Kong. It was a record price for a lot ...

  5. Page 26

    Hollywood lives

    As Jackie Collins' art, antiques and jewels come to auction, Jane Shilling reveals a connoisseur of art as well as life, while novelist Jilly Cooper fondly recalls her friend

    Becky Sharp, the ambitious anti-heroine of William Thackeray's Vanity Fair, mused, "I think I could be a good woman if I had £5,000 a year." Add a handful of ...

  6. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Bruges 1561-1635 London) Portrait of  Ellen Maurice, three-quarter-length, in a white lace ruff and white dress embellished with pearls

    Page 36

    Men of Harlech

    Hidden in remote Snowdonia, a 17th-century country retreat has housed a treasure trove of paintings, historic furniture and lost letters that shed light on one of the great romances of the Sixties. Philippa Stockley meets Jasset, 7th Baron Harlech to hear more

    It takes longer to get to Glyn Cywarch than it does to New York. At Tegwyn, a single-track ...

  7. Page 37

    First Lady's man

    After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, David Ormsby Gore became Jackie's confidant – as Felix Pryor discovered on opening a locked despatch box

    For an archivist, the next best thing to a sealed tomb in the Valley of the Kings is a locked despatch box. Two of these have just come to light during the final stages of cataloging ...

  8. Wojciech Fangor (Polish/American, 1922-2015) NJ15 (Diptych) 1964

    Page 38

    Good vibrations

    The traffic-stopping bright colors of Op Art were a response to the emerging computer age of the 60s. And now these works are resonating with a new tech generation, says Gareth Harris

    When Bridget Riley arrived in New York in early 1965 ahead of the epochal show The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, she recalls seeing the ...

  9. Page 41

    My favorite room
    Conrad Shawcross

    Artist Conrad Shawcross was amazed by the 2,000-year-old building he stumbled on in Rome one day

    I went to the Pantheon in Rome for the first time about five years ago. I was wandering down a side street on my own when I stumbled across this incredible room. The building has a formal, north-facing façade – the only remnants of ...

  10. Page 55

    Hip flasks

    Not just the height of 18th-century fashion, these ceramics mark a cosmopolitan highpoint of the Chinese empire, argues Martin Barnes Lorber

    Globalisation is nothing new. This rare pair of moonflasks, offered by Bonhams at the Fine Chinese Ceramics sale in Hong Kong in May, exemplifies the centuries-old connection between China and the Middle East.

    The Silk Road had been the ...

  11. Page 60

    A bigger splash

    Helen Frankenthaler was overshadowed by a macho art scene. Now her work has come into its own, says Francesca Gavin

    It is hard not to be seduced by Helen Frankenthaler's paintings. Her use of paint is notably different from that of her contemporaries – she treated oil almost like watercolor, putting her at the heart of the pioneering new wave ...

  12. Page 74

    Inside Bonhams
    An Englishman in New York

    William O'Reilly explains the enduring appeal of Impressionist and Modern Art to Lucinda Bredin

    When you get a call like that, you assume it is going to be a copy or a print," says William O'Reilly, Bonhams Vice President and Director of Impressionist and Modern Art, US. "To see this incredibly rare work, as bright as the day ...

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