In 1965, Daniel Burke, F.S.C., a Brother of the Christian Schools, started a small study collection of art at La Salle University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), believing that students should be able to experience quality art on their own campus, and not just read about it in textbooks.
Over the next four decades, during his tenure as President of La Salle University and then later as the La Salle Art Museum’s founder-director, Brother Burke bought pieces of art selectively and traded up wisely, building a collection described by former Philadelphia Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski as ‘a little jewel’.
The La Salle University artworks to be sold include European and American artworks dating from the Renaissance to the present, including one of only four Walking Madonna sculptures by Dame Elisabeth Frink; Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Virgil Reading the Aeneid Before Augustus ; Dorothea Tanning’s Temptation of St. Anthony ; Georges Rouault’s Le Dernier Romantique (The Last Romantic); and Albert Gleizes’s Man in the City (L’Homme dans la Ville).
Proceeds from the sale will fund initiatives from La Salle University’s five-year strategic plan, whose overarching goal is exceptional student outcomes resulting from deeply engaged, integrated, innovative high-impact teaching and learning.
Below, four Christie’s specialists select their personal favourites from the collection.
Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012), The Temptation of St. Anthony, painted in 1945-1946. Oil on canvas in the artist's painted frame. 47⅞ x 35⅞ in (121.4 x 91.2 cm). Estimate: $400,000-600,000. This work is offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale on 16 May at Christie’s in New York
Vanessa Fusco, Head of Day & Works on Paper Sales: ‘Dorothea Tanning’s Surrealist vision of the Temptation of St. Anthony is a fantastical painting, embodying the universal struggle between good and evil. The subject of St. Anthony has a long tradition in the history of art, from the medieval to modern era, and Tanning’s representation exquisitely renders the cowering Saint and the nude female bodies which emanate from his robes with expert precision.
‘In addition to the visual pleasure derived from this work, it has a fascinating history. Tanning entered her picture into an international competition in which artists were invited to submit paintings representing the Temptation of St. Anthony for inclusion in a film based upon Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-Ami. Fellow Surrealists Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, and Leonora Carrington all entered paintings into the contest, the jury for which included MoMA’s Alfred Barr, Jr., the collector and gallerist Sidney Janis and Marcel Duchamp.’
Domenico Gargiulo, called Micco Spadaro (Naples 1612-1679), The Adoration of the Shepherds. Oil on canvas. 29⅞ x 40 in (75.7 x 101.4 cm). Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This work is offered in Old Masters Part I on 19 April at Christie’s in New York
Louisa Howard, Junior Specialist, Old Master Paintings: ‘I love Domenico Gargiulo’s Adoration of the Shepherds. It probably dates to the first half of the 1650s and conveys the artist’s realistic approach to the world of agriculture during this period.
‘His observation of surfaces is intensely naturalistic, and yet combined here with an extraordinary brilliance of palette, and a refined virtuosity of brushwork. The landscape beneath the arch is particularly fresh and spontaneous, and draws inspiration from the rocky hillsides and crumbling ruins captured during the course of Gargiulo’s youthful sketching expeditions around Naples.’
Frits Thaulow (Norwegian, 1847-1906), Midnight Mass. Oil on canvas. 35 3⁄8 × x 45¾ in (89.9 x 116.2 cm). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. This work is offered in 19th Century European Art on 19 April at Christie’s in New York
Laura H. Mathis, Associate Specialist, 19th-Century Pictures: ‘I’ve selected Frits Thaulow’s Midnight Mass because this painting is a wonderful encapsulation of the connection between 19th-century Scandinavian painting and the Impressionists. Thaulow lived and worked primarily in France and was friends with the Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet. Like many Scandinavian painters of the 19th century, Thaulow shared the Impressionists’ interest in exploring the effects of light and shadow and in plein-air painting.
‘While Thaulow’s paintings demonstrate his exploration of the tenets of Impressionism, he never lost his own unique style. I particularly love in this painting how the artist has subtly picked out the individual colours to create the effect of the stained-glass windows of the church.’
Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993), Walking Madonna, conceived in 1981 and cast in an edition of 3. Bronze with a brown black patina. 80 in (203.2 cm) high. Estimate: £500,000-800,000. This work is offered in the Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale on 19 June at Christie’s London
Nick Orchard, Senior Director, Modern British Pictures: ‘Conceived in 1981 at Frink’s studio at Woolland House, Dorset, Walking Madonna is a wonderful and uniquely surprising example of Frink’s work. Within Frink’s oeuvre, this sculpture is an unusual exception to her preference for working with the male nude, depicting instead, the Madonna: captured mid-pace, and executed with such sensitivity that it has been described as “without question her greatest achievement for a standing figure”.
‘Taking one of the most widely studied subjects in Western art, Frink has created a work of pathos, one that depicts the strength and suffering of women while also showing steely intent as the figure steps forward. It’s a message that resonates in the current climate.’