New Auction Record Set for a Jenness Cortez Painting

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According to the Perlmutter Gallery in Averill Park, New York, a new auction record was set for contemporary realist Jenness Cortez when her painting entitled “A Vision of Two Cultures” sold for $120,000 at the March 16, 2013 Russell Museum auction in Great Falls, Montana.

"A Vision of Two Cultures"

The paintings of Jenness Cortez make my heart sing.

Robert Yassin, former director of the Indianapolis and Tucson Museums of Art

According to the Perlmutter Gallery in Averill Park, New York, a new auction record was set for contemporary realist Jenness Cortez when her painting entitled “A Vision of Two Cultures” sold for $120,000 at the March 16, 2013 Russell Museum auction in Great Falls, Montana. Total sales for the annual Russell Museum fundraising event grossed a total of $3.6 million.

“This record-setting price for a Cortez painting is a testament to this artist’s incredible talent,” said Leonard Perlmutter, founder of Perlmutter Gallery in Averill Park, New York, the exclusive representative of Jenness Cortez. “For centuries, artists have been challenging their intellects and skills by paying homage to the painters who preceded them. Now, through her “homage to the creative spirit” series, Jenness Cortez has emerged as the twenty-first century’s most notable exponent of this facet of art history. Her masterful work gives Cortez solid footing in the colorful lineage of artists who have appropriated vintage images and woven them into their own distinctive, recognizable fabric.”

As in all of her recent still life and interior paintings, Cortez reexamines the classic paradox of realism: the painting both as a “window” into an imagined space and as a physical object. Her work challenges the viewers’ intellectual curiosity and celebrates the sheer pleasure of beautiful painting. In her works, Cortez plays author, architect, visual journalist, art historian, curator and pundit to help open our eyes to what we might otherwise have overlooked or taken for granted.

In “A Vision of Two Cultures,” Cortez places C.M. Russell’s 25-foot masterpiece Lewis and Clark Meeting the Indians at Ross’ Hole (1912) at the center of the composition. The Russell painting hangs above a bookshelf upon which sit a group of objects in a shallow space. The objects that Cortez chose to include in her work include Charles Willson Peale’s portraits of William Clark (1810) and Meriwether Lewis (1807); Edward Curtis’s photograph of Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph (1903); a bowl of pink flowers; a stack of books topped by William Clark’s 1803 silver pocket compass made by Thomas Whitney; a Jefferson Peace Medal embellished with Indian quillwork and feathers; a photograph of Russell; and a prehistoric Puebloan Wingate black-on-red pottery vessel (c. 1150 A.D.) containing artist brushes. Books on Lewis and Clark, George Catlin, Charles Russell, Thomas Jefferson, and similar topics line the shelf below, accompanied by a Blackfeet parfleche (c. 1880).

Cortez’s title, “A Vision of Two Cultures,” offers a clue to the meaning of the painting. Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the territory west of the Mississippi marked the beginning of the end of Indian sovereignty, and Charles Russell’s painting underscores their tragic loss.

“Perhaps because Lewis and Clark Meeting the Indians at Ross’ Hole was commissioned by the state of Montana and destined to hang in the state’s legislative chambers,” writes historian James P. Ronda (in The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell, edited by Joan C. Troccoli, pp. 203–204), “Russell seemed determined to use it to make a public statement about the history of the West. . . . On the right, almost lost in the painting, stand Lewis, Clark, York, and the expedition’s Shoshone interpreter. The Salish and their horses are the narrative focal point, . . . [reminding] us that before Lewis and Clark arrived in what later became Montana, people with a history were already living there. . . . By placing Indians at the center of his most significant expedition painting and making Native people tell the story, Russell offers us a lesson in balance and honesty”—a “vision of two cultures” at a crossroads in American history.

Commenting about Cortez’s achievement, Bruce Helander, editor of "The Art Economist," proclaims that her work has, “an uncommon virtuosity and romance that make this unique artist a national treasure.” Robert Yassin, former director of the Indianapolis and Tucson Museums of Art writes that, “The paintings of Jenness Cortez make my heart sing. It’s my way of knowing the genuine article––a real work of art. The choice of the painting reproduced, the elements surrounding it, the space the elements occupy, the lighting, the color, everything is carefully selected and orchestrated following a fully articulated plan.” The result is not only an all-star portrayal of the art of art, but also a beautiful painting that never fails to dazzle the eye and inspire contemplation.”

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Elaine Peterson
Perlmutter Gallery
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