Macbeth Gallery, New York.
Joseph T.P. Sullivan, New York.
Sotheby’s, New York, 28 October 1976, lot 116, sold by the above.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, acquired from the above.
Collection of Esther and Howard Freeman, Worcester, Massachusetts, acquired from the above, 1976.
Gift to the present owners from the above, 2006.
Gift from the Collection of Esther and Howard Freeman
From their first date aboard a sailboat in 1935, Esther and Howard Freeman shared a remarkable enthusiasm for their passions in life--whether it be sailing off Cape Cod, traveling, Howard’s inventions or Esther’s art collection. Passing along these loves to their children and grandchildren, the Freemans have left a legacy that still resounds strongly in their communities of Worcester and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Howard Freeman established himself as one of the great inventors and engineers of our age, applying his problem-solving skills and ingenuity to everyday issues. He dramatically improved how firefighters use water to fight flames with his invention, the “Waterfog” nozzle, saving dozens of ships and thousands of lives in World War II, and even contributed to the Manhattan Project. Founding his own firm Jamesbury, Howard and his valve innovations led the company through quick expansion, winning contracts with the U.S. Navy for the nuclear submarine fleet and NASA’s space program while establishing a reputation as an exceptional manager and leader in the Worcester community.
As Howard himself frequently remarked, the art collection was undoubtedly his wife Esther’s. With her passion, steadfastness and focus, and through a close relationship with the Worcester Art Museum and frequent trips to New York City, the collection took shape over many years. Incorporating the high points of American 19th century and Impressionist painting, Esther collected works by Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, Mary Cassatt, and many others. Another highlight of Esther’s collection was the masterful Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea) by Edmund Charles Tarbell, which she later gifted to the Worcester Art Museum.
Howard reflected, “In the fall of 1975, Esther expressed a desire (or even a need) to collect paintings and outlined her thoughts and a plan to me. Esther wanted to ‘collect those American artists who, about the turn of the century, had traveled to France to study with the French Impressionists and then returned to this country.’ As Esther described it, these artists did two things. First, they painted the charming pictures that she loved. Secondly, they had a great impact on the history of American art. Esther wanted to collect those artists who did both. I was delighted and supportive but told Esther that she would be the only collector in our family, and that I would stay in the background. Of course I would be supportive in every way. And she did and I did. And, as it turned out, it was a wonderful decision with a very significant impact on our lives.”
Within the Freemans’ art collection, Frank Weston Benson’s The Reader held a particularly sentimental place. Benson’s painting My Three Daughters in the Worcester Art Museum was one of Esther’s favorites, and according to her husband, “It probably was this painting, more than any other, which prompted her strong desire to collect.” When The Reader came up for auction in 1976, this similarly compelling work by Benson immediately caught Esther’s eye and the Freemans planned to bid well over the high estimate for the work. However, they were outbid during the sale, leaving Esther practically in tears. A loving husband, Howard realized the mistake they had made in not acquiring the work and soon afterwards secretly negotiated with the winning bidder to purchase the painting from him. The following week, Howard revealed the happy surprise to Esther, and the painting and its story held a place of honor in their home and memories for decades thereafter.
Christie’s is honored to offer The Reader, which was gifted from the Collection of Esther and Howard and Freeman to the current owners, as Lot 18.
"Art At Home and Abroad; Excellent Examples of the 'Movement of Life' at the Pennsylvania Academy Exhibition," New York Times, February 5, 1911.
"In the Galleries," Arts and Decoration, February 1912, p. 152, illustrated.
Spanierman Gallery, LLC, Frank W. Benson: The Impressionist Years, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1988, pp. 20-21, fig. 2, illustrated (as The Reader—A Summer Idyll).
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., Frank W. Benson: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1989, pp. 18, 19, fig. 9, illustrated.
F.A. Bedford, Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist, New York, 1994, pp. 10, 47, 123-24, pl. 78, illustrated.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 106th Annual Exhibition, February 5-March 26, 1911, no. 301, illustrated.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, 18th Annual Exhibition of American Art, May 20-July 22, 1911, no. 93, illustrated.
New York, Macbeth Gallery, Thirty Paintings by Thirty Artists, January 1912.
Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum, American Impressionism: Paintings of Promise, October 5, 1997-January 4, 1998, pp. 14, 30, 32, 45, pl. 5, back cover illustration.
Rockland, Maine, Farnsworth Art Museum, Impressionist Summers: Frank W. Benson’s North Haven, June 16-October 21, 2012, pp. 52-53, 127, fig. 46, illustrated.
Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Museum of Art, 2009-16, on extended loan.