The Collection of Drue Heinz, a legendary patron of the arts
The collection assembled by the philanthropist, long-time publisher of The Paris Review and renowned literary patron will be offered across the Impressionist and Modern Art sales in New York in May, and a dedicated multi-category collection sale in London in June
A philanthropist and generous supporter of the literary and visual arts, Drue Heinz (1915–2018) was an influential figure in cultural, social and literary circles in both the United States and Britain.
Over the course of her three-decade marriage to Henry J. ‘Jack’ Heinz II, of the Heinz foods empire, Drue, who was born in England, assembled a remarkable collection of fine and decorative arts, centred on first-tier works from major figures of the early modern period.
‘The Heinz Collection includes extraordinary examples of the best of 19th- and 20th-century art, from Monet to Matisse, Picasso to Modigliani and Bonnard,’ says Jessica Fertig, Head of Evening Sale for Impressionist and Modern Art in New York. ‘It was displayed in the Heinz homes so that at every turn the eye would fall on something thought-provoking and beautiful.’
On 13 May, Christie’s will offer for sale The Collection of Drue Heinz, featuring her important modern paintings, during 20th Century Week in New York. The wider contents of her London and New York homes will be offered in a dedicated London sale in June.
A leading patron of the arts
As well as being a great collector and leading advocate for literature and writers, Heinz was a loyal supporter and board member of the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, the Royal Academy in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She created a rich legacy in literature, the performing arts, architecture, and education.
Drue Heinz bought works of exceptional quality and rarity... In her early days as a collector, she astutely solicited advice from friends who were connoisseurs
Literature was her consuming passion, and she developed close friendships with many of the major literary figures of the 20th century, among them Harold Pinter, George Plimpton, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, John Le Carré, Edna O’Brien, Tom Stoppard and Seamus Heaney.
In 1971 Drue Heinz founded Ecco Press, which published the literary magazine Antaeus, and from 1993 to 2008 served as publisher of The Paris Review, having helped to establish the quarterly publication in 1953. The Paris Review went on to publish original work by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Philip Larkin and Jack Kerouac, and under her leadership sought to establish deeper links between literature and art, publishing a series of prints and posters by New York’s leading post-war artists.
Other notable contributions to the arts included her funding of the Monday Night Lecture Series in Pittsburgh, which continues to draw America’s top literary figures; founding literary retreats; and her endowment of the Drue Heinz Literarture Prize, a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Press that enables the publication of short fiction.
Drue Heinz was named an Honorary Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1995, and selected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002. Proceeds from the sale of her collection, which also includes works by Magritte, Giacometti and Dalí, will go to support her beloved Hawthornden Literary Retreat in Scotland, among other charitable projects.
Highlights from the collection
Drue Heinz bought works of exceptional quality and rarity. Much of the collection was formed after her marriage to H.J. (Jack) Heinz II in 1953 and although he joked about his wife being ‘the art connoisseur, I live from snowfall to snowfall’, Jack, an avid skier, was interested in and supported acquisitions.
It was Drue, however, who was often the scout, finding interesting works to add to the collection. In her early days as a collector, she astutely solicited advice from friends who were connoisseurs and could help to expand her knowledge of 20th-century art.
Leading the collection is Amedeo Modigliani’s Lunia Czechowska (à la robe noire), painted in 1919. Modigliani was infatuated with his young sitter, a Polish émigrée who was married to a close friend of the artist’s dealer, Léopold Zborowski, and would go on to paint her likeness in 10 known paintings.
Czechowska’s serious demeanour and youthful figure lent themselves well to the primary influences the artist liked to incorporate in his portraits — the elongated forms of the 16th-century Italian Mannerists Parmigianino and Pontormo, filtered through his modernist attraction to African tribal art. In this painting, Czechowska’s fine, delicate features convey an intelligence and sensitivity that illustrate Modigliani’s talent as a portraitist.
Pierre Bonnard’s La Terrasse or Une terrasse à Grasse is one of the finest examples of the artist’s terrace series and one of the two largest canvases he painted during a productive stay at Grasse, near Cannes, between January and May 1912. Both of these grand-scale works visualise the Côte d’Azur as a modern-day Arcadia.
In La Terrasse, Bonnard creates a private, enclosed world that evokes the sultry heat and languorous reverie of a Mediterranean afternoon. Marthe Boursin, his future wife, only emerges on second glance, her sun-dappled blue jacket and brown cloche hat seeming to merge with the surrounding ground of the terrace.
Sasha Newman, the American art critic and curator, has described Marthe as a ‘dreaming feminine presence’ in Bonnard’s pictures, and one ‘who so often appears in cut-off views — glimpsed on a balcony, through a door, or reflected in a mirror.’ She is, Newman maintains, ‘central to the underlying air of mystery in much of Bonnard’s art’.
Henri Matisse’s Nu à la fenêtre, also known as Nu nacré (Pearly Nude) for the iridescent quality of its light, entered the Heinz Collection in 1961. Painted in 1929 in the artist’s new studio in Nice, this high-keyed canvas, reproduced later that year in two important monographs, one by Florent Fels and the other by Roger Fry, depicts a nude model named Loulou, one of several ballet dancers from the Compagnie de Paris, standing beside a window in a classic contrapposto pose.
‘The Odalisques were the bounty of a happy nostalgia, a lovely vivid dream, and the almost ecstatic, enchanted days and nights of the Moroccan climate,’ recounted Matisse. ‘I felt an irresistible need to express that ecstasy, that divine unconcern, in corresponding coloured rhythms, rhythms of sunny and lavish figures and colours.’ The paintings that Matisse created in early 1929 represent the culmination of his work at Nice during this transformative period.
The Heinz Picasso Course de taureaux (estimate: $3,500,000-5,500,000) is a rare early work by the artist, capturing the brief, electrifying moment immediately before the bull charges into the corrida. It was painted in 1900 when Picasso was just 18 years old.
Picasso had returned home to Barcelona the previous year, after a brief stint at the prestigious but stiflingly traditional Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. At this point in his life he was just months away from his first trip to Paris, and fuelled by a determination to prove his worth in the very centre of the art world.
The homes of Drue Heinz
Drue Heinz furnished houses in both America and the UK. On 4 June, the contents of her London and New York homes, both of which featured interiors by Lorenzo Mongiardino (1916-1998), will be offered at auction in London.
The London mews house, which Mr. and Mrs. Heinz bought in 1955, is particularly notable for its untouched interiors laid out by John Fowler (1906-1977) for Colefax & Fowler in the early 1950s. A second phase of development and decoration was undertaken in the 1980s by Mongiardino, the Italian architect, interior designer and production designer who was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
Drue and Mongiardino were introduced through close friends Gianni and Marella Agnelli, and the designer went on to integrate a neighbouring mews property, formerly a car showroom, into the home, creating a theatrical ballroom, the walls of which are painted with vistas inspired by the Villa Falconieri in Rome.
The lots offered for sale in London will include Impressionist and Modern art, Modern British and Contemporary works, Old Master paintings, English and Continental furniture and objet d’art, silver, Chinese porcelain and decorative furnishings, many of which were supplied either by Colefax & Fowler or are commissioned Mongiardino designs.
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The top lot comes from the London property, a George II giltwood pier mirror, circa 1750. An additional highlight from London is Swimming Pool by David Hockney, which is signed ‘For Drue and Jack with love from David H. Feb/1982’.
The New York townhouse was an earlier Mongiardino creation dating to 1976, which was published anonymously in Architectural Digest shortly after its completion. Notable lots from this property include a Regency specimen marble bronzed and parcel-gilt centre table, circa 1810 (estimate: £15,000-25,000); a pair of Chinese Export black and gilt-lacquer wardrobes (estimate: £6,000-10,000); and a Victorian oak letter box by W. Thornhill.