The superb collection of Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings formed by Philip Tracy Cunningham and his wife Lizanne is a remarkable testimony to their passion for the arts and for the Dutch Golden Age in particular.
Their shared pursuit of these paintings began in the early 1990s when they decided to renovate and redecorate their home in Alexandria, near Washington D.C. Taking the advice of their friend Greg Fazakerley, already a keen collector at the time, the Cunninghams flew to London in 1991 to visit the Richard Green Gallery. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship with the gallery and, under their influence, the Cunninghams developed a predilection for refined, first-rate 17th century Dutch cabinet pictures. Always they were guided by their recognition of quality and condition, and it was particular examples of an artist’s output that were rare, or exceptional in some way, that especially appealed to them. In this, Philip Cunningham relied on instinct as much as his deep knowledge, as Greg Fazakerley fondly remembers: ‘Phil collected art the same way he went after everything he did – with great gusto. He looked and looked and learned and read, and when he saw a picture he loved he’d say ‘That’s for me’.
Within ten years the Cunninghams had assembled a formidable Old Master collection and in 1996 they made the partial gift of a magnificent Flower Still-Life by Jan van Huysum to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. After Philip’s sudden death in 1999, the most important pictures from the collection – including all those offered in this sale – were put on loan at the National Gallery, and it is testament to their overriding quality how well they have complemented the works from the permanent collection over the years.