NEW YORK, NY.- On view, for the first time in a gallery venue, are a selection of 19th and 20th century works on paper and small oils from the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collections. The collections were assembled in large part by William Louis-Dreyfus, the American lawyer, businessman, philanthropist, and poet. Works in this show demonstrate the broad range of interest he had in artists, media, and subject, ranging from a vivid and energetically drawn rare watercolor by Daumier to the precisely drawn, elegant lines of an abstract Kandinsky from 1939. The exhibition includes a group of 6 works by Theodore Rousseau, illustrating Louis-Dreyfuss, particular love of his work. Two works of interest and beauty are an intimate, touching drawing of a Breton boy by Gauguin, related to several works, and a colorful and large Vuillard pastel of flowers at his home in Vaucresson. This show presents a unusual opportunity to understand and appreciate one persons eye and the development of a collection put together with a real understanding and love of art over a lifetime.
"Great collectors come along very rarely, and even more rarely with the open heart and generous spirit that William Louis-Dreyfus brought to each acquisition. I had the privilege and pleasure of having him visit the gallery and of selling him works of art, several of which are on view here now. We hope that the next generation of owners will appreciate each object the way William did." --Jill Newhouse
William Louis-Dreyfus (1932-2016) was a lawyer and businessman as well as an avid art collector and a published poet. William was born in Ville-d'Avray, on the outskirts of Paris. His father, Pierre Louis-Dreyfus, fought alongside the Resistance during World War II, and was the grandson of the founder of the Louis-Dreyfus commodities trading business that William would later lead. After escaping the war and moving to the United States, William earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from Duke University (1954) as well as a degree from the university's law school (1957). He worked in the litigation group at Dewey, Ballantine, until 1964, when he joined the Louis-Dreyfus Corporation. During his tenure with the Louis-Dreyfus Group, William transformed the company into a leading global commodities trading powerhouse. Throughout his lifetime, William supported many political and social causes as well as charities related to issues such as voters rights, via the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke University, and the education of minority children through the Harlem Childrens Zone.
Williams interest in the arts was deep and wide ranging. He was a poet whose works were published in The Hudson Review, The New Criterion and Southwest Review, and he left behind an unpublished book of poems called Letters Written and Not Sent, finished just before he died. From 1995 to 1997, he also taught poetry at Jackie Robinson High School in Harlem.
William's art collection, which he began to put together in the early 1960s, contains works by Wassily Kandinsky, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Helen Frankenthaler and many others. However, it stands out both for the many works by living artists with whom William enjoyed personal relationships, and for the self-taught, so-called "outsider artists" he championed, including Bill Traylor, Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe and James Castle. He never viewed them as "outsiders," just as artists he liked.
The legacy of his moral and political convictions is given longevity by the choices he made in art and in collecting, and together have made a lasting impact on the world in which he lived.