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February 3, 2015


The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass
March 1–May 24, 2015

FORT WORTH—The Kimbell Art Museum is pleased to announce The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, a selection of paintings and sculptures amassed by two pillars of Texas philanthropy and business. From this collection of Impressionist to post–World War II art, 37 works of painting and sculpture will be on view, including an impressive pair of paintings by Van Gogh—Street in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 1888, and Enclosed Field with Ploughman, 1889—and a major still life by Picasso, Fruit Bowl, Bottle, and Guitar, 1923. Important paintings by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse, Miró, Léger, Chagall and Rothko and sculptures by Rodin, Maillol and Segal will also be on view.

“The exhibition is an honor and remarkable occasion for the Kimbell, which is deeply grateful to the Bass family for so generously sharing the collection with others,” commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “This show will no doubt give great pleasure to our audiences.”

Sid R. Bass, eldest son of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, said, “My brothers and I are honored to have our parents’ collection at the Kimbell and are so pleased to have the opportunity to share their art with others.”

Bass family patriarch Perry Richardson Bass was born in 1914 in Wichita Falls, Texas, the nephew of legendary oilman Sid W. Richardson. Perry graduated from Yale University and married Nancy Lee Muse, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a native of Fort Worth, where the couple would raise four sons, Sid Richardson Bass, Edward Perry Bass, Robert Muse Bass and Lee Marshall Bass. The Basses and their sons would build one of the great American family fortunes and, through their philanthropy, would make an indelible impact on organizations throughout the country, including, of course, in Fort Worth, where their redevelopment of a once-dead downtown has resulted in one of the nation’s most vibrant city centers. A cornerstone of downtown’s redevelopment is the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, which opened in 1998, a resplendent venue for symphony, ballet, opera and concerts of all kinds.

Perry Bass died in 2006 and Nancy Lee in 2013. Despite their high profile as pillars of Texas philanthropy and business, Mr. and Mrs. Bass had remained extremely private people. A part of their private world that was unknown to the public at large until now is the extraordinary art collection that they assembled for their beautiful home and garden.

The Basses’ collection of late 19th- and 20th-century art began on a 1961 trip to Europe, where they purchased, with great enthusiasm, a group of works on paper—lithographs and a handful of watercolors and drawings. Back home in Fort Worth, the walls of the Bass house would be transformed with prints and drawings by the 20th-century masters, including Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.

At this milestone in the Basses’ collecting journey, Heinz Berggruen, Picasso’s dealer in Paris, was a major source of inspiration. Berggruen had begun his career in Paris selling affordable illustrated books and lithographs by major artists; a modest drawing by Paul Klee had sparked Berggruen’s own collection of extraordinary examples by some of the greatest 20th-century artists.

On that same 1961 European trip, the Basses purchased, in addition to classic modern works on paper, their first significant contemporary oil paintings, by the Russian Serge Poliakoff and the Canadian Jean Paul Riopelle. These bold, abstract canvases by living artists were daring choices for the nascent collectors. Poliakoff and Riopelle were comparatively unestablished painters living in Paris, though both would have exhibitions the following year at the Venice Biennale.

The Basses’ first serious acquisition in terms of cost came two years later, in 1963, when they took their four sons on a trip that began in Paris. Very near the Hotel Bristol, on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, stood the Knoedler Gallery. In the gallery’s window hung a painting by Raoul Dufy: The Deauville Harbor (Le Basin de Deauville), a canvas full of sea, sails, and boats. Perry, a dedicated sailor and a lover of strong color, found that the painting stoked his enthusiasm enough to overcome his natural fiscal caution. After several visits to the gallery to view and deliberate, he and Nancy Lee acquired the painting, which was hung above the mantle in the Basses’ Fort Worth dining room. On November 21–22, 1963, the Basses loaned the Dufy to the private exhibition of sixteen works of art installed in the Presidential Suite of Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, where Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy stayed the night before his assassination.

The Basses’ collection expanded with the help of and continued wise advice from other well-known dealers. Klaus Perls helped them find the Calder and Miró paintings they sought and introduced them to the work of Aristide Maillol, whose sculptures would be installed both indoors and outdoors at the Basses’ home. Eugene Thaw and William Acquavella exposed them to great examples of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Their early collection of small bronzes and works on paper by Charles Russell, inspired by the Western art collection of Perry’s uncle, Sid Richardson, was augmented by several bronzes by Frederic Remington. A cast of Auguste Rodin’s beloved The Kiss was Perry’s gift to Nancy Lee on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Of his parents’ collection, Sid R. Bass, eldest son of Nancy Lee and Perry Bass, has said: “The collection grew with no design other than a love of the art that gave them pleasure, usually with strong and happy colors, and became an integral part of their lives. A collection born with enthusiasm became a lifetime of pleasure and joy.”

Admission is free to this special exhibition. Promotional support is provided by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and NBC5.