Art Market: Tissot prints still hanging in the shadow of his paintings

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The Independent Online
CHRISTOPHER WOOD is not expecting to sell one of the 80 prints by Tissot, the 19th-century French artist, in his latest show - but the recession has nothing to do with it.

The prints - to be exhibited in his gallery in New Bond Street, London, from today - come from the private collection of Allan and Sondra Gotlieb, a Canadian former diplomat and his wife, who built up the collection over 20 years.

Although several important museums have shown the collection during its world-wide tour, Mr Wood said no British institutions had been interested in giving it wall space.

Tissot paintings are much admired, selling for millions at auction, but the artist's prints, despite his talent as an exquisite etcher, remain overshadowed.

The prices say it all: Phillips will next month offer one of Tissot's most beautiful paintings, Chrysanthemums - which has remained unexhibited and in private hands for more than a century - and the auction house expects it to make up to pounds 600,000. In contrast, the prints - despite their rarity and the high prices they fetched in the artist's own day - are relatively inexpensive, ranging from pounds 750 to pounds 5,000, though a particularly rare plate could make pounds 10,000.

Yet all the prints are echoes of his pictures: Tissot would etch subjects that he had already drawn or painted, pictures that reflected 'his pursuit of the ideal of feminine beauty', as Mr Gotlieb put it. It was in London in the 1860s and 1870s that the business- wise Tissot realised the potential of the buoyant reproduction engraving market.

At the last minute, and by sheer coincidence, Mr Wood said, he was offered a further 40 Tissot prints by an American collector: this collection will be for sale. Phillips will be offering its Tissot - whose vendor had no idea of its true worth until it was valued by them - on 14 December.

Bonhams has sold off the stock of another gallery that succumbed to the recession. Items went for knockdown prices: one picture sold for pounds 5, another for pounds 15 - a record for the lowest figures achieved at auction. The highest price was pounds 900 paid for 21 black and white photographs by Alexander Rodchenko, though, considering his usual popularity in the saleroom, they were expected to fetch up to pounds 1,800.

This was the stock of the Cooling Gallery, which was forced to close last April. Most of the works sold by Bonhams were by Russian artists unknown in Britain. There were no reserves because 'everything had to go'. The sale totalled pounds 15,378.

(Photograph omitted)