When a human being applies creative skill to shaping the material world with the intention of communicating their particular experience of it, the outcome is art. We make art in the form of paintings and furniture and poetry and gardens and jewelry and food and on and on as far as the imagination stretches. And yet linguistic efficiency demands that we apply the shorthand of the word “art” more narrowly. And so we most closely associate “art” with its visual representations and then must make the mental leap between paint and canvas and other art forms.
In the wine world, art is the winemaker’s interpretation of the land and the harvest in liquid form. In order to drive home the connection between what’s in the bottle and “art”, wineries simply put “art” on their labels. The near-complete roster of Taittinger Collection bottles, and a long list of Mouton Rothschild - the original wine/art collaboration - in our December 3rd Fine Wine Auction
had us delving into the root of what has become a tradition of commissioning artists to create works for wine labels.
In 1945, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who was Jewish, returned to a freshly liberated France from England, where he had fled to serve in General de Gaulle’s resistance after being arrested in Algeria by the Vichy government. His estranged wife, who converted to Judaism to marry him, was arrested by the Gestapo and died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The Chateau Mouton Rothschild had been occupied and used as a headquarters by the Wehrmacht, and the vineyards decimated. There was little left in the way of grapes or morale with which to produce a 1945 vintage of Mouton. It was therefore with heartbreaking spirit and resolve that the Baron, a great art lover, commissioned the obscure artist Philippe Julian to create a label for the ‘45 Mouton Rothschild boasting Churchill’s “V” for victory.