British rabbinic college to auction unseen Chagalls

NEW YORK (JTA) – Some 50 previously unseen drawings and paintings by Marc Chagall will be auctioned.

The Leo Baeck College in London will be auctioning the works, which are painted on the title pages of books written about Chagall, at Bloomsbury Auctions on Jan. 29.

The Chagalls were donated to the college by Alfred and Irmgard Neuman, who received them from the artist in the course of their quarter-century friendship with the renowned modernist.

Alexander Hayter, a specialist at Bloomsbury Auctions, elaborated on how the couple, who were neighbors with Chagall in St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, came to have such a personal collection.

"Every time they went for lunch or for dinner with him, he would give them a book and heavily illustrate it for them just as a little gift," Hayter said.

He added that the intimate nature of the works is what makes them so unique.

"One of the key things is they’re fresh to the market, they’ve never come up [for auction] before," Hayter said. "But what’s interesting about them is they are genuinely personal works. These were obviously given to friends of his and people he obviously liked very much. It wasn’t something he did very often."

Many of the pictures are portraits of the artist and the couple, and most of them include the artist’s signature and an affectionate dedication.

The Neumans donated their collection in 1993, but it largely languished in the rare books room of the college library.

The individual books containing the drawings are expected to sell for between $740 to $22,000. The entire collection is valued at $370,000 to $520,000.

Hayter said the "Chagall market over the last three years has just gone berserk" and the demand has outstripped the supply.
 

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