The Power of Passion

The Edwin and Lindy Bergman collection

Edwin and Lindy Bergman pose with works from their collection.

"The Bergmans' collection," writes art historian Dawn Ades, "is the fruit of a genuinely joint project, a shared commitment." Indeed, Edwin and Lindy Bergman began their journey in collecting together. In a great books course, discussions of history, philosophy, and literature turned to examinations of fine art's role in culture and society; after class, the couple would often find themselves wandering into Chicago galleries and museums, enthralled by the work around them. Intellectually driven and with a penchant for self-study, the couple poured over classic volumes such as Alfred H. Barr's Masters of Modern Art, piecing together the story of art history as it culminated with the bold new styles of the mid-twentieth century. Their first substantial purchase, a Paul Klee gouache, heralded the beginnings of an ever-growing assemblage incorporating the best in Surrealism, Tribal Art, and Post-War painting, drawing, and sculpture. The collection included names such as Joseph Cornell, Balthus, Alexander Calder, Paul Delvaux, Roberto Matta, and René Magritte, as well as work by the Chicago Imagists and John Graham, Mrs. Bergman's preferred painter.

The Bergmans were constantly expanding their personal circle of artists, curators, and scholars. The Chicago artist John Miller introduced the couple to local sculptors and collectors, and the Bergmans were drawn to dealers such as Richard Feigen and Allan Frumkin, who recognized their interest in Surrealist artists. "This was the period of the Abstract Expressionists," Mrs. Bergman said later, "and there was a question about which way we should go. But Surrealism appealed to us the most." By the late 1950s, the couple were established Surrealist collectors, traveling to Paris with friend and artist Wifredo Lam and meeting luminaries such as Alberto and Diego Giacometti, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Matta - "It was extraordinary," Lindy Bergman remarked of the period.

Five of the works in our upcoming Picasso Ceramics sale, open for bidding from 24 October to 7 November 2014, come from the Bergman collection—a testament to the seminal importance of this period of the artist’s work to some of the 20th and 21st Century’s greatest collectors. Many of these works first made their way into prominent American collections during the 1950s and 60s when the French Riviera thrived as a playground for the rich and famous, many of whom arrived from the United States to experience this exciting and thriving area. Some of the world’s greatest Modern artists lived there after the Second World War including Matisse, Cocteau, and Picasso, who was at that time making ceramics at Madoura studios, in Vallauris. Since then, those ceramics have also found their way into other luminary collections, such as those of Edgar M. Bronfman and Frances and Sidney Brody, to name a few.

In the decades that followed, Edwin and Lindy Bergman cemented their place as hallmarks of the Chicago art scene, a vibrant segment of the American creative landscape that continues to climb in critical and art historical importance. As promoters of both international and local artists the Bergmans played a major role in the continuing reputation of Chicago as one of the world's most important destinations for great art. Their lifelong dedication and support to Chicago's landmark institutions -The Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, where Edwin Bergman was one of the founders and president; their alma mater The University of Chicago, where they served on the Board of Trustees and funded the construction of the Bergman Gallery; and the Smart Museum of Art, where Lindy Bergman was awarded the Joseph R. Schapiro Award in 2000 for her extraordinary achievement in the visual arts-mark the Bergmans as one of the most significant and trailblazing couples in the Chicago art scene.

The legacy of Edwin and Lindy Bergman demonstrates the power of passion, collaboration and dedication to the artists, art and their community. They acquired the work they loved, built a collection that was both unusual in its depth and intensely personal. Their lifelong commitment to the arts and philanthropy continues to inspire in Chicago and beyond, while enriching the lives of future generations who will benefit from their long-lasting generosity.