Just in case you thought the era of super-collectors we now live in is unique in the history of art, the Irish Times offers a short course in the buying habits of the Dales who left their collection to the National Gallery.
Chester and Maud bought paintings with a gusto that bordered on gluttony. “This picture business was really getting under my skin,” Chester said later. “I found that when I was downtown getting the wherewithal to buy pictures, my mind was on pictures. Perhaps all that was good timing, because you could not buy pictures with hay and I wanted more pictures.”
DALE’S FORTUNE FELL from $60 million to $10 million in the 1929 stock market crash, but it didn’t discourage him. On the contrary, he purchased 123 paintings in 1929, his bumper year, and another 100 in 1930. Murdock Pemberton, an art critic who accompanied Dale on a buying spree in Paris, described him snapping up canvases “as you or I would buy neckties”. […] Ever the brash American, Chester would stop at nothing to obtain a painting. He shocked a French dealer by demanding that he make an offer for a Corot seen in the home where the Dales had dined the previous evening. Around 1927, Dale fell under the spell of Manet’s The Old Musician , a huge canvas showing a seated fiddler flanked by six other figures. “I had no more thought of buying it than I did of buying the Palace of Versailles,” Dale said. The Manet was not for sale, but in 1930, he offered $250,000 for it – a colossal sum in those days, and Dale’s most expensive purchase. The Dales bought most of their 12 Picassos in the 1930s, including the Family of Saltimbanques purchased sight unseen from a bank vault in Switzerland for just $20,000. The masterpiece is similar in size and theme to The Old Musician , and the two paintings seem to speak to each other across the room where they hang in the National Gallery exhibition.
A Family of Collector’s Items (Irish Times)