Culture in the Vail Valley

Breathing Life into History

With each generation good art assumes a new relevance. It’s timeless. The best artists are able to breath such life into their work that people in all generations are able to enjoy it whether because of the artist’s idea, inspiration or perhaps a significant occurrence that’s been captured.

Many times, art connects to the past and feeds the future. At times, the manner in which an artist paints is noteworthy. A piece might represent the time when it was created through its intellectual content, giving you a frame of reference – seducing and challenging your thoughts whenever you look at it.

As Aristotle explained, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

The Claggett Rey Gallery

The Surrender at Appomattox commemorates the end of the Civil War. The piece, by artist Tom Lovell, was commissioned in 1964, by the National Geographic Society to be used in an article reflecting the 100th anniversary of the event – the signing and surrender in Wilmer MacLean’s living room in the village of Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, between Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Before Lovell produced the painting, there was no visual record of the event. He was given open access to all written accounts, documents and photographs of those in attendance and access to the location for his meticulous research. The piece, which has since become accepted as the most authoritative depiction of the event, was used for the anniversary. It was then stored in a vault before going up for auction, in December,
at Christie’s, New York, when it was purchased by Claggett Rey Gallery.

“In my 30 years of working in the art business, we’ve had a lot of great works and we’ll have a lot of great art go through our hands,” says Bill Rey, co-owner of Claggett Rey Gallery. “But I don’t think we’ll ever have such a national painting. This is truly
a people’s painting.

“When we received the painting, it was in a crumby black frame with the white painted liner in a Plexiglas frame. Now it’s dressed more appropriately in historic Roman gilt frame with a nameplate. It’s just a beautiful piece.”

According James Robertson, a noted historian, Lee is not signing the terms of surrender but, rather, the birth certificate of our country: the country that we know today began in 1865 with that event.

“When you look at the painting, it has such an honorable, humble nature to it,” says Rey, thoughtfully. “We see the look in Grant’s face as he and the others in the room witness the Lee signing.”

After the ceremony was over, much to McLean’s dismay, members of the Army of the Potomac began taking anything that wasn’t tied down as mementos. Troops began cutting strips of cloth from the sofa and chairs.

“Robertson talks about how, for years, the soldiers would take out the piece of cloth and reminisce with their families,” explains Rey. “It was such a meaningful thing after so much bloodshed and trauma over the four years.”

The Shelton Smith Collection

The Holy Bible
1939, King James Version

A 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible and a portrait of Sam Houston are just two of the many eclectic pieces of important art that are displayed in The Shelton Smith Collection.

The Bible was published in England after being translated into English. No other book has ever had as much impact on the world.

“This bible has a lot of historical significance,” says gallery owner, Shelton Smith. “The publishers did a magnificent job, binding the book in calf and using very soft and supple paper. This bible is extremely rare.”

In 1638 “The Authentique Corrected Cambridge Bible,” was, once again, revised and printed by Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel.

Translators took special care to keep the language as close to the original as possible. They also introduced a number of new readings and, over the years, gradually modified the grammar, spelling and word usage to keep the meaning alive for each new generation.

Since then, more than 40 translations of the Bible have been published, yet the overwhelming favorite continues to be the King James Version.

In 1975, a 130-person team, including Greek, Hebrew and English scholars as well as editors, church leaders and Christian laity, was commissioned to work on the project. It took seven years for them to produce the complete New King James Version.

Best known for his leading role in bringing Texas into the United States, Samuel

“Sam” Houston, had an eclectic career.

“This painting is an absolutely stunning, museum-quality piece of historical importance that honors Texas’ greatest hero and one of the real giants of American history,” says Smith.

After getting involved in Tennessee politics, Houston was elected its governor in 1827. After the United States annexed the state of Texas in 1859 Houston served as its governor after serving as a commanding general in the Texas Revolution. At one point, after being adopted by the Cherokee Nation, he served as its chief.

Namesake of the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston was so popular that, after his death, he was honored in numerous ways, including a memorial museum, four warships, an army base and a university.

Artist Lajos Markos was a native of Hungary who trained at the Royal Academy of Budapest. He moved to  New York, following World War II, and quickly established himself as a major portraitist. During his lifetime, Markos completed over 2,000 portraits, including commissions of John Wayne, Robert F. Kennedy, Pablo Casals and Ronald Reagan, to name a few.

Vail Fine Art

Opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff and poet, Maxim Gorky were united by the fact that, as Russian patriots, they could not stand aside during the social storms that were occurring in their country at the turn of the twentieth century. Many of the Russian intelligentsia acknowledged the need for social reform and hoped that their involvement could help avert a catastrophic event.

“All three of these men understood what the rest of the world looked like because they each had passports and could travel outside the Soviet Union,” explains, Jim Tylich, owner of Vail Fine Art Gallery. “They wanted the public involved in setting up their new government, so would set up salons where Rachmaninoff would play the piano, Chaliapin would sing and Gorky would read poetry and present their ideas of what kind of government would work for the people, rather than against them. They wanted a more gentle government.”

Karp Demyanovich Trokhimenko, whose work is in museums all over the world, painted “Rachmaninoff, Gorky and Chaliapin, 1917” years after this salon took place.  He knew each of the artists personally and was aware of the importance of this occasion.

“As a group, these artists had power,” continues Tylich. “Everything in this painting is original, just as it was at the time. You see a carbide lantern in the center of the painting. And that is Rachmaninoff’s piano. You see Gorky, representing the common man, wearing his boots and the tunic of a wealthy peasant – although he has all the marks of a leader.

“The style of the painting is Russian impressionism, sometimes called Soviet impressionism. The artists were so adept at what they painted and the way they did it in just a few quick brush strokes.  They used lots of color, and always blended. They never used color straight out of a tube.”

Tylich continues, “Additionally, the artists used a lot of colors that were complementary, in other words, opposites on the color scale. What’s more, they painted over basic grey that was so neutral that it allowed the artists to be free with their brush strokes. At the same time, they painted so accurately that, in this painting for instance, you can see the length of Rachmaninoff’s fingers as well as Chaliapin’s two fingers that he often used while directing musicians.

Gorky, Chaliapin and Rachmaninoff did all they could to help their country as it suffered from not only internal conflicts but the effects of WWI as well.  Rachmaninoff was not longer in Russia, in 1917, when the revolution began. After often being arrested many times, Chaliapin and his family fled to France. Only Gorky remained in Russia.

Vail International Gallery

Hungarian artist, Janos Vaszary was an early 20th Century modernist who was part of the first group of European painters who took the influences of modernism, impressionism and post-impressionism and spread them throughout the European regions. Over his lifetime, he painted in various genres and was regarded as one of the leading masters of Hungary and the Hungarian Academy of the early twentieth century

“You had artists such as Henri Matisse and André Derain and the Fauvist movement who influenced artists from other areas of Europe, like the Scandinavian countries, central Europe and Germany,” explains Marc Levarn, co-owner of Vail International Gallery. “And Vaszary was one of the first to bring modernists trend into what was then the Austria/Hungarian Empire.”

In the mid-1890s, Vaszary worked in plein air landscapes and genre paintings – the implementation of new trends in Paris. But it was his travels to Italy and Spain and the colors and light of southern Europe that influenced a strong stylization in his subsequent work.

“In this painting called, “Lilacs,” you see very broad strokes, a very energetic composition,” describes Levarn. “You have a real subjective quality as to how the flowers are portrayed. When you glance at the piece, it just looks like a flower painting. But when you look more closely, you can see that there’s an energy and an abstractive on how the flowers are depicted. The strokes were very quick, which wasn’t typical at the times. So this was very revolutionary.”

Over the years, Vaszary expressed diverse techniques in his work. In the 1920s he employed dark-based canvases, wide brush strokes, painted with knife, creating expressionistic work. In the thirti