Its Now Or Never: Matisse and Picasso treasures from Elvis Presley's publisher up for auction
Source:The Telegraph Author:Colin Gleadell Date: 2017-09-29 Size:
How many figures involved in the birth and popularisation of rock and roll……

Henri Matisse, Jeune fille accoudée (Young Girl Leaning on Elbow), signed and dated “Henri Matisse 38” lower left, charcoal on paper, 1938. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Marguerite Duthuit and dated September 26, 1980. Estimate $900,000 - 1,200,000 Credit: Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers

How many figures involved in the birth and popularisation of rock and roll music can you associate with fine collections of modern art? Struggling? Then look no further than Phillips auctioneers in London later this week when a group of four superb drawings by Picasso and Matisse go on show from the collection of Elvis Presley’s music publisher, Julian Aberbach, before being auctioned in New York.

Growing up in the jewellery business in Austria, Aberbach narrowly avoided incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp by taking a fever jab before an examination by a German doctor who judged him too ill to be of use. He then fled to America serving with the military in the Southern states where he developed a taste for country music. Sensing this style was going to catch on, he formed a publishing company, Hill and Range, in which he was joined by his younger brother, Jean. In the early 50s, Hill and Range represented 75 per cent of the music produced in Nashville. Their most significant signing was Elvis in 1955. Aberbach was also instrumental in securing the legendary ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker as Elvis’s full-time manager.

Pablo Picasso, Portrait de femme endormie III (Portrait of a sleeping woman. III), crayon on paper, inscribed and dated "Antibes 31 octobre 46 III", 1946, this work is recorded in the inventory of the Succession Picasso under no. 4803 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Picasso Authentification. Estimate $1,000,000 - 1,500,000 Credit: Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers

One of his key initiatives as a publisher was to give an artist a share of the publishing profits as both an incentive and a tie to his company. ''I gave Elvis a check for $2,500 as an advance against the royalties of his stock ownership,'' Aberbach told Billboard magazine of the deal, "and he promptly went to the Cadillac dealer and got a pink one!''

With the money Aberbach made, he, and his French wife, Anne Marie, took the short step from appreciating music to visual art by buying it (the art). Their taste was for conventional 18th century French furniture mixed with modern art - both daring and socially acceptable, entirely in tune with the style of the post-war European cultural elite.

The contract with Elvis lasted nearly 20 years, until, just as Presley’s health was declining, Aberbach succumbed to a heart attack, sold Hill and Range, and moved to Paris. He wisely retained a substantial stake in Presley’s publishing and continued to receive royalties until his death in 2004 aged 95.

Henri Matisse, Jeune fille dormant à la blouse roumaine (Young girl sleeping in a Romanian blouse), signed and dated "Henri Matisse 20 déc, 39" lower left, charcoal on paper, 1939. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Marguerite Duthuit and dated September 26, 1980. Estimate $1,200,000 – 1,800,000 Credit: Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers

His brother, Jean, meanwhile, opened a gallery in New York which Julian also maintained an interest in. Their collections included major works by Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti, some of which were generously donated to museums. A de Kooning landscape and Robert Motherwell’s ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic’, for example, were given by the brothers to the Rose Art Museum in 1964, and two superb surrealist paintings by Paul Delvaux were given by Julian to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the late 1970s. The dozens of gifts the two made would be worth well over 100 million dollars at today’s prices.

When Julian sold at auction, which wasn’t often, he was never identified as the seller. His name, though, will be attached to the Phillips pictures, now owned by his daughter.

On seeing Aberbach’s drawings by Picasso and Matisse for the first time, art historian Charles Stuckey, a former curator at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, was struck not only by their quality, but by their homogeneity. “Such a shame to break them up,” he said.

Pablo Picasso, Deux Nus (Two Nudes), signed and dated "Picasso 20-5-20" lower right, gouache and pencil on paper, May 5, 1920. Accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by Claude Picasso. Estimate $800,000 - 1,200,000 Credit: Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers

Stuckey calls them ‘exhibition drawings’ – i.e., drawings that do not depend on a relationship to a painting or larger composition, but are finished works in their own right. A classical period Picasso from 1920 of two nudes standing was from the artist’s first exhibition solely of drawings, held at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery in Paris. A later Picasso is a sensual, 1946 coloured portrait of his young lover, Francoise Gilot, sleeping. Picasso made numerous drawings of Gilot, but this example, says Stuckey, “is the finest and most ambitious of them all.”

An equally sensual Matisse drawing of a different sleeping girl was made ten years earlier but, next to the Picasso, reminds us of the competitive relationship between the two, in particular over the services of Gilot as a model. Picasso’s drawings of Gilot were made in numbers, it is thought, to stave off Matisse’s interest in her. She, meanwhile, encouraged the two to enter an artistic dialogue which can be seen in the drawings for sale.

These four drawings are the jewels in a wider selection of works from the Aberbach collection which are to be sold by Phillips in London and New York. Their estimates range from $800,000 to $1.8 million , and record prices could be on the cards for a Matisse head and shoulder drawing and for a Picasso drawing of Francoise Gilot.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern