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Bonhams Sale of Fragonard Portrait Sets New World Record at $28 Million

December 8, 2013

A major work by the 18th century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Portrait of François-Henri d'Harcourt, sold for $28 million dollars December 5 setting a world record price for the artist at auction.

Martin Gammon of Bonhams Georgetown office reacted to the sale, "We were absolutely thrilled to bring this masterpiece to Washington, D.C. for a special preview at the Cosmos Club." The painting was the leading work in the sale of paintings and sculpture from the renowned collection the German philanthropist, the late Dr. Gustav Rau.

The Rau Collection preview was a special VIP event hosted by Bonhams in November. Gammon continued, "The result last Thursday is not only the world record for any Old Master painting sold this year, but also the world record for any French Old Master painting ever, and the 2nd highest price realized at auction for any painting from the 18th century. It is also certainly by far the highest price ever achieved for an artwork sold on behalf of a charity, and we are enormously pleased that the proceeds from this stellar result will go directly to supporting the critical work of UNICEF on behalf of children around the world." The proceeds will be used to benefit the Foundation of the German Committe for UNICEF.

Dr. Martin Gammon and guest at Cosmos Club (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Dr. Martin Gammon and guest at Cosmos Club

Bonhams' Group Head of Pictures, Caroline Oliphant, said: "We were thrilled to do so well for UNICEF. It was a real pleasure to work with this collection, particularly the Fragonard, over the past months."

One of Fragonard's famous 15 fantasy portraits, The Portrait of François-Henri d'Harcourt was the most significant of the artist's works to have appeared on the market for many years. Only two other fantasy portraits remain in private hands making this painting rarer than portraits by Frans Hals, Joshua Reynolds or even Rembrandt.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) was a master of genre painting and a leading exponent of the Rococo style of which The Swing in the Wallace Collection in London is probably the best known example. In great demand as a portraitist in the dying days of the Ancien Regime, Fragonard fell on hard times after the French Revolution and although he continued to live in France he died in obscurity and poverty.

Fragonard's fantasy portraits – often depicting friends and acquaintances - were painted quickly with bold, fluid brush work which anticipated the Impressionists in bravura and technique. This style was referred to by some contemporaries as the artist's, 'swordplay of the brush'. The Portrait of François-Henri d'Harcourt is unusual among Fragonard's fantasy portraits because the subject is identified. Many of the other portraits are personifications of the arts rather than representations of named individuals.

For more information, contact Dr. Martin Gammon, Vice President of Business Development and Museum Services at Bonhams in Washington, D.C. at 202.333.1696.

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Shop Local Week Starts November 30

November 18, 2013

Think Local First DC, Old Town Boutique District and Causetown are partnering to host Shop Local Week 2013, promoting independently owned, community-minded businesses as the preferred option for holiday shoppers.

The week of November 30 through December 8, 2013 features a variety of local business promotions along with a "Charity Cash Mob," when businesses across the city will give a portion of purchases to literally ANY school or charity customers choose when they mention Shop Local Week.

  • Nov 30 - Small Business Saturday
  • Nov 30 - MADE IN DC Marketplace, 12:00 pm. - 4:00 pm at DC Brau
  • Nov 30 - Dec 3 - Charity Cash Mob
  • Dec 5 - Production in the City + MADE IN DC Marketplace, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 pm at The Boiler Building at The Yards
  • Dec 6 - Heurich House Museum Christmas Christkindlmakrt + MADE IN DC Marketplace, 4:00 pm. - 8:00 pm
  • Dec 7 - Heurich House Museum Christmas Christkindlmakrt + MADE IN DC Marketplace, 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm

For a list of participating businesses, click here.

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'Points, Lines, and Colors in Succession' at The Phillips Collection

October 10, 2013

This fall, four works by John F. Simon Jr. (b. 1963) will be on view in the grand stairwell of the Phillips Collection house, alongside Wassily Kandinsky's Succession (1935) from the museum's collection. The new media works—which incorporate drawing, manufactured materials, software, and computer-generated fabrication—are inspired by the river form, as well as Kandinsky’s geometric compositions. Points, Lines, and Colors in Succession is on view Oct. 17, 2013–Feb. 9, 2014. 

When Simon visited the Phillips in preparation for his Intersections project Points, Lines, and Colors in Succession, he was taken by the Phillips house stairwell. His background in geology led him to connect the space with a river, a form that he associates with the flow of consciousness. ReMapping (2002) alludes to the idea of restructuring the visible into systems of signs and symbols. Endless Bounty(2005), with its constantly-changing-but-never-repeating imagery, is a portrait of Simon’s life in Manhattan and of the city itself: “a river of resources, consumer goods, and idealized landscapes caught in a tension between the desire for comfort and our responsibility to nature.” 

Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky has also long been an inspiration for Simon. “My deepest connection to Kandinsky,” he says, “is in working methodology: the balance of intuitive experience and precise analytical research.” This duality is reflected in FlowerHead (2010), a bas-relief painting made out of fiberboard and laser-cut formica and inspired by his daily improvisational drawings he calls “expansions.” Moment of Release (2013), a piece created specifically for Intersections, fuses the robotic elements of his formica pieces with the organic flow of the Phillips stairwell. 

Originally from Louisiana, Simon has an MFA in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts in New York; an MA in Earth and planetary sciences from Washington University in St. Louis, and an AB in art and ScB in geology from Brown University in Providence. Among his software art projects is an app for singer Björk’s album Biophilia. His works are in the collections of museums across the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

John F. Simon Jr. gives an artist’s perspective at the Phillips on Oct. 17 at 6:30 pm.


Inaugurated in 2009, Intersections is a series of contemporary art projects that explores—as the title suggests—the intriguing intersections between old and new traditions, modern and contemporary art practices, and museum spaces and artistic interventions. Whether engaging with the permanent collection or diverse spaces in the museum, the projects suggest new relationships with their own surprises. Previous Intersections artists include Jeanne Silverthorne (2013), Xavier Veilhan (2012), A. Balasubramaniam (2011), Jae Ko (2010), Linn Myers (2010), and Jennifer Wen Ma (2009).

The Phillips Collection is located at 1600 21st Street NW.

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