Cluade Monet, Le Givre a Giverny, 1885. Est. £4,000,000-6,000,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON - Sotheby’s London announced that it will offer for sale the distinguished collection of George, 9th Earl of Jersey (1910-1998). The auctions on 5th and 6th February 2013 will present the rare phenomenon of an English aristocratic collection of French Impressionist and Modern painting, assembled in the early 1940s. Grandy Jersey possessed an outstanding eye for quality and - going against the grain of traditional English taste at the time – bought outstanding examples of works by Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Gauguin, Boudin and Dufy, among others.
Philip Hook, Sotheby’s Board Member and Senior Director, Impressionist & Modern Art Department, Europe, said, “Sotheby’s is privileged to offer the exceptional collection of Lord Jersey, which was assembled with both discrimination and love. It is particularly rare for an English aristocratic collection to contain French Impressionist and Modern Art – and even more so to contain paintings of this calibre - which makes the works now coming to the market for the first time in 70 years all the more desirable.”
An English Gentleman’s Introduction to French Impressionism
Lord Jersey specifically chose to collect French modern art for his recently acquired house in Farm Street. Born into a family already well endowed with great houses and estates and their respective collections of art - the most famous of which was Osterley Park - he sensed that his other properties already had enough Old Masters and wanted to bring the family collection up to date. He was brought up surrounded by beautiful objects – “It’s like living in a Museum,” he complained as a boy in Osterley. “One’s always being told not to touch things.” He was drawn to the Impressionists because, he said, “I wanted pictures that were pleasant and happy to live with”.
The catalyst to Grandy Jersey’s decision to buy French Impressionism was the influence of his second wife, the American actress Virginia Cherrill, whom he married in 1937. She had enjoyed a glamorous film career, playing opposite Charlie Chaplin in City Lights (1931) and then marrying Cary Grant. She was also a close friend of Edward G. Robinson. Hollywood’s love affair with Impressionist painting embraced moguls, directors and stars, but the most serious collector was Robinson who put together a very fine group of pictures, the pick of which later passed into the Niarchos Collection.
When filming in London in 1935, Robinson called at the Lefevre Gallery to look at their stock. ‘Because I was from Hollywood and they had seen me as a gangster, they did look a little bit alarmed when I walked in,’ he recounts in his autobiography. But he established a lasting relationship with them, and when Cherrill came to London it is likely that, on Robinson’s recommendation, she directed her new British husband to the same dealers.
An early acquisition by Grandy Jersey was a fine landscape by Paul Gauguin, La Maison Blanche (£800,000-1,200,000). The painting was probably included in the last Impressionist exhibition in 1886, under the title Le chateau de l’Anglaise and exemplifies the important shift in Gauguin’s art as he moved away from Impressionism towards a radically new style of expression. With its diagonal brushstrokes and harmony between the warm and cool tonalities, the present work brilliantly illustrates the power that Gauguin found in Cézanne’s technique – whose influence was a key feature in the transition - and his ability to translate that into his own pictorial vocabulary.
Le Givre à Giverny (est. £4,000,000-6,000,000) is a magnificent Claude Monet snow scene which was on offer to the National Gallery of Ireland when Grandy Jersey snapped it up, with the help of eminent dealer Dudley Tooth, with a cash payment before the museum’s committee were able to convene to secure it. Depicting the frost-covered trees at Giverny, the town on the Parisian outskirts which would become synonymous with Monet’s most innovative compositions, the painting is one of Monet’s first significant depictions of his new surroundings, belonging to an important series of early 1885. Monet’s progression towards a more radicalised depiction of the natural world is keenly felt in the dynamic handling of paint – a sensory montage of colours and textures, with Monet’s son and stepson walking near the Ile de Orties in the village.
Lord Jersey also chose a luminous work from Monet’s sometimes undervalued Dutch trip in 1871, Un Moulin a Zaandam (est. £800,000 - 1,200,000). While the painting superbly renders the immensity of Dutch skies, it also exhibits intriguing parallel with Japanese woodcuts, demonstrating the profound impact of new influences on the artist’s work, including that of Japanese contemporary art. In artists such as Hiroshige, Monet found the inventive perspectives and clarity to challenge the salon style of the older generation. Un Moulin a Zaandam is one of a group of boldly inventive paintings on the subject of the Dutch town Zaadam, where Monet and his family lived over the summer of 1871.
Understanding that French Impressionism is primarily the art of landscape, besides the outstanding Monet snow scene, Lord Jersey also chose Alfred Sisley’s La Tamise avec Hampton Church (est. £900,000-1,200,000), a particularly beautiful riverscape from the peak year of classic Impressionism, 1874. The work belongs to a group of paintings of Hampton Court which Kenneth Clark has called ‘the perfect moment of Impressionism’. Opening out onto a scene of bourgeois leisure, La Tamise avec Hampton Church offers English counterpart to the river scenes Sisley had enjoyed in France on the Seine. It is part of a wider group of seventeen views of England executed by the artist when he visited his native England in the summer of 1874. More than half of these are now in important public collections - including at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the National Galleries of Scotland.
Further works from the collection include Camille Pissarro’s, La Seine à Port-Marly (est. £400,000-600,000), and early Impressionist paintings by Boudin, Corot, Lepine, and Jongkind.