Clyfford Still Canvas Leads The Collection Of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson At Sotheby’s This May

Art Daily
Published on
Clyfford Still, 1947-Y-No.1. Executed in 1947. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.-Sotheby’s announced that they will present Property from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson as a highlight of their marquee Contemporary Art auctions this May in New York.

Harry W. “Hunk” Anderson (1922 – 2018) and Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson (1926 – 2019) were among the most passionate and influential American collectors of the 20th century. Theirs is a history of philanthropy and patronage, with countless institutions benefiting from donations of works by Post-war masters such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly and David Smith, among many others. Most notably, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University houses more than 120 works gifted from their holdings, through which visitors can explore the breadth of contemporary American art and experience the family’s distinctive vision.

Sotheby’s will offer a representative selection of 26 works from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson, which together reflect the family’s lasting legacy as transformative collectors of Post-war American art. Spanning media and artistic movements from Abstract Expressionism through to later developments in 20th-century abstraction, the group is led by Clyfford Still’s masterful 1947-Y-No.1 – one of the finest work by the artist to appear at auction since Sotheby’s 2011 sales on behalf of the city of Denver to benefit the Clyfford Still Museum. Property from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson is estimated to sell for in excess of $55 million in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening and Day Auctions on 13 and 14 May.

Property from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson will be on view in Sotheby’s New York galleries as part of an early preview exhibition from 28 February – 5 March. Select highlights will travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco and London, before returning to New York for the exhibitions of the marquee exhibitions of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art, opening to the public in early May.

Lisa Dennison, Chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, commented: “We are honored to be entrusted with works from the extraordinary Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Collection, which represents a remarkable family legacy. The selection of artworks that Sotheby’s will offer this May reflects the very best of what Hunk and Moo are revered for as collectors, tracing the history of Post-war American art through exceptional works unbounded by mediums and movements. Their sense of responsibility toward community and education, in addition to their camaraderie with artists, was the impetus behind transformational gifts to Stanford University and many other public institutions. It is a privilege to offer select works to a new generation of collectors this spring.”

HARRY W. & MARY MARGARET ANDERSON

Harry “Hunk” Anderson founded the food service company, Saga Corporate, during his senior year in college. He and his wife Mary Margaret “Moo” moved to the Bay Area with their daughter Mary Patricia “Putter” in 1962 to establish the national headquarters for Saga in Menlo Park. In the mid-1960s, during a visit to the Louvre and inspired by the works of French Impressionist painters, the Andersons embarked on a collecting journey that would come to define and enrich their lives. In the beginning, they acquired works by the Impressionists, German Expressionists, and Early American Modernists, but by the end of the sixties, they discovered their true passion for Post-war American Art, which became their focus over the next four decades. Acquiring seminal examples of Abstract Expressionism as the core of their holdings, they extended their representation of the best of American art to include other movements including Color Field painting, Bay Area Figuration and more recently emerging artists, through the auspices of Putter, a Los-Angeles based art advisor.

One of the central tenants of the Andersons’ collecting philosophy rested in their equal belief in the head and the hands: it was ingenuity as well as masterful craftsmanship that defined great works of art. The Andersons also believed that they were only custodians of works of art, which belonged to the world at large. Their legacy of sharing included opening their home for viewings, generous lending to exhibitions, and substantial gifts to museums in the Bay Area. In 2011, the family magnanimously donated over 120 works to Stanford University, which has since been supplemented by more gifts from the family and the community. The museum built to house the art, called The Anderson Collection at Stanford University, opened in 2014, and pays tribute to the vision and connoisseurship of this Bay area family who devoted so much of their lives to collecting over the last 50 years.

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM

Property from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson is distinguished by superlative Abstract Expressionist works of Post-war American art, led by Clyfford Still’s 1947-Y-No. 1. According to Dr. David Anfam, a foremost expert on Still and Abstract Expressionism, Clyfford Still’s 1947-Y-No.1 “dates from a crucial moment — the historic four years from 1946 onward when the artist taught at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. There, he created some of his most extraordinary paintings. This masterpiece represents Still at the peak of his powers. Combining raw intensity with an equally extreme meticulousness, 1947-Y-No.1 epitomizes the great pictorial drama that Still once called ‘an implosion of infinities’.”

The painting has remained in the collection of the Anderson family for close to 50 years, since it was acquired from Marlborough Gallery in 1972. With 95% of Still’s lifetime of work residing in the collection of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado, the auction of 1947-Y-No. 1 will mark a major market moment this May. In further testament to the significance of the present work, 1947-Y-No. 1 was notably selected by Still himself for inclusion in his seminal 1959 exhibition Paintings by Clyfford Still, organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Personally curated by the artist, this exhibition was Still’s first large-scale survey, and remains amongst the most important exhibitions of his career. A masterwork from the formative apex of the artist’s career, 1947-Y-No. 1 achieves a holistic union of form, space and line that, in its sheer graphic power, is as compelling and undeniable as a force of nature, serving as ultimate testament to Still’s singular and unparalleled importance within the mythic narrative of Post-war painting.

David Galperin, Head of Sotheby’s Evening Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, said: “The Anderson name is synonymous not only with exemplary works of Abstract Expressionism, but is so prominently associated with Clyfford Still in particular. One cannot help but think of the impact of the iconic 1957 Still that hangs at the top of the stairs at the Anderson Collection at Stanford, undeniably one of the crown jewels of the museum. It is an honor to present at auction for the first time another remarkable Clyfford Still painting from the Anderson collection, which hung with as much prominence in the family’s home for many decades. 1947-Y-No. 1 is a painting that represents the artist’s ushering in of an entirely new and revolutionary artistic movement – Abstract Expressionism – of which the Anderson family assembled one of the finest collections in the world.”

Executed in 1956, Sam Francis’s Deep Blue, Yellow, Red hails from the pinnacle of the artist’s celebrated career. Born and raised in California, Francis’s hometown of San Francisco experienced a fruitful recalibration in the painting landscape between 1947 and 1950, when influential artists such as Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko converged in the area. Francis was shaped by their example as seen in the present work, his unique style offering an extraordinary fusion of American abstraction in the Post-war period. His paintings from the late 1950s are considered the ultimate examples of his distinctive and highly-praised abstract aesthetic, marking a pivotal moment of artistic development as well as the first mature and sublime masterworks within his oeuvre. Characterized by highly-saturated zones of vivid color in the artist’s preferred hues of blue, yellow and red, the present work marks the first major 1950s work by Francis to come to market since Summer #1 achieved the artist’s current auction record at Sotheby’s in 2016.

WEST COAST ARTISTS

Long-time residents of the Bay Area and champions of local artists, Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson together amassed an outstanding selection of works by West Coast artists. Sotheby’s May auctions feature Richard Diebenkorn’s View from the Porch. Widely exhibited over the past 60 years, it is one of the most historically important paintings by the artist ever to appear at auction.

Representing one of the artist’s first forays into abstraction out of figuration, this early, large-scale, singular painting from 1959 informs and anticipates many of Diebenkorn’s later series, such as his iconic Ocean Park series. While influenced by Clyfford Still’s teachings at the California School of Fine Arts, the present work represents a West coast consolidation of the Bay Area Figurative Movement and Abstract schools. Paintings from the pivotal year of 1959 are extremely rare – the last time a major large-scale work by Diebenkorn of this date came to auction was in 1998, when Sotheby’s sold Ocean from a Window from the Reader’s Digest Collection for a then-world record auction price. All of the other large-scale paintings that the artist executed in 1959 are in museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Oakland Museum of California.

MASTERWORKS ON PAPER

Works on paper are a critical component of the Andersons’ collection, and their renowned assembly of masterworks on paper is a hallmark of their legacy. The exceptional examples on offer this May demonstrate the couple’s connoisseurship, led by two works by Mark Rothko. Green, Blue, Green from 1969 is a dazzling embodiment of his legendary abstractions and represents the artist’s career-long pursuit of aesthetic transcendence through color and light. Rothko produced exceptional paintings on paper throughout his career that rank among the richest examples of color within his output. Here the blue and green tones hover over one another, transporting the viewer into a deeply contemplative state – archetypal of the artist’s most accomplished chromatic compositions. In addition, Property from the Collection of Harry W. & Mary Margaret Anderson features Rothko’s Untitled from 1945, a Surrealist work on paper that will be offered in the Contemporary Art Day Auction.

Also complementing the selection are a group of significant prints by Barnett Newman and Jasper Johns. Avid print collectors, the Andersons gave a gift of nearly 700 prints to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1996.

SCULPTURE

European sculpture always formed a key capsule narrative within the Andersons’ collection. Sotheby’s May auctions feature exceptional examples by Henry Moore, David Smith and Jacques Lipchitz, led by Moore’s superb Reclining Connected Forms – cast in 1969, just one year after his acclaimed 1968 retrospective at the Tate Gallery. This bold sculpture exemplifies the artist’s dedication to experimentation and heightened abstraction during the 1960s, and includes aspects of the three defining subjects that recur throughout Moore’s oeuvre: the reclining figure, the dichotomy between internal and external forms, and the mother and child. Measuring nearly 7 feet across, Reclining Connected Forms is distinguished as one of the few purely abstract compositions that he executed on this monumental scale.