Eye on the World

Ella Richardson brings international artists to Charleston


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Lindsay Goodwin’s oil on canvas, Dining at Ladurée, depicts an empty salon de thé in Paris. The tables are double-draped with linens, crisp napkins wait at the ready, goblets sparkle and candles glow on a fireplace mantel, softly illuminating the pastel walls and ceiling. Elegant moments are about to happen. I feel like a little girl peeking into a grownup world before being sent to bed ahead of the arrival of guests. Whether set in a small French chapel or the dining room of an old Grand Hotel, all of Lindsay’s impressionistic paintings capture that fleeting moment where everything is lovely and all is right with the world.

I’m standing in Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art on Broad Street, and gallery owner Ella Richardson tells me that that she opened the gallery because she wanted to bring international artists into a predominately regional art market. “In 2000, Charleston galleries featured mostly regional artists,” Richardson says. “This gallery is unusual because it represents European artists painting local subject matter and American artists painting international scenes.”

The gallery features realist, impressionist and abstract paintings by artists from America, Holland and Russia and is a favorite stop for collectors who want to invest in art that they will enjoy living with and passing down. It’s an elegant space with almost-invisible touches that make it comfortable and perfectly functional. The full kitchen in the back corner may be the first hint that the space is built for gatherings, but look closer and you’ll see that it has all the elements of a real home. There are two working fireplaces, sofas, ledges low enough for buffets and even a claw-foot tub in the bathroom.

Richardson met Goodwin, a California artist, through Craig Nelson, another California artist she represents. “I knew right away that her work is special,” she says. Nelson was Goodwin’s teacher at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, so our conversation turns to works from his recent show, An English Perspective.

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In his impressionistic painting St. James Tavern, warm yellow light spills from a handsome tavern while passersby gather outside in a convivial ritual as old as whiskey itself. In Sundown in Bourton, Nelson captures the last of the winter sunlight as it fades from a wintery Cotswold village. The artist is also the department chairman of Fine Arts, Drawing and Painting at the Academy of Art University, and his long list of commissions includes works for the private collections of Count Basie and Frank Sinatra.

Another winter tableau catches my eye, the work of Russian-born artist Aleksander Titovets. Sunny Alley puts the viewer at the beginning of a long avenue of trees. A woman in red winter boots walks down the path through fresh snow toward a welcoming red barn. It is a refreshing change of scenery, and when I’m done looking, I feel like I’ve been somewhere else. Lyuba Titovets, Aleksander’s wife, is also represented by the gallery, and her vibrant still lifes are a quiet riot of color and texture. The Titovetses live in El Paso, Texas, and are well known for their Russian Impressionist style.

Richardson has one more surprise for me. Around the corner, in Honfleur Waterfront, realistic painters Evgeny and Lydia Baranov have captured a row of tiny sailboats, neatly lined up along the water’s edge as if at rest from a long day. Late afternoon sun washes over buildings as crowds gather along the sidewalks and in the café. As I look, Ella knows what I want to ask. “They paint together. At the same time, on the same canvas,” she says with a smile. “It’s very rare.” The Baranovs are also Russian-born but live in Pebble Beach, California. They are both architects, which explains the stunning detail in their work.

As I leave, I feel as if I’ve been somewhere else; a sure sign of remarkable art and a well-curated gallery.

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Charleston. See more of her work at www.robinhowardwrites.com

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