On a computer screen, the still life “Basket of Wild Strawberries” by 18th-century French painter Jean Siméon Chardin is quiet and unassuming.
His talent for capturing the reflection of light on the edge of a glass of water is muted in that environment. In person, however, he casts a spell.
“It’s deceptively simple, it’s absolutely captivating and it’s magical,” said Eric Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, who bought the work at auction in France in March for more than $ 22 million. “The painting has completely mesmerized me and has mesmerized almost anyone who sees it.”
But now Kimbell, whose successful bid for the work was first reported by the Art Newspaper of France, has to wait to see if he can actually export the painting, which he bought at the Artcurial auction house in Paris. .
The Louvre asked that the work be classified as “a national treasure”And is looking for a sponsorship to buy it. Under French law, exports can be frozen for 30 months or two and a half years.
“We are fully mobilized to bring it to the national collection”, Laurence des Cars, president and director of the Louvre, he told Le Figaro in March.
Reportedly, the Louvre has 41 works in Chardin’s collection, which in his still lifes often portrays fruits such as plums, melons and peaches. This work, painted in 1761, is the only one to focus on strawberries.
“Basket of wild strawberries” was rediscovered a century later, only to resurface again in 20th century retrospectives in Paris. The Artcuriale Description characterizes it as “one of the most famous and emblematic images of the French 18th century”.
“I agree that the painting is a national treasure of France,” Lee said in an interview. “But I also believe it is a world treasure and could act as an ambassador of French culture.”
Most recently, Lee saw the work in February, when it was sent from a private collection to New York and was exhibited for a week at the Adam Williams Fine Art gallery on the Upper East Side. Kimbell, located in Fort Worth, Texas, was aware that he may not be able to obtain an export license, but museum leaders thought the painting would be worth the risk – and the wait, he said Lee.
“It is a worldwide treasure and should be seen in front of the public,” Lee said. “It shouldn’t be hidden in a private collection. And so it is absolutely essential that a painting like this be made available to the public ”.
The Kimbell Art Museum building, which opened in 1972, was designed by widely regarded Louis I. Kahn “America’s foremost living architectAt the time of his death in 1974. Kahn played with natural light in the Fort Worth building, suffused with skylights, spotlights and cycloid barrel vaults.
“By imagining this painting hanging in our galleries, I don’t think anything could be more beautiful,” said Lee. “The qualities of the painting – that intimacy, serenity and timelessness – are qualities that are also seen in Louis Kahn’s architecture.”