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Monday, 20 July 2015

Nicky Philipps on BBC art series 'Fake or Fortune'

Pierre Auguste Renoir, 'Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil'
The latest epidsode of 'Fake or Fortune' presented by Fiona Bruce and international art dealer Philip Mould investigated 'Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil', a work that royal portrait painter Nicky Philipps and her family believe to be painted by much-loved French Impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir. The painting hangs in Picton Castle, Nicky's ancestral home in Pembrokeshire and is potentially worth £300,000. The programme sheds light on an iconic friendship between two masters of French Impressionism, Renoir and Monet as well as the political rivalry of the art world today. 

The painting remains at the centre of a battle between Bernheim-Jeune and the Wildenstein Institute in Paris. Bernheim-Jeune lists that the work is by Renoir in their official catalogue, yet its rival the Wildenstein Institute rejects this, based on its poor quality, that it is unsigned (despite the fact that Renoir often did not sign his en plein air studies) and that there is no written evidence that Monet received the work from Renoir. Monet met close friend and fellow Impressionist Renoir when he was an art student in the early 1860s and they often painted alongside eachother in the 1870s. 

For example, their depictions of La Grenouillere, which was a popular spot on the Seine for daytrippers to enjoy swimming and a spot of dancing, were painted on the same day. The two versions of the same scene reveal their different approaches in terms of composition and palette. Renoir often paid more attention to figures, whereas Monet's figures are more incidental, which emphasises his preoccupation with the landscape.

Research suggests that Monet made a sketch of the same scene as the painting that hangs in Picton Castle , named 'Voilier au Petit-Gennevilliers.' Interestingly, Renoir's work can thus be seen as a companion piece to Monet's and gives us a fascinating insight into their close artistic relationship. 

Monet La Grenouillére
Claude Monet, La Grenouillere, 1869
Renoir La Grenouillere
Auguste Renoir, La Grenouillere, 1869
Nicky recounts her family story that the scene was painted by Renoir and subsequently given to Monet. In 1937, Nicky's great grandparents Lord and Lady Milford travelled with their daughter and Nicky's great aunt Gwen to Giverny, where Monet painted his seminal water lillies series and lived until his death in 1926. Gwen and her parents met Monet's stepdaughter Blanche, who was in charge of the estate following Monet's death. Nicky says that 'my family has been told how (the Milfords) discussed with Blanche Monet buying a scene of the River Seine, which Renoir had done about 70 years earlier and which he then gave to his friend Monet.' Blanche told Lord Milford that the painting was by Renoir and agreed to sell the work for £1,250 through Bernheim-Jeune and the London-based dealer Arthur Tooth.

This evidence is furthered by scientific analysis that shows that the pigments used match those Renoir painted with during the 1870s. In addition, a scan revealed a hidden art supplier's stamp on the painting that was only used between 1871-1879.

'Travels with my paintbox' opens at Fine Art Commissions in October and will showcase a series of landscapes by Nicky that illustrate her travels from Patagonia to Jaipur. 

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