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Dame Elizabeth's Art Collection


Dame Elizabeth’s “love affair with jewelry” has often overshadowed her equally magnificent collection of Impressionist art. Incredibly rare paintings by Picasso, Utrillo, Degas, Rouault, Monet, Pissaro, Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Modigliani, Vlaminck, van Gogh, Frans Hals, Matisse, Cézanne, Cassatt, Rembrandt, Erté and Frans Hals have all hung on the walls of Dame Elizabeth’s grand homes, on land or at sea.

http://dameelizabethtaylor.com/photos/albums/userpics/10001/scan0119.jpgElizabeth grew up with an understanding and appreciation for fine art. Her father, Francis Taylor, was an art dealer with a gallery located at 35 Old Bond Street in London. He learned the business under the tutelage of his uncle, Howard Young. After relocating with his family to sunny California during the war, Francis opened an art gallery at the Château Elysée, but quickly relocated it to the more impressive Beverly Hills Hotel. It was at that location that such celebrities as Howard Duff, Vincent Price, James Mason, Alan Ladd, Hedda Hopper, and Greta Garbo could be found selecting art for their own collections. Francis Taylor was also a trendsetter; responsible for the popularity of Augustus John in the United States. Francis, who had a keen eye, asked John if he could buy some of the paintings John had discarded. John felt they weren’t good enough to sell, and gave them to Francis free of charge. They were sold back at the art gallery in the States, where Augustus John paintings would be sold exclusively for many years. Francis would soon find an art connoisseur in his daughter, Elizabeth, who would amass one of the great private collections of Impressionist art in America.

One of her first big pieces was one by Frans Hals, given to by Francis on the occasion of her marriage to Nicky Hilton. Elizabeth owns several other Hals, including “Portrait of a Man”.

Elizabeth’s collection of art, like her collection of jewelry, grew during her brief but passionate marriage to the great Mike Todd. During this time, Todd, who was also an art connoisseur, purchased painting by Degas, Utrillo, and Vuillar from the collection of Aly Khan for a reported cost of $71,428. “They’ll think I’m crazy when they hear about this in Hollywood,” Todd joked. “Paying that much for pictures that don’t even move.” Once, while Elizabeth was hospitalized, Todd decorated the walls of her sterile hospital room with paintings by Renoir, Pissarro, and Monet (Todd even unintentionally punctured the Van Gogh with a pencil, but Elizabeth’s uncle, Howard Young, was able to mend it). “He knew how much I loved paintings. He loved paintings, too, but instead of buying himself the paintings, he’d buy them for me,” Elizabeth remembered. The Todds were generous with their collection; even loaning pieces to the Los Angeles County Art Museum.

Elizabeth continued to collect valuable art during her marriage to Richard Burton, and they together acquired many fabulous paintings. Bidding on behalf of his daughter, Francis Taylor purchased Vincent van Gogh’s “Lunatic Asylum, St. Remy” at Sotheby’s (and as a belated birthday present, Francis Taylor purchased for Elizabeth a Utrillo at the same auction). The painting, which was being sold from the collection of Alfred Woolf, was auctioned for £92,000. She would later try (unsuccessfully) to part with the painting for $20 million.

Elizabeth once described her home as “such a cozy, sweet place with bits and pieces around—bits and pieces of Renoir—and, you know, things that make it homey.” All joking aside, like the joy her famous collection of jewelry has brought her, Elizabeth’s paintings serve as memories of incredible times from a bygone era, and the loved ones she shared them with.


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