PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DENYS SUTTON
LOTS 6, 7, 16, 17, 29, 41, 62, 65, 237, 282, 285
Denys Sutton (1917-1991)
Denys Sutton was a man of wide knowledge and of many interests. The range of his taste was brilliantly expressed in the quarter century of his editorship of Apollo, during which he wrote so perceptively about generations of collectors. Of his personal role as a collector he was more reticent, and few will have realised how many remarkable works of art he acquired, a small portion of which now appear for sale at Christie's, all for the first time since he purchased them in the 1950s and 1960s.
Sutton was born in 1917. Educated at Uppingham and Exeter College, Oxford, he served in the Research Department of the Foreign Office from 1940 until 1946, when he was appointed Secretary of the International Commission for the Restitution of Cultural Material. Two years later he transferred, as a specialist on the fine arts, to the newly-constituted UNESCO. He wrote for The Daily Telegraph and Country Life and in later years his regular column in The Financial Times on Saturdays helped to maintain the wider reputation of that paper. He was appointed editor of Apollo in 1962 and almost single-handedly succeeded in giving that long-established magazine a new role, as an elegant and serious counterpart to The Burlington Magazine, which was edited with great distinction on more academic lines by his older contemporary, Benedict Nicolson. Sutton understood the importance for a modern audience of integrating text and photographs and some outstanding scholars - John Pope-Hennessy for example - recognised the advantages of this approach. Sutton's Apollo attracted many distinguished contributors, but some of the most memorable issues were written largely, if not exclusively, by himself. The editor understood his audience and knew what he had taught it to expect.
From 1946 a stream of independent publications was maintained. He wrote about twentieth century artists, including his friend Nicolas de Stael; he wrote about the eighteenth century, not least in France; and he wrote about museums and their collections. Sutton understood how signally exhibitions could contribute to scholarship. An early exhibition of which he compiled the catalogue was that of Some British Drawings from the Collection of Sir Robert Witt, held in 1948. Exhibitions at the Lefevre Galleries, London and at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London were followed in 1957 by André Derain, the first of a series held at Wildenstein, with whom Sutton was to have a long and productive relationship. Particularly memorable among his seventeen Wildenstein exhibitions was The Art of Painting in Florence and Siena from 1250-1500, for which St. John Gore was his joint editor, and in which three of his own paintings were included (lots 6, 7 and 65 in this sale). However, the most ambitious of Sutton's exhibitions was unquestionably France in the Eighteenth Century, held at the Royal Academy in 1968, the catalogue of which is an eloquent testament to his knowledge of, and indeed sympathy for, the subject.
Sutton's contributions to the art world were often made in practical ways. It was he, for example, who first suggested that Lord Normanby should be chairman of the National Art Collections Fund. He did much also to help with the publishing projects of others: had he not secured Getty funding for Brinsley Ford's long-planned Dictionary of British visitors to Italy, that work might not have eventually been compiled by John Ingamells under the auspices of the Paul Mellon Centre.
Denys Sutton died too soon in 1971, survived by his third wife Cynthia. It was for their houses both in London and in the country, Westwood Manor in Wiltshire leased from the National Trust, that he assembled the works of art that meant so much to him. Collecting clearly came naturally to Sutton, and no-one was better qualified than he to write the introduction of a small, but memorable exhibition held at Agnew's in 1965, Art Historians and Critics as Collectors, a theme proposed by Richard Kingzett: naturally Denys' own collection was appropriately represented.
Works from the Sutton collection will be included in a number of upcoming Christie's auctions: the Cozens and other watercolours, with works by Sickert, by Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and other British artists in London in June; the Kokoschka in May; the Boulton ormolu and blue john candlesticks in April; the Nicolas de Stáel Composition of 1947 in February.
The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist