Women have long collected artworks and been a vital pillar in support of artistic creation. However, they are frequently forgotten in art history, which has typically stated that collecting is the prerogative of men. Today, women’s roles and importance in the art world are finally put in the spotlight and honoured in exhibitions, such as the show at the Grand Palais in 2012, which centred around the collection of Gertrude Stein. Such collections often reveal a fierce desire to emancipate oneself, and to present to the world engaged and committed artists.
Whether as collectors or patrons, many women have maintained very strong interpersonal relationships with the artists whose works they collect. The scope of their work is twofold. Firstly, they help to stimulate the process of artistic creation. Secondly, they are a crucial support for the representation of the artists they love.
Art historian Julie Verlaine has published a book on this subject, retracing the career and history of great women art collectors (Women art collectors and patrons from 1880 to the present day). Her work is a powerful sociological testimony that establishes a correlation between gender and collecting practices. As true protectors of the arts, many women have asserted their presence on the art market, ignoring the existing male-dominated networks. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, SINGULART is pleased to present a portrait of some of the greatest patrons of the arts, from the 19th century to the present day. Now is the moment re-establish women to their rightful place as important collectors in the history of art.
Nélie Jacquemart : the portrait painter turned collector
Have you ever had the opportunity to visit the sumptuous Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris? As its name suggests, it was the private mansion of Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André, her husband, and housed their vast collection before it was turned into a museum in 1913. Today, the works that the couple owned are still on display there, marking Nélie Jacquemart as one of the greatest collectors of her time.
Born in 1841 in Paris from a modest background, Nélie Jacquemart was first a painter. As a talented portraitist, she met Edouard André, a banker and owner of La Gazette des Arts, who asked her to paint his portrait. A great love affair ensued which led to their marriage in 1881. The two lovers shared the same passion for art, which they brought to life through numerous travels. Thus began the Jacquemart-André collection, composed of numerous acquisitions made during their travels. Nélie Jacquemart asserted very early on her penchant for Italian art and thus built up a splendid collection in her Parisian mansion.
After the death of her husband in 1894, the collector continued to travel and bring art to life in France. She died in 1912 and donated her entire collection to the Institut de France. In her will, Nélie Jacquemart underlined her desire to open the doors of her home to the wider public in order to expose them to the arts. The Institut de France respected her wishes, and a year later, the Jacquemart-André Museum was founded, which still houses several exemplary masterpieces of Italian painting today.
Gertrude Stein : iconic figure of the avant-garde
Gertrude Stein was a friend to all the greatest masters of 20th century painting. Her colossal collection is something to marvel at: from Cézanne and Picasso to Matisse, all the great names of modern painting are represented in it. The American moved to Paris in 1904 and joined her brother Léo at 27 rue de Fleurus, which was soon to become the hotspot of the Parisian avant-garde.
Stein and her brother began to acquire canvases by painters such as Gauguin and Renoir soon after their arrival. Then, the visionary Gertrude Stein developed a passion for the work of Pablo Picasso. The collector gradually detached herself from her brother and asserted her artistic tastes and preferences: Léo was faithful to Matisse while Gertrude preferred Picasso.
Throughout her life, Stein maintained intimate relationships with these artists, whose work she came to influence, instilling her reflections on art in her friends. The collector was certainly the greatest ambassador of modern art and contributed greatly to the spread of Cubism. At once writer, poet and fine aesthete, Gertrude Stein remains today a monument of the European avant-garde.
Peggy Guggenheim : the self-taught American collector
A legendary figure of modern art, the American Peggy Guggenheim has left an important legacy to the art world and her influence extends to Europe where she established her collection in the Palazzo dei Leoni in Venice.
An American socialite, the collector was made aware of art thanks to her friends Marcel Duchamp and Jean Cocteau. As a custodian of a significant inheritance, she began her collection of works with meticulousness and foresight. After crossing the Atlantic to settle in Europe, she opened her first gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, in London in 1938, where she exhibited the work of Brancusi at the gallery’s inauguration. An avid art lover, she acquired a spectacular number of works of art, including those by Calder, Kandinsky, Giacometti and Dali, among others.
During the war, Peggy Guggenheim protected many of her artist friends who she accommodated in the United States, including the painter Max Ernst, whom she married in 1941. Back in her native country, she opened her famous New York gallery, Art of the Century, which featured major artists of the American avant-garde such as Pollock and Rothko.
The collector continued to frenetically buy works of art and expanded her collection drastically, which she finally moved to Venice in 1949, where she spent the rest of her life. Today, the Guggenheim Foundation exhibits the collection in her palace, where it rests alongside masterpieces of modern art.
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo : the contemporary collector from Turin
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is a shaper of the contemporary art world. A notable collector, this Italian is also a fervent supporter of the young artists whose production she supports. When it comes to art, she loves the most daring works, including those by Anish Kapoor, which she collects in her Turin foundation which opened in 1995.
The collector acts on all fronts: she collects art on a personal basis, exhibits artists in her foundation and organises exhibitions all over the world. She also finances the production of certain works and installations on the occasion of events.
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is undoubtedly one of the most prominent women collectors of the moment, whose collection is among the most contemporary of our century.
Our SINGULART women collectors
At SINGULART too, our collectors contribute to the diffusion of art. Find out more about their careers through our exclusive interviews.