Human Flower Project
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Cortes’ ‘Flower Market’: $40,600 of Goodwill
A painting of one of Paris’ flower markets gets dropped off at the thrift shop, then routed to Sotheby’s.
“Marche aux Fleurs” by Edouard Leon Cortes
Photo: Associated Press
We hope Edouard Leon Cortes had a sense of whimsy. One of his paintings, Marche aux fleurs (Flower Market), wound up on the pile of donations at Easton, Maryland’s Goodwill store. The staff ordinarily would have priced a genre scene like this for around $100 and hung it up for sale, but somebody noted the old frame, the brass nameplate, and figured they’d do some checking. Eventually, experts at Sotheby’s auction house were called in and confirmed this was an original work by the 20th Century impressionist.
At auction several weeks ago, the piece brought $40,600, selling to an anonymous buyer who outbid Howard Rehs, a dealer who specializes in Cortes paintings.
Edouard Cortes (1882-1969) worked throughout Paris in its heyday (when Sartre and Hemingway were hanging out at Les Deux Magots). And his works have a definite souvenir-shop quality. There are glances of the city’s monuments with faceless bustle in the foreground. Cafes are lit up as night falls. A late-pointillist style is partly what gives his work a generic quality. Also, he tends to recycle compositional devices (in keeping with our Goodwill theme). One of his favorite tricks was to juxtapose the city’s grey skies with a little splash of color, both literal and figurative: he often spots a flower seller’s cart on a street corner.
“Concorde and Rue Royale, 1900” by Edouard Leon Cortes (c. 1957)
Photo: Rehs Galleries
This piece is a bit livelier, in that the flower cart appears to be racing a horse-drawn carriage and barrelling right toward the viewer down Rue Royale.
We suppose one reason the Cortes painting was dismissed is its featuring of the flower market. The subject has become a commonplace—innocuous, some would say, and too “pretty” to be taken for serious art. Without taking that straw man on, let’s just say that $40,600 is serious money! Congratulations to the Easton Goodwill for this human flower windfall. Terri Tonelli, store manager, told the Baltimore Sun, “We just lucked upon an opportunity to increase our ability to give back.”