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Collector Profile: John Schaeffer

Friends of the businessman John Schaeffer were surprised to receive a Christmas card from him last year with an illustration of arguably the most famous painting by Frederick Leighton (1830–96) on the front.

SYDNEY—Friends of the businessman John Schaeffer were surprised to receive a Christmas card from him last year with an illustration of arguably the most famous painting by Frederick Leighton (1830–96) on the front. The image is a small study for Flaming June, 1895, which has been in the Museo de Arte de Ponce/Fundación Luis A. Ferré, Hato Rey, P.R., since 1963.

The study, which was sold at Sotheby’s auction of the Leverhulme Collection in London in June 2001 for £104,700 ($148,000), was resold privately to Schaeffer by London dealer Hazlitt Gooden & Fox in the last year; the Christmas card identifies it as a “recent acquisition” of the “Schaeffer Collection, Sydney, Australia.”

After his cleaning company, Tempo Services, suffered a decline in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Schaeffer had been forced to sell off assets, including works of high Victorian art he had bought against stiff competition from U.K. collectors Andrew Lloyd Webber and Isabel Goldsmith in the late 1990s. (Schaeffer is now a consultant to Tempo following its takeover by a Danish company and its renaming as ISS Facility Services Australia.) Now he has returned to the market he had been forced to all but abandon, he confirmed to ARTnewsletter. Schaeffer’s recent purchases include Eve, a Symbolist painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860–1927), which he bought at Christie’s sale of Victorian and British Impressionist art in London on Dec. 16. His winning hammer bid of £600,000 ($904,000) against an estimate of £700,000/1million was equal to the reserve. With premium, the painting brought £713,250 ($1.16million).

Although the oil on canvas is considered one of Solomon’s masterworks, its large size (10 by 41⁄2 feet) makes it a harder sell for some collectors. First shown in 1908 at the Royal Academy, London, the painting had never been sold, but had been presented to the Ealing Borough Council by the artist’s widow in 1946. It was being auctioned to raise funds for the council because it was judged not to be a visual record of Ealing (ANL, 12/29/09). Schaeffer will ship it from London, where it is at a conservator’s studio, to Sydney, where it will be on loan to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for the exhibition “Visions: Art of the Pre-Raphaelites,” which runs May 20–August 29.

Schaeffer told ARTnewsletter he had bought another Eve, an 1885 painting of that name by Anna Lea Merritt (1844–1930), at Christie’s in London last June for £63,650 ($103,813) against an estimate of £25,000/35,000. Both Eves and other works Schaeffer owns will be featured in the “Visions” show. He has bought 25 works since late 2001, most notably pieces from the Forbes Collection, sold by Christie’s in February 2003.

In 2008, the extent of Schaeffer’s holdings could be seen by travellers to Utah, where his collection has been housed since Tempo shares tumbled. He loaned a number of works to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah—of which Australian expatriate Campbell Gray is the director—for the show “Masterworks of Victorian Art from the Collection of John H. Schaeffer.”

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