Scottish auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull
are to sell the contents of the New York home of Donald L. Taffner, iconic independent television producer and his wife Eleanor B. Taffner. Their Greenwich Village home, dating from 1822, contains one of the most important collections of Scottish works of art from the early 20th century. Valued at up to £1,000,000, (US$1.59) of particular note are the furniture, drawings and paintings by the Glasgow Four; Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, her sister Frances Macdonald MacNair and her husband James Herbert MacNair. They will be sold at Lyon & Turnbulls Edinburgh saleroom on the 7th September 2012.
The quintessential American success story, Donald and his wife and business partner, Eleanor, were responsible for bringing television shows to the American public such as, Three's Company, Too Close for Comfort and The Benny Hill Show. They were also responsible for classic British productions such as My Family and As Time Goes By.
Having developed a passion for Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School , in 1986 they created the post of Taffner Mackintosh Curator at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), a position which ensured the upkeep of the architect's most distinguished masterpiece. Eleanor served as a member of the Glasgow School of Art Board of Governors from 1991-2003 and in 2003 she was named Honorary Vice President of the Glasgow School of Art in recognition of her continued support of the school. They also established an American Friends of GSA to support the school's links with the USA.
John Mackie, Director and specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said Donald and Eleanor Taffner made an extraordinary contribution to Scotland s cultural heritage with their interest and promotion of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his circle. We are honoured to have been chosen to sell their collection.
In 1996 the Taffners supported Glasgow Museums' Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition, which toured in New York , Chicago and Los Angeles . In the same year Eleanor was awarded the prestigious Lord Provost's Medal for her contribution to the arts in Scotland, and in 2005 the couple were presented with a Wallace Award at the Icons of Scotland Dinner hosted by Scotland Magazine. They were the first recipients with no hereditary connection to Scotland to receive the award. As a result of her work promoting the arts in Scotland , Eleanor received an MBE in 2005.
Amongst over 100 items to be offered in the sale are a beautiful group of watercolours by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Two of the highlights are Boultenère, painted around 1925-7, from his period in the south of France and estimated at £80,000-120,000; (US$127,000-190,000) and Yellow Tulips, a remarkable still life dated to 1919 and estimated at £100,000-150,000 (US$159,000-238,000). Elsewhere, an early watercolour by Frances Macdonald, Ophelia, leads an important group of watercolours by the artist, estimate £60,000-80,000 (US$95.000-127,000) and works by her husband Herbert MacNair and sister Margaret Macdonald are also included in the sale. The Taffners also collected works of the Scottish Colourists and examples by F.C.B. Cadell and J.D. Fergusson including Tulips by Cadell estimate, £60,000-80,000 (US$95.000-127,000) will be offered. Included in a group of mainly Scottish works of art are a pair of mahogany card room chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, made especially for his greatest patron Miss Catherine Cranston for her home in Glasgow , estimate £20,000-30,000 (US$31,800-47,000). Finally one of the more unusual lots is an intriguing oil painting by Sir John Lavery, depicting the artist with the child star Shirley Temple, estimate £30,000-50,000 (US$47,000-79,500).
Its an extraordinary collection put together over many years by my parents. said Donald Taffner Jnr. My sister Karen and I hope that the future owners of these works will get as much pleasure from them as our parents certainly did.
Donald Taffner Snr. grew up above his family's store in Brooklyn where his education in business began, preparing the day's newspapers with his father and running telephone messages throughout the neighbourhood. A graduate of St John's University , Don took a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency in 1952. In 1959 he built his expertise in television distribution by helping to begin the Television Distribution Program Department at Paramount . The Taffners were married in 1961 and in 1963 they launched D.L. Taffner Ltd, their own business. The company started out as a worldwide distributor of TV programs and later, as DLT Entertainment Ltd., expanded to TV and stage production. The company continues to own and manage the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End .
Mr Taffner's significant contribution to the entertainment business was recognised by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences who presented him with an Emmy Award "for setting new levels of creativity in the worldwide exchange of television programs". Meanwhile in the UK , Mr Taffner was awarded an OBE for his contribution to British television.