“It’s the intricacy of the top half of the painting that makes this work such a success: the patina on the buildings accented by periodic window boxes, lanterns…and yes, French flag-colored laundry.”
A Flowered City
The Old Town of Annecy, France still has cobblestone streets: the market is open on Tuesdays—when it’s mostly food and produce; and the Friday and Sunday markets include textiles and manufactured goods. Annecy is in the French Alps, just 22 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland. Sandwiched between mountains and lake, its population has stayed small, and it has enough green space to have recently been named one of France’s “most flowered cities.” So it’s no surprise that Mary Hulings put it on the list to investigate. It looks like this scene could have happened on a Tuesday: the stalls are packed with vegetables and flowers.
Clark Hulings was in France for a month in the Spring of 1997 and went back to Europe for five weeks in the fall, so this 30 x 44″ oil, Annecy Market , could have been inspired by either of those trips. Although, knowing Hulings, it’s entirely possible that there are one or more elements from his library of source material from both trips, and possibly years before. At this point, Hulings was 75 and still in the prime of his long career—two years away from a major solo show with Nedra Matteucci galleries in Santa Fe.
In Good Company
Hulings’ market scenes are classic subject matter for good reason: they are masterfully sophisticated architecturally and structurally—here, the vanishing point is the corner between the “Antiquités” building and the adjacent one with the two stone arches, and the market plays out in front of it. This is reminiscent of his Vucciria Market, Palermo, a previous top seller at The Scottsdale Art Auction.
Hulings builds the visual complexity with the layout of the produce and flower displays, the wooden crates, and the umbrellas. But it’s the intricacy of the top half of the painting, rendered with equal attention and skill that makes this work such a success: the patina on the buildings created by years of weather on their wild medley of stucco, stone, wood, and brick, accented by periodic window boxes, lanterns…and yes, French flag colored laundry.
Crowded Placemaking, A la Français
The human factor is always present in a Hulings painting. Even in the rare ones that have no figures he still shows us commerce, craft, industry, and culture. Here, though, there are at least fifteen figures, not including the King Charles Spaniel and a couple of scavenging pigeons—strategically placed to pull your eye around the painting. That’s right, *15 figures*, grouped usefully into duos transacting business or just enjoying a social chat.
There is just so much to see here: if the true test of a painting you’d like to own is if you would keep coming back to it, you could be unravelling this story for years. *Update* Annecy Market sold successfully at The Scottsdale Art Auction Saturday April 9th, 2002! Congratulations to the new owners.
If the original work is not in your budget, you can still take home Annecy Market in A Gallery of Paintings.