The $150m collection of Mrs Sidney F. Brody

Christie's is selling one of the greatest private American collections of Modern Art ever to come to auction: The Collection of Mrs Sidney F. Brody. 

Remarkable for its extraordinary depth and quality, the collection boasts a wealth of master works by the towering figures of the Modernist movement, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque, Edouard Vuillard, Marino Marini, and Henry Moore. 

Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves

The total value of the works to be offered is expected to exceed $150m, making it one of the most valuable single-owner collections ever offered at auction.

Mrs Sidney F. Brody's collection began in earnest with a Henry Moore sculpture placed under the Christmas tree, a gift for Frances Brody from her husband Sidney, a prominent Los Angeles real estate developer. 

"Sid put it under the Christmas tree. And well, by then I guess we were hooked," she recalled in a later interview. 

Brody shared with her father Albert Lasker a passion for collecting and a preference for Modern art and design in particular. 

 As a young couple in the late 1940s, the Brodys engaged the legendary architect A Quincy Jones and interior designer William "Billy" Haines to custom design their home in Holmby Hills, CA. 

Recognized as a tour-de-force of mid-century Modernist design, the house became the perfect foil for the couple's burgeoning art collection, which grew over the years to become a scintillating display of paintings, sculpture and important works on paper. 

"For those lucky enough to have seen the Brody collection in situ in the couple's elegant home, the true genius of the collection was apparent at every turn," recalls Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christie's International, who first visited the Brody home in the fall of 1978.

"From Picasso's tender love poem to Marie-Thérèse - a masterpiece by any measure - to Matisse's Michaelangelesque seated nude, and Giacometti's greatest bronzes, every room revealed fruits of sophisticated connoisseurship."

As dedicated patrons of the arts, the Brodys were founding benefactors of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the UCLA Art Council. 

Later in life, Mrs Brody became a guiding patron of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA. 

Nu au coussin bleu by Matisse

She passed away in November 2009 at age 93.  In support of the Huntington's goals of encouraging research, and promoting education, arts, humanities and botanical sciences, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of The Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody will be donated to the organisation.

A collection for connoisseurs...

The centrepiece of the Brody collection is Picasso's spell-binding Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust. This large-scale portrait of Picasso's mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, is inarguably one of the finest of Picasso's celebrated 1932 paintings. 

Painted in rich blues, pinks and vibrant greens, with accents of red and orange, this deeply sensual and thematically complex work can be read above-all as a declaration of love from the artist to his young muse. 

Marie-Thérèse's sleeping form, seemingly suspended in swaths of black, dominates the lower half of the canvas. Above, her sculpted head rests upon a pedestal, and the barely perceptible outline of another face emerges from behind the philodendrons.

The painting was completed on March 8 1932, during one of most intensely creative periods of Picasso's career.  He had celebrated his 50th birthday the prior Fall, and was preparing for a retrospective exhibition to be held in June 1932 at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris.

Grande tête de Diego

The Brodys acquired the work direct from Picasso's dealers in the 1950s and made it the focal point of their expanding collection.

This remarkable painting has only been exhibited once in the United States, when the Brodys generously loaned it to the 1961 exhibition Bonne Fête Monsieur Picasso, a retrospective staged in honor of Picasso's 80th birthday that was sponsored by the UCLA Art Council.

The upcoming sale preview marks the first time in 50 years the work will be publicly displayed.

"Of Picasso's many great series, the pictures of Marie-Thérèse from the spring of 1932 have always been regarded as being among his greatest achievements," said Conor Jordan, Head of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Department in New York.

"The upcoming sale of Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust is a landmark opportunity to acquire a true masterpiece, and one that has rarely been seen since the 1930s."

As we previously reported, Picasso and Giacometti are among the most valuable artists ever auctioned, definitely making Christie's sale an important one to watch.


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