Property from the Estate of William Kelly Simpson: Part II
Eminent Egyptologist, scholar and visionary collector, William Kelly Simpson amassed an extraordinary collection of paintings, works on paper, antiquities and porcelain that speak to his connoisseurship and his abiding love of the arts. Mr. Simpson was a distinguished professor and curator, spending forty-six years in academia where he produced a large amount of scholarship in his field, helping to position Yale as one of the foremost centers for Egyptology, and leading the Department of Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Professor Simpson’s name was synonymous with preservation and the protection of the past. He brought these ideals to his work with the UNESCO campaign to rescue Nubian monuments, excavations at the Giza Pyramids and the famed Pennsylvania-Yale Expeditions that recorded New Kingdom tombs and Meroitic cemeteries.
Stair is pleased to offer a fine selection of fine art and Egyptian artifacts from the collection of William Kelly Simpson in our November 3- 4 Fine Sale. Highlights include drawings that relate to Mr. Simpson’s profession and life-long passion for Egyptian history and culture by artists Edward Lear and famed British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter, as well as Egyptian artifacts including two Limestone Relief Fragments and an Egyptian Faience Tantic Figure.
Professor Simpson’s curatorial eye and scholarship extended beyond his love of the antique to American Art, European decorative arts, Mughal miniatures, and most notably his collection of iconic works by Nabis painters Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Mr. Simpson and his wife, a granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller Jr., acquired many of these works together, including works acquired by decent from the collection of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art.
Works on paper by Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Félix Vallotton and Jozsef Rippl-Ronai represent the Simpson collection’s depth and focus on Les Nabis. Galvanized by Paul Sérusier in 1888 with a small group of his contemporaries at Académie Julien, Les Nabis were avant-garde post-Impressionists whose objective was the revitalization of painting through the artist’s use of metaphor and symbolism. Their subject matter was mostly representational, inspired by Japanese prints like their Impressionist predecessors, and using design elements from the Symbolists and Art Nouveau. As early 20th Century art moved towards Cubism, Expressionism and Abstraction, Les Nabis were seen as conservative and lost favor with the intellectual elite. Many of the artists who associated with the group during this period went on to work independently and very successfully on their own.
Highlights by Les Nabis include Vallotton’s A Vingt Ans, Portrait of Paul Poiret by Jacques Villon, and Edouard Vuillard’s La Sieste. Les Nabis worked in various media and excelled at lithography. Fine examples of their work in this medium include Ker-Xavier Roussel’s Dans la neige and Bonnard’s Femme a la parapluie and Dans la rue.
A curated group of Modern works of art from the Simpson collection will also be included in our December 8 auction of 20th Century, Modern & Contemporary Art.