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St Louis Museum Splurges On a $10 Million Degas

The St. Louis Art Museum, Mo., recently purchased a circa 1899 painting by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) from a Swiss dealer for $10 million. The Milliners, a 29-by-32-inch oil on canvas is one of 20 or so paintings that the artist made of women making and decorating hats.

NEW YORK—The St. Louis Art Museum, Mo., recently purchased a circa 1899 painting by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) from a Swiss dealer for $10 million. The Milliners, a 29-by-32-inch oil on canvas is one of 20 or so paintings that the artist made of women making and decorating hats.

“It’s the most expensive purchase the museum has ever made,” Andrew Walker, curator of American art and associate director of curatorial affairs at the museum, told ARTnewsletter. He notes that, until now, the museum has owned a couple of Degas pastels, as well as a bronze statuette of a dancer, but none of his oils on canvas.

Blondeau Fine Art Services, Geneva, sold the Degas to the museum, having acquired it from a private investment firm that had held the work for a decade. During the prior 60 years it had been in two private French collections.

Amid a major, ongoing expansion, the St. Louis museum has been acquiring other works, although none at the price level of the Degas. Since 2006, Walker reports, it has bought an untitled fluorescent-light piece by Dan Flavin (1933-96), the mixed-media Fading Cloth by Ghana artist El Anatsui (b. 1944) and a landscape painting, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1865, by Alfred Britcher.

The museum raised the $10 million through a combination of endowment purchase funds, donations, exhibit income and deaccessions.

Among artworks the museum plans to sell are two paintings (a 1944 painting of sunflowers and a 1935 still life) by Georges Braque; Mary Cassatt’s painting Françoise in Green, Sewing, 1911; Portrait of a Girl Sewing, 1900, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Woman Seated in an Armchair, 1918-19, by Henri Matisse; two landscapes—one painted by Jean Metzinger in 1916-17 and another, by Maurice de Vlamnick in 1912; and works by André Lhote, Henri-Joseph Harpignies and Maurice Utrillo.

Christie’s, which is offering the works at various upcoming sales, has estimated their total value as $7.6/11.1 million. They will be placed in auctions of American art, 19th-century painting and Impressionist and modern art this fall.

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