Exhibition Galleries of Edward Brandus
In 1894, Edward Brandus opened his New York City location at 391 Fifth Avenue, between 36th and 37th Street. He specialized in European paintings executed by the old masters as well as modern artists. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), on June 18, 1911, “Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes,” the “well-known French art expert, Edward Brandus” was quoted as saying:
There are often fashions in art. A name will bring a high price at one period and not at another. Many fine painters are neglected for years, to come suddenly into recognition. But works of art which lean directly on nature survive fashions. (Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes)
Transatlantic collecting was opening new markets (Ott, 135). French dealers, known for their elegance and style, were anxious to provide guidance to collectors, who were ready to spend their newly made fortunes on furnishing their homes, for selecting paintings (Whitmore, 56). In the NYT interview, Brandus continued, “Great paintings which bring high prices are by degrees coming to America,” (Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes). As a dealer in Paris, Brandus recognized this opportunity and he opened his American branch, while he maintained his gallery in Paris.
Brandus, born in Paris in 1857, was the son of Gemmy Brandus, the owner and founder of a successful music publishing house in France. The young Brandus received his primary education in France, followed by studies in London at St. John’s Collegiate School. In 1880, at the age of twenty-three, he made his first trip abroad to the western United States and South America with a group of European capitalists, who were investigating mining interests. In the next years, he made numerous trips between America and France. His family connections helped him obtain the position of the General Agent for the French Copyright Company, which protected the interests of French painters and authors in the United States. In the same year, 1886, he established Edward Brandus & Company, a publishing house for French books being translated into English. This venture proved successful and he branched into the art market, opening the Exhibition Galleries of Edward Brandus in 1894. Through his many European acquaintances, he was able to acquire pieces of art, import them to the United States, and sell them at a good profit (The Successful American, 60).
Besides selling directly from his New York location, Brandus sold his inventory at various auctions. His first auction was held April 16, 1896, followed by annual spring sales in 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1914. In the April 17, 1907, auction catalog, the introduction written by James B. Townsend illustrates the great talent Brandus had in building a collection for the American taste. From the catalog preface:
It is not often that the close of an Art Season in New York brings to the auction room so many and such varied and interesting canvases, representing such widely different schools and periods as those which make up the collection formed by Mr. Edward Brandus, of Paris and New York… American art lovers are eclectic in their tastes and inclinations. They do not confine their study or collecting to the art of any country, period or school. (Fifth Avenue Art Galleries)
Following an accident, Brandus closed his New York branch and returned to his Paris home to convalesce. (The Brandus Paintings: Sale of Collection of Old Masters Begins To-night). When his health had improved, he returned to New York to open his galleries again. He selected a location further uptown at 712 Fifth Avenue, between 55th and 56th Street. This address placed his new business in close proximity to other galleries, including Joseph Brummer Galleries and the Anderson Galleries.
In 1910, the Exhibition Galleries of Edward Brandus held two special shows. The first, Exhibition of Paintings by George Inness, Jr. held January 3 to 15, 1910, showcased forty-two canvases. In 1899, this exhibition was held at the Georges Petit Galleries in Paris. The catalog for the 1910 exhibition has been digitized for the Documenting the Gilded Age project (see illustrations). Brandus and George Inness, Jr., knew each other from Paris. Inness, Jr., was born in Paris and studied under his father, the landscape painter George Inness. The show evoked a chorus of praise from the French critics (Exhibition of Paintings by George Inness, Jr.). The second, an exhibition celebrating the Spanish artist Luis Graner was held March 24, to April 2, 1910. Brandus introduced Graner to the American public (Exhibition of Paintings by Luis Graner). The catalog for this show has also been digitized (see illustrations).
The last major auction held at the Exhibition Galleries of Edward Brandus was a two day sale in March of 1914. He sold 122 paintings for a total of $79,920 (Brandus Paintings Sold for $79,320). After closing his New York location, Brandus continued to deal in European masters. In addition to European masters, he looked to the future and recognized the importance of the American School, “which is the newest in the world of art,” (Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes). He encouraged collectors to purchase the works of American artists (Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes).Brandus, was not only a gallery owner, but he was also an art adviser and agent for collectors and other galleries. He knew the value of a trusting relationship and felt “the life of a dealer is one long effort after absolute accuracy,” (Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes). After being active in New York for more than two decades, Brandus returned to France and died there in 1937.
—. “The Brandus Paintings: Sale of Collection of Old Masters Begins To-night,” New York Times. 9 Mar 1904. Web. 23 Nov 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50A16FA39541B728DDDA00894DB405B848CF1D3>
—. “Brandus Paintings Sold for $79,320,” New York Times. 14 Mar 1914. Web. 8 Aug 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F10E14FA385A12738DDDAD0994DB405B848DF1D3>
—. “Edward Brandus,” The Successful American. Jan 1903: 60. Web. 23 Nov 2012. <http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433000047914;seq=68;view=1up;num=60>
—. “Paintings Bought for a Song, Sold for Fortunes,” New York Times. 18 Jun 1911.
Web. 10 Sep 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive- free/pdf?res=F70E1EF63B5517738DDDA10994DE405B818DF1D3>
Fifth Avenue Art Galleries. Catalogue of the Collection of Modern and Ancient Paintings Belonging to Mr. Edward Brandus. New York: Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, April 17, 1907. Print.
Ott, John. “How New York Stole the Luxury Art Market: Blockbuster Auctions and Bourgeois Identity in Gilded Age America.” Winterthur Portfolio 42.2/3 (2008): 133–58. Print.
Whitmore, Janet L. “Transatlantic Collecting: Paris to Minneapolis.” Twenty-first Century Perspectives on Nineteenth-century Art: Essays in honor of Gabriel P. Weisberg. Petra te-Doesschate Chu and Laurinda S. Dixon, eds. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008. 56–63. Print.