Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fine Art: Old Lviv

(Click image to view large; see closeups, below)

Prior to my divorce, during the worst of times, my husband at the time was having the time of his life, traveling, meeting people, and spending money like we were rich. On one such trip to San Francisco, he returned with an original oil painting he had bought at a gallery there. He gave it to me saying he knew how I loved street scenes. It was beautiful. But I was angry. He'd spent an outrageous sum of money on it. We aren't people who own artwork that costs that kind of money! (That's how I thanked him.)

I was sick. Our savings were dwindling fast on episodes like this. I had no appreciation for the beauty, only how it was further adding to what would surely be financial ruin for us. I determined not long afterward to file for divorce, with plenty of grounds, not the least of which was self-preservation. I decided the painting must be sold. But it stayed in my house through the separation and divorce.

It was an unframed oil on canvas. I finally had it framed and determined to have it appraised. One gallery I took it to said it was a fine contemporary work and could be of interest to collectors of Russian art, of which there are a number in our area. A good friend who is an accomplished painter himself examined it and gave me his opinion of a value about 25 to 40 percent higher than it's original price. Still I didn't try to sell it. I kept it in a padded slipcover I had made for it to keep out dust and prevent damage while transporting. It now leans against the wall in my office.

Here's what little I know about the painting. There is an inscription written by hand on the back of the canvas in a language I don't recognize, even in a different alphabet. I asked my friend from (Republic of) Georgia who also speaks Russian if she could translate if for me, and luckily she could. It is in Ukranian and similar enough to Russian that she could make it out. She told me the artist is Ukrainian artist V. A. Demchak. I can find nothing on the internet about her, but I know only she is a woman who has a gallery in San Francisco. The inscription says “Old Lviv, Stock Exchange on Akademichniy Street, (2004)". Lviv (also called Lvov) is a city in Ukraine. The inscription also says 60 x 90 cm (unframed) which we determined was the canvas size (I think framed it's about 24" x 36").

I've included some close ups of parts of it so show some of the fine details. The photos here don't really do justice to the sharpness of the fine lines.

Nicholas' post today at Intelliblog inspired me to show this and write about it. It is interesting for me to see how my feelings toward this painting have mellowed. I managed to survive financially and am doing just fine. The money spent on the painting and many other things is long gone and can never be recovered. But I do have a painting to show for it. And it is lovely.

Now I may not sell it. Not right away at least. I suppose there is no harm in owning one piece of very fine art.  Since I own it, I may as well hang it up and enjoy it. And I know where it will be. I'm moving my hutch out of my dining room to the empty space between living room and dining room, and the bare wall that remains will feature this painting. It will be lovely when my remodeling is done.

Click images to view larger.  In some of the close ups you see the grain of the canvas due to reflection of the camera's flash. 


nuwitaivottsi said...

Irina and I travelled to Lviv many times during the year I lived in Rivne. It became our favorite city in Ukraine. When we looked at the painting we knew exactly where it was. The church spire in the distance is the Latin Cathedral and the tower to the left is the Boim Chapel. The street in the painting still looks like that except that the bottom layer of all the buildings is filled with modern shops. Just on the other side of the Latin Cathedral is the old Rynek (Market Square)--all of whose buildings were built before 1600. Thanks for sharing this beautiful painting. Looking at it brought back the most wonderful memories of our favorite city in Ukraine.

Becky Stauffer said...

I'm in the midst of remodeling now, but maybe when I'm finished, after the first of the year, you and your wife could come and see it. It really is a remarkable painting and far beyond anything I would hope to own.

For some reason it really touches me to know someone who has been there and knows something about this place. Thank you for looking at it and telling me a little more.

nuwitaivottsi said...

If you go to my Facebook page, I have an entire photo album dedicated to Lviv (Lvov is the Russian name of the city and is no longer used). On the first page of thumbnails, on the bottom row in the middle is the Latin Cathedral that you see in the painting. There are several photos of the Rynek, but I don't have a photo of the street in the painting.

Lviv is interesting because it was Austrian until after WWI, then it was Polish until 1939. But throughout this time, Lviv was the center of the Ukrainian-speaking world (basically western Ukraine--eastern Ukraine was always more Russian). Because of that, the Soviets ignored Lviv. That was a blessing because the Soviet bulldozers also ignored Lviv and there is more of the old city architecture still standing here than anywhere else in Ukraine. Many tourists compare it favorably to Prague.

Becky Stauffer said...

That explains why my Georgian friend whose mother was Russian insisted on calling it Lvov, but I found Lviv everywhere on the internet.

I just visited your fb photos. Lviv is a beautiful old city. How fortunate it was spared destruction during the soviet years. I can see architechural similarities in the buildings in the painting with many of your photos.

This painting is tied to such an emotional and traumatic time of my life and has held so much mystery too. It is surprising to suddenly learn so much about the subject.

Thank you for sharing your photos. It is a beautiful city, indeed. The invitation stands. It would be nice to meet you and Irina and learn more about your adventures in Lviv.

nuwitaivottsi said...

We, of course, would be happy for a "private viewing" of this lovely painting when you're ready. Vincent Price was an avid art collector. I was watching him on the Tonight Show once when Carson asked him, "How do you choose a piece of art?" Price's response was heartfelt, "I only buy a piece of art if it speaks to me, if I like it." I'm glad to hear that my stories and photos of Lviv have allowed the painting to speak to you more.

Nicholas V. said...

Becky, this is indeed a fine painting and I am glad that your feelings about it have mellowed. I hope that as time goes by you will see it as a symbol of all that was good in your ex-husband, rather than as a manifestation of his thoughtless extravagance.

Generally the passage of time is a blessing and it tends to blunt our anger (no matter how justified it was), diminish our rage and mellow our ill feeling, bringing to the fore the nostalgic remembrance of good times long gone.

I hope also that you see in it your own strength and courage, and you regard it as a symbol of your new life.

Becky Stauffer said...

That is exactly how I see it, Nicholas. Even before my husband died last July, I had long since gotten past my anger and was able to see the pain in his own life that drove him to that behavior. We were reconciled as friends though with separate lives. And you are right, the painting now represents good things in my new life, too. I will surely enjoy it.