Degas (2)

I had not heard (or had forgotten) the story behind the acquisition of the National Gallery’s great Combing the Hair:  that it was on the list of the paintings that Charles Holmes wanted to buy when he travelled to Paris with the International Financial Mission at the end of the first world war to buy pictures at the auction of Degas’s studio effects;  but that Lord Ribblesdale, one of the stupider and more arrogant of the Gallery’s Trustees, crossed it off the list on the grounds that it was unfinished.   It was acquired instead by Matisse and later sold by his son Pierre in New York, where it was acquired by Kenneth Clark for the National Gallery in 1937:  a story which does not appear in my history of the National Gallery, nor in James Stourton’s recent history of Kenneth Clark, nor, oddly (assuming that it’s true) on the National Gallery’s website.

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2 thoughts on “Degas (2)

  1. A good story, thank you.

    Holmes was a good Director of the National Gallery, after he, like you, had been Director of the NPG (NPG 1916-21, NG 21-28).

    He acquired Corot, Delacroix and Guercino; Elsheimer and Ingres; Manet, Morisot, Renoir, Gauguin and van Gogh; and Gainsborough !

  2. marinavaizey says:

    I think Maynard Keynes did some fine buying too when in Paris…..during/after the war. and there is a story which you Charles must know well of how on that long path up to Charleston, he left a CĂ©zanne in the hedge. Isn’t some of his collection now in the Fitzwilliam. BUT WHEN I THINK OF WHAT THE Tate missed! think The Red Studio….

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