The art of collecting

Out of friendship, admiration, inspiration, and jealousy, many creators are great collectors.

Matisse, Degas, Rodin, Monet, Van Gogh, Reynolds, Van Dyck, Picasso, Leighton, Watts, Lawrence. They are artists with one point in common: they collect art. Professional deformation? More than that. The pieces they treasure reveal their searches, questions and aesthetic influences; curiosity, admiration and jealousy for other colleagues; the vanguards that disturb them; the portraits of each era; its dreamed paradises and experiences; and his concept of art.

Sometimes they exchange some works for others, they also pay favors and debts with them. They acquire them to help a friend or simply because they admire the author and want them. They are doubly valuable jewels: by who buys them and who creates them.

«I am selfish, my collection is only for me and a few friends. I keep it in my room, around my bed. Claude Monet (1840-1926) told the writer Marcel Tendron in 1924. “For a long time I had to content myself with seeing those paintings in passing, because I couldn’t buy them,” he confesses.

He starts it with gifts from other artists and reinforces it with exchanges. When he succeeds and has money, “he buys paintings by those who have the same pictorial concerns, even if they find solutions different from his own,” explains curator Marianne Mathieu. Pay 10,000 francs for ‘The mosque. Arab feast ‘of his admired Auguste (1841-1919). He signs his portrait and that of his wife -the only ones he allows to take- and several seated and naked bathers.

There are no blues like those of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), he says, and he gets ‘Snowmelt at Fontainebleau’, ‘The Fishing Day’ and ‘The Black Scipion’. From his friend Édouard Manet (1832-1883) he acquired ‘Monet painting in his atelier’ and ‘The boy with flowers’; from his wife Berthe Morisot, ‘Julie Manet and her dog Laerte’ as a posthumous gift. Collect fabrics from Delacroix, Corot, and Signac. With ‘Peasants planting branches’, Pissarro repays the loan he owes him. Rodin gives him ‘Faun and Nymph’ and Caillebotte, ‘Paris Street in the Rain’.

Although his son sells a large part of the funds, 231 pieces of Japanese art survive, by 36 artists, then unlisted. Today they are. There are paintings of Hokusai, such as’ View of the swirls from Naruto

and Awa ‘and’ The Sazai Pavilion of the Temple of the 500 Rakan ‘, and unmistakable geisha from Utamaro and Kunisada.
In Monet’s collection the ‘Bridge in the Rain’ (1887) shines with Vincent van Gogh’s version of ‘Squall on the Atake Bridge’ (1857), from Hiroshigue. The painter and his brother Theo are passionate about Japanese prints. They buy 400.

They are exhibited at the Café Tambourin in Montmartre in 1887. It is only the beginning. Starting in 1868, with the Meiji era, Japan opens up to the West and its art bursts into Europe, captivating Baudelaire, Zola, Whistler, Fantin-Latour, Degas and Manet, who sometimes collect it.

Pablo Picasso does it; it does not come off him in his whole life Influence his erotic painting: in ‘Woman and octopus’ (1903) are perceived ‘The wet dreams of the fisherman’s wife’ (1814), by Hokusai.
Picasso bought Rousseau’s ‘Portrait of a Woman’ for five francs in 1907 and kept it all his life.Edgar Degas was a compulsive shopper and exchanged his paintings for others

Beloved rivals

“They are my friends”. This is how Picasso (1881-1973) defines his art collection: 43 paintings, 39 drawings, 41 photographs and a score of primitive pieces, today in his museum in Paris. He admires and analyzes them, they inspire him. He exchanged several of his paintings for ‘The Sea in L’Estaque’, by Paul Cézanne; he is interested in its sense of volume and the geometric structure that paves the way for the Cubists. He does not want impressionist works: too much feeling.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) attracts him. In 1907 he bought his ‘Portrait of a Woman’ for five francs and kept it until his death; as well as ‘Self-portrait’ and ‘Portrait of his second wife’. He likes how poetry catches the everyday. He considers it a ‘primitive modern’. He honors him by giving a banquet in his honor, in March 1908, in his studio at Bateau-Lavoir. Braque, Max Jacob, Andre Salmon, Gertrude, Leo Stein, Apollinaire …

Picasso and Henri Matisse (1869-1954) understand each other like no one else. They compete, they praise each other. They understand and respect each other, they exchange paintings. To thank him for keeping an eye on his belongings during the Nazi occupation of Paris, Matisse gives him a drawing; he corresponds with the portrait of Dora Maar (1942). «No one has ever looked at Matisse’s painting as well as I have. And he, mine ”, says the author of ‘Guernica’.

It has compositions by Renoir, Rousseau, Braque, Modigliani, Gauguin and Corot. But, admiring his Cézanne and Matisse, he always asks: “Is it possible to do better?” It is these paintings that he first shows Tápies, when he visits his studio; then Braque’s and finally his. «Deep down, what is a painter? A collector who wants to put together a collection by making himself the paintings that he likes from others », ditch.

Further goes his friend Matisse:

pawns his wife’s engagement ring to buy ‘The Three Bathers’ by Paul Cézanne. It does not get it back; lose the voucher. He is never separated from the painting, which significantly influences his work.

She gets to know him “quite well” and wishes “not quite.” He achieves ‘The Green House’ (1905) by Signac for a trade. It is done with ‘Young man with a flower’, by Paul Gauguin (1891), whose imprint is perceived in its evolution to the most abstract line. He surrounds himself with eclectic objects; not because of their value, but because of the emotion they cause you.

He considers them “actors who can represent many works” and makes them protagonists of his paintings. It includes masks from the Congo, a Moorish brazier and chair, an Andalusian vase from 1911, Chinese porcelain, screens, teapots and a Venetian chair with a shell back and arms with dolphins. They all paint.

Runaway and no brake

He is a compulsive shopper. “I can’t stop!” Exclaims Edgar Degas (1834-1917) at an auction in Paris. Then he acknowledges: “I already have the paintings with me … what I don’t have is money, not even to dress.” He manages. He exchanges his paintings for pieces such as ‘The Woman with the Cat’ by Manet and ‘The Bather with the Outstretched Arm’ by Cézanne. He mentors his colleagues: he pays jobs for Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. As soon as he has money, he buys:

El Greco, Gauguin … His favorites are Ingres, Delacroix and Daumier, with dozens of canvases. He distributes his bulky collection on the three floors of his residence. Every night he ponders how to pay for what he has just bought and, the next day, he starts again, his friends ironically. With the same stubbornness he pursues the pieces on Manet’s ‘The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian’, scattered at his death: three large paintings, a small sketch and a lithograph.

He anticipates until the response of his funeral: «You, Forain, you get up and say: ‘He loved the drawing enormously. Just like me. ‘ And then you go home.

For Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), collecting art is “a great game.” The British painter has paintings, prints and drawings. They are role models that one must emulate and, in turn, rivals that one must contend with, he thinks. Bid for what he calls ‘great art’: ‘The Agony in the Garden’ (1465), by Giovanni Bellini; ‘Leda and the Swan’ (1530), by Michelangelo; ‘Lamentation over the dead Christ’ (1635), by Rembrandt; and ‘The Horses of Achilles’ (1635), by Anton Van Dyck (1599-1641).

The latter also gets jobs from the best. It has works by Raphael and Tintoretto, and 19 by Titian, including ‘Portrait of the Vendramin family’ (1547).

Sculptor and painter, Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) sees art as a symbol of status. He highlights it by decorating his London mansion with a spectacular gilded-domed Arabic room, covered with tiles, mosaics and ceramics.

In the halls of the building -now a museum- there are scenes by Tintoretto that denote his taste for the Renaissance. A passion shared by his colleague and friend George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), who portrays himself as a Venetian senator and boasts, they say, of having in his collection a work by Girolamo Macchietti (1535-1592), the painter of crucifixes. Out-of-stock is Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) with over 4,000 pieces.

Among them, outstanding creations from the Carracci family -Agostino, Ludovico and Annibale- and Guido Reni, from the Bolognese School.

Five hundred ‘judas’ by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) were exhibited last April in Mexico D.C. They are cardboard dolls that are burned on Holy Saturday in churches, a religious tradition imposed in the Viceroyalty. Some represent Judas Iscariot; others to devils with different

outfits; and quite a few well-known characters who question. Those of Rivera and Kahlo are mostly from Carmen Caballero. The muralist discovered it in 1951 in a craft market; He names her “his chamber judera” and installs her in his studio to do them. They inspire many of his paintings: ‘Sábado de Gloria’ (1937), ‘Lucila y los Judas’ (1951), ‘El estudio del painter’ (1954) and ‘El Niño Efrén José Antonio del Pozo’ (1955). Other ‘judas’ of the marriage bear the sign of Pedro Linares, a craftsman in a Mexican cardboard saga active since the 18th century. For Diego Rivera, “the strength of that art” is still not understood, which he places on a par with that of Picasso and considers it a duty to preserve. It does.