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By Elizabeth & David / Atelier Bleu
Atelier Bleu: the story behind the pictures
In my former life I was a scientist and a caterer, working in London, Paris, and Saudi Arabia. My partner, David, was a professor of law and practising commercial lawyer, in London, Philadelphia, and California. Whatever led us to start a business curating and selling art? We can both claim to have art in our genes – my mother is a well-known Sussex artist and David’s brother is (so he says!) the third most famous artist in Australia! But really it was simply a shared love of beautiful things, particularly paintings. I have a good eye for colour and arrangement and David is an expert joiner, so it seemed like a happy meeting place. And so it has proved.
What do we look for when building our stock of pictures? First of all, it must be something that we would be happy to hang in our own home. This has proved so much to be the case that we are really sad to see any piece leave us, although it is a great consolation to know it will continue to be loved! Secondly, it must be something to which we can add value, by renovating, refurbishing, or resetting, with new frame and fittings. We are not interested in just buying in and selling on. My mother is a first-rate restorer of damaged pictures, and all our frames are completely hand-made, from the initial selection of suitable wood to the application of the final wax polish.
We acquire our stock from a variety of sources, often abroad. Sweden, France and the United States have been fruitful locations for us so far, but we have found beautiful pieces in Mexico, Ukraine, Italy and the far East too. We tend not to buy at auctions, as they are replete with dealers and often overpriced. We have found the odd bargain, however. Once we bought a large three-headed papier mache quail that no one else would bid for – the auctioneer even laughed as he knocked it down to us. It turned out to be a Bustamante original, and worth, well, certainly the price of being laughed at!
We occasionally buy frames, in order to replicate the moulding, or simply to restore a particularly beautiful or unusual piece. These we keep in the fond hope that a painting will come along to which they are perfectly suited! But usually it is picture first, frame second. We agonise over our choice of moulding for each piece, and then over it’s finished colour or colours. Often we change either or both more than once. We do have our favourites, which we know are perfect for a particular type of artwork, but – as with the artwork itself – we are always looking out for something new and refreshing. Our aim and intention is to offer the collector original artwork of character, interest, and lasting value.