Grove City College is working with esteemed auction house Christie’s to sell seven paintings that once belonged to 20th century oil magnate J. Howard Pew.
Pew was a longtime benefactor of the College and served on its Board of Trustees for 59 years. The Pew family donated the paintings and many other items from the industrialist’s estate in Ardmore, Pa., to the College after his death in 1971.
The oil paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th have been on display in the Pew Memorial Room of the J. Howard Pew Fine Arts Center since that facility was completed in 1976. But the space is underused and few people actually get to see the artworks.
“It’s kind of a ‘Catch 22.’ The value of the paintings and the other antiques on display in the Memorial Room require the College to keep the space locked up when it isn’t in use, which means that aside from a few receptions each year, no one has the opportunity to see these truly significant pieces of art,” Archivist Hilary (Lewis ’09) Walczak said. “The lack of humidity control and proper lighting also makes maintaining the artwork properly a challenge.”
“It’s really a disservice to the art and we believe that the sale to interested buyers, perhaps museums, honors the legacy of J. Howard Pew and the Pew family better than keeping them locked away and out of sight. Mr. Pew would be pleased to know that he is continuing to support Grove City College nearly a half century after his death,” Walczak said.
The sale has been in the works for several years as Walczak has been conducting an inventory of the various items and collections that have been donated to the College over the years. The appraised value of the items being auctioned range from a few thousand to a quarter of a million dollars. The proceeds will help fund the renovation of Henry Buhl Library and the Pew Memorial Room.
A highlight of the collection is “Italiens d’Albano,” an 1834 landscape by the French artist Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot valued at $250,000. “Portrait of Colonel George Allen” by Sir Henry Raeburn, a Scottish painter of the 18th and 19th century, is also notable. The 1817 canvas is appraised at more than $170,000.
“It was just authenticated for the first time by an expert and not in the official works of Raeburn until now. So that’s somewhat of a hidden gem,” Walczak said.
Also on the auction block are:
- “Prince Charlie” – Harry Hall (1873)
- “Lady Dashwood and Son”- Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
- “Lady Smith of Newland Park” – George Romney (1734-1802)
- “Venetian Capriccio” – Abraham Jansz Storck (1665 or 1695)
- “A Card Party”- David Teniers II (1610-1694)
The paintings are part of two large auctions Christie’s has set for October: Old Master Paintings and Sculpture (Oct. 1 to 20) and European Art Part II (Oct. 1 to 16.)