Bass family puts art collection up for sale

"A Christie's art expert describes Vincent van Gogh's "Enclosed Field with Ploughman," which is one pieces of artwork from the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass collection that will be sold later this month.
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"A Christie's art expert describes Vincent van Gogh's "Enclosed Field with Ploughman," which is one pieces of artwork from the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass collection that will be sold later this month.

Fort Worth

Famous paintings that hung at the Kimbell are returned to Bass family

October 10, 2017 05:13 PM


The Bass family art collection, a stunning collection of Renoirs, van Goghs, a Monet and Matisse that were on loan to the Kimbell Art Museum for more than two years, have returned home.

Kimbell Art Museum Director Eric Lee said Tuesday that roughly 30 paintings — including five or six which were displayed as “guests of honor” with the museum’s permanent collection — were removed in late August and early September.

All of the paintings, along with several sculptures owned by the Bass family, were displayed in 2015 as part of a special exhibit in the museum’s new Renzo Piano Pavilion. There were 37 artworks displayed in all.

“We always knew the paintings would return and they were,” Lee said. “We knew they were not here forever. It did not come as a surprise.”

Scott Gentling, “Portrait of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass,” 1998, watercolor.
Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, Fort Worth Handout

Lee could not divulge what the Bass family intends to do with the paintings, although one — Vincent van Gogh’s “Streets Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer” — is now in an exhibition in Japan.

If any were ever to be sold, it would be a major event in the art world, he said.

“They are absolutely fantastic major works by some of the greatest artists of the late 19th and 20th century. The fact that they were owned by Nancy Lee and Perry Bass make them all the more special,” Lee said.

“I don’t want to speak on what they plan to do with them. It was great having them here and sharing them with our audiences for more than two years,” he said.

The art collection was compiled by the late Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, mother and father to the billionaire Bass brothers — Sid, Ed, Robert and Lee. The impressive collection spans from the time of the impressionists to post-World War II and took more than 50 years to gather.

At one time many of the paintings, some of them quite large, were displayed in a great room of the Bass home that was originally a basketball court for the boys. After they left home, the room was repurposed.

“Audiences loved to see what they lived with on their walls and it was a wonderful show all around,” Lee said.

The collection included two van Goghs, two Renoirs, a Monet and paintings by Bonnard, Hoffman and Matisse. Other major artists included Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

While many of the paintings were stored with Kimbell, others were openly displayed, Lee said.

The famous seducer traveled throughout Europe but called Venice home. Two works by Canaletto were painted at the time Casanova lived in the city and show many of the places he mentions in his memoir.


Van Gogh’s “Enclosed Field with Ploughman,” an 1889 oil on canvas, and Claude Monet’s 1877 oil on canvas of the exterior view of “The Gare Saint-Lazare,” were among those displayed in the gallery.

While the museum was sad to see the artworks leave, Lee touted the Kimbell’s remaining impressionists collection, which is small but renowned for its quality. The Kimbell has works by Cézanne, Monet, Gauguin and Pissarro.

The museum recently added a painting by Alfred Sisley and, in 2015 and 2016, had a show built around another of its impressionist offerings, Gustave Caillebotte.

The work always had been known as a David Roberts painting, however, when a Mineral Wells collector showed it to Kimbell officials last summer their forensic work, research and serendipity led to true identity. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)


This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB