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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ERIC AND SALOME ESTORICK
Eric and Salome Estorick were among the most pioneering collectors of modern art in post-war Britain, building an outstanding collection of diverse artworks from across the spectrum of the European avant-garde. While their later collecting activities focused primarily on Italian art of the twentieth century, which now forms the core of the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in North London, the foundation of their personal collection lay in Eric’s interest in the Parisian avant-garde, fostered during his years as a student in New York.
Born in Brooklyn in 1913 to Russian parents, Eric Estorick studied sociology at New York University during the early 1930s, earning a PhD in the subject before going on to teach at NYU. It was here that Eric first encountered the Gallatin Collection at The Museum of Living Art in Washington Square. Featuring masterpieces by Picasso, Léger, Miró and Matisse, this remarkable group of artworks inspired Eric to begin his own collecting journey, and would forever shape his idea of what a collection should aspire to be. In 1941, he published the first of his extensive biographies on Sir Stafford Cripps, before serving in the US Broadcast Intelligence Service during the Second World War. In 1946, while researching his second volume of the Cripps biography, Eric found himself in Paris, where he purchased drawings and paintings by some of the leading artists of the avant-garde, including Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger.
In 1947, he met Salome Dessau on board the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner while returning to New York, and the pair were married before the end of the year. It was during their honeymoon in Switzerland that the couple first came across the Italian Futurists, a discovery that sparked a life-long passion for Italian art that would dominate their collecting for decades to come. During the late 1950s, Eric moved into art dealing, acting as a representative for a number of important clients based in Hollywood, including Lauren Bacall, Burt Lancaster and Billy Wilder. Shortly afterwards, the Estoricks opened The Grosvenor Gallery in Mayfair, the largest private gallery in London at the time, which dedicated itself to showing ‘20th century modern masters and the developing talent of young artists, wherever they may be found.’ Through their pioneering exhibition programme the Estoricks brought a number of important artists to the attention of the British public for the first time, from El Lissitzky to Zoran Mušič and David Burliuk.
Their private collection continued to grow alongside their professional activities, with new acquisitions often purchased on their trips abroad for the Grosvenor Gallery and brought back to the Estorick family home in St. John’s Wood. Their passion for works on paper flourished during this period, and it is this aspect of the Estorick’s private collection which is clearly celebrated in the works featured in this sale. Writing about the strange alchemy that drives a person to collect, Eric wrote: ‘There is no possibility of giving a simple answer to the question of how and why one has come to collect various works of art. Basically one is searching for freedom and creative art is part of that search… A collection for me is a living thing, not a fixity.’