The Telegraph tells the dramatic story of Ambroise Vollard’s death which eventually led to some of his holdings being kept in a Paris bank vault until their recent discovery and sale at Sotheby’s in London and Paris:
As Europe races inexorably towards war, a black, chauffeur-driven Talbot convertible races along the tarmac of the Route Verte, heading for Paris. Sitting in the back is 73-year-old Ambroise Vollard, the Saatchi of fin de siècle Paris.
He is on his way from his cottage in Tremblay Sur Mer to his mansion on the rue Martignac, where some 10,000 artworks lie in wait; Cézanne, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Degas, Cassatt, Manet, Monet, stacked up, unframed, piled high and higgledy-piggledy under a layer of dust and in impressive disorder.
The photographer Brassai, who visited him in 1936, reported only two occupiable rooms – a dining room and a bedroom – every other inch of space given over to storage.
But Vollard will never see his prized collection again. A little way before the junction to Pontchartrain, the road slick from an earlier shower, the car skids, somersaults twice and comes to rest.
The writer André Suarès later reports to his friend Georges Rouault: ‘He remained there all night, without aid or assistance. He suffered considerably, his cervical vertebrae having been fractured. All the details are horrible, I am very upset!’
News of his unexpected death percolates through the art community.
Jacques Emile Blanche wrote to fellow artist Maurice Denis: ‘Are you aware of the enormity of the estate? Discoveries everywhere, valuable things, never sold nor noted, discoveries under piles of canvases, priceless, surpassing all calculation, the heirs in incredible disorder, lawsuit after lawsuit will follow.’
Ambroise Vollard: the Original Charles Saatchi (Telegraph)