Behind the Picture: Grandmother with Child by Francisco Zúñiga

April 15, 2015 § Leave a comment


Francisco Zuniga (b. Costa Rica 1912-1988), Grandmother with Child, 1976

This crayon, charcoal and pastel drawing by Francisco Zúñiga was acquired by Josef Glimer Gallery from a private collection several years ago. While Zúñiga may be best known for his more stylized stone sculptures, Grandmother with Child is one of many similarly classical drawings that he produced during his lifetime.

Zúñiga was born in Guadalupe, Barrio de San José, Costa Rica on December 27, 1912. He was interested in Renaissance art and anatomy from an early age, and by fifteen, he was working as an assistant in his father’s studio of religious sculpture. He enrolled briefly in the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Mexico before pursuing art on his own, drawing inspiration from both pre-Hispanic tradition and more modern movements like German Expressionism. His work began gaining recognition by the 1930s, and in 1935, his sculpture La Maternidad won first place in the Latin American sculpture competition the Salón de Escultura en Costa Rica.

The artist traveled to Mexico City where was mentored by painter Manuel Rodriguez Lozano. He went on to become a key faculty member of La Esmeralda, the National School of Painting and Sculpture in Mexico City, where he taught for the next three decades.

Zúñiga’s forms reflect both the iconic reverence of religious sculptures and the monumental style of pre-Hispanic art. He was strongly drawn to the human figure, and many of his sculptures and drawings depict Mexico’s indigenous peoples. He associated indigenous women with the infinite cycle of nature, and held the role of mother as particularly sacred. He explained in a 1987 admittance speech to the Academy of Arts of Mexico,

“Maybe my world is that of the feminine indigenous representation, and of poses which are related to the old cultures of Middle America, that is an emotional and prevailing motive from which I reaffirm precisely a certain irrational aspect, psychological values; the heritage. I relate all that symbolically to the geological, the terrestrial of original, even more, to the erotic. Hence, the exaggeration of breasts, the stomachs, the hips. In that sense, nature is inexhaustible, since life grows and dies.”

Over the course of his career, Zúñiga traveled to San Francisco, New York City, Spain, Austria, and France, and created over thirty-five public sculptures including several hero monuments in Mexico and a group of sculptures called Tres generaciones in Sendai, Japan. His works are found in numerous permanent collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Throwback Thursday: Josef Glimer and Jeffrey Gusfield in the Chicago Sun-Times

October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Jeffrey Gusfield (left) and Josef Glimer, posing with Mary Cassatt's "Head of a Little Girl with Curly Hair." Photo by Tom Cruze, Chicago Sun-Times, 1984.

Jeffrey Gusfield (left) and Josef Glimer, posing with Mary Cassatt’s “Head of a Little Girl with Curly Hair.” Photo by Tom Cruze, Chicago Sun-Times, 1984.

We thought we’d take a look back in the spirit of our 35th Anniversary Special Exhibition, coming to a close in November. This photo features owner and director Josef Glimer with former partner Jeffrey Gusfield. The pair are shown admiring a unique 1890 Mary Cassatt pastel that had recently been acquired by Gusfield-Glimer Galleries in Skokie. The piece would be one of countless important 19th and 20th-century works sold by Gusfield and Glimer over the next three decades.

Behind the Picture: Intermission at the Folies by Louis Legrand

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Louis Legrand, Intermission at the Folies, 1889, 31.25 x 21.5," oil on board at Josef Glimer Gallery

Louis Legrand, Intermission at the Folies, 1889, 31.25 x 21.5,” oil on board.

This painting, currently on display at Josef Glimer Gallery, is originally from the collection of Louis Legrand’s loyal friend and publisher Gustave Pellet.

An important predecessor of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Legrand has largely fallen into public obscurity. Like Lautrec, Legrand lived in Montmartre and developed an interest in Parisian fashion, women and nightlife—popular motifs in art during the colorful Belle Époque, the period of peace and prosperity in France and Belgium just before World War I. But Legrand maintained a bourgeois lifestyle that contrasted with Lautrec’s trademark immersion in the subversive pleasures of Paris. This fact, along with Lautrec’s early death, may have allowed Legrand to be overshadowed by his romanticized peer in the art historical canon.

Legrand is best known for his aquatints and etchings published in limited edition books, a medium that flourished during the Belle Époque and fell out of popularity after the Great Depression. Born in Dijon in 1863, Legrand was employed as a bank clerk until he was twenty, studying at the Dijon Ecole des Beaux-Arts in his spare time. In 1884 he studied under master Belgian printmaker Félicien Rops.

Early in his career, Legrand worked as a satirical cartoonist for the Courrier Français. His drawings varied from peasant life to political commentary and often explored the exploitation of women. He received negative attention for a cartoon symbolizing the dark side of prostitution, and he was tried for obscenity over a satirical piece featuring naturalist writer Emile Zola meticulously examining a woman’s thigh.

The artist provided illustrations for can-can themed articles in Gil Blas magazine, and his two albums Les Petit Ballet (The Little Ones of the Ballet) and La Petite Classe explored the evolution of young dancers from their first lessons and rigorous training to their interactions with stage-door johnnies.

Legrand seldom focused on performances, typically more interested in behind-the-scenes efforts and backstage dynamics. Intermission at the Folies may be set backstage at the Folies Bergère, a cabaret nightclub in its height of fame at the time, or it may depict a prostitute preparing for her next client. Either way, like many Belle Époque images, the male gaze is prevalent—the subject’s grimace and bright red hair suggest unbridled sensuality.


Victor Awras, Belle Epoche Posters & Graphics

Behind the Picture: Sol Justitiae by Albrecht Dürer

June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Albrecht Dürer, Sol Justitiae (or The Judge), 1499, 4.25 x 3," Engraving at Josef Glimer Gallery

Albrecht Dürer, Sol Justitiae (or The Judge), 1499, 4.25 x 3,” Engraving.

Nearly every era, including our own, has its share of apocalypse theories and end-of-days false alarms. But amidst the death and disease of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, it’s easy to imagine how tangible worldwide mortality must have felt to the general public. As a result, Judgement Day is a prominent motif in art of the period. This engraving by Albrecht Dürer, acquired by Josef Glimer Gallery from a private collection in Austria, marks one of the artist’s many explorations of the world’s end. It was created in 1499, the year all Jews— a perpetually-massacred scapegoat for the Black Plague— were expelled from Dürer’s hometown of Nuremberg. It was also the year the Emperor’s army was defeated in the Swiss War and the year that astrologers, perhaps responding to all the tumult, convinced many to move to high ground with predictions of an apocalyptic deluge.

Despite its small size, leading Dürer scholar Erwin Panofsky deemed Sol Justitiae one of the artist’s most impressive creations. The engraving is inspired by this caption from Petrus Berchoius’ Repertorium Morale, a Biblical-moral reflective text intended for preachers, given to Dürer by his godfather:

“The Sun and Righteousness shall appear ablaze when he will judge mankind on the day of doom, and he shall be burning and grim. For, as the sun burns herbs and flowers in the summertime when he is the Lion, so shall Christ appear as a fierce and lion-like man in the heat of Judgement and shall wither the sinners.”

Dürer’s engraving creatively combines pagan, astrological and Biblical symbols. The central figure sitting on a lion is at once Christ, the Roman goddess of justice Justitia, and the ancient sun god, called Helios by the Greeks and Sol by the Romans. He holds Justitia’s scales and a double edged sword, but unlike the traditionally blindfolded goddess, his eyes— wide and confrontational— see all. His legs are crossed, the customary sitting position for judges in ancient law books and a stance adopted in many other Renaissance depictions of leaders. His mask is composed of three prongs of flame. While this number suggests the Christian Trinity, its beaming rays are a strong gesture toward Sol.

The duality of the Christ figure in this piece may also be influenced by ancient Roman coins, which sometimes featured overlapping profiles of emperors and gods to convey the idea that the emperor could become geminatapersona—”human by nature and divine by grace.”

The lion not only suggests biblical excepts comparing Christ to a lion but also Leo, the sign of the zodiac for July, when the sun is at its most intense. Berchorius suggests that the justice of Christ on Judgment Day will be as powerful as the July sun.


Strauss, Walter L., Ed. The Complete Engravings, Etchings, & Drypoints of Albrecht Dürer. Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1972.
Boerner, C.G. Distinctive Prints. 2011.
Blümle, Claudia.  The Omnipresent Eye of the Judge – Juridical Evidence in Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder. Parallax 14 (2008), No. 4, S. 42-54.
Curtis, Dennis E. and Judith Resnik. Images of Justice. Yale Law Journal, Vol. 96 (1987), 1727-1772.

Behind the Picture: Madame X by Paul César Helleu

May 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Paul César Helleu, Madame X, c. 1900, 29 x 22," original crayon, pencil and pastel drawing on heavy Japon paper.

Paul César Helleu, Madame X, c. 1900, 29 x 22,” original crayon, pencil and pastel drawing on heavy Japon paper.

Originally part of the estate of Helleu’s youngest daughter Paulette Howard-Johnston, this piece was acquired by Josef Glimer Gallery from Lumey Cazalet Ltd. in London.

Paul César Helleu was born in 1859 in Vannes, Brittany, France and began attending the Ecole des Beux-Arts in 1876. He began his artistic career in ceramics, embellishing decorative plates with portraits of beautiful women. Helleu soon moved to portrait commissions in oil and drypoint, depicting countless notable figures including Queen Alexandra, the Duchess of Marlborough and Marcel Proust.

This portrait, a crayon, pencil and pastel drawing on heavy Japon paper, suggests Helleu’s printmaking tendencies through its graphic linework, lively cross-hatching and simple yet expressive capturing of gesture.

Helleu and other artists including James Tissot, Louis Legrand, Manuel Robbe and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec are considered key contributors to the Belle Époque aesthetic. The Belle Époque period (French for “Beautiful Era”) marked the years of peace and prosperity in France and Belgium between roughly 1871 and the shock of World War I in 1914. The era marked a golden age of printmaking and graphic arts highlighting fashionable French society with triumph, flair and humor.

Collector and art historian Victor Arwas writes in the introduction to his compilation Belle Epoque: Posters and Graphics:
“The term Belle Epoque encapsulates a style more than an era. There is a style in the clothes: elegance, self-confidence, beauty; each feathered hat is a creation, not a confection. There is a style in the subjects: elegant women at home, promenading, at the ball, making up, dressing, shopping with their lovers, alone, on stage, or waiting for a client. There is style in the treatment: flamboyant or wistful, dealing with high or low life, domestic or public occupations. There is style in the imagery, even when cruel in the observation. This accumulation of style in every aspect of execution itself forms an immediately recognizable style which transcends the appeal of nostalgia.”

Madame X” was previously used as the title for John Singer Sargent’s famous full-body portrait of Parisian socialite Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, who posed for several important 19th-century artists. Gautrau, admired for her style, beauty and allegedly scandalous love life, embodied the idea of the parisienne, or modern, sophisticated French woman.

While Sargent and Helleu were close friends, it is unknown whether Helleu’s portrait depicts Gaurtreau, as “Madame X” may just be used here as a term of anonymity. It is just as likely to be a portrait of the artist’s favorite model of all, his wife Alice.

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