Lisa Schiller / Leon de Troy
When the stay at home mandate began in mid March, I decided to move temporarily (or so I thought at the time) to my beau’s house in Brooklyn because it offered more space than my apartment and we could weather the pandemic together. But, home is home, and I missed my home more than I expected I would. Fortunately, there was a room I could use to create a little home away from home. Bringing some of my paintings and photos seemed to me a great idea since I live surrounded with art.
But what to bring?
I settled on three 19th early 20th century works because this is the field I have dealt in as a dealer so the works have a larger context to serve me. One of my favorite works in my collection is this still life of apples by Leon de Troy, a French artist born in 1857. I hung it above a little altar like table I created which included photos of my daughter and my two nieces. Entering this room to sit on the bed to meditate, work at the computer, have some time apart, immediately takes me to “a room of her own.” I feel very fortunate, all considered.
I came across this painting at a dealer friend’s gallery in Paris maybe 30 years ago. He dealt in Old Masters and this painting was an oddity for him. Immediately, I wanted it. I had no idea about the artist but the colors, the focused subject of the apples, the boldness, the abstracted tablecloth, the tipped picture plane, the modernity, just pulled me in. The price was $2,000. I gave him a $200 down payment and said I would pay the rest when I next returned to Paris in a few months. This was the most I had ever spent on a painting for myself but I had no hesitancy at all. Art can do that to you. You fall in love in a way. Happily, I am still in love with Leon de Troy’s Still life of apples. When I look at it I feel the colors, I feel France, I feel my beloved Paris and I even feel art history.
De Troy went to study in Paris as a young man where he met, and continued to know over his lifetime, many artists who rose to fame. He, however, was a man who did not seek fame and chose to live in a rather obscure village in the Berri. While he visited Amsterdam to view the great masters, he read a book by Georges Sand called “Promenade au Tour d’un Village” and it inspired him to visit the region of her village, the Berri region, where he settled in Gargileses. He remained there for the rest of his life with forays to Venice and Sicily. He saw everything in technicolor it seems–his landscapes and his still lifes reflect his great talent as a colorist. He convinced the Impressionist painter Guillaumin to come to the area to Crozant nearby where Guillaumin painted some of his most important works, also filled with rich, bright colors. I see deTroy as a passionate painter depicting mundane subjects that he brings to life in a vibrant way. Though he belongs to no master, no school, he is a true Post Impressionist whose paintings can make you think of the Fauves, Gauguin, Guillaumin. He is what the French call “a small master,” but for me my painting of green apples on a hot pink table cloth is a masterpiece.
September, 26, 2020
“The Collector” is an ongoing series in which I ask people to talk about a painting or a drawing they own. See other installments here.
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