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The Grand Teddy tea-rooms paintings

The Grand Teddy tea-rooms paintings is a collective name for three glue distemper oval paintings executed by Edouard Vuillard for Le Grand Teddy tea-rooms in Paris in 1918. The largest is privately owned, but is sometimes exhibited. One of the smaller works (identified in Vuillard's notes as The Cafe) was featured on an episode of the BBC television programme Fake or Fortune? which first broadcast on 19 January 2014.[1] The location of the third (called The Oysters in Vuillard's notes) is currently unknown.

Le Grand Teddy (1918) by Edouard Vuillard

Contents

OriginEdit

The Grand Teddy tea-rooms paintings are three oval paintings in glue distemper on canvas by Édouard Vuillard commissioned by interior designer Francis Jourdain to hang on the walls of the Grand Teddy bar and cafe in Paris. They were painted in 1918. With the closure of the cafe in 1922, the paintings were bought by Jos Hessel, Vuillard's friend and art dealer.

Subsequent historyEdit

 
The Oysters (1918) by Edouard Vuillard

The largest (called Le Grand Teddy) shows the fashionable patrons of the cafe.[2] It was exhibited at the Jewish Museum in New York City in May, 2012.[3] It is 150 x 290 cm in an oval shape in landscape format. It is privately owned and only occasionally seen in public.[4]

Nearly five feet high and over eleven-and-a-half feet wide,[5] Le Grand Teddy was accompanied by two smaller ovals, identified in the painter's notes as The Cafe and The Oysters. Standing four feet high[6] in portrait orientation, neither appeared in the Vuillard catalogue raisonné when the paintings were acquired as a pair by art dealer Robert Warren. In 2005 he sold The Oysters on eBay for £3,000.[7] In 2007, The Café was sold on for £11,000 by "a Suffolk family" at TW Gaze in Diss, Norfolk.[8]

Depicting a number of ladies seated at a banquette, The Café was re-examined for the BBC programme Fake or Fortune? by the Wildenstein Institute and authenticated by unanimous decision of its Vuillard Committee.[8] Estimated to be worth £250,000,[9] The Café remains with 2007 purchaser Keith Tutt[7] and will be included in subsequent print editions of the catalogue raisonné.[10]

Its mate The Oysters carries the same estimated value.[9] Depicting a couple seated to champagne and oysters,[11] its whereabouts remain unknown, as the dealer Warren has been unable to identify its purchaser.

BBC's Fake or Fortune?Edit

 
The Café (1918) by Edouard Vuillard

Keith Tutt, an author and scriptwriter from Norfolk, fell in love with the work of French post-Impressionist painter Édouard Vuillard during his art classes at Tonbridge School and purchased a painting, thought to be one of the two smaller Grand Teddy works, at auction for approximately UK£11,000.[12] He contacted the BBC programme Fake or Fortune?, in an attempt to gain their help in authenticating his work.

Tutt's vertical oval painting, titled The Café, depicts an oblique elevated view of a café interior, with a group of women seated on a banquette. It was thought to be one of the three paintings commissioned from Vuillard in 1918 to decorate "Le Grand Teddy". The main painting of the commission, "Le Grand Teddy", is currently privately owned and kept in secure storage in Geneva, Switzerland, and, at the time the program was made, it was the only one of the three known to still exist, and to have been fully confirmed as a genuine Vuillard. With assistance from art experts and archivists in Britain, France and the Netherlands, the program undertook an exhaustive investigation and analysis of the Tutt painting, and they were given special permission by the owners of "Le Grand Teddy" to view it, to examine it using infra-red and ultra-violet light, and to take minute samples of the paint and canvas for scientific analysis. This showed that both paintings were virtually identical, both in the type of canvas used, and the medium with which Vuillard had painted the works. This was a relatively unusual compound of animal glue and pigment, called glue distemper, which Vuillard had learned to use in his early career, while working as a theatrical scenery painter. He was thought to have chosen glue distemper for the Grand Teddy commission in part because its unvarnished matte surface did not reflect the bright electric lights then coming into common use.

The program's team was also able to visit the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, where they discovered the original interior design drawings for Le Grand Teddy, showing how the paintings would have been placed. An investigation of the provenance traced the ownership back from Tutt, through Robert Warren and a previous owner, to British theatrical manager Charles Cochran. The program's art historian Bendor Grosvenor was able to locate an article in Windsor Magazine, from 1933, which specifically mentioned both "The Café" and "The Oysters" as being in Cochran's possession at the time. Following the clue provided by a damaged shipping label on the back of The Café, the program was finally able to locate contemporary Dutch newspaper reviews from 1926, which described both paintings in great detail, and thus confirming that after the Grand Teddy had closed, Vuillard's dealer Jos Hessel had placed the two smaller paintings in an exhibition in the Netherlands, from where they were thought to have been seen and purchased by Cochran.

After submitting all the evidence to a committee at the secretive and highly conservative Wildenstein Institute in Paris, Tutt and the Fake or Fortune? team learned that the committee had unanimously agreed The Café to be a genuine work, and that it would henceforward be incorporated into the catalogue raisonné of Vuillard. As a result of this validation, the painting was estimated to be worth at least UK£200,00–£300,000.[13]

The missing workEdit

Following the programme, the BBC issued an appeal[14] to trace the missing third painting, purchased on eBay in 2005 and valued at an estimated £250,000.[9]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "Fake or Fortune? – Series 3 – 1. Vuillard". BBC iPlayer. BBC. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Groom, Gloria Lynn (2004). Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890–1930. Yale University Press. 
  3. ^ Times of Israel
  4. ^ The Jewish Museum, New York
  5. ^ "'Le Grand Teddy' Tea-Room | Edouard Vuillard – 1918–1919". The Athenaeum. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Collins, Nick. "Mystery eBay art buyer 'sitting on a fortune'". The Telegraph Online. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Roeber, Bruno. "Mystery eBay Art Buyer Unknowingly Sits on Fortune". ABC News Online. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Fortune rather than fake for Vuillard piece bought in Diss". Diss Express. Johnston Press. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Dickinson, Natalie. "Art lover snaps up £3k painting on eBay – unaware it's a £250k masterpiece!". Mirror Online. MGN Ltd. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Publications > Vuillard". Wildenstein Institute. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Metro
  12. ^ Old Tonbridgian Society
  13. ^ BBC TV - Fake or Fortune?
  14. ^ BBC web site