Degas (3)

Marina Vaizey has rightly reminded me that, at the same sale that Charles Holmes failed to acquire Degas’s Combing the Hair, but did acquire three works by Ingres, including Monsieur de Norvins, and fragments of Manet’s Execution of Maximilian, so Maynard Keynes who had negotiated the special grant of £20,000 from the Treasury was also, and more officially, a member of the International Financial Mission led by Austen Chamberlain, also attended the sale, and himself acquired a study by Ingres, two paintings by Delacroix and a Cézanne Still life with apples (now owned by King’s College, Cambridge and on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum) which he had wanted Holmes to acquire for the National Gallery.   Both Keynes and Vanessa Bell were scornful of Holmes’s aesthetic myopia (the description used by Quentin Bell), but I have always been rather admiring of the fact that Holmes managed to acquire some great pictures while Big Bertha was booming in the distance.   The story of Keynes’s trip and of him leaving the Cézanne in a hedge at the bottom of the Charleston drive was told by Quentin Bell in A Cézanne in the Hedge and other memories of Bloomsbury and Charleston.


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