The Albany Institute of History & Art in Albany, New York will host a limited viewing of a recently discovered oil sketch by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). The sketch, owned by Hudson Valley collector Albert B. Roberts, is sure to make waves in the international art world. The sketch will be on view to the public in the museum's Christine & George R. Hearst III Gallery from Wednesday, September 18, 2019—Sunday, October 6, 2019. The special viewing will be included with museum admission.
"It is rare, indeed, for a work by a major master to come to light. The oil sketch that Mr. Roberts discovered by Anthony Van Dyck is an impressive and important find that helps us understand more about the artist's method as a young man," says Rev. Dr. Susan J. Barnes, Van Dyck scholar and co-author of Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings.
Long-time Hudson Valley collector and friend of the Albany Institute of History & Art, Albert B. Roberts has devoted the past thirty years of his life to the search for art that he likes to call 'orphaned'; art that for one reason or another has been neglected, overlooked, lost in the shuffle of the art world in different countries, or perhaps a painter was absent-minded and allowed work to slip through the cracks.
After years of investigation, scholars have confirmed the artist and identified the painting for this oil sketch. Roberts reflects, "I suppose it's not every day that a painting picked up for $600 with bird droppings on the back turns out to be a masterpiece of European Art."
In his search for orphaned art, Roberts has developed a method for examining works of art to determine attribution, a method he calls "sophisticated, rigorous, if highly unorthodox." He has just written a book describing his method, which reflects on numerous examples of the 'orphaned art' he has identified. In the case of this oil sketch, Roberts quickly determined that the artist was likely Dutch or Flemish from the 17th century. He started researching Van Dyck and focused on the Van Dyck's early Italian period. He recognized a model that resembled- muscle for muscle- the figure in Van Dyck's painting of Saint Jerome.
"But then, looking at my records," Roberts says, "I did nothing about it then. I essentially had the answer, and it's typical. What's exciting for me is the chase. And once I'm satisfied who it's by, I turn to other work." But when Roberts read an international art blog by Bendor Grosvenor, who was particularly interested in Van Dyck's early models, he took a chance and contacted him. Although the photographs were poor quality, Grosvenor was interested and asked to see higher-quality images. "I'm embarrassed to tell you that seven years later I followed up and had that painting and several others professionally photographed. And I sent him the photographs. He wrote back immediately, asking if I wished to have the painting looked at by an academic."
Scholar Rev. Dr. Susan J. Barnes worked with Roberts to authenticate the sketch: "Though the artist was about eighteen years old when he painted it (400 years ago), he was a precocious talent and already a master. The Roberts full-color and large-scale oil on canvas depicts an elderly man. It's a study for Van Dyck's finished painting of St. Jerome in the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam. Van Dyck painted his sketch from a living model, carefully rendering his furrowed, sun-weathered brow and time-worn body. His goal was to convey the sense of the saint as a real person— one with whom faithful viewers could identify and whom they could aspire to emulate."
Albany Institute of History & Art Executive Director Tammis K. Groft welcomes the opportunity to showcase this discovery and work with Roberts to arrange this special viewing. Groft first met Roberts in the late 1970s when she was a young curator at the Albany Institute and he was a member of the museum's Collections Committee. Over the years, they have fondly discussed art. "Al has a keen eye, photographic memory, and a passion for research," says Groft. "He is also a very patient man. In some cases, he conducts his research on what he describes as his 'orphaned art' for decades."
"Here at the museum, we are fortunate that Al has donated almost fifty paintings, sculptures, prints, textiles, furniture, ceramics, architectural details, and photographs, all with strong ties to the history of the upper Hudson Valley and with great stories to engage museum visitors of all ages," Groft continues. "This story is pretty exciting and we are thrilled to host the opportunity to display this remarkable find."
*Photo Credit: Study for Saint Jerome with an Angel
Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641)
Oil on canvas mounted to board
Collection of Albert B. Roberts