Downsizing at the International Fine Art Fair

Editorial Staff Art

The biggest thing about this year’s International Fine Art Fair (May 1 – 5) was the grand arrangement of cherry blossoms and white lilies flanking the entry to the Armory Drill Hall. Inside there were fewer exhibitors—thirty-nine down from sixty last year. But size and quantity are not the measure of anything when it comes to fine art, and as proof of that the interested visitor would have noticed that of the treasures on view many were wonderfully small. Here are a few of the highlights.
At Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts several small works caught my attention: a powerful little work by Thomas Hart Benton, Martha’s Vineyard, from the 1950s, measuring just 8 x 6 1/4 inches; and a suite of four woodblock prints by Arthur Wesley Dow—The Dory, or Near the Wharf—each 5 x 2 inches, and a charming example of the artist’s Japanese influence. Three diminutive yet striking Oscar Bluemner works were tucked into a corner of the booth. They each measured about 5 x 6 inches and with their vivid colors and bold shapes offer a microcosm of Bluemner’s style.

Questroyal Fine Art had moderately sized works, too—many moderately priced—such as Miner Kilbourne Kellogg’s, Raymondskill Falls, Pike County, Pennsylvania—a luminous and intimate canvas (12 3/16 x 9 3/16 inches) that went quickly, and Theodore Robinson’s Cliffs by the Sea, a bright and breezy work measuring 7 7/8 x 12 11/16 inches.

At Avery Galleries a small Arthur Dove watercolor, Italy Goes to War, measuring 3 1/4 x 7 3/8 inches, vied for attention with larger works including a wonderful pair of charcoal drawings by Lillian Westcott Hale.

One of the easiest pieces to overlook—and perhaps the most rewarding—was a small painting by Sir Herbert Gunn (who has painted several members of Britain’s Royal family) that was displayed on an easel just a few inches from the ground in the booth of Trinity House Fine Art. The striking monochromatic canvas, Pont Mirabeau, Paris (9 x 12 inches), a Whistlerian white scene with a broad foreground, is typical of the fashionable artist’s composition techniques. Simon Shore, the gallery’s director, launched into Gunn’s biography, and showed stunning examples of his work from a catalogue that included portraits of his two wives.

Among other charming small works: Didier Aaron had a lovely mid-19th century watercolor depicting the interior of the Uffizi (8 ½ x 7 inches); Neal A. Fiertag showed an adorable French bulldog by Toshio Bando (10 5/8 x 8 ¾ inches); and Hawthorne Fine Art brought several small-scale landscape scenes including Aaron Draper Shattuck’s Marion Colman in the Granby Meadows (5 x 4 1/4 inches).

Of course there were some standout large-scale works too—a roundel Portrait of a Lady by Bartolomeo Passerotti at the Voena booth, N. C. Wyeth’s large study of Massasoit for murals painted at One Madison Avenue at Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, and a painted wood sculpture by Louise Nevelson, which was the centerpiece of the Hollis Taggart Galleries booth. These are the crowd pleasers and justly so, but it is the more intimate and curious works that reward a second look.