The Terry Allen Kramer CollectionUpdated on
Broadway producer Terry Allen Kramer won five best-production Tony Awards between 2002 and 2017, but she was equally well known as the ‘grande dame’ of Palm Beach, Florida, where La Follia, her magnificent estate, played host to cultural and civic luminaries.
Together with her penthouse apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, La Follia was home to a remarkable private collection of fine art, including an outstanding grouping of Impressionist and Modern works, which will be offered at Christie’s in New York on 11 and 12 November.
Kramer’s astute connoisseurship led her to the very best, evidenced by the museum-quality works she acquired by Camille Pissarro, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Edgar Degas and Henri Matisse. Positioned within elegant rooms of continental furniture and antiques, these works shone in a collection united by a rare sense of beauty.
Born in New York in 1933, Terry Allen Kramer was the daughter of financier Charles Allen, Jr., who founded the prestigious Allen & Company investment firm. Exhibiting creative flair from an early age, she went on to study at Vassar College before marrying and having children.
It was not until the age of 41 that Kramer produced her first show — a 1974 revival of the musical Good News. She would become known as one of Broadway’s most inspired producers, backing plays and musicals that proved formative in the careers of the industry’s most noted talents.
‘Terry was a great friend and confidante, and somebody who gave back to the arts,’ observed theatre legend James L. Nederlander. ‘She was fantastic to work with. She always spoke her mind and was very honest.’
Among the dozens of shows she produced were The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, Kinky Boots, Movin’ Out, La Cage aux Folles, The Humans, Hello, Dolly!, and Sugar Babies.
Kramer was known for her elegance and European-inspired style, and cultivated her own sphere of influential people from many walks of life. Nowhere was this influence more pronounced than in Palm Beach, where she was a leading figure in the community.
At her Renaissance-style estate on South Ocean Boulevard, she entertained in a manner reminiscent of the golden age of Palm Beach society. Terry Allen Kramer’s annual Thanksgiving dinner was one of the most coveted invitations on the Palm Beach calendar, with the hostess standing in the buffet line to serve celebrities, performers, and leaders in politics and business.
Her many philanthropic pursuits included institutions such as the Palm Beach Civic Association, the Preservation League of Palm Beach, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Camille Pissarro’s Jardin et poulailler chez Octave Mirbeau, Les Damps (1892)
Camille Pissarro spent two weeks during September 1892 as the guest of the writer Octave Mirbeau and his wife Alice at their country home in Les Damps, a hamlet in the department of the Eure in northern France. He began work on four landscapes within a day of arrival.
Jardin et poulailler depicts a late summer’s pageant of flowers on a corner of Mirbeau’s property near the henhouse, which is partially visible in the middle distance at the far right. Pissarro built up the canvas from myriad tiny touches of complementary hues — green and red, blue and orange — to create a dense tapestry of colour that seems to vibrate before our eyes.
Mirbeau was a keen participant in the great horticultural boom that swept France in the late 19th century, when flowers became available in a far richer array of varieties than ever before. He tended the grounds at Les Damps with care, exchanging plants and practical advice with fellow gardeners Monet and Caillebotte.
In December 1892 the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel purchased 19 recent paintings from Pissarro, including Jardin et poulailler and two others from Les Damps; Pissarro held back the smallest from the series as a gift for Mirbeau. In March the following year, Durand-Ruel featured all four paintings from Les Damps in an important solo exhibition of Pissarro’s work, with Mirbeau loaning his canvas for the occasion.
Pablo Picasso’s Buste d’homme (1968)
History — and his place in it — was always on Picasso’s mind, not least in October 1968 as he approached his 87th birthday. He knew full well that he was painting against whatever finite measure of time that remained to him.
After undergoing emergency surgery, the artist had spent his convalescence devouring literature, revisiting his favourite classics, including Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844), which John Richardson, his biographer, has stated ‘he evidently knew by heart’.
The artist conceived his mousquetaires as proxies through whom he could explore the glories of 17th-century Baroque painting and the age of Velázquez and Rembrandt, the tradition to which he was heir. The brash qualities, ironic foibles and fabled exploits of these characters were also employed to give voice to Picasso’s own rich inner life, and to offer commentary on events of the day.
The first Picasso mousquetaires appeared as swordsmen in three drawings dated 29 December 1966. Troops of mousquetaires, typically en buste or in half-figure length, soon sprang forth, including the first pipe-smokers. The 30 canvases that Picasso painted between September and November 1968, including the Buste d’homme offered on 11 November, represent the crest of the initial wave of mousquetaires.
Salvador Dalí’s Naissance de l’ameublement paranoïaque (1937)
Salvador Dalí created Naissance de l’ameublement paranoïaque in preparation for the design and construction of one his most famous objects — the sexy, Surrealist, yet functional pièce de décor, Mae West Lips Sofa.
In 1928 Mae West’s play Diamond Lil, featuring a character rather like her bawdy, risqué self, became a Broadway hit for the actress-author and attracted the attention of Hollywood. She reprised this role as Lady Lou in the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong, resulting in an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The box-office proceeds saved Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy, and Mae West became the highest paid woman in America.
While in America during 1934-35, Dalí painted over a magazine cover showing a Paramount publicity shot of West, an image on which the studio also based one of its She Done Him Wrong posters. Subjecting the actress’s features to what he called spectral ‘disarticulation and deformation’, Dalí created Mae West’s Face Which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment.
Edward James, the English poet and collector and Dalí’s chief patron during the mid-1930s, was seeking to transform Monkton House, his country estate, into an amalgam of Surrealist environments. He was drawn to the idea of the Mae West lips sofa and a dual-chambered nostrils fireplace.
Dalí extracted these elements from the full-face gouache and precisely modelled them in the present drawing, from which working designs could be prepared.
Pablo Picasso’s Tête d’arlequin (1970)
In November 1970, aged 89, Picasso began a final series of drawings of one of the defining subjects of his career: the harlequin. By mid-January 1971, he’d produced more than three dozen sheets in pencil, ink or crayon, most of them depicting a Harlequin’s head at close quarters, complete with a slight smile and piercing stare.
Tete d’arlequin from the Terry Allen Kramer Collection shows Picasso at his most exuberant and unabashedly childlike. Executed in bright-coloured crayon, this harlequin’s eyes and nose bear a striking similarity to the artist’s own. Which should maybe come as no surprise, given that Picasso had used the trickster character from commedia dell’arte as an artistic alter ego since as far back as 1905.
Harlequins appeared in his Rose Period, his Cubist Period and his Neoclassical Period — in a wide variety of settings and moods — only to all but completely disappear from Picasso’s art for 40 years until re-emerging with gusto in 1970.
- Camille Pissarro
- Charles Allen
- Edgar Degas
- Henri Matisse
- James L. Nederlander
- Pablo Picasso
- Terry Allen Kramer
- Fine Art
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