NEW YORK—A group of six paintings led by William Bouguereau’s “La Branche de Cerisier” (“The Cherry Branch”) will be offered at Sotheby’s 19th Century European Art sale in New York on Nov. 8. The group is from the collection of Ohio couple Mr. and Mrs. Obed J. Wilson.
The emergence of the leading painting after over a century is significant considering the revival of admiration and collecting importance for the French academic master Bouguereau.
The location of “La Branche de Cerisier” has been unknown since it sold to Obed Wilson in 1881, within months of leaving the artist’s studio, according to Sotheby’s. The auction house expects it to sell for between $1.5 million and $2 million.
Other highlights include two paintings by Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, William Bouguereau’s wife.
Obed Wilson was a noted philanthropist, and according to Sotheby’s, donated substantially to the Twin Towers Senior Living Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. Once the development was built in 1908, the Wilsons donated their entire art collection, which has hung there for the enjoyment of the residents ever since.
“The Wilsons treasured both the Twin Towers community, which they generously supported throughout their lives, and their beautiful art collection,” said Jim Lay, executive director of Twin Towers in a press release.
“Auctioning these pieces will ensure they are professionally preserved and treated with the level of care and respect the Wilsons would want, and using the proceeds of the sale of their paintings for future projects and operations at Twin Towers will honor their lifelong commitment to the residents.”
The valuable paintings were also probably becoming a security issue as their value rose in the international market.
Born to a prominent Maine family, Wilson moved to Cincinnati to teach when he was 20. He later worked as a traveling salesman of schoolbooks and was later made a senior partner in the company.
Wilson, Hinkle & Company grew to be the largest publisher of schoolbooks in America. Traveling the world, Wilson and his wife built up their impressive art collection over time.
Descriptions From Sotheby’s
Sotheby’s fall sale of 19th century European art will also feature a range of works spanning all important schools of the period—academic, Orientalist, Barbizon, and Victorian. Highlights include recent rediscoveries by artists such as William Bouguereau and Jean Béraud (“Tour Saint Jacques,” presale estimate $400,000 to $600,000).
The sale also includes major works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Jules Breton, John William Godward, Frederick Arthur Bridgman, and Alfred Stevens (“La Villa des Falaises a Sainte-Adresse,” presale estimate $500,000 to $700,000), among others.
“La Branche de Cerisier” was produced at the very height of Bouguereau’s career in 1881 and was the pillar of Mr. and Mrs. Obed Wilson’s collection. Bouguereau appealed to American collectors who were interested in acquiring iconic compositions that showed a high level of quality and artistic virtuosity.
“La Branche de Cerisier” is exactly the scale and sentiment that these collectors were looking for, and we can see through the financial records of Bouguereau’s dealers Goupil & Cie. and Sécrétan & Co. that Wilson paid a premium for the painting. The painting has been held in this distinguished private collection for over a century.
Further highlights of the Wilson collection include two paintings by Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, an artist from New Hampshire who studied with Bouguereau in his Paris studio and eventually became his wife. The pieces include “Before the Engagement” (estimated at $70,000 to $100,000) and “After the Engagement” (estimated at $60,000 to $80,000).
Presale public viewing is open from Nov. 2 to Nov. 7 at Sotheby’s New York galleries.