Sotheby's to Auction Whitney-Owned Paintings

(edited Sotheby's release)
Sotheby's will auction 44 paintings from the Greentree Foundation, which was created in 1982 by the late Mrs. John Hay Whitney following the death of her husband John Hay Whitney. The sale will include major works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Sir Alfred J. Munnings and John Singer Sargent.

It will also include Picasso's "Garçon à la Pipe" (Boy with a Pipe), which was painted in 1905 and is one of the most beautiful and powerful pictures from the early years of the artist's career. Most of the paintings will be auctioned in a single owner evening sale in New York on May 5, with the Collection itself estimated in excess of $140 million.

Richard Schaffer, president of the Greentree Foundation, said proceeds from the sale will be used to finance an extensive renovation of the building complex at Greentree, the Whitney family home in Manhasset, Long Island, to be converted into a meeting facility for public purposes, "particularly matters of international relations."

Funds will also go to other charitable and educational programs of the Foundation, he said.

"Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney were among the foremost collectors in the United States and their art collection was one of the greatest American collections of Impressionist and Modern Art of the 20th Century," said Bill Ruprecht, president and chief executive officer of Sotheby's Holdings, Inc.

"This is the most extraordinary group of paintings that Sotheby's has ever had the opportunity to auction and it is a great privilege for us to continue our long-term relationship with the Whitney family, which has included three memorable sales," he added.

Highlighting the auction is "Garçon à la Pipe" (Le jeune apprenti) by Picasso. Garçon à la pipe is estimated to sell for more than $70 million.

"Courses au Bois de Boulogne," a racing scene described by Mr. Moffett as "one of Edouard Manet's greatest paintings" was painted in 1872 at a time when memories of the Franco Prussian War (1870-71) were still fresh, and a sunny day at the races was therefore a particularly welcome respite. The large (28 ¾ x 36 ¼ ins.) canvas is estimated to sell for $20/30 million.

Degas produced a large number of works devoted to equestrian subjects, with his interest in horses, jockeys and racecourses increasing in the 1880s. Equestrian subjects were interesting to the artist because of the many ways in which they are analogous to ballet dancers. Mr. Whitney, whose interest in horse racing is legendary, evidently shared Degas' fascination with the "choreography" and rituals of the racetrack.

Whitney not only owned outstanding equestrian paintings by Gericault, Degas, Manet and Munnings, but the Whitney family's Greentree Stable produced many of the greatest and most successful Thoroughbreds of the 20th century. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Whitneys also owned two of Degas' best racing paintings, "Avant la course," painted circa 1882-88, and "La promenade des chevaux," circa 1892. The paintings are estimated to sell for $5 to $7 million each.

Frederic Bazille's "Pot de Fleurs" is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest flower paintings of the Impressionist movement. Estimated at $4 to $6 million, this work has been exhibited widely and included in virtually every important publication on the Impressionist movement.

The May 5 evening sale will also feature a group of four paintings by Sir Alfred J. Munnings, PRA, which are of remarkable quality and beauty. The "Red Prince Mare," which dates to 1921, depicts a mare, Rosemary, being saddled before a point-to-point race. Also by Munnings are the "Red Prince Mare Leaving the Paddock at Epsom Downs," "Before the Start" and "The Winner," painted circa 1910.

Another highlight is William Blake's "The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child," a monotype with pen and black ink and watercolor, one of a group of twelve compositions known as the Large Color Prints datable to 1795-1805. All are hand-colored monotypes, the largest and most successful works on paper that Blake had made to date.

Sotheby's sale of American Paintings on May 19 will include seven works from the Greentree Foundation. The highlight is the iconic portrait "Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife," by John Singer Sargent. It is estimated at $5 to 7 million.

Mr. and Mrs. Whitney were major art benefactors, donating many significant Impressionist, Modern and American Paintings to the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Whitney was known for his business accomplishments and philanthropy. Among the organizations he founded were J.H. Whitney and Company, the oldest venture capital firm in America; the Whitney Communications Corporation; and the John Hay Whitney Foundation.