“If I’d invested in Monets and Picassos, I would be a richer man than I am today; when I sold I approximately got my money back,” Victorian art collector John Schaeffer tells Georgina Adam in the FT. The Australian has had his financial ups and downs but the story of his collecting —which is on again—is Adam’s focus here:
His initial collecting interest, he explains, was in 19th-century Australian pictures. A seminal moment was when he saw Tate’s 1984 exhibition The Pre-Raphaelites. “It really opened my eyes.” […] As his company Tempo prospered and expanded, he bought art. By 1989 he had acquired the 45-room Rona, then Sydney’s most expensive house, and filled it with art and Gothic furniture. (The house and contents were sold in 2004.)
“There weren’t many Pre-Raphaelites for sale, so it was easy to drift into Victorian art,” he says. Among early purchases was William Blake Richmond’s “The Song of Miriam”, a huge “processional” piece bought from Angela Nevill. Working with dealers such as Peter Nahum, Nevill, Christopher Wood and Jeremy Maas, he added artists such as Rossetti and Holman Hunt to the collection:
At its peak, his collection numbered some 200 works – “One hundred of them were ‘serious’,” he says. […] When Schaeffer had to sell, pieces went through auction and through dealers. “The Song of Miriam” was left unsold in his 2003 sale through Christie’s but later disposed of through Nevill. Others went to museums: Tate bought Sir Joshua Reynolds’ “The Archers” (1769) for £2.5m in 2005, and the National Gallery of Victoria acquired a Francis Grant portrait, while The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco snaffled John Spencer Stanhope’s “‘Love and the Maiden” (1877).
An Acquiring Mind (Financial Times)