On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Estate of the artist.
Sam Salz Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, 1 June 1953.
The buyers of Lots 1-28 are requested to make payment by bank transfer as follows:
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SWIFT Code: LOYDGB2LCTY
Sort Code: 30 12 18
For the Account of Christie's Inc.- FBO Brody
Account number: 11654128
Reference: Sale# 2410, Lot# __
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Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody
The Property of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody: A Personal Reminiscence by Christopher Burge, Christie's Honorary Chairman
I was privileged to meet Frances Brody for the first time at her elegant Los Angeles house, in the fall of 1978. The meeting began inauspiciously as she was convinced, in spite of my letter of introduction, that I was a jewelry specialist; and she had laid out her diamonds on the dining table for my inspection.
Once we had cleared this awkward hurdle, she graciously took me through the house to admire, as I did unreservedly, her magnificent paintings and sculpture. I was, of course, well aware that some of the collection had been sold a year earlier, in October 1977: indeed, I had attended the auction at Parke-Bernet, which included, amongst many others, important paintings by Matisse and Courbet, a gorgeous Tahitian Gauguin fan and perhaps Modigliani's chef d'oeuvre, his outsized portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne in a brilliant red shawl. It was all the more astonishing, therefore, to find the California house still replete with art of the greatest distinction.
Here was Picasso's erotic but tender love poem to Marie-Thérèse Walter. Executed in the largest scale Picasso used at this time, the Brody picture is one of a number of superb portraits of her the artist made in 1932 when, having just turned fifty, he was preparing for his major retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. This is a tour de force even by Picasso's standards, driven as he was to prove to the world that he was as creative as ever at this age. One "of the most memorable paintings of a memorable series," as John Richardson has written, it is a masterpiece by any measure.
Nearby hung another extraordinary work of art: Matisse's Nu au coussin bleu of 1924, the Michelangelesque seated nude with her elbows raised behind her head in a favorite pose, one used again by the artist for a celebrated lithograph of the identical subject and also for one of his most important sculptures, the Grand nu assis. This was as good a Matisse oil as any in a private American collection at the time.
Every room revealed fruits of sophisticated connoisseurship: Vuillard's striking early self-portrait, for one; Ensor's charming small still life for another, a great late Braque still life of 1954 is only now coming in to its own.
And then there was the sculpture: two of Giacometti's greatest bronzes, his Le Chat (then prowling in the garden!) and his Grande tête mince, two inspired acts of collecting confidence at the time of purchase; a beautifully chosen array of Henry Moore at his very best, a perfect hand worked Marini bronze of a horse and rider, fine works by Degas and Calder, and not to be forgotten, the great Matisse ceramic tile composition, La Gerbe, in the courtyard outside, the unifying force in this harmonious synthesis of art and architecture.
It was only later that I learned of the "dynastic" collecting tradition in the family, initiated by Frances Brody's parents, Albert and Mary Lasker, whose extraordinary Impressionist and Modern painting collection was one of the finest in the United States. But whatever influence the Laskers, and others, may have had on the Brodys' fledgling forays into the art market--a profound shared interest in the work of Matisse seems to be the most obvious--Sidney and Frances Brody struck out on their own to create a markedly beautiful and original collection, as original, in fact, as the daring modernist house, in which it was shown to such advantage. I was privileged to have seen it then and am honored to work with it now, together with my colleagues worldwide and Susan L. Brody, Special Art Trustee, to aide in its dispersal to a new generation of collectors.
A History of the Brody Collection
One cannot fully appreciate the Brody collection without first considering the tremendous legacy of collecting which informs it. When Albert and Mary Lasker acquired two oil paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1944, a commitment to collecting the finest examples of European art from the 19th and 20th Centuries was born. The Lasker Collection was built in a short eight year span, demonstrating a dedication to collecting and building a family tradition which is the foundation of the Brody Collection as it appears today.
It was Albert and Mary who suggested Frances and Sidney collect art, but it was Frances's work as an advocate for the arts that provided the impetus. While working for the UCLA Arts Council, which she helped found in the 1950s, she fell in love with a Henry Moore sculpture. "Sid put it under the Christmas tree. And well, by then I guess we were hooked," she told The New York Times in 1969.
Frances and Sidney had an appreciation for masterpieces of the Impressionist period but were true Modernists at heart. Their all-consuming immersion in the world of art was expressed vividly in their tour-de-force Modernist home. Commissioned in 1949 from the architect A. Quincy Jones and the interior designer Billy Haines when Frances and Sidney were just a young couple in their early thirties newly arrived in Los Angeles, the house combined two fashionable contemporary styles: California mid-century Modernist architecture and sophisticated Hollywood Moderne décor. The house is as much a revelation today as it was when it was built. As Sarah Medford has observed: "Among the young princes of film and fashion there is no hotter acquisition right now than a flat-roofed, steel-framed house sheathed in glass And while many buyers want to retrofit these austere light boxes with Fifties-era George Nelson sofas and Eames recliners, a growing number of people are seeking out the more luxurious, high-style furniture if that time, especially 'cocktail modern' pieces custom-designed for Hollywood projects by Billy Haines and his contemporaries" (S. Medford, "A Modern Classic: Frances Brody's Los Angeles House Exemplifies 1950s Era Architecture," in Town and Country Magazine, 1 October 1999, p. 200).
Shortly after the house was completed, the Brodys had an idea for how to put the perfect finishing touch to their courtyard. In 1952 they commissioned Matisse to execute a massive ceramic-tile wall mural, one of few the artist ever made, and in 1953 they traveled to France to review his preliminary maquette. The story of Frances's polite resistance to Matisse's first cut-out design and how she persuaded the artist to provide alternatives is now legend. Frances and Sidney were already at this young age self-directed and confident in their taste. The final result, twelve feet long and eight feet high, is a masterful late work--multi-hued palm fronds with organic contours playfully rise and splay out from the lower center against a stark white background. The Matisse mural signaled the Brodys' greater affinity for the art of their own century which would come to distinguish their collection. Of particular interest in this regard are those artists first collected by the Brodys, such as Pierre Bonnard, Jean Metzinger, and James Ensor. More striking even is the Brody devotion to sculpture which extends from early figurative works by Honoré Daumier and Edgar Degas, to bronze masterpieces by Alberto Giacometti and table-top pieces by Alexander Calder.
The Brodys' interest in Contemporary art went hand-in-hand with their dedicated work as patrons of the arts. They were founding benefactors of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which opened in 1965. Frances was also extremely active on the UCLA Arts Council, where she served as President, and where the Brodys donated the final maquette for Matisse's La Gerbe. Under her leadership, the council mounted an exceptional exhibition of Picasso works to celebrate his 80th birthday in 1961. On this occasion, the Brodys lent Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, for the first and last time. In 1966, Frances was instrumental in organizing a Matisse retrospective at UCLA with an unprecedented volume of loans from the artist's family, lauded by Los Angeles Times critic Henry J. Seldis as "one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever organized locally." Sidney was also deeply involved in the cultural life of Los Angeles; he served as Trustee, President and then Board Chairman of LACMA, as well as participating in various other arts and medical organizations, and was ultimately appointed to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities by President Reagan. The Brodys were nationally recognized as civic leaders in the Los Angeles area as well as pioneering collectors of Modern art.
The sale of select works from the Brody collection in 1977 was a notable event, comprising twenty-one works, a representative grouping spanning Impressionist and Modern art of all media. The Collection today is defined by those works the Brodys chose to keep in 1977 and which Frances was then left after Sidney's passing in 1983. This grouping is the most emphatically Modern of the three generational incarnations and, therefore, also the most internally coherent.
The collection is emblematic of Frances Brody's indomitable vitality. In Sidney's absence, the art itself became her abiding companion. Still the avid civil servant, she continued her work with arts organizations and became increasingly involved with the Huntington Library, Arts Collections and Gardens in San Marino, California, which, because of Frances' passion and generosity, will receive a portion of the proceeds from this sale. Right until the end of her life Frances was overseeing the Huntington's multimillion-dollar campaign to build a new botanical complex.
Frances' favorite work, the Matisse mural La Gerbe, remained the perennial backdrop on the Los Angeles social horizon as Frances continued cheerfully entertaining her community. This work has been gifted to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where it will be prominently displayed as an homage to Frances and Sidney, honoring their contributions to the arts community for generations to come.
C. Schweizer, Die Bildraumgestaltung, das Decorative und das Ornamentale im Werke von Edouard Vuillard, Zurich, 1949, pp. 102-103.
S. Preston, Edouard Vuillard, New York, 1971, p. 72 (illustrated in color).
A. Georges, Symbolisme et décor, Vuillard, 1888-1905, Ph. D. diss., Paris, 1982, p. 64.
E. Daniel, Vuillard, l'espace de l'intimité, Ph.D. diss., Paris, 1984, p. 379 (illustrated).
P. Ciaffa, The Portraits of Edouard Vuillard, Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1985, pp. 107-108 (illustrated).
E.W. Easton, Edouard Vuillard's Interiors of the 1890s, Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1989, pp. 91-95 (illustrated).
A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, Vuillard, The Inexhaustable Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, Paris, 2003, vol. I, p. 89, no. II-24 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Edouard Vuillard, April-June 1954, p. 101 (illustrated in color).
Los Angeles, UCLA Art Galleries; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Cleveland Museum of Art, Years of Ferment. The Birth of Twentieth Century Art, 1886-1914, January-August 1965, no. 23 (illustrated).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor and The Art Institute of Chicago, Edouard Vuillard, September 1971-March 1972, pp. 21-22, no. 9 (illustrated).
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection and The Brooklyn Museum, The Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard, November 1989-July 1990, no. 6 (illustrated).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (on extended loan).