Across some 40 years, Stanford Z. Rothschild, Jr. assembled a striking collection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper by masters of the art-historical canon. The Baltimore native was especially drawn to artists whose work was both intellectually rigorous and historically provocative, including Claude Monet, Robert Delaunay, Camille Pissarro, and Russian artists of the 20th century.
On 13 and 14 November, key pieces from his collection will be offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening, Day and Works on Paper sales at Christie’s in New York.
Among Rothschild’s major Impressionist acquisitions were two key works by Claude Monet. The earliest of these, La Pointe du Petit Ailly, above, was executed during the artist’s 1897 trip to the fishing village of Pourville — a town in which he had worked for nearly six months in 1882. ‘I am enchanted to see once more so many things that I did here 15 years ago,’ Monet wrote in February 1896. The Normandy coast had been the site of some of his earliest experiments, and his return to Pourville gave him the opportunity to re-engage with motifs that had been instrumental to his evolution.
Le Rio de la Salute (above), the second Monet highlight of the Rothschild collection, was painted in 1908 during his only journey to Venice. Then 68 years old and France’s most acclaimed artist, Monet had qualms about attempting to represent a city that was, as he lamented, ‘too beautiful to be painted’. But he lost no time in staking out new visual territory. Rather than charting changes in light from morning to evening, he adopted a radically anti-Impressionist strategy: painting each site at a single moment in the day.
Between November 1900 and May 1903, Camille Pissarro produced some five dozen paintings of the panorama visible from his Paris apartment. Le Pont-Neuf, effet de neige et brouillard (below), from 1902, bursts with the bustling energy of pedestrians and carriages. This canvas is likely to have been one of 13 paintings Pissarro included in a joint exhibition with Monet that year.
Maximilien Luce wanted his art to convey the experience of modern urban living. Une Cuisine (1888-89), below, a further key Impressionist work from the Rothschild collection, reflects Luce’s keen interest in the Divisionist technique, whereby pigment is applied to canvas in separate dabs. Here, the technique is applied to a quotidian scene.
The Rothschild collection also includes a particularly fine selection of works on paper spanning some 50 years. One of the earliest of these, Vincent van Gogh’s Hoofd van een visser, driekwart naar rechts gekeerd (1883), below, belongs to a series of drawings the artist dedicated to the figure of the fisherman.
Shown in three-quarter profile, a man poses in traditional fisherman’s clothing. Van Gogh considered such drawings to be important studies that allowed him to master his technique as a draughtsman, while bringing him closer to the working class subjects he sought to depict.
The disembodied human head is a key image in Odilon Redon’s iconography. Floating in space, the wide-eyed face in the artist’s mystical Figure portant une tête ailée (circa 1876), above, pays homage to the inner self. Redon equipped the head with a winged helmet, signifying the flight of thought and imagination.
Figure portant une tête ailée shows the artist using pastel colours for the first time on a large scale. Prior to working in pastel, Redon cultivated a small but dedicated clientele who delighted in collecting his grotesque, even macabre ‘noirs’ — drawings in richly layered charcoal, black chalk, and conté crayon, as well as lithographs.
Like his fellow Cubist Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque sought to revolutionise traditional notions of perception and perspective. In Guitare et journal: STAL (1913), above, he depicts two ordinary objects, a guitar and a newspaper, which reflect his interest in the everyday. Intriguingly, a drawing on the reverse is a copy of the head of Picasso’s 1910 masterpiece Jeune fille a la mandoline (Fanny Tellier), now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The striking modernity of the Eiffel Tower was a preoccupation of Robert Delaunay throughout his career. He first painted the tower in 1911-12, and this subject guided him to the cutting edge of Cubism. During the interwar years the iconic structure remained at the centre of his artistic world — the bird’s-eye view seen in La Tour Eiffel (1928), above, created with the aid of an aerial photograph, is one of two vantage points that Delaunay employed in his treatment of this motif during the 1920s.
Wassily Kandinsky’s 1929 watercolour, Bestimmt, above, reflects the theory of abstract form that he had published three years earlier. The work is a play of opposites: its soft, warm tones contrast with the composition’s stark, hard-edged geometry, which together give expression to Kandinsky’s intention that his paintings become complete ‘worlds’ in themselves.
Kandinsky’s Bauhaus colleague Paul Klee was at the peak of his career when he executed Unerfülltes, below, in 1930. That year, Klee produced a number of pieces based on precise three-dimensional studies of colour planes. Some of these are purely geometric; others, like Unerfülltes, are figurative and lyrical — even humorous.
For Stanford Z. Rothschild, Jr., art was a rich and challenging source of inspiration — a means of interacting with the ideas and individuals that shaped the world. As he developed as a collector, recalls his daughter Ellen Rothschild Dame, ‘his passion for learning about the origin and historical significance of the work blossomed.’
‘It was not only about the beauty,’ adds David Rothschild, the collector’s son. ‘It was about the purpose, the political meaning, and the intent. It was beyond the aesthetic.’