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Eilshemius Discovery by KMD–Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp

In our August 15, 2014 Exposition auction, we sold a small landscape painting attributed to the painter Louis Michel Eilshemius (1841-1941) titled On the Lake.

Attributed to Louis Michel Eilshemius (1864-1941): On the Lake, August 15, 2014, Lot 292, sold for $350.

Louis Eilshemius was an American painter of Swiss decent, born into a wealthy family from New Jersey and educated in Europe and at Cornell University. After two years at Cornell, he studied at the Art Students League of New York and privately with the landscape painter Robert Crannell Minor (1839-1904). He traveled and painted throughout Europe, Africa and the Pacific, before settling permanently in New York City at the Société Anonyme. His early work received little recognition and the idiosyncrasies of his personality and behavior led many to believe he was psychologically unstable.

He was, however, championed by French artist Marcel Duchamp who “discovered” him in 1917. In 1920, Duchamp helped arrange Eilshemius’ first solo exhibition in New York City. The critical response to this exhibition was not favorable, and though his 1924 exhibition was better-received, Eilshemius eventually gave up painting and became somewhat of a recluse until his death.

Eilshemius’ relationship with Duchamp was singularly important and will soon be fleshed out in a new scholarly publication being prepared at the KMD–Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp in Switzerland. This publication will contain new biographical information as well as newly discovered paintings and information about the artist’s work.

Portrait of Louis M. Eilshemius, 1942, Milton Avery (1885-1965), oil on canvas, 35 7/8 x 28 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Louis and Annette Kaufman.

The Kunsthalle contacted us regarding the On the Lake painting and shared with us the research information that the current owner discovered after the purchase last August. We were amazed and excited to learn that this small landscape painting is the same as the one pictured on an easel behind Eilshemius in a portrait of the artist painted by Milton Avery.

Our thanks to Stefan Banz, Director of the KMD–Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp, for sharing this information with us. We are always interested in seeing where works of art turn up after they leave our salesroom, and scholarly discoveries are even more exciting!

The Eilshemius publication is currently in production, its release date is not yet available.

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