Journal

14 September 2012

One of the advantages of having been around for a long time in our chosen field, is that we have made many close friends who share our aesthetic sensibility and interests. Indeed we learnt much from several older and long established specialists, who became friends and were generous, enthusiastic and happy to share their knowledge with us as fledgling dealers. Tony Foster of A and E Foster was one of them. Tony originally worked as an Art Director at the BBC then in the early 1970’s retired from that life and dedicated the rest of his working life to his passion for wood. He and his wife Eleanor were an inspiration to us as young dealers. With an innate and professional understanding of form, surface, and colour, they were the first dealers to take antique pieces and show them in a totally contemporary context. With an eye for graphics and composition they created poetic displays of wonderful wooden objects, within plain white showcases alongside the the occasional piece of exceptional and sculptural vernacular furniture, at the venerable Chelsea Antiques Fair, the first decade or so of summer Olympia and later at Grosvenor House. They were the benchmark for subtle taste, display and integrity and almost single handedly blew the cobwebs out of a previously rather dusty traditional discipline. Tony retired several years ago and until now has remained in his delightful cottage in the beech wood forest outside High Wycombe. Recently however he has downsized and moved closer to his son Steven. The move necessitated the disposal of some of the collection that they built up over more than 40 years and we had the privilege to be offered the pieces that he could no longer house. This is the equivalent of being offered the wine that the fine wine merchant keeps for himself!
We are gradually photographing and sorting the pieces out, many are humble utilitarian objects in origin, but there is something unique and special about everything they had, either the scale or form and invariably colour and surface. We have added a few things to the site today and further pieces will be included in our forthcoming Winter Catalogue.
At around the same time, we were also approached by Sally Green, sadly now the widow of our great chum and mentor Derek Green of Cedar Antiques. Like the Foster’s, Derek was a pioneer in the antique country furniture world. Originally a pilot with Fleet Air Arm, he was an amazing polymath, interested in and hugely informed about Vintage Motor Vehicles, Wine, Gardens and Trees as well as his passion and knowledge for early vernacular and country furniture. Derek loved timber, particularly fruitwood, yew and anything in solid burr. He loved colour and patination and particularly of a “fruity” or “honey” nature and apart from sourcing the best available pieces that he could find here in the UK, was a pioneer in scouring the Continent for great examples of early European Furniture with the qualities he admired.  Like Tony, he kept some gems for himself, these dealers of the old school bought and dealt in pieces they recognised as special, that spoke to them and had something unique and magical about them. The pieces themselves were their prime concern, their qualities and rarity, not their monetary value or profit potential. Sally is also now looking to downsize and it is a real pleasure, not to say honour to be able to handle some their treasures and pass them on to a new generation of enthusiasts at a time when items of this quality rarely come onto the open market. We only have a few pieces from Derek and Sally’s Collection and they will be included in our future catalogues and gradually introduced to the this site.
Even during their working lives, pieces with Provenance to Tony and Eleanor Foster and Cedar Antiques were highly regarded, so it is now a rare treat to be able to offer pieces from their Private Collections, which have not been on the market for at least a generation, a Provenance hard to better.

New pieces have been added to the Furniture, Treen, Pottery and Folk Art Sections which can be found in our Collection section.

10 September 2012

SUMMER HOLIDAYS

Summer Holidays, the words alone sum up nostalgic memories of hot sunny days on wide sandy Cornish beaches with Kelly’s clotted ice cream running down the outside of the cornet, creating messy fingers, sticky and dusted with sand. Running wild in deserted sand dunes with legs getting scratched by brambles and curious spiky grasses; being barefoot for days on end somehow making me feel “native” and part of the surroundings; crazy games of beach football and cricket with holidaying strangers; huge sandcastles designed and built to defy the tide and decorated with shells, driftwood and stones; precious unique pebbles harvested from rock pools and put safely in sandy pockets “for the collection”. Then as I grew bigger and started messing about in clinker built boats with rust coloured sails, heavy wooden oars, nylon hand lines wound on wooden frames with dangling knobbly circular lead weights, short fishing rods with Toby spinners, little British Seagull outboard motors with oily fumes, bright yellow oilskins and life jackets and woven wicker lobster pots.

I can still feel the bitter wind on my face and sea splashed hands, sometimes so cold that I couldn’t move the fingers, can taste the crusty salt on my lips and feel the sting of sea spray in my eyes. I remember the intimidating force of the spring tides in the estuary; the hoarse cries of gulls fighting for scraps of freshly caught fish; the lifeboat siren summoning butcher, ferryman, boat builder, ironmonger, barman, house painter and others, to drop everything and rush to the slipway to heroically launch the gleaming lifeboat.

I still conjure up images of the serene calm at high tide on magical evenings with little vessels nodding to their moorings, while we skittered flat stones over the water towards them; can see the sun gleaming on crisp surf and feel the glorious satisfaction of riding a powerful “beacher” wave; can taste the warm peppery pasties eaten from their wrapping in old copies of the Cornish Guardian and can stare at the sand left in the bottom of my bath and still wonder at where it had all come from. 

Then there was the sleep, so deep and luxurious that it seemed to pass in a few moments, no room for dreams.  

There were high conifer trees visible through my bedroom window and on waking the tips of them served as a kind of primitive barometer. They hinted at the the force and direction of the wind and in conjunction with any clouds, colour of the sky and state of the tide, indicated what sort of a day lay ahead, which in turn dictated our “plans”. These were my primary concerns. I never thought about school, exams or the little pile of “holiday reading” or “homework” I had packed, if for no other reason than it was the Summer Holidays and there was too much to do, until they came, as they inevitably did, to an end.

Then wearing shoes again, we returned reluctantly towards real life with responsibilities looming ahead and things needing to be done!

Nothing much has changed.

Now we always spend some summer time in France and still occasionally go back to Cornwall, but more frequently in the spring, when the familiar villages, coves and waters are less peopled. Some of my heart still lives there with those boyhood memories and thanks to the Duchy and the National Trust the coastal landscape remains largely unchanged and my brother has a house in the area, which we are lucky enough to enjoy.

However, since our now 25 and 23 year old sons were aged 4 and 6 and we were introduced by family friends to the massive landscape and huge skies of southern Wyoming, it has become an annual summer destination and they in turn, have created their own “Western” childhood memories and we have all developed friendships, interests and attachments there, as well as those in Cornwall and France.

We returned as usual this year, immediately after Exhibiting at Masterpiece London and just a week after the huge forest fires had torn through Northern Colorado and into Wyoming. There were still some smouldering, bare and blackened hillsides scarring the landscape on our journey up through the foothills of the Rockies and our preferred route up through the Poudre Canyon was closed to all traffic, creating the need to drive through the famous old cowboy town of Laramie. (This is Native American Indian country).

We have only ever known the Rockies in July, and are accustomed to bright sun and hot days with big wide skies and cotton wool clouds, clear cold star lit nights, chill dewy early mornings, shimmering Aspens and tall cluttered conifer forests, wide open prairies and plains hosting roaming cattle, deer and all sorts of critters, watched over by the occasional gliding bald eagle and various circling birds of prey, massive agitated robins and diminutive humming birds and a network of lively, bright freestone rivers in the valleys. All this life and the survival of the hardy Ranchers, outfitters, cowboys and small close knit communities are dependent on the snowfall of the long winters.

In 2011 there was more snow than anyone could remember, in the Spring as snowmelt began, the rivers were so full that they broke their banks and wildlife was abundant. The prairies were rich and green with brightly coloured carpets of wild flowers, the cattle grew fat and the Ranchers harvested two full crops of hay.

The snowfall over this last winter was a record low, this meant that less people ventured to the mountains for winter sports, then the rivers never flowed generously enough to feed the Rancher’s irrigation channels and having had too much water for good fishing the previous year, now there was not enough and the fly fishermen travelled elsewhere. So the local inhabitants and their small businesses suffered a barren season. Then in the extraordinary hot spring and early summer the trees and grasses became parched and vulnerable and the electric storms came, (what the locals know as “dry storms”, thunder, lightning and wind, but no rain). This is how the fires are ignited, fed and not extinguished. 

The further and more frightening impact of the fires is that they take the forests and then there is nothing to hold the snowpack in subsequent years, so the run-off is uncontrollable, causing landslides and flash flooding and the water cannot be held or managed. The mountainsides remain treeless for years, until hardy new growth emerges and the cycle starts over again.

This beautiful wild, hostile landscape is sparsely populated and largely by intrepid settlers or descendants of settlers. People who have carved out new lives for themselves with their own hands and spirit, driven by a passion for the outdoors and the space and freedom it affords them. As they face these circumstances, everything they have built and strived for is threatened. No snow = no snowpack = no snowmelt = no water = low rivers = insufficient irrigation = no fat cattle = no crops = necessity to buy in feed. Then on top of this no winter sportsmen, no visiting fishermen, no horseback riders, no bird watchers or hikers and ultimately no income and an unsustainable life.

This year, the specific area that is close to our hearts just escaped the fires and our various friends who have built small family businesses lodging visitors, guiding them on the rivers and mountains, feeding them and entertaining them will survive to fight on, just! A really long hard winter will make their lives tough for seven months or so, but they long for it, as long as it brings snow, hopefully lots of snow.

As we have passed through over the years, I have envied the lives of these people. The camaraderie and sense of community, the respect they hold for the power of nature, their healthy appetites for fun, music and food, the knowledge and understanding they have of their surroundings and their brave raw determination to make things work.

Much like I had envied the lobsterpot men in Cornwall chugging off at dawn with a shaggy mongrel, (invariably with a touch of Collie), on the bow of their boats, enamelled mug of tea rattling on the shelf of the little upright wheelhouse, off to pull up their wages from the seabed. I envied their confidence and competence, their weather-beaten faces and powerful horny hands, (often missing a finger or two), and the fact that this was where and how they lived. I saw their glistening catch and heard their calls and ribald laughter. I saw them in the mornings and returning in the gloaming and somehow, as a small boy, I identified an enviable simplicity in their lifestyle and imagined that like the Wyoming folk we know in July, they were permanently on Summer Holiday. 

Nothing much has changed in this respect either.

I still dream a little and we hope one day to spend more time in these places, but for now we just enjoy the precious times we share there and still return a little reluctantly, still without having done all the holiday reading or “homework” we had planned, yet somehow refreshed, inspired and ready as a schoolboy with a bright new exercise book and renewed appetite.

We who work in the Art and Antiques industry are not so vulnerable to shifts in weather patterns, stormy seas, fires and other natural elements, but there are other forces at work, even above and beyond the reach of international economics and the banking crisis. We are subject to the vagaries of fashion, an invisible power that creeps up and washes over us. Over the last decade or so, perennially popular French Impressionists works; English Pre –Raphaelite paintings; fine polite but not important Georgian Formal Furniture; elegant fine quality Victorian Porcelain and Grand Tour Bronzes for example, have all slipped down the bestseller lists, whilst we have witnessed an astonishing growth of interest in and perceived value of Contemporary Art, Art Deco, Vintage Photography and C20th Designer pieces and many small dealerships that built their business and reputations on other more traditional works have been left behind and several forced to close. Now we hear whispers that some of these new markets may be wobbling a little and interest waning, and in spite of widespread economic strife, more traditional disciplines such as Old Master Paintings, Early Furniture, Medieval Sculpture, Tribal Art, British Modern Art of the mid C20th, fine vintage Taxidermy and even stylish industrial pieces are enjoying significant growth in popularity and appeal.

Here at Robert Young things move ahead gradually. Josyane and I still hold and share much the same vision and beliefs that we set out with 37 years ago. Over the course of the journey our knowledge, taste and interests have evolved, but we retain a passion for enticing original surfaces and textures, strong lines and inspiring form within the vernacular. We look for and cherish originality and integrity in our pieces, but are increasingly less concerned with their period and more interested in their rarity, quality and presence. Somehow we have survived the various movements in fashion and have met with growing interest and enthusiasm for the pieces we value, possibly because there is a certain timelessness about them. They were never “high style” or “designer” when originally created and in most cases retain an individuality and character that sits comfortably in both traditional and contemporary environments and alongside works from diverse cultures and periods. Somehow as the French would say, the objects we admire are “comfortable in their own skin”, which made me realise that the same can be said of the Cornish day boat fishermen, the Wyoming ranchers, wranglers, mountain men and fishing guides. May there be a common thread here somewhere?

Anyway, the Summer Holidays help to take us away from what we are so close to for the rest of the year. They help put things in perspective, without our doing any “homework”, but simply by spending time away in such different environments, challenged by other problems and sharing briefly in the diverse lives of others. So when we come back down from the mountains and return here, to our chosen way of life, we are reminded of what we set out to do and why and to more clearly identify what we would like to change to help keep our original vision, dreams and ambitions alive and to focus more clearly on the things we believe to be worthwhile.

21 May 2012

MASTERPIECE LONDON 2012, COMING SOON.....

Now that our Folk Art Exhibition is over and much of it has already been taken away, our minds are turning towards the spectacular Masterpiece London, 2012.

When we first set out in the Art and Antiques business in the mid 1970’s,  we talked and dreamt of showing great individual examples of vernacular and country furniture, engaging sculptural objects and naive art in a bright stylish contemporary context and alongside great works of both modern and ancient art.

The leading events at that time were generally traditional in content and presentation and antiques were kept in a somewhat exclusive world of their own and generally exhibited well away from anything “modern” or innovative.

Masterpiece sprung up from nowhere in 2010, the brainchild of a group of courageous and imaginative Ex-Grosvenor House Exhibitors and created a magnificent space and unique forum. In our opinion it is the most inviting and exciting venue of all the leading International Fine Art and Antique Shows. A magical temporary place, created on the South Grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital to showcase a mesmerising collection of contemporary, modern, vintage, antique and ancient art and artefacts, impeccably displayed by some of the world’s leading specialists. It is a sort of fantasy world, apart from the beguiling variety and quality of the exhibits, there is some very good tuck, well stocked and professionally tended bars, open space, a comfortable climate, wonderful historic location and a quiet feeling of luxury and elegance. It is a place that somehow naturally enhances ones appreciation of and sensitivity to art in its widest sense, somewhere we enjoy being and an experience we are proud to be part of.

We have been sourcing and putting together some choice works to show at Masterpiece 2012,  amongst which are a quite remarkable group of documentary hand painted Sporting Panels, which were commissioned from Copeland Spode by the prominent industrialist, philanthropist and politician Thomas Russell, for the billiard room of his newly built Glasgow home and signed by the artists Robert John Abraham (1850-1925) and Lucien Besche (d.1901). Following nearly six months of diligent professional research we are putting together a detailed file: cataloguing, describing, and contextualising these recently discovered significant ceramic masterpieces from the height of the Victorian era, especially for their unveiling at Masterpiece.

We have also managed to find some fine examples of rare and exceptional pieces of country furniture, and some engaging and unusual sculptural works of folk art, which we will be showing for the first time.

We have long enjoyed and championed the aesthetic values that naive and primitive works often share with ancient  and contemporary art, sometimes by juxtaposition and sometimes by compatibility, and for this reason Masterpiece is the event where we most enjoy sharing our pieces . 

There will be some complimentary tickets available for Masterpiece London, if you are interested in coming to visit us, please contact us, and we will endeavour to send you a ticket, subject to availability.


 

17 May 2012

FOLK ART EXHIBITION COMING TO AN END......

It has rained so much in London, it is hard to remember that we are now at the beginning of Summer. Thankfully the rain held off for the Preview of our 13th Annual Folk Art Exhibition, so as usual we were able to host a good crowd of guests on the pavement, as well as in the shop, with Don Grant running a busy and popular bar. The Preview was a lovely occasion where we met and shared chat with old and new friends and many of the Exhibits found new homes. As it becomes more difficult to source pieces for these Exhibitions, somehow the demand seems to grow!  It is also really exciting to see everything put together for the show, once Josyane has spent the best part of a week installing and styling it and wonderfully rewarding when it meets with such enthusiasm and interest.

As we have now changed our old policy of not selling prior to the opening and now offering pieces for sale immediately on receipt of the Catalogue, many pieces had already been sold prior to the Preview. However the attendance has been excellent and although a few pieces have already been collected, the Exhibition will remain open until 4.00pm this Saturday 19th, so we look forward to seeing anyone who has not been able to make it before now. However, shortly after the Exhibition closes my two sons and I will be excitedly  taking our seats in the Allianz Arena in Munich, hoping  that Chelsea FC will beat Bayern Munich to win the European Champions League for the first time in their history, just to round off a great week.
In the meantime, we would like to thank all of you who have called in or visited the show, for your support, interest and enthusiasm and hope that we will see you again soon and for those of you who found something at the Exhibition, we assure you that we are currently making  delivery arrangements and your new pieces will be with you soon.

04 April 2012

We are working towards our 13th Annual Antique Folk Art Exhibition here at our Gallery on 11-19th May 2012. The preview, by invitation only, is on Thursday 10th May at 6.30pm. Please contact us at the gallery if you would like to attend. There will be an Exhibition Catalogue published at the beginning of May, illustrating 55 of the pieces from the Exhibition. Please contact us at the Gallery if you would like a copy of the Catalogue. 

 

 

10 January 2012

2012 begins with several exciting changes here at RYA, firstly Imogen Begg moved on at the beginning of December, to join James Brett at the Museum of Everything, after three happy and productive years with us. Imogen leaves with our appreciation for her time and valuable contribution, and we are delighted that she has been succeeded by her predecessor, Ilse Oliestelder, whom I am sure many of you will remember from her time with us before, and we are chuffed to have her with us again as our Senior Gallery Associate. She joins her predecessor Jen Beresford, who has been back with us for just over a year now, (having been away to Canada and Yorkshire, and having two sons of her own). For Josyane and I it is really lovely and rewarding to welcome back our previous colleagues and associates and it lends a wonderful sense of continuity and “family” to the Partnership and Gallery, we are so pleased to have them with us. We have been really lucky to have the chance to work with all of them and really appreciate the hours of work, dedication and loyalty they have given and continue to give to Robert Young Antiques.

2012 also sees the launch of this our updated Website. Our above mentioned associates made it clear that our previous site had become rather outdated and tatty and encouraged us to freshen it up. Jen has worked closely with Online Galleries to put together this re-designed site and we hope that it will be easier and quicker to use and more aesthetically pleasing. We have found Online Galleries to be very helpful and informative and their experience in the field Art and Antiques has been invaluable. They speak English without too much jargon and their designer and technical folk have been patient and aware of and sensitive to our ideas and to the “feel” and content we wanted to achieve. We would be happy to recommend them to others.

We look forward to any feedback you may have about the content and operation of this new site, plus any suggestions you may have for improvements and will attempt to make it work for you our visitor. During the process, we have become aware that the site building exercise could become never ending, so we still have much content to add, but felt it best to go live and load up Archive images, Riviere Interior Portfolio updates and other little things we have up our sleeve, as we go along.

At the time of writing we are getting ready for our Ten Anniversary exhibition at the New York Winter Antiques Show, which opens for Preview on Thursday 19th January. It is always an exciting event, with many of the leading American and International specialist dealers showing consistently high quality and unusual antiques and works of art. It is the oldest and most venerable Antiques Show in the USA,( now in its 58th year), and we always feel privileged to be numbered among the exhibitors. We look forward to seeing some of you there again this year.

We hope that 2012 will bring you what you hope for.

Gallery Tour