Master Paintings Week 2016

Elégance, a monumental plaster relief by the sculptor Alfred Janniot (1889-1969), is without doubt the highlight of the summer exhibition at Ben Elwes Fine Art. A natural heir to the legacy of Auguste Rodin, Janniot created this bas-relief in preparation for his commission at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, in 1930.

Detail of plaster relief of figure of a woman

In the figure of Elégance, her draped body recalls not only ancient Roman sculptures of the goddess of love, Venus, but also the figure of the goddess in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. This graceful yet imposing sculpture, together with the gallery's fine collection of Old Master and 19th century paintings are to be unveiled at Brown’s London Art Weekend.


Master Paintings Week 2015

After almost a year of careful restoration, Ben Elwes Fine Art will be revealing Claude Joseph Vernet's Noon - Return from Fishing, a stunning, lost masterpiece in pristine condition. It is the earliest of three versions of this composition, one of which, dated 1760, is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Detail of Vernet's Noon- Return from Fishing, showing a group of figures by a river, with a viaduct in the background

Until recently, Noon - Return from Fishing was largely hidden under layers of paint, which had been applied in the 19th-century. Rather bafflingly this covered most of the background with a crude depiction of a waterfall, eliminating the beautifully rendered viaduct completely.


Master Paintings Week 2014

Among the works selected for the 2014 Master Paintings Week, Ben Elwes Fine Art will unveil an abolitionist painting by British artist Thomas Uwins. Given the critical and popular acclaim of the recent films Twelve Years a Slave and Belle, the abolitionist theme is very much in the headlines as it was in 1852 with the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Intense British interest in the abolitionist movement is reflected in the work which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. The artist, a man of considerable intellect as well as a committed Christian, depicts Uncle Tom shackled and reading the Bible.

Detail of Uncle Tom; a study from the life, by Thomas Uwins RA, showing the head and shoulders of a black man wearing a white shirt

Also exhibited will be two portraits depicting Moroccan Ambassadors, originally from the collection of Sir Clement Cottrell (1686-1758), who was Master of Ceremonies from 1710 until his death in 1758. Until they were sold privately in 2002,  they were hung at Rousham, the Cottrel’s country house near Oxford having remained in the family collection since they were painted. As Master of Ceremonies, Sir Clement Cottrell was largely concerned with the reception and accommodation of foreign ambassadors during their stay in England. Contemporary manuscript records still in the possession of the Cottrell-Dormer family describe Sir Clement’s first meeting with Ambassador Hagi Abdulkader Perez.

Detail of Portrait of Admiral Abdelkader Perez with a naval engagement beyond, by Michael Dahl and studio, showing a grey-bearded man wearing a white turbanDetail of Portrait of Mohammed Ben Ali Abgali, by Enoch Seeman, showing a dark-bearded man wearing a white turban under a hooded cloak

Alongside these paintings will be a large scale contemporary work by artist Mark Fairnington. An exploration of The Cabinet of Curiosities, Fairnington's practice is founded on painting as a mode of research. His works are detailed studies of natural history specimens from collections, storage and displays. Paradisa Apoda, which Ben Elwes will be exhibiting, draws upon a long history of animal painting and the recording of specimens. The viewer is aware that the birds are dead, as they have been carefully placed on a white surface to be examined, with white tags on each feet emphasising their didactic role as objects from a collection.

Detail of Paradisa Apoda, by Mark Fairnington, showing two yellow birds, dead, with labels attached to their legs

Article in Mayfair Magazine (1.6MB PDF)


Frieze Masters 2012, London

Ben Elwes Fine Art is pleased to participate in the inaugural edition of Frieze Masters, a unique art fair which encompass fine art from the ancient era through the year 2000. Located in the heart of Regent's Park, it will be held in conjunction with Frieze London.

Frieze mastersLonga - Garden of Eden

Master Paintings Week 2012

Ben Elwes Fine Art is delighted to announce their summer exhibition, First Impressions - Landscape Oil Sketches 1780-1860, from the John Lishawa Collection, a selection of 51 en-plein air paintings.

The majority of the works in the exhibition are being sold from the collection of John Lishawa, with a small selection of works loaned from museums and other private collections. Coinciding with Master Paintings Week, the exhibition will be on view from 19 June until 13 July. It will include, amongst other works by Granet, Dunouy, Denis, a spectacular coastal scene by Eugène Isabey, Stormy Sea at Etretat, as well as one of the finest painting in Michallon’s oeuvre, View of the Temple of Segesta.

John Lishawa collected these works over the period of 40 years and his collection represents one of the best of its kind. The exhibition catalogue features an introductory essay by Charlotte Gere, whose own collection (along with that of her late husband, John Gere) of plein-air art was featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery, London in 1999.

Ben Elwes Fine Art has an established reputation as a specialist dealer in the field of Old Master and British paintings. Ben, together with his wife and co-director, Rachel Layton Elwes, have worked not only for private individuals, but their clients have also included numerous international museums. Much of their previous stock has been of important historical significance, and like the art in this exhibition, represents a rare glimpse into the artistic process.

The Sky at sunsetStormy sea at d’Etretat, NormandyPanoramic view of Naples and the bay with the island of Capri




Master Paintings Week 2010

Ben Elwes Fine Art will be exhibiting two paintings concerned with race at Master Paintings Week 2010. The gallery has gained a reputation for covering the subject and has sold recently important anti-slavery paintings to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian. Continuing this theme will be a major picture by British artist William Gale, “The Ranaway Slave” depicting a mulato female slave being captured by an American Bounty Hunter. Exhibited in 1856 it was part of the outraged response, both political and artistic, to the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Under this law even non-slave states were obliged to return escapees to their owners causing fury amongst abolitionists. The gallery will also be showing a fine portrait of an African by the French painter Léon de Troy.

The Captured RunawayHead of an African Man

Amongst other works, Ben Elwes Fine Art will also be exhibiting two fascinating portraits:

Portrait of a Young ArtistPortrait of Mary Louise McBride (Mrs Homer Saint-Gaudens)

Master Paintings Week 2009

Joseph Bonaparte - newly discovered paintings from the Château de Mortefontaine

Among the exceptional works selected for the 2009 event, Ben Elwes Fine Art exhibited two large landscape paintings with a fascinating rediscovered royal provenance. The pair was commissioned from the French neo-classical artist Hyacinthe Dunouy (1757-1843) by the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples and later also King of Spain. Signed and dated 1806, they show views of Joseph’s estate at the Chậteau de Mortefontaine. One also includes a depiction of Joseph hunting.

On the downfall of Napoloeon in 1814, Joseph was forced to abdicate the Spanish throne. He subsequently moved to Philadelphia, taking much of his important art collection. His new home at Point Breeze, in New Jersey, became the centre of a Bonapartist personality cult, which out lived Joseph, who died July 28 1844 in Florence, but was continued with his much-feted daughter Zénaïde and her husband and cousin, Charles-Lucien Bonaparte.

The Point Breeze collection, much of which remains untraced, was dispersed in the 1840s. The newly-discovered provenance and topography of the pair by Dunouy is therefore of great trans-Atlantic significance.

Joseph Bonaparte and his family beside a lake at the Château de MortefontaineJoseph Bonaparte and his family beside a lake at the Château de Mortefontaine