"I was not an art connoisseur. I visited [the Louvre] because it was such an integral part of Paris, and what I found there changed me." - Barney A. Ebsworth.

American art collector Barneby A. Ebsworth. Photo: Christie's American art collector Barney A. Ebsworth. Photo: Christie's

It was during a cross-Atlantic visit that Barney A. Ebsworth’s interest in art was awakened: his passage between the walls of the emblematic Parisian institution, the Louvre, completely change his perception on painting and thereafter stimulated his soul as a collector.

Ebsworth (1934-2018) began his introduction to the world of art in 1957 at the age of 41, and set up one of the most extraordinary private collections known to date. The collector spent his first trip to Paris, a three-day journey, walking the aisles of the Louvre, “in awe of how it felt to be surrounded by such great works of art”. He later recounted his irresistible desire to, "understand the pictures, the time periods they were from, the artists who had created them".

Charles Sheeler, Cat-walk, 1947. Photo: Christie's Charles Sheeler, 'Cat-walk', 1947. Photo: Christie's

Christie’s is organising the dispersion of the properties next November. The auction house describes the collection as one of “the greatest privately owned collection of American Modernist art ever to come to market”. A praise that is owed not so much to the quantity of the works that compose it, but rather to the quality. Since his debut as a collector, Ebsworth always set his sights on works worthy of major museums. His acquisitions included several masterpieces of American art of the 20th century, including Hopper, O’Keeffe, Kooning, Pollock and Sheeler.

Edward Hopper, Chop Suey, 1929. Photo: Christie's Edward Hopper, 'Chop Suey', 1929. Photo: Christie's

Artnet reveals that some 85 works that make up the selection could fly for a total of US$300 million (£232 mil). By way of comparison, the Rockefeller sale, held last May, yielded more than US$830 million (£618 mil) – but over a massive 1,500 lots.

Among the highlights of the sale are Chop Suey by Edward Hopper, a painting estimated at US$70 million (£54 mil), which Christie’s describes as “Hopper’s most important work still in the hands of a private collector”.

Jackson Pollock, Composition with Red Strokes, 1950. Photo: Christie's Jackson Pollock, 'Composition with Red Strokes', 1950. Photo: Christie's

Jackson Pollock’s work, Composition with Red Strokes, will be presented with an estimate of US$50 million (£39 mil), while Woman as a Landscape, signed by de Kooning, is valued at US$60 million (£46 mil).

"Nobody starts as a collector. You buy a few things you like, and then eight or ten items in, someone says, 'Boy, you have a great collection,' and then you realise you have a collection." – Barney A. Ebsworth.

Ebsworth in his Seattle property, in front of Gaston Lachaise, 'Standing Woman', 1932. Photo: Brian Smale Ebsworth in his Seattle property, in front of Gaston Lachaise, 'Standing Woman', 1932. Photo: Brian Smale

Ebsworth began his collection with prestigious Flemish works from the 17th century as well as Japanese paintings, before turning to American modernist artworks after a conversation he had with Charles Buckley, then director of the St. Louis Museum. For example, some of the works that joined the walls of Ebsworth's Seattle property include those by Joan Mitchell, Georgia O'Keeffe, Franz Kline and Charles Sheeler.

Christie’s has titled the collection ‘An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection’ in reference to the collector’s home, designed in collaboration with Architect Jim Olsen.

Willem de Kooning, 'Woman as Landscape', 1954-55. Photo: Christie's Willem de Kooning, 'Woman as Landscape', 1954-55. Photo: Christie's

‘In real estate, they say three things matter: location, location, location. For me collecting art was about quality, quality, quality. I would rather have a smaller collection of the finest pictures than dozens of so-so ones.’ - Barney A. Ebsworth.

The exhibition of the Ebsworth collection will begin in Paris during the Biennial, before heading to New York, Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It will then return to the Rockefeller Center, where the exhibition will be held as a sales event.

In the meantime, find all lots from Christie’s right here on Barnebys

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