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A rare time capsule of fine art: The George D. Horst Collection to be sold at Freeman's
Estimated at $200,000-300,000, this painting by Daniel Garber was purchased by Horst in 1926 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
PHILADELPHIA, PA.- On March 30, Freeman’s will sell a private collection of fine American and European paintings that have remained virtually unseen for almost a century. The 64 paintings, most in their original frames, were amassed by Pennsylvania businessman George D. Horst from 1911-1929 and have been hanging in his custom-built gallery since 1929. Celebrated painters such as Frank Weston Benson, Edward Willis Redfield, Childe Hassam, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, and Charles François Daubigny are represented in the collection, with most works purchased soon after their completion from galleries, fine art institutions such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and auction houses—including Freeman’s.

“This type of collection is an auctioneer’s perfect storm. The paintings are in excellent condition with a great provenance and have been hanging mostly undisturbed in Horst’s gallery for decades. As we say in the UK, ‘it’s been preserved in aspic,’” said Freeman’s Vice Chairman and Fine Art Division Head Alasdair Nichol.

Highlights from The George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art:

• Childe Hassam (American 1859-1935) The Norwegian Cottage, est. $200,000-300,000

• Daniel Garber (American 1880-1953) “Glen Cuttalossa,” est. $200,000-300,000

• Edward Willis Redfield (American 1869-1965) “Winter Sunlight,” est. $200,000-300,000

• Frank Weston Benson (American 1862-1951) “Marshes of Long Point,” est. $200,000-300,000

• Emil Carlsen (American 1853-1932)"Copper and Porcelain,” est. $100,000-150,000

• Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (French 1796-1875)"Garden Gate," est. $60,000-80,000

• Eugène Louis Boudin (French 1824-1898)“Estuary with Sailboats and Lighthouses” $40,000-60,000

An immigrant from Germany, the American and European paintings in the collection reflect Horst’s dual identity. A major source of American art for Horst was the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art school and museum in the US. Known for producing many talented and influential American artists, PAFA’s annual exhibitions provided students and graduates with the opportunity to present the best examples of their work, which in turn, drew collectors like Horst. Daniel Garber’s painting entitled “Glen Cuttaloosa” was acquired by Horst during the 1926 exhibition, one year after it was completed. Horst was also partial to Pennsylvania Impressionists such as Fred Wagner, Edward Willis Redfield, and William Lathrop as well as American artists known as “The Ten” such as Childe Hassam and Frank Weston Benson. Among the European painters in the collection, well-known predecessors of Impressionism like Barbizon artists Eugène Boudin and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, as well as Henri Harpignies, Charles-François Daubigny and Diaz de la Pena are represented.

“An extraordinary quality about the Horst Collection is its impeccable provenance. In fact, both Horst and the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased Corot paintings, once owned by Charles H. Senff, at an auction in 1928,” said Nichol.

George D. Horst began to collect paintings in 1911. A founding partner of the profitable Berks County hosiery firm, Nolde & Horst, he was also a patron of the arts and the primary donor of the fledgling Reading Museum, located on the third floor of a school administration building. Horst intended his paintings to serve as teaching tools, alongside the anthropological and cultural artifacts that constituted the bulk of the museum’s collection. Together, over the next decade, the Reading Museum and the Horst Collection grew until it was necessary to construct an entirely new museum to accommodate the expanding institution. Horst felt strongly that the new building should be located in the center of town, accessible to all who lived within the city limits. In a letter published in 1924 on the front page of the Reading Eagle, Horst wrote, “. . . a building of this kind should certainly be a monument in itself, and be placed in a commanding location.”

However, in 1924 when Horst returned from a European tour with his family, he discovered that construction had started on a plot of land located in—what he considered—an unsuitable, swampy area too far from town. To add insult to injury, the land on which the new building was to stand had been donated by his principal business competitor. Frustrated with this turn of events, he demanded the return of his paintings from the museum, as well as all of his cash contributions. With most of his paintings back in his possession, Horst constructed his own private gallery and continued to purchase art until the stock market crashed in 1929. The Horsts often used this single-room gallery for entertaining friends and sharing their impressive collection with guests.

George Horst died in 1934, his wife in 1957. By the 1950s, the Impressionist style of the collection fell out of fashion, replaced by artistic trends which rejected the traditions of their forbearers. As a result, Horst’s paintings were forgotten by the family. They remained undisturbed in the gallery until the 1980s when his grandson, George H. Sullivan, began to re-examine the collection. His interest was triggered by an exhibition he attended in New York City, dedicated to the French Barbizon painter, Charles-François Daubigny. As he studied his grandfather’s Daubigny—and then more closely the rest of the ensemble—he discovered that this seemingly unpretentious collection was actually a trove of fine artwork by European and American nineteenth and early twentieth-century painters.

The George D. Horst Collection is comprised of 64 American and European paintings and will be sold at Freeman’s on March 30, 2014.

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