Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
PROPERTY OF H.F. 'GERRY' LENFESTMedia entrepreneur H.F. 'Gerry' Lenfest is rightly celebrated as one of the most prolific philanthropists of his generation. Through personal leadership and tremendous financial generosity, he has transformed cultural and educational institutions in Philadelphia, New York, and beyond. Born in Florida and raised in New York and New Jersey, Herald FitzGerald Lenfest graduated from Pennsylvania’s Mercersburg Academy. Before commencing his undergraduate studies at Washington and Lee University, the young Gerry spent a number of years at sea, working on an oil tanker traveling between South American to Europe. A stint in the U.S. Navy furthered Lenfest’s passion for the ocean and conservation, a cause to which he has devoted substantial resources. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1958, Lenfest worked for a New York law firm before joining Walter Annenberg’s Philadelphia-based Triangle Publications. The collector swiftly rose to head of Triangle’s Communications Division, which encompassed publications such as Seventeen in addition to multiple cable television providers. Lenfest acquired Triangle’s cable assets in 1974 to create the independent Lenfest Communications. In the ensuing quarter century, the collector grew his eponymous company into one of the largest cable providers in the United States. The successful sale of Lenfest Communications in 2000 provided Gerry Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, with the opportunity to make an indelible mark on the city of Philadelphia and the institutions they cherished. To date, the collector has donated some $1.2 billion to efforts in medicine, education, science, and the arts. In doing so, Lenfest has come to stand proudly in the annals of American giving.A staunch advocate for lifelong learning, childhood development, and the promotion of the liberal arts, Gerry Lenfest’s efforts in education—which include the Lenfest College Scholarship Program and the Lenfest Foundation—have changed countless lives. The collector is an ardent backer of higher education, including his own alma maters of Washington and Lee University and Columbia University. At Columbia, Lenfest has gifted over $100 million towards teaching, student housing, and the new Lenfest Center for the Arts. The collector was similarly prodigious in his support of Washington and Lee—also home to a Lenfest Center for the Arts—in addition to bequests to the Williamson College of the Trades and Temple University, among others.Gerry Lenfest possesses an unwavering belief in the civic power of fine art, music, and history. He has provided significant financial backing to institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Collection, the Israel Museum, the Library of Congress, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. A longtime trustee of these and other institutional boards, Lenfest currently serves as chairman of the Museum of the American Revolution, scheduled to open in 2017. By utilizing initiatives such as challenge grants and his own personal enthusiasm, Lenfest has become a model for inspiring patronage in others. “Gerry draws all his friends into his other philanthropic activities,” noted Columbia University President Lee Bollinger. “He does not give just for the sake of giving,” added the late Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts. “He becomes involved in the things he gives to.”For Lenfest, building a better community involves more than charitable giving. The collector’s civic leadership has also extended to areas such as journalism: in 2014, he purchased the Philadelphia Media Network, holder of properties such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the website Within the shifting landscape of contemporary publishing, Lenfest saw the importance of preserving the impartial voice of Philadelphia journalism and expanding its reach in the modern age. In 2016, he donated his publications to the non-profit Philadelphia Foundation, ensuring their continued excellence and pursuit of the public good. “Of all the things I’ve done,” the collector declared, “this is the most important.” The recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Gerry Lenfest has been rightly called a “contemporary founding father of Philadelphia.” Today, he continues to pursue the excellence in philanthropy and leadership that defines his legacy. The striking works of fine art from the Lenfest Collection—encompassing Modern and Impressionist works of both American and European origin—are emblematic of the collector’s bold and creative vision for the future.PROPERTY OF H.F. 'GERRY' LENFEST
Jacques Villon (1875-1963)


Jacques Villon (1875-1963)
signed with initials ‘JV’ (lower left); signed and titled 'Jacques Villon L'ACROBATE' (on the reverse)
oil over pencil on canvas
39 3/8 x 28 5/8 in. (99.8 x 72.7 cm.)
Painted in 1913
John J. Quinn, New York; Estate sale, American Art Galleries, Inc., New York, 10 February 1927, lot 260.
Ferdinand Howald, Columbus.
Florence Howald Shawan, Columbus (by descent from the above, circa 1934).
Virginia Bonnet and David Howald Shawan, Columbus (by descent from the above, by 1969).
E.V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York.
Ruth G. Hardman, Tulsa (acquired from the above); Estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 May 2004, lot 116.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Salmon, “Le Salon d’automne” in Montjoie, November-December 1913, no. 11-12, p. 8. 
John Quinn, 1870-1925, Collection of Paintings, Water Colors, Drawings & Sculpture, New York, 1926, p. 15 (with inverted dimensions).
J. Lassaigne, intro., “Jacques Villon” in Editions de Beaune, 1950, p. 8 (illustrated, pl. 5).
R. Massat, “Jacques Villon” in Cahiers d’Art, 1951, p. 61 (illustrated; titled ’Equilbriste).
R.V. Gindertael, “Pour aider a mieux comprendre le passage de la ligne (propos de Villon)” in Art d’aujourd’hui, August 1952, no. 6, p. 19 (illustrated).
D. Vallier, “Intelligence de Jacques Villon” Cahiers d’Art, 1955, p. 72 (illustrated; titled L’Equilbriste).
D. Vallier, Jacques Villon: Oeuvres de 1897 à 1956, Paris, 1957, p. 48 (illustrated; titled L’Equilibriste).
D. Robbins, ed., Jacques Villon, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1976, p. 75 (illustrated, fig. 55a).
Paris, Palais Municipal des Expositions, Salon d’automne, October-November 1913, no. 2071. 
Ohio, The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Ferdinand Howald: The Art of the Collector, 1969.
Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts and Paris, Grand Palais, Jacques Villon, June-December 1975, p. 88, no. 54.
Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University and Purchase, New York, Roy. R. Neuberger Museum, Jacques Villon, January-May 1976, p. 75, no. 55a.
Sale room notice
Please note that Patrick Bongers has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Patrick Bongers has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

During 1913, the year before the start of the First World War, Jacques Villon attained in his art a distinctive quality of linear refinement that is rare, perhaps even unmatched elsewhere in the cubist avant-garde of the new School of Paris, unless one holds up for comparison the paintings of his younger brother Marcel Duchamp, which display complex compositional structures rendered with similarly exquisite precision. Both painters evoke novel, elaborate conceptions of the figure set within the formal and spatial ambiguities of an imagined environment, yielding results that are as sensual as they are enigmatically poetic. If Villon could claim, however, any more advanced aspect in his art that Duchamp could not or did not wish to rival, it was his feel for color, as evident in the present L'Acrobate, using deepest black and measured grays amid delicate hues and tints that the painter educed from the primaries on his palette.
Jacques Villon was the pseudonym that Gaston Duchamp took from François Villon, the fabled outlaw poet of medieval Paris, which his other brother Raymond, a sculptor, also incorporated into his name, as Duchamp-Villon. Already an accomplished engraver and illustrator of the contemporary scene, Villon in his mid-thirties immersed himself in the cubist movement. He later described himself as the “cubist impressionist” (Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1957, p. 28). There is in Villon’s carefully plotted pictorial architecture a vaporous, evanescent dimension, a kinetic state of transformation, such as the artist discerned in Italian Futurist painting, an approach which Picasso and Braque abhorred in their analytical appreciation of the cubist object. We observe in L'Acrobate, as a preliminary watercolor sketch reveals (see D. Robbins, exh. cat., op. cit., 1976, no. 54), the darkly gossamer figure of a circus acrobat walking on his hands, his legs raised in the air. This character aptly lends this picture its title; the composition is a consummate study in balance sought and achieved.
“For the acrobat Villon renounced mass...and instead visualized energies alone—the acrobat’s dexterous movements pitted against the force of gravity,” Robbins explained. “The surrounding space is suffused with an energy that emanates from the center of the picture: for the first time in a work of Villon an environment is suggested in completely abstract terms” (ibid., p. 74). Barely clinging to the apparition of a figural presence, Villon’s L'Acrobate balances ever so precariously on the verge of absolute abstraction, as one finds elsewhere in Paris modernism on the eve of the Great War—by artists whom Villon and his brothers hosted at weekly gatherings in their home in the Paris suburb of Puteaux—in Robert Delaunay’s Fenêtres, Kupka’s Localisations des mobiles graphiques, Picabia’s Danses, Léger’s Contrastes de formes, and Severini’s Espansion de la lumière paintings.
When Marcel Duchamp urged them to exhibit together as a salon in 1912, Villon gave their effort the name Section d’Or, a reference to the ideal proportions of part to whole that Da Vinci discussed in his Treatise on Painting, a book Villon advocated as essential reading to all his colleagues. “For me, the picture is a creation in which the subject—the pretext furnished by a perceived rhythm, expressive of our unconscious life brought to the level of consciousness—is translated into areas of color, into a hierarchy of colored planes,” Villon declared. “The whole is bound together by an arabesque, closely incorporated into the basic division of the canvas where all elements are brought into balance” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1957, p. 31).

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