COLLECTORS WITH PANACHE
Roy Neuberger has had a calling to support and champion
causes of living American artists while nurturing his own
love of art.
R. Neuberger, founding patron of the Neuberger Museum
Avery, Gaspé Landscape, 1942-1943, oil on canvas.
Collection of Roy R. Neuberger.
Dove, Holbrook's Bridge to the Northwest, 1938,
oil on canvas. Collection of Roy R. Neuberger.
Hartley, Fishermen's Last Supper, 1940-1941,
oil on canvas. Collection of Roy R. Neuberger.
By Diana Mehl
the pantheon of great art collectors, surely
one of the greatest is Roy R. Neuberger, the brilliant
financier and founder of the money management firm Neuberger
Berman and the founding patron of the Neuberger Museum
of Art in Purchase, NY.
recounts his exceptional life as a collector in his memoir
The Passionate Collector: Eighty Years in the World of
Art (John Wiley & Sons, 2003). He nurtured his love
for art during his stay in Paris from 1924 to 1929, immersing
himself in the Parisian art world by visiting museums
and galleries and studying at the Sorbonne. In 1928, Neuberger
read a biography of the artist Vincent van Gogh and was
shocked to learn that Van Gogh had lived in poverty and
had been unappreciated by his contemporaries. Neuberger
decided then and there that he would “help support
living artists, buying their works and championing their
causes.” However, collecting required having large
amounts of capital. In 1929, Neuberger decided to return
to the U.S. and make his fortune on Wall Street.
Neuberger's subsequent phenomenal success in business
allowed him to pursue his passion for collecting. His
commitment to buying the works of living American artists
led him to purchase and popularize the works of Milton
Avery, William Baziotes, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis,
Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Jack Levine, Jackson Pollock,
Ben Shahn and David Smith. Neuberger never sold his art;
instead, he chose to donate hundreds of paintings to more
than 70 museums around the U.S. Many donations were made
on the condition that the museum would purchase another
work from the artist, further aiding the artist's
Neuberger also served as a model to many other important
collectors, inspiring them to purchase the works of contemporary
American artists. He continued to expand the public's
awareness of art with his extraordinary donation of more
than 950 paintings and sculptures, which established the
Neuberger Museum of Art. The museum, located on the campus
of the State University of New York at Purchase, remains
one of the finest collections of 20th century American
In July of this year Mr. Neuberger celebrated his 101st
birthday and still displays the tremendous charm and radiant
intelligence for which he is famous. Below he shares some
of his memories of his favorite artists and talks about
his favorite paintings.
are most associated with the artist Milton Avery. What
attracted you to his work?
I loved painting and Milton Avery. In France I saw Matisse
plenty, and Avery is the closest to Matisse of any artist
who ever lived. Avery never admitted that he was influenced
by him but he had to have been.
of the earliest Averys you bought was the Gaspé
Landscape. How did you acquire it?
I bought it from him directly. He went to the Gaspé
as we did. My wife and I took a vacation in the Gaspé,
an unusual seascape place, very sparse in population.
The town had a few little homes and a church and a cemetery.
And that's what Avery painted. He didn't have
models come to him – everybody was a model. He painted
what he saw.
do you admire about Arthur Dove's painting Holbrook's
Bridge to the Northwest?
It is in some ways the subtlest painting I have. I think
it is also one of the most beautiful paintings. The colors
One of the most popular paintings at the Neuberger
Museum is Jackson Pollock's Number Eight, 1949.
What is the story behind its purchase?
Betty Parsons [the art dealer] was a true art lover and
I thought I'd go to her gallery and see the show
of Jackson Pollock in November of 1949. She called me
in January of 1950 and said, “Roy, remember you
came to the gallery and saw Jackson Pollock? He is flat
broke. You'd do a real good turn if you bought his
work.” So I bought a big painting for $800. It was
Number Eight. Unfortunately, it was the only Pollock I
did you buy the work of living American artists?
I thought I was doing a good turn. If you buy a painting
by an artist of the past, the artist doesn't know
anything about it and doesn't benefit from it. I
was also a propagandist for America. America was known
for creating successful businessmen and industries but
not known for art as much as Europe.
met so many art scholars, dealers and collectors. Who
influenced you most in terms of guiding you as a collector?
Duncan Phillips, the founder of the Phillips Gallery in
Washington DC. I admired Phillips to the extent that I
was influenced by him to do what he did except in a slightly
different way. Phillips was an innovator. He was a bold
man in the sense of loving art and he took risks in buying
What advice would you give to new collectors?
I would advise new collectors more than anything else
to look at art, to go to the galleries that show the work,
to go to the studios if invited and to be really enthusiastic
about what they are doing. If they love what they are
doing they are more likely to be successful.
credit: courtesy Neuberger Museum of Art