Sotheby's to offer the personal collection of Richard L. Feigen this fall in New York

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Sotheby's to offer the personal collection of Richard L. Feigen this fall in New York
Max Beckmann, Grosser Steinbruch In Oberbayern (Large Quarry In Upper Bavaria). Oil on Canvas. Estimate $1.8/2.5 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced that it will offer works from the personal collection of one of the most respected figures in the art world, the late Richard L. Feigen, in a dedicated single owner sale in New York on 18 October. Exemplifying the legendary dealer’s keen eye and instinct, Collector, Dealer, Connoisseur: The Vision of Richard L. Feigen -- will present 55 paintings and works on paper from the major schools of Europe from the 14th to 20th centuries amassed over the dealer’s 60+ years in the art world. The selection includes a variety of works including portraits, landscapes and genre scenes, with particular strengths in Italian gold-ground paintings, British landscapes and 20th-century German art.

Highlights from the collection will be on view at Sotheby’s London galleries from 17 – 23 September, and the entire collection will be displayed alongside the Master Paintings exhibit at Sotheby’s galleries in New York beginning 13 October.

Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s Head of Old Master Paintings in New York, commented: “In scope of interest, insight and impact, few American art dealers of the 20th century were as influential as Richard L. Feigen. A gallerist with an international reputation for excellence, his taste not only shaped the numerous collectors with whom he worked, but also the global network of institutions to which he sold the many masterpieces that passed through his hands. As a patron, his innate ability to identify the quality and importance of artists that others had overlooked, figures such as Richard Parkes Bonington, Max Beckmann, Francis Bacon, Joseph Cornell and Bridget Riley, would greatly influence each of their legacies. With such diverse interests across categories of art history, Feigen’s personal collection stretched from the 14th to the 20th century, encapsulating the fierce passion and curiosity that defined his collecting. In presenting the Feigen collection, we hope a new generation of collectors will be equally inspired as Feigen was to explore new limits and continue his legacy as an emboldened advocate for masters of any period.”

Self-referred to as a ‘collector in dealer's clothes,’ Richard Feigen’s passion for collecting began at a young age. After graduating Yale (B.A. ‘52) and Harvard (M.B.A ‘54), Feigen opened his first gallery in Chicago in 1957. Soon after, he gave Joseph Beuys his first US show and John Baldessari his first New York show in Soho, and knew and began representing contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns, Jean Dubuffet, Joseph Cornell and James Rosenquist – championing their work until they were bonified stars in the international art world. As a collector, his passions included Italian art from the 13th century to the Baroque, works by British and French Romantic artists, and German Expressionists, all of which are reflected in this dedicated sale.


Epitomizing Feigen’s unique instinct for seeking artists that he thought were undervalued or underappreciated, eight works by British romantic master Richard Parkes Bonington are to be offered, including two emblematic landscapes created during the artist’s Italian sojourn in 1826 with his friend and patron Baron Charles Rivet. Bonington and Baron Charles Rivet were prolific in their artistic studies during this short visit, making drawings, watercolors, and oil sketches, such as this beautifully preserved example depicting the three palazzi at the entrance to the Grand Canal in Venice: The Palazzo Manolesso-Ferro, Palazzo Contarini-Fasan, and Palazzo Contarini (est. $2/3 million). The level of detail and texture in Bonington’s vision of the fifteenth-century Gothic palaces suggests that the picture is a study that was likely completed en plein air. Unlike earlier Venetian vedute, Bonington’s plein air sketches are largely free of crowds and the everyday activities of fisherman, gondoliers, merchants, and pedestrians, and this quiet focus on the buildings imparts a bright, but slightly melancholy air. Bonington was attracted to Venice for its many literary connections, including Shakespearean ones. The central palazzo in Bonington’s study has long been called the “Casa di Desdemona” due to an apocryphal belief that the wife of Othello lived there. It is perhaps unsurprising that this tragic association was made with one of the most elegant palazzi of the city, as artists and writers of the nineteenth century popularly visualized Venice as a city in decline whose former beauty could just be glimpsed among ruined facades and dilapidated buildings. Considered in the context of his tragically short career and life, Bonington’s obsession with capturing the fleeting play of light and shadow on the degrading surfaces of Venice is all the more poignant.

Bonington continued to employ the en plein air technique, as exemplified in his View of Lerici, executed after Bonington’s and Rivet’s stay in Venice (est. $1/1.5 million). Here, Bonington has included the figure of Rivet himself sketching in the shade of a stand of trees at left. Described by Bonington expert Patrick Noon as ‘one of the best preserved of Bonington’s oils,’ this sketch was acquired by Sir Thomas Lawrence after Bonington’s premature death.

The group of Boningtons is complimented by a strong selection of portraits, landscapes and genre-scenes by the greats of 18th and 19th century British art, including Thomas Gainsborough, R.A, Sir Thomas Lawrence, George Romney and Sir David Wilkie.

Richard L. Feigen championed many painters, but none more deeply and successfully than Max Beckmann. He was one of the first to understand the artist’s status as a foundational figure of Modernism and Abstract Expressionism in America, acquiring several seminal works by the artist over his lifetime, including including Bildnis eines Türken (Portrait of a Turk) (est. $2/3 million) from 1926, a powerful portrait that exemplifies the artist’s development in figural representation in the 1920s, and the domineering landscape Grosser Steinbruch in Oberbayern (Large Quarry in Upper Bavaria), painted in Ohlstadt in 1934 during a period when Beckmann and his wife frequently traveled to his wife’s family’s summer home at the edge of the Alps to escape the Nazi’s ascension into power (est. $1.8/2.5 million).

Principal to the collection are a number of high-quality early Italian and Baroque pictures, reflecting the discerning eye for which Feigen was known, especially as a collector. Amongst the impressive and comprehensive assortment of Italian Duecento and Trecento panels is Lorenzo Monaco’s beautifully rendered image of The Prophet Jeremiah, one of the four great Prophets of the Old Testament (est. $600/800,000). The panel once formed part of a polyptych painted by Monaco for the high altar of San Benedetto in Florence, whose main paneling was centered on the Coronation of the Virgin with Adoring Saints (and is now in the National Gallery, London). Depicted half-length, Jeremiah is shown in a light green robe and white hood, holding a large banderole inscribed in Latin, confirming his identity. Feigen acquired the work in 1994, after which it was included in the important exhibition Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Additional standout Italian Renaissance offerings include a luminous lunette of Three Singing Angels, painted around 1485 by Ambrogio da Fossano, called il Bergognone, one of the leading Lombard masters of the Italian Renaissance (est. $80/120,000) and striking depiction of The Adoration, from the hand of the early career of one of the most important and unique painters of the Italian Renaissance, Domenico Beccafumi (est. $300/500,000).

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