Published: November 2, 2021
NEW YORK CITY – For those who reminisce about the Golden Age of American Folk Art collecting, which enjoyed its heyday in the late 1970s and 1980s, Christie’s offers an opportunity to acquire masterworks from that era when it presents a single-owner sale approximately of 150 lots from the estate of Peter Goodman (1925-2021) in its January 2022 roster of sales.
“As a collection, this ranks up there, piece by piece, with some of the most exciting folk art collections that have ever come to market,” says Christie’s deputy director, John Hays. “It may be one of those moments we look back on and say, ‘it’s a benchmark.'”
Goodman’s name may not spring to mind when one thinks back to the age of pioneering collectors, but it is warranted. He was collecting in earnest when landmark collections by Nina Fletcher Little, Roger Bacon and Lillian Blankley Cogan, to name a few, came to auction. It was a heady time for the burgeoning field, when scholarship was in its infancy and discoveries could be found around every corner.
Goodman began buying in the 1950s, gradually adding works and developing his eye. When his family’s Danskin company was acquired by Playtex in 1980, Goodman had a fortune at his disposal that allowed him to pursue the best of the best. He often went head-to-head with dealers and other collectors at sales at Skinner and Sotheby’s, buying from the collections of Stewart Gregory, Howard and Jean Lipman, Roger Bacon, Frank and Karen Miele, Howard and Catherine Feldman and Bernard K. and Nina Fletcher Little. Dealers he worked with included Israel Sack, Bill Samaha, Joe Kindig, Bernard & S. Dean Levy, Gerald Kornblau, James and Nancy Glazer, Frank and Barbara Pollack, David Wheatcroft, Stephen Score, Sam Herrup, Grace and Elliott Snyder and David Schorsch.
“He was a quiet collector, his name appears in some books where things were illustrated, but he kept a low profile,” said David Schorsch, who knew Goodman’s daughter, Elizabeth, from school in Connecticut. He began working closely with Goodman in 1980 and shared some of his recollections of the man whose name can more publicly join the pantheon of great American folk art collectors.
“Like my parents, and my aunt and uncle, and other people of that Golden Age of collecting, he was interested in an immersive experience. He installed early flooring and beams and really created a stage set of an Eighteenth Century room in a house in Rye (N.Y.) that was probably made in the 1920s. It was very well done. Peter and his wife, Barbara, had a wonderful sense of arrangement, with baskets hanging from the beams, early portraiture, early furniture and lighting. They succeeded in creating this special kind of ambiance.
“Peter had great sensitivity to originality of surface and patinas of surface. The pieces that really attracted him were ones with painted and original surfaces that enhanced the forms of the things he collected. Like all collectors, he started more modestly, and, as time went on, they advanced, moving into a broader range of higher-end objects. When his resources and ability to reach for things increased, he stepped up to buy some really extraordinary objects and paintings.
“He was a person who took his own counsel and made up his own mind. He knew what he liked and what he didn’t like. He had the resources to reach for some masterpieces that will be his legacy.”
Some of the pieces Goodman bought set records at the time and many will reappear in the sale at Christie’s.
Highlights from Goodman’s collection include “Woman with Pink Ribbons” by Ammi Phillips, Samuel Addison Shute’s “Woman with Two Birds,” and “The Dow Twins” and “Portrait of John Bourne,” both by John Brewster. Three-dimensional works include a red-painted Centre County chest illustrated in both Lipman and Armstrong’s The Flowering of American Folk Art 1776-1876 and The Pennsylvania-German Decorated Chest by Monroe Fabian, and an Angel Gabriel weathervane that had been exhibited at the United States Pavilion at the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka, Japan.
The sale represents the development of Goodman’s eye and evolution of his collection, offering works acquired from his early days of collecting to those in his twilight years. One of his earliest acquisitions – a pair of portraits by William Matthew Prior purchased in 1953 – will be sold as well as one of his last purchases, a portrait of a woman by Jane Anthony Davis that he obtained in 2008.
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm