Of course, he knew that possessing a bit of money can certainly help in this regard – not least since his client list included billionaire collectors such as Paul Mellon and Norton Simon as well as museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Thaw started out aged 23 and went on to become one of the most respected dealers of his generation. But he was also an avid collector too, buying in a range of different sectors and price points.
Following his death in January, a group of 200 lots from the varied collection he assembled with his wife Clare, who passed away six month earlier, has now been consigned to Christie’s. Expected to raise over $10m, the consignment will be split between a dedicated single owner auction in New York on October 30 and across nine separate mixed sales.
Though Thaw dealt primarily in European pictures, his extensive personal collection ranged from ancient Eurasian bronzes, medieval works of art, Native American art, books, decorative arts, architectural models and drawings.
Much of the collection was donated to various museums during his lifetime, including the Morgan Library & Museum in New York (formerly the Pierpont Morgan Library) to which the Thaws gave over 400 works. The couple also made endowments to fund a conservation centre, gallery and a curator of prints and drawings.
The remaining collection includes works by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Salvador Dalí, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock. Among the works offered at Christie’s post-war and contemporary art sales is Joseph Cornell’s (1903-1972) Untitled (Medici Prince) which will carry an $800,000-1.2m estimate.
The single-owner auction will offer English furniture, Old Masters, 19th century and American pictures, Renaissance bronzes, porcelain, books and antiquities, with items including a late 19th century mahogany side table made in Georgian style that is estimated at $6000-9000, while a 17th German life-sized carved fruitwood skull is estimated at $7000-10,000.
Proceeds from the sales will benefit the Eugene V. and Clare Thaw Charitable Trust, which supports the arts, the environment and animal welfare. The foundation was set up in 1981 using the funds that Thaw raised from the sale of a single van Gogh painting.
Eugene Thaw studied art history at Columbia University, opening a gallery and bookshop above the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel in 1950 shortly after graduating.
His range was vast, initially focusing on contemporary art but quickly expanding onto Old Masters and 19th century French pictures.
By 1954 he relocated to Madison Avenue before later closing his gallery to concentrate on advising private clients.
Thaw was a co-author of Jackson Pollock’s catalogue raisonné and a founding member of Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), serving as president from 1970 to 1972.
Under his advice, David Rockefeller formed a syndicate in 1968 with six prominent collectors to purchase the Gertrude and Leo Stein Collection, which Thaw appraised.
Christie’s honorary chairman Noël Annesley said: “It is an honour to be entrusted with the sale of the Collection of one of the most influential Americans to shape the art world in the Post-War era. Gene Thaw was a renowned polymath and he and Clare’s wide-ranging collecting represents his knowledge and love of art, and unerring eye for quality.”