Paul Allen was many things—co-founder of Microsoft, investor, NFL team owner, and world’s 27th-richest person at the time of his death earlier this month. He also amassed a great art collection.
The art collection Allen left behind is eclectic, with works ranging from the antiquities to Impressionists to contemporary works. And it includes some very important works by such artists as Monet and Renoir. According to Bloomberg:
One work by Georges Seurat, “The Models” (1888), is considered by dealers to be one of the most important of his works left in private hands. It’s a painting within a painting, showing three nude models and the artist’s famous “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” in the background.
“He collected for enjoyment,” said Pablo Schugurensky, who presided over a significant expansion of Allen’s trove as his director of art collections from 1998 to 2005. “He was extremely curious about all periods and all things.”
Allen knew what he wanted and was ambitious about collecting, Schugurensky said. “He would always try to find out what the proper top bid would be. Sometimes he would go out of the range because the piece was so important.”
Allen himself said his earliest and “most impactful” experience with art occurred during a visit to the Tate Gallery in London as a young man where works by Monet and Turner left him “astonished.”
“I was first immediately taken with Impressionist and modern art,” Allen said in a video about the “Seeing Nature” show. “But as time goes by, you start to understand the history of the progression of art and how art evolved, and your tastes and your eye develop over that period of time.”
According to Schugurensky, that passion was accompanied by careful research and education, even as Allen’s collection was expanding substantially. “He was very aware visually. He collected because he was really interested in art and understood the importance of the works he was acquiring,” Schugurensky says.