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Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA.
On view now through July 6, 2003
Tel. 617.495.9400 or visit www.artmuseums.harvard.edu

Johannes Bronkhurst's Two East Indian Birds, late 17th c.

The current exhibition at the Fogg showcases what William W. Robinson, Maida and George Abrams Curator of Drawings at Harvard University Art Museums, describes as "a collection that you couldn't form again because of its rarities, broad representations, and the field’' growth." Developed over more than 40 years, the Abrams collection of nearly 600 works on paper encompasses the foremost group of 17th-century Dutch drawings in private hands. Many of the nearly 100 drawings selected for the exhibition--including several gems by masters such as Rembrandt, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Adriaen van Ostade--have seldom been on public display.

"George Abrams is a savvy, dogged, cunning collector," says Robinson of the modest and soft-spoken man. "When he sets his sights on something, he gets it."

Peter Bruegel the Elder's Wooded Landscape with a Distant View Toward the Sea, 1554.
In the formation of this formidable collection, Abrams credits his late wife, Maida, to whom the exhibition is dedicated, for providing the taste and eye for quality that perfectly counterbalanced his knowledge. Together the couple assembled an important and comprehensive selection of Dutch and Flemish drawings and helped establish the genre of watercolors depicting plants and animals as a serious collecting area.

A 1680 genre scene by Adriaen van Ostade.
Natural history illustration was overlooked by connoisseurs and art historians when the Abramses first started collecting in the 1960s. The couple pursued exceptional examples by Johannes Bronkhurst, Maria Sibylla Merian, and her stepfather Jacob Marrel. On view is a highlight of this genre by Bronkhurst (1648–1727), a pastry baker by trade who in 1670 settled in the Dutch port of Hoorn where VOC (Dutch East India Company) ships docked and unloaded their wares.

Bronkhurst's Two East Indian Birds (shown above) depicts a pair of exotic species; one of which remained unidentified after the Abrams purchased the sheet in 1965. In preparation for the exhibition last spring, Robinson delivered a reproduction of the work to Douglas Causey, senior vertebrate biologist at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. From the museum’s archive containing stuffed specimens, Causey was able to identify the bird as a Buru paradise kingfisher. This brilliantly colored species was not described by scientists until 1825, making Bronkhurst’s drawing a significant milestone in taxonomic history. The second bird is a long-billed spider hunter, which, along with the paradise kingfisher, was native to islands in the former Dutch East Indies.

Exhibition curator Robinson chose to hang the show thematically, and the series of galleries at the Fogg offer intimate settings in which to view the drawings up close. Besides a room displaying animal and botanical watercolors there are groupings of landscapes, marines, figure and genre drawings, and works by Rembrandt and his pupils.

Many of the drawings in the show were originally created as saleable finished works as opposed to studies. "There was an enormous, active market during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for drawings," explains Robinson. "Every cobbler and blacksmith had one." Early collectors kept their prized sheets within the pages of books or folios, allowing centuries-old examples to survive in excellent condition today.

In 1992 the Abramses, who acquired many of the best works in their collection within the last dozen years, became enamored with an Italian landscape on blue paper in a remarkable state of preservation (shown above). The sheet first surfaced at a small Dutch auction, where it passed, and then was purchased by a dealer who sold it to the Abramses as an anonymous sixteenth-century drawing. (The Brueghel signature in the lower left was determined to be fake.) It wasn’t until 1994 that German art historian Hans Mielke authenticated the work as that of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30–1569), a microscopic date of 1554 was also then discovered. This misattributed landscape, acquired for a relatively modest sum, is now a central work of the Flemish renaissance, valued at $5 million.

Bruegel's Wooded Landscape with a Distant View toward the Sea is one of nearly 200 drawings the Abramses have given to the Harvard Art Museums in recognition of the institution’s leading role as a teaching and research museum. Bruegel to Rembrandt features thirty-five core masterpieces from their collection. The Fogg is the only U.S. venue for the show, which has traveled from the British Museum in London and Fondation Custodia, Institut Neerlandais in Paris. A 300-page exhibition catalogue by William W. Robinson, with an essay by Martin Royalton-Kisch, is available (Yale, 2003).

Palm Beach Convention Center,
Palm Beach, FL.
February 13–17, 2004
For information, call 561.822.5440 or visit

With the goal of hosting no less than the "largest vetted show of an important and serious nature in the U.S.," Kris Charamonde, organizer of the much anticipated Palm Beach Jewelry and Antique Show, is more than enthusiastic about its venue, timing, and the growing line-up of top tier exhibitors.

Willow Gallery
Over 250 international jewelers and art and antiques dealers are expected at the Palm Beach Convention Center, a state-of-the-art facility still under construction. "I enjoy visiting London fairs and found that there is nothing like Olympia at home," says Charamonde. "There's a need for this high quality show as a destination for collectors during the height of the retail season in south Florida."

Although Charamonde and his partners have never organized a fair before, as Palm Beach-based estate jewelers who have exhibited at many fairs, they claim to offer knowledge and understanding of the dealer perspective. They've planned comfortable touches like wall-to-wall carpeting, felted hard walls, and a relaxing lounge for dealers. Reasonable booth rates are drawing many exhibitors. "I won't have to hike my prices up in order to participate," says one dealer.

Mark J. West/Cobb Antiques
"The organizers are taking the long view and will be successful," notes London clock dealer Gavin Douglas. "There is clearly a great audience in the area for fine antiques."

So far, an impressive array of dealers agrees with Douglas. Dozens have already signed on including London silver specialists Koopman Ltd./Rare Art, East Side Winter Antiques Show exhibitors Geoffrey Diner and Arader Galleries, and Hague dealer Leslie Smith.

Oriental art specialists Knapton Rasti and TK Asian Antiquities, ceramics dealers Janice Paull and Paul Vandekar, English art dealers Willow Gallery and Haynes Fine Art of Broadway, several Swiss jewelers, and many more leading specialists will draw collectors.

This fair's strength will be in its variety and quality. "We expect a buying public that is well-educated as to what is 'right' and of aesthetic worth," notes exhibitor Helen Linfield of English furniture specialists Wakelin Linfield. "And the weather should be fine."

Society for the Preservation
of New England Antiquities
Boston, MA.
June 21–27
For information, call 617.227.3956 (ext. 246)
or visit www.spnea.org

This first-time week-long learning experience is based on SPNEA's esteemed Vale Program first offered in 1979. It will feature discussions on museum collections and historic architecture as well as the study of building design and technology. Workshops, lectures by specialists in related fields, and behind-the-scenes tours to SPNEA properties and other museums will provide a comprehensive look at domestic life from colonial to Victorian times.

Wallpaper Project
Also new for SPNEA this summer is the posting of their online searchable database of digitally photographed historic wallpaper, ranging from the earliest documented surviving wallpaper from a New England house (1737) to a twenty-layer sequence reflecting 150 years of wallpaper use in one location--in this case, a small rental property in Boston's North End. Cross-referenced to allow users to access information by origin, manufacturer, date, printing type, and style, the database teaches users which types of wallpaper are historically appropriate for their homes, provides links to commercial reproduction wallpaper manufacturers and suppliers, and even offers helpful information on preserving and caring for historic wallpaper uncovered during restoration or decoration.

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