I’m a bit of a collector of stuff and I’m not at all particular about where it comes from. My little cabin is fully furnished courtesy of curbside pickup, the local online marketplace, second-hand shops and deceased estates, and it’s beautiful. Online auctions are my weakness, though. I love the hunt. When it comes to auctions I especially love the word Unreserved.
And so it was that I found myself at 12:40 am at the tail-end of an online auction full of original paintings and limited edition prints, where everything expensive and well-known had already been claimed for ridiculously high sums–and not by me. This auction was running hot. Way out of my league. But there was one print at the very end that I had my eye on. Signed limited edition. Numbered #1. Embellished. Already framed–plaster and gilt and suitable for any throne room. And no one seemed to want it.
The artist was Pino Daeni and the reason I wanted it was that Pino–an Italian–found himself in New York in the eighties working as a cover artist for all the big-name publishers. He painted–and I do mean painted in oils–over 1600 book covers. Wraparound covers, step-backs, clinches. Romance! Lots and lots of romance covers for all the big-name authors. I read somewhere that his wife used to read the stories aloud to him while he painted so that he would know what details to include. I love this story. I hope it’s true.
Pino was a classically trained commercial cover artist. An extraordinarily good painter of emotion wrung from the human form. In his later years, once he stopped painting covers to order (some sources say 1600 covers, some say over 3000 commercial book covers, flyers, illustrations, can you imagine?), he took his talents to the fine art world and exhibited widely and successfully. His work hangs in art galleries and private collections worldwide.
But at 12:40 am the other night, no one else looking at lot four-hundred-and-seventy-whatever was seeing what I saw. The beauty of romanticism, the honouring of the female form, the mastery of the brush, or the evolution of a trailblazing commercial romance-cover artist of the eighties and nineties.
I won the lot with a very modest bid. No reserve.
It was All Hallows Eve the other night and I wrote letters to my dead, and one to Pino also. I poured the wine and left it out just in case it’s a long time between drinks in the spirit world. My painting turned up the next morning.
It’s too heavy to hang without making sure it’s properly attached to the wall so it’s currently sitting on a bed in the spare room while I make way for it elsewhere, but I’m wholly in love with the artwork, the story, the acquisition process, and the joys of genuinely loving my stuff. No matter where I find it.
That is a lovely painting.
Lovely up close, far away, all the lovely