Best Of The Best 2006: Richard Green Art Galleries
The ambitious group portrait demands attention. It depicts two daughters, two sons, and their mother and father in a forested park beneath a twilight sky. Flanked by dogs, the boys stride in from the left as if they are returning triumphant from a hunt; the younger of the two hoists the kill, a rabbit. Both girls pose near a fountain, an apparent reference to the purity that water would have symbolized at the time the 607¼8-by-67-inch canvas was painted, in the mid-1670s. The parents sit at the fountain’s base, directly below a statue of Cupid, an unmistakable comment on the state of their union.
The family is anonymous, but the artist is Nicolaes Maes, a former apprentice of Rembrandt’s and the leading portraitist in Amsterdam during the 1670s. The picture is one of many exquisite works offered by London dealer Richard Green. Indeed, his gallery may contain 1,000 paintings at any given time. In addition to selling the paintings of old masters such as Maes, Green deals in modern British, Victorian, Impressionist, and European works, as well as marine paintings and sporting art.
Degas charcoal sketches of ballerinas, J.M.W. Turner watercolors, and oil paintings of equestrian scenes by Sir Alfred Munnings fall under Green’s purview, but not under one roof. The dealer maintains three galleries in the Mayfair section of London: 33 New Bond Street is devoted to old masters; 39 Dover Street, which is within walking distance of New Bond Street, concentrates on Victorian and European artworks; and the 147 New Bond Street location handles all other categories.
Now 70, Richard Green founded his first gallery at the age of 18. Though he is reticent (Green declined to grant an interview for this article), his success speaks for itself: He is estimated to have sold more than $166 million worth of art in 2003. “Dad was very busy as an art dealer, building [the gallery] up from small beginnings,” says Green’s eldest son and the galleries’ managing director, Jonathan, recalling his childhood. “I didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked to, but [I realized that] one way of building the relationship was by going into the business.”
Jonathan’s interest in art was kindled during trips that he and Richard took to museums and weekend auctions. Richard’s younger sons, Matthew and David, followed Jonathan’s lead, becoming deputy managing director and codirector, respectively. Also, Richard’s brother, John, and sister, Penny Marks, work alongside him as codirectors. Jonathan says every family member is a utility player, capable of assisting in any art genre that the three galleries handle. “We run as a team,” he says. “Whether we’re selling old masters or modern British paintings, it doesn’t matter.”