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THE PETER MEYER COLLECTION
LOTS 43 - 83
Peter Meyer formed his collection principally during the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, and this outstanding collection includes works by William Scott, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Lucian Freud, Graham Sutherland, Bridget Riley and Keith Vaughan. In 1952 the Arts Council asked Peter Meyer to loan part of his collection to an exhibition called 'Three Young Collectors' (see endpaper to the Peter Meyer Collection, opposite lot 84). This early recognition of the importance of his collection demonstrates his natural taste and discerning eye for art of this period.
Meyer was always interested in modern art. His father had a very good collection of 17th Century Dutch pictures, some of which will be offered in the Old Master and British Pictures sale at King Street on 8 July 2008. Early on he tried to persuade his father to 'spread his wings' and invest in Braque, Picasso and Matisse. His family recalls that he never spent a lot of money on any painting. When he was interviewed by the BBC as a young collector in 1952, he pointed out that he was a non-smoker and spent no more on pictures than his friends spent on cigarettes.
He formed friendships with many of these artists and said, 'At this time English artists were not bought for investment and indeed it was almost impossible to sell them. The only people who bought were those who really liked the work and the artists generally wanted to know who these lunatics were. One met them at gallery parties and they became friends. It was a small, closely-knit world'. He often wrote to them about a particular painting or discussed how the painting should be framed, who should make the frame, whether it should be glazed. He also visited their studios, where sometimes he noticed 'cleverly placed' pictures and added them to his collection.
He recorded many of the details surrounding his paintings, such as the fact that Ben Nicholson made the frames for his own pictures. He also remembered that the frame for Bowl, Eggs and Lemons by William Scott (lot 71) was made by Scott's brother-in-law, Robert Sielle, and that he was 'too expensive for other artists to use'.
Nearly all of Meyer's collection was bought in the 1950s and 1960s, with the exception of works by Bridget Riley, such as Ka 3 (lot 83), which he bought in 1980 with the insurance money to replace some paintings that were lost in a fire at his office.
Peter Meyer was closely involved with the Contemporary Arts Society from a young age. He was a great admirer of Henry Moore, whom he described as a 'very modest man'. Early on the Contemporary Arts Society decided that it was disgraceful that none of Moore's works were on display in London. Meyer was instrumental in arranging for Knife Edge: Two Piece, 1962 (Westminster City Council) to be displayed opposite the Houses of Parliament, where it still stands today.
Peter Meyer never learnt how much his collection was worth. He did not buy paintings as an investment, but to give him pleasure, which they did by hanging on his walls for over 40 years. That was their value to him.