An extraordinary collection of 115 letters, documents, and manuscripts representing many of the most creative thinkers in world culture: music, literature, political thinking and leadership, exploration, and science. The overwhelming majority are from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, America, England, France and Europe.
“It is impossible to condense the descriptions of the 115 creative and visionary thinkers into a few pages. I have written a narrative about the collection, and highlighted a few of my personal favorite letters, in the brief descriptions that follow. Full descriptions of each person’s letters, documents or manuscripts in the collection is available at Collections@kwrendell.com.”
Kenneth W. Rendell
Charles Babbage, the mathematical genius who invented the forerunner of the computer is represented in a full-page handwritten letter written in 1832.
Alexander Graham Bell, in a very lengthy letter signed in 1906, details his long-term financial support for the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. It was Bell’s original research into deafness that led to his invention of the telephone.
Robert Boyle’s understanding of the science of gasses inspired decades of scientific discoveries. In the collection is a 1675 receipt written and signed by him.
The pioneer in neuroscience, Harvey Cushing, is represented by a typewritten letter signed in 1936 concerning the first time that multiple meningiomas had come to his attention.
Thomas A. Edison was always experimenting in his laboratory and in two pages of laboratory notes he discusses his experiments.
Albert Einstein wrote one of the most important letters to ever be offered. In the typewritten letter dated 1919, he discusses the absolute speed of light and how it was refined in the general theory of relativity from what he wrote in the special theory of relativity.
“There was really a misunderstanding concerning this matter but an understandable one and one that was bound to arise. There is a difference between the special theory of relativity which was written as an expansion of the special theory. According to the former, speeds of more than 300,000 km per second are not possible.
“The use of rotating systems of coordination is not allowed in this case. According to this theory, rotation still is considered absolute. The general theory of relativity however accepts coordination systems of any kind of rotation. It does not have any maximal limit of speed related to the coordination system….”
Einstein had been invited to be a member of Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1913; he was offered a non-teaching professorship and salary and moved to Berlin the following year. The establishment of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics was postponed by the war, but it was established in 1917 with Einstein as Director.
Einstein’s calculations, made in 1911, using his new theory of relativity, predicted that light from another star would be bent by the sun’s gravity. His prediction was confirmed during the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, three months before this letter.“Einstein became suddenly famous…His name and the term relativity became household words. The publicity … that ensued changed the pattern of Einstein’s life. He was now able to put the weight of his name behind causes that he believed in …. – Dictionary of Scientific Biography.
In 1936 Einstein signed a patent assignment for his invention of a light intensity self-adjusting camera. The document signed by him is dated in New York and is an example of Einstein’s application of science to practical use.
Michael Faraday, the English inventor and scientist noted for his experiments with electricity, wrote a lengthy handwritten letter about experiments with water.
The first steamboat was built by the American inventor and engineer Robert Fulton who is here represented by a handwritten signed document, 1808, ordering payment.
Robert H. Goddard, the pioneer in rocket research, has signed a published photograph of himself, outdoors, holding his gyroscope stabilizer. The photograph appears next to one of him testing the stabilizer before a flight of his rocket. The two photographs constitute one page taken from a book about Goddard and rocketry.
The pioneer in the concept of vaccines, Edward Jenner, has handwritten a letter in 1813 about mineralogy.
Robert Koch, the pioneer in microbiology is represented by a signature written in Berlin.
The founder of modern chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier, wrote a handwritten letter in 1792 to his cousin about personal business.
Gottfried von Leibniz, one of the greatest mathematicians, is credited with differential and integral calculus, mechanical calculators and the development of the binary number system, the basis of computer development. In a handwritten document, signed in 1709, he acknowledges receipt of his salary as librarian.
Carlos Linnaeus founded modern systematic botany and is present in the collection by document signed, 1756.
The inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse, was also an artist, and has sketched, in 1848, the face of a bearded man, evidently identified as Winfield Scott’s Chief of Staff, and added a note signed with initials.
Hans Christian Oersted, the founder of the science of electromagnetism, wrote a letter signed in 1838 on behalf of the Danish Royal Society.
Louis Pasteur, The developer of Pasteurization and rabies inoculations, has signed an exceptionally well executed engraved portrait.
Pavlov’s experiments in conditioned reflexes were the subject of a lecture given in Moscow in 1909 and was published as a separate pamphlet. This pamphlet, inscribed by him, is in the collection.
The discoverer of X-rays, Wilhelm Roentgen, has handwritten a letter in 1903, detailing his wife’s ailment and effect on his schedule.
The developer of helicopters, Igor Sikorsky, is represented by an archive concerning his book The Story of the Winged-S.
George Westinghouse, the pioneer in exploring the transmission of electricity, handwrote a lengthy letter in the 1880’s to his mother giving her personal and business news, specifically his “gas business”.
Orville Wright wrote a typewritten letter in 1938 to Fred Black at the Edison Institute suggesting that the Arctic explorer Vihjalmur Stefansson be asked to give a talk on the Wright brothers contribution to Arctic and other exploration.
Alessandro Volta, whose name was immortalized as a pioneer in electricity, is represented by a document signed in 1819 concerning his students.
Music section begins with Joseph Haydn who has signed a printed score of his Arianna a Naxos in 1789.
Felix Mendelssohn writes about the Italian production of St. Paul which had premiered in Leipzig in 1836.
Hector Berlioz, famous for Symphonie Fantastique, sends concert tickets.
Gaetano Donizetti quotes Rodrigo in Rossini’s opera Othello in having to postpone dinner due to a changed rehearsal of his current opera.
Gioachino Rossini, composer of William Tell, writes a lengthy letter in 1852 dealing with the problems of settling his wife’s estate.
Two of the most popular operatic composers of the second half of the nineteenth century are represented with musical pieces. Giuseppe Verdi in 1874 sends a musical correction of one measure to his publisher for his Requiem Mass. Giacomo Puccini’s full-page musical manuscript is a musical sketch from his The Girl of the Golden West.
In England, Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) wrote a handwritten manuscript signed concerning the choruses of The Prodigal Son.
Perhaps the most popular operatic composer from this Golden Age is Richard Wagner and his most famous and popular work, Tannhäuser, is present in the form of an autograph musical manuscript, circa 1861, comprising Tannhäuser’s final words in the second act “Vers Rome”, scored for voices and strings. Wagner has written four measures on six staves. It appears to have been written for the second performance in Paris.
An opera house favorite today, Tannhäuser had a dramatic, one is tempted to say “Wagnerian,” history. Richard Wagner wrote the prose draft of Tannhäuser in the summer of 1842 and the libretto the following spring (in 1843). The following summer he began composing the music, completing the full score in April 1845.
The opera was substantially amended for a special performance at the Paris Opera in 1861, requested by French emperor Napoleon III, at the instigation of Pauline von Metternich, wife of the Austrian ambassador to Paris. Wagner willingly reworked the opera because he saw its performance in Paris as an opportunity to re-establish himself following his exile from Germany.
Richard Wagner was closely involved in the preparation of this Paris version, making changes large and small (as this piece demonstrates), through more than 164 rehearsals.
The Viennese “Waltz King”, Johann Strauss, is present in a handwritten letter.
The great Hungarian composer Franz Liszt is represented in a handwritten letter signed.
The Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov celebrates Glazunov’s 25th anniversary as a composer in a handwritten letter.
Maurice Ravel, most famous today for his Bolero, writes about the magical effect of receiving a letter about music in the battlefields of World War I.
Richard Strauss wrote Capriccio, his last opera, during World War II and in the collection is a musical manuscript sketch from this opera. (A letter of his son, present, describes the great rarity of this manuscript).
The evolution of popular music is seen with the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s signed agreement to write the music for the film The Bible.
Cole Porter’s signed agreement for his play Anything Goes in 1953 is included in the collection.
Jerome Kern’s unpublished six-page musical manuscript, entirely in his hand, is the opening chorus song for Act II of Look Who’s Here.
A very emotive photograph of George Gershwin playing the piano is inscribed by him in the lower margin.
The printed sheet music of “That International Rag”, 1913, is autographed by Irving Berlin.
W. C. Handy has written out and signed a musical quotation from his “Memphis Blues”.
The author of “This Land is Your Land”, Woody Guthrie writes a very analytical typewritten letter about a new musical group in 1946, giving great insight into Guthrie’s own personality and musical opinions.
Frederick Lowe’s autograph musical manuscript of “Then You May Take Me to the Fair” from Camelot is an iconic song from Broadway.
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead brings music to the present time with his autograph manuscript of “The Maker,” one-page, legal folio (1992). He has written the lyrics of Daniel Lanois’ composition for a concert of his own band in 1992. (Two years later he produced an album entitled The Maker.)
Major authors are comprehensively represented.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a lengthy and charming letter from Rome, commenting that it is very crowded and “not enchanting to me”, while Florence is still her favorite. Robert Browning writes to the painter Frederic Leighton of his long-held opinion that Leighton is the greatest living British artist.
Lord Byron signed a handwritten note with initials, July 28, 1813, sending to his publisher a new line of poetry to be inserted.
The creator of the Philip Marlowe detective series, Raymond Chandler, wrote a lengthy letter to his agent in 1950, discussing current work, especially Strangers on a Train for Hitchcock, his unhappiness with his agent for getting him involved with “our fat little friend,” saying he is not his kind of writer and he is not his kind of director.
Anton Chekhov is present in a very rare handwritten letter, after 1897, in Russian: “my petition was just a cry in the desert. I am not a fighter. It’s not in my nature”.
The creator of “Poirot” and “Miss Marple”, Agatha Christie, resigns the presidency of the Detective Club in a lengthy typewritten letter signed, 1972.
Samuel Clemens, “Mark Twain”, is seen in a superb, oversized photo, 1906, showing the author working on a manuscript on his bed table.
The creator of the classic, The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper wrote an extraordinarily long letter about a Revolutionary War battle.
Honore de Balzac, author of La Comédie Humaine, in a handwritten letter to a lady, wrote that he has so much work to do that he is like the workmen of printers and has only one day off a week but would like to come to see her.
Arthur Conan Doyle
According to a document signed by Arthur Conan Doyle, May 14, 1926, in the collection, The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of the most famous detective stories, is set to be published in a new edition.
Doyle’s agreement to grant Everleigh Nash and Grayson, publishers, “the right of printing and publishing in book form in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, its Colonies and Dependencies and in Ireland a new edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles…at a published price of two shillings and sixpence net and the Publishers shall pay to the Author a royalty of threepence per copy on all copies of the said work which they may sell.” Other clauses in the contract set forth the date of publication, Doyle’s advance (£100), the number of presentation copies he is to receive (6), and details regarding Doyle’s copyright, as well as other financial and legal considerations of the author and publisher.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, perhaps Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous work, was originally published in serial form by Strand Magazine. The story, woven around a ghostly hound and murder on the moors, marked the return of Sherlock Holmes after an absence of nine years. Doyle himself was clearly pleased with the work, asserting “Holmes is at his very best, and it is a highly dramatic idea.” According to Jacqueline Jaffe in her biography of Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles was an immediate success. The combination of the Gothic and the detective story, the different perspectives used to tell the story, and the closeness of the companionship evident between Holmes and Watson all add up to one of the most satisfying of the Holmes stories.”
William Faulkner signs a contract with RKO Studios, April 9, 1936, agreeing to be paid $1,000 a week to write the screen play for Gunga Din.
Ian Fleming’s writing habits are described in his handwritten letter from “Goldeneye,” his home on the north shore of Jamaica: “…I barely budge when I am writing. Otherwise I just don’t get on with it ….”
Germany’s greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, asks the painter Moritz Oppenheim to have his painting of Felsner collected in a handwritten note written from Weimar, May 8, 1827.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales is everyone’s classic of children’s literature. Jacob Grimm authored them with his brother and handwrote and initialized a note ordering a book.
Dashiell Hammett’s detective novels were frequently made into movies including the Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. In World War II he was in the army stationed in the Aleutian Islands. In a lengthy letter he describes his life on the remote island protecting the U.S. mainland from Japanese invasion. He hasn’t seen a woman, or a tree, since leaving Seattle but is enjoying the time of self-reflection.
A different side of the poet Rudyard Kipling emerges in a very lengthy handwritten letter from Switzerland in 1911 recounting every detail of a hockey match between England and a Swiss team from Zurich.
“Lawrence of Arabia”, T. E. Lawrence, signed a Royal Air Force engine test report, 1933, with his original name T. E. Shaw.
Margaret Mitchell wrote a typewritten signed letter in 1936 thanking Almira Taylor for her praise of Gone With the Wind, saying that authors don’t know whether the world likes their books unless people write to tell them.
Doctor Zhivago captured film audiences after the publication of Boris Pasternak’s novel. Writing in English from Moscow in 1959, he explains, in English, that a check sent to him for an unsuccessful mutual project is useless to him.
The legendary recluse, J. D. Salinger, in a very long typewritten signed letter, 1978, wrote to a woman in Japan, that despite being at his typewriter all the time, he just doesn’t write letters. He also doesn’t read anything sent to him, but then launches into a long discussion of his life and connections with Japan.
Sir Walter Scott wrote a long-handwritten manuscript about many subjects including a new play about Queen Elizabeth’s history and troubles, corruption, inventions and other historical events.
George Bernard Shaw was never shy about his opinions and the typewritten letter signed, 1909, is an outstanding example. He tells his female correspondent that he would never read her long letters because they are written for her to relieve herself, but he has read her play “made impossible by your nymphomania”.
Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1815 handwrites a payment request from his account. The rarity of handwritten material of the great poet was caused by the early collecting of everything he wrote by institutional libraries.
Gertrude Stein in a lengthy handwritten letter from Azay-le-Rideau, France, writes a newsletter to friends, mentioning that they looked at a house there but have decided it is just not an interesting area to live in.
Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson handwrote and initialed a letter, appropriately, from Samoa in 1890-91, to an American entrepreneur who built a trading business throughout the islands.
A pensive photograph of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina is boldly signed by him and conveys a personal sense of his demeanor.
H. G. Wells, author of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds in a lengthy typewritten letter, 1943, writes about Catholic literature and control of sexual desire by the church.
Walt Whitman has signed a printed poem of his, “Of that Blithe Throat of Thine,” circa 1884-5.
Six lines of John Milton’s Paradise Lost is written out by poet William Wordsworth, October 4, 1825.
William Butler Yeats has written a two-page manuscript, 1902, of five reviews of his collection of verse The Wind Among the Reeds.
An extraordinarily rare, signed document of one of the most important Popes of medieval times, dated 1163, begins this section. Alexander III convened the Third Lateran Council in 1179 which established the voting for Popes. This Act is in effect to this day, 843 years later. In 1171 not just 2, he sanctioned the Crusades against pagans in Northern Europe, legitimizing forced conversions. This document confirms the independence of an Abby.
The patron of Columbus, Isabella I of Spain, is represented by a document signed in 1501 authorizing payment to a silversmith for work on a mirror.
Peter the Great of Russia, in a letter signed in 1722, sends congratulations to Frederick William I of Prussia on the birth of his son in 1722.
Frederick the Great of Prussia in a letter signed, 1749, advises a Berlin bookseller to forward his bill to the Privy Treasurer who will make payment.
The creator of Russia’s Enlightenment, Catherine the Great, in 1762, signs a document authorizes payment for the digging of ponds.
Two English monarchs defined their times: George III, who lost the American colonies, is seen here in a 1791 signed document providing funds to send freed black slaves in England back to Africa, and Queen Victoria present in an ornate military appointment in 1840.
Napoleon, in a dramatic letter signed, May 15, 1815, “an exact copy of the minutes of the proceedings” of the “Senate sessions dealing with the dethronement” of himself. This period, known as the Hundred Days — between his escape from Elba, return to power, and defeat at Waterloo — was a time not only of reorganizing his armies but retribution for those who had voted to overthrow him.
Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau April 6, 1814, and was exiled to Elba. He escaped from Elba at the end of February 1815, arrived in Paris on March 20 and began the legendary Hundred Days. Great enthusiasm had welcomed his arrival but there was also significant opposition to going back to war. The French people were not sharing Napoleon’s desire, nurtured on Elba, of resuming his military campaigns.
Less than six weeks later, on June 18, Napoleon was back on the familiar field of battle. For the most part he was the same old Napoleon and that was his problem. The English Duke of Wellington had studied Napoleon’s unconventional and innovative strategies and tactics and anticipated his moves, resulting in Waterloo. The Emperor writes in full:
“On the list of Senators you sent me indicating those who attended the Senate sessions dealing with the dethronement, the Chief Treasurer’s name does not appear. I would like to have an exact copy of the minutes of the proceedings of all these sessions, and I would like you to do some investigating and let me know just how the Chief Treasurer conducted himself during that period; because if he attended the first session, I would regret having made him the Grand Master of the University, and so, as a further consequence, it would be impossible for me to provide him with a rank which would place him close to me every day.”
The legendary explorer, navigator and cartographer of the Pacific, James Cook, who made the first recorded European contacts with eastern Australia and Hawaii, and was killed there by natives, is very rare in anything signed. Present in the collection is a signature removed from a document. Cook did not survive his famous voyages and clearly was not previously in positions where he created documents that were saved because of his renown.
Meriwether Lewis & William Clark
The most famous explorers in American history, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, are extremely rare (Lewis) and relatively common (Clark) in autograph examples. Meriwether Lewis was Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary before being put in charge of the expedition to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory and died within a short time after his return from the ultimate American exploring expedition. William Clark, in contrast, was appointed Superintendent of Indian affairs for the Louisiana Purchase, and his fame caused his documents to be saved and cherished.
In the collection is a fragment bearing part of the texts of two letters in the hand of Meriwether Lewis, with his signature in the text “Capt Lewis,” 1801.
During the late 1790’s Meriwether Lewis was in the Army and was stationed at several posts, including in Virginia where he was a recruiter and wrote the following, evidently in his retained copy, in the collection:
“…made some remarks which you present. I applied to Mr. Dexter who acted as Secretary of War and who obstinately refused to do anything in the business but referred me to Mr. Simmons and wished him to state his objections in writing. To this Simmons with the greatest insolence said Mr. Dexter had no right to demand any such thing.”
On the verso, apparently in another document, he writes:
“… the said Humphries’s note to Capt. Lewis, for one hundred and forty nine dollars and 96 cents, dated in Decr. 3rd, 1799. The balance in cash amounting is sixty four-dollars thirty four cents.”
William Clark’s Autograph Document is Signed “Wm. Clark.”
“Received St. Louis February 18th, 1815 full payment and satisfaction of the mortgage. Witness my hand and seal.”
The “Voyage of Discovery”, better known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was the most important exploring expedition in American history. Thomas Jefferson conceived the expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory which America had just purchased from Napoleonic France. It was hoped that they would find a water route to the Pacific that would unite the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It didn’t exist, but beyond the natural wonders they discovered, William Clark’s map of the continent from the Mississippi River to the Pacific opened the West, initially to trappers and mountain men, followed by other exploring and scientific expeditions and finally by the railroad and settlement.
The great rarity of anything written by Meriwether Lewis is based on his early death upon his return from the expedition. Had he lived, he likely would have received appointment to an important post and his fame would have ensured that everything he wrote would be saved, as was the case with William Clark.
Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church, led its members West, pioneering the Mormon trail to what became Salt Lake City. Here he signs an example of the first printing in Utah, paper currency, in 1849.
The leading, almost only, explorer of Africa, David Livingstone, writes a recommendation from Mozambique while exploring in Zambesi in 1864.
Robert Falcon Scott, the British Antarctic explorer, was the second person to reach the South Pole, only to see that Roald Amundsen had beaten him by only days. He, and all his men died on the attempt to return to their ship. In a 1905 handwritten letter he comments that he doesn’t have much to say because “I find England so dull after the Antarctic”.
His one-time expedition member, Ernest Shackleton, widely considered the ultimate leadership example for saving all of his men after their ship was crushed by the Antarctic ice, writes in a handwritten letter from the Royal Societies Club in 1903 concerning a lecture date.
Thomas Jefferson’s full-page handwritten letter in 1816 gives his thoughts on development in Europe and America.
“…thanks to be returned for the book which accompanied the former on the subject of Great Britain and America. That able exposition prepared the European mind for receiving truths more favorable to us, and subsequent events have furnished facts corroborating those views. I believe that America, & by this time England also are more justly appreciated. Some greatly enlightened minds in Europe are in science far beyond any thing we possess; but leaving them out of the account (& they are but few) the mass of their people, within which term I include from the king to the beggar, is returning to Gothic darkness while the mass of ours is advancing in the regions of light. During the paroxysm of Anglomany lately raging in Bordeaux you must have had a mortifying time. That rage cannot last. The English character is not of that cast which makes itself be loved.
“Not doubting that after so long a residence in France your wishes are still there, I heartily sympathise with them and hope the circumstances are not very distant, which may render your return agreeable and useful. Accept my salutations and assurances of perfect esteem and respect.”
The British supporter of American Independence, Edmund Burke, is represented by a handwritten letter in 1775 after the start of the American Revolution saying that a petition “on the American affairs is sent to me to be presented to the King”.
The extremely rare autograph of David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, a major figure in the Enlightenment, is present in a payment order dated 1776.
The American political and judicial philosopher, John Jay, is included in the collection in a lengthy handwritten letter to his wife, written as Chief Justice, as he leaves for England to negotiate the treaty that bears his name which opened the Western frontiers to American settlement.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was one of the most influential books about economic philosophy. A document signed in 1760 conferring a Master’s Degree at Glasgow University is in the collection.
The English economist whose population theories are still discussed, Thomas Malthus, is represented in the collection in the form of a closing and very rare signature.
David Ricardo, one of the most influential of the classical economists who dominated economic thinking throughout the 19th century, is represented by a very rare signed handwritten letter, 1822, authorizing his correspondent to be given a lecture ticket for the London Institution on his account.
The later 19th century economist John Stuart Mill handwrote a two-page letter in 1866 concerning electoral corruption.
In America, former President Andrew Jackson in 1844 wrote lamenting “that the morals of men …have become so corrupt.”,
Theodore Roosevelt gave a fiery speech on June 30, 1914, outlining the Platform of the Progressive Party. The 60 typewritten pages, with corrections by him, was his first major speech since the 1912 Presidential campaign.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic policies to stem the depression are discussed in his 1934 typewritten letter as President discussing that insuring 97% of bank deposits would bring renewed faith in the banking system.
In the field of art, the collection encompasses all of the major figures from the latter part of the 18th century through the 20th century.
One of the most iconic buildings in London, its survival during the London Blitz representing the spirit of England, was designed by Christopher Wren who is represented by a document signed in 1716.
The great portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough signed for receipt for a portrait in 1778.
The other great portrait painter in England, Sir Joshua Reynolds, signed an elaborate document as President of the Royal Academy.
At the same time in America, Gilbert Stuart was painting portraits. Stuart was the author of a book and in the collection is a lengthy receipt, 1783, for the copyright of it.
His contemporary, John Singleton Copley, has signed a receipt, 1787, for a print of his work about Gibraltar.
The French sculptor Jean Houdon at this time was creating busts of the most prominent figures and in the collection is his receipt, 1800, for his annuity.
The Barbizon School painter, Jean Francois Millet writes a fairly long letter, in 1862, about the oysters his correspondent sent to him. It was written just before he finally had critical success.
The early Impressionist Edouard Manet, also in a handwritten letter, is evidently recommending a house.
Claude Monet in an extraordinary letter, 1889, asks his recipient to contribute to a fund to purchase Manet’s masterpiece, for the Louvre, and writes out the lengthy list of contributors and how much they have given.
Édouard Manet’s painting Olympia was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon and it was a sensation. It was widely condemned for his portrayal of a reclining nude in the style of other paintings of the past, notably Titian, but Manet’s nude looked directly at the viewer and the presence of a bold cat on the lounge convinced many that the model was a prostitute. The woman portrayed was a well-known person and artist herself which seemed to further complicate the public reaction.
After Manet’s death, Claude Monet contacted artists to raise money to both help Manet’s widow and save the painting for the Louvre. This letter’s third page is the lengthy list of who has contributed and the amounts.
Monet’s listing of those supporting the purchase of Manet’s Olympia contains 32 names and the amounts they have given which totals 15,025 francs as of the writing of this letter. Monet himself is listed as donating 1,000 francs, the American painter John Singer Sargent 1,000 francs and the important early supporter of the Impressionists, the art dealer Durand-Ruel only 200. By February 1890, Monet had raised 20,000 francs and Olympia was purchased and given to the French government. The Louvre was prevented by law from exhibiting works by artists until 10 years after their death and it was first shown at the Musée du Luxembourg, then at the Musée de l’Art Contemporian of Paris. Olympia finally took its place in the Louvre in 1907.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in an 1894 handwritten letter, arranges a meeting.
Pierre Auguste Renoir signed a photograph of one of his paintings of a nude which he was consigning to his dealer, the pioneering Ambroise Vollard.
Paul Gauguin’s letters are scarce because of the time he spent in Tahiti. The handwritten letter to the art critic Jean Dolent in the collection congratulates his correspondent on the choice of a sketch-maker and says that he will start reading what they have been discussing so he can suggest an idea to him.
Rarer still is anything signed by Paul Cézanne and the 1896 handwritten letter in the collection to Solari discusses a missed rendezvous and arranges a new time to meet.
August Rodin August Rodin has signed and inscribed an etching of a group of idolized nude men dancing in a circle, “For Jacques Renaud who broke through the Gates,” the well-documented project Rodin worked on for years.
The American artist James McNeil Whistler is represented by a photograph entitled White III signed with his “butterfly” signature.
A lengthy handwritten letter from Georges Roualt discusses work for a catalog of his lithographs and etchings, 1938.
Henri Matisse in 1936 writes that he could only do such an interview in person and inviting his correspondent, San Lazzaro, to Nice to see him.
Marc Chagall in a very moving handwritten letter, 1945, describes his recently deceased wife’s characteristics “in art as she was in life”.
Far removed in so many ways, the New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keefe, issues an invitation to Santa Fe.
Pablo Picasso signs a book by Jaime Sabartes, his life-long friend.
Salvador Dali is represented in the collection by the large format elaborately produced book, entitled Dali, with an even more elaborately inscribed full-page signature in gold paint, with a huge crown atop his signature, and multiple sketches in ink by the flamboyant Surrealist artist.