David Johnson | Thomas Cole | Art Acquisition

New Acquisitions at Questroyal Prove the Power of Serendipity

Chelsea DeLay | December 10th, 2012 | Posted in News

What do you call being in the right place at the right time? Some call it luck. Some call it destiny. My personal go-to for describing one of life’s fateful moments? Serendipity.  This inclination may or may not be biased due to the eponymous nature of one of my favorite romantic comedies starring John Cusack, and has definitely not, in any way,  been influenced by my addiction to the frozen hot chocolate that can be ordered in Tiffany-adorned coffee shop on 60th street, that also just happens to go by the same name. It is hard to put a finger on what causes or the reason why two seemingly unrelated people or things encounter, meet, or collide with one another, but what is definitive is the lasting significance of that single, specific moment of interaction.

When it comes to paintings, Questroyal seems to be a magnet for serendipitous behavior–however, knowing the market and your client base on a more personal level can help guide the unpredictable nature of fate. It was not by the luck of the draw that one of our most recent acquisitions, Thomas Cole’s On a Mountaintop, was chosen to hang at last week’s American Art Fair; as one of the leading painters in the Hudson River School, the artist’s presence was absolutely mandatory at the week-long event highlighting 19th- and 20th-century American art galleries in New York City. The unmistakable hand of Thomas Cole guaranteed the impossibility of On a Mountaintop becoming lost in the crowd as it hung among Questroyal’s selection of American landscapes by artists including Martin Johnson Heade, Frederic Church, and Robert Henri. Late one night, the exclamations of a passerby drew my attention as he excitedly pointed at the work in disbelief, exclaiming how he had just gone hiking in the Catskills, and identified the scene before him as a view looking towards the Berkshire Mountains.

Many Hudson River school artists frequented the same locations, traveling among trails passing through the Adirondack Mountains or trekking through the White Mountains; those footpaths still exist today, offering the same views for avid hikers and outdoorsmen.  I had no reason to doubt his claims, but feeling the need to validate himself, the gentleman pulled out his iPhone, and held it up to the Cole. “See? The moon begins to rise above the two peaks, just to the left of the cliff.” My eyes widened as they traveled from the painting, to the image, and back to the painting again–with the tap of his finger, the image zoomed in on the distant Berkshire mountain range– the horizon line was  nearly identical. While it is not impossible to determine the area where many Hudson River School scenes were painted, the split-second recognition of such an exact location was perfectly timed to that single, specific moment.

Two works by David Johnson (that are also new to the gallery) have now, by the same coincidental twist of fate,  come to exist as a related pair.  The first of the two to arrive was Johnson’s painting Split Rock Island, Lake Champlain, which by happenstance was hanging in the gallery when a colleague arrived for a visit with Lou.  While passing through the gallery, he paused in front it, and after brief examination, voiced that it bore an uncanny resemblance to a drawing he possessed by the artist. This chance encounter with a knowledgeable professional was ensued by a comparative visit during which a side-by-side inspection revealed not only near-identical works, but also matching inscriptions that read  “Split Rock Island / Lake Champlain”, both dated 1871. The opportunity to re-connect a David Johnson painting with what is  most likely its preparatory drawing was a rarity Lou refused to let slip through his fingers, and now both works reside at Questroyal, reunited after more than a century apart.

The constant exchange of works coming and going from the gallery is an exciting process to bear witness to; any art lover who has unwrapped a new masterpiece or watched a sale happen knows the indescribable rush of adrenaline that makes working in the art world so exciting.  The quality and prices of Hudson River School paintings at Questroyal Fine Art emphasizes the careful attention paid in selecting new acquisitions, whether it be an Asher B. Durand landscape or a coastal scene by William Trost Richards.  At Questroyal, we try to guide the hands of fate so that each work will leave in the hands of the owner it is meant for.  Don’t be afraid of grasping the reins of fortune in your own hands–be sure to visit the gallery and see what new acquisitions are waiting for you!

Thomas Cole, “On a Mountaintop,” Questroyal Fine Art.

David Johnson, “Study for Split Rock Island, Lake Champlain, 1871,” Pencil on paper. Titled, monogrammed, and dated lower left: “Split Rock Island / Lake Champlain. / DJ. 1871,” Questroyal Fine Art.

David Johnson, “Split Rock Island, Lake Champlain, 1871,”
Oil on canvas. Monogrammed and dated lower left: “DJ. 71”; titled, signed, and dated on verso: “Split Rock Island. / Lake Champlain. / David Johnson. 1871,” Questroyal Fine Art.

Chelsea DeLay is a Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Chelsea earned her MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, and her BA in art history and classical studies. Her interest in American paintings first began while working at an auction house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has multiplied exponentially since joining the Questroyal team.