The Collection of Paul F. Walter

The Collection of Paul F. Walter will be auctioned across two days of live auctions Christie’s on September 26-27 with a simultaneous online auction September 21-28. Paul Walter was known as a polymath and scholar, and through collecting and patronage – including leadership roles at MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art among others – he became one of New York’s most respected connoisseurs.

Comprised of 560 lots across a multitude of disciplines including Post-War & Contemporary art, photographs, prints, sculpture, English furniture and decorative art, and Indian Art – the items come from Walter’s Manhattan apartment and his Sag Harbor home.  Estimates range from $1,000 to $1,200,000 and the whole collection is expected to realize in excess of $4.5 million total.

Laura Paulson, Vice Chairman of the Christie’s Americas Advisory Board, comments: “What united Paul’s aesthetic was his true passion for collecting – and it was phenomenal. He would create highly personal environments with great attention to detail and beauty, and this translated into everything he brought into his life.”


The collection comprises a superb group of works on paper by Post-war and Contemporary masters Brice Marden, Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin, early photography by Captain Linnaeus Tripe, Edward Steichen and Man Ray, prints by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Lucien Freud and a diverse group of works in various media by friends and contemporaries Robert Mapplethorpe, Billy Sullivan, Robert Wilson and Ralph Humphrey.

The sale features a selection of English furniture including a pair of torcheres by 18th century cabinet makers Benjamin Goodison through to important Arts and Crafts material from the fin-de-siècle by makers Edwin Lutyens, Edward William Godwin and William Benson. An archive of Cecil Beaton photographs, sketch books, and books and manuscripts leads the library section of the sale as well as a rare musical score by composer Philip Glass.

Walter’s decades long fascination with India is evidenced by a diversity of material from the subcontinent encompassing striking Raj silver and jewelry, watercolors, topographical works and miniatures – many of which were exhibited at institutions including LACMA, the Morgan Library, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Columbia University.

ABOUT PAUL F. WALTER (1935-2017)

Born in 1935, Paul F. Walter was the son of Fred and Anna Walter, co-founders of the New Jersey industrial instruments firm Thermo Electric. Anna Walter was a benefactor of the Morgan Library and Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and instilled in her son a love of culture that would lead him to study the History of Art at Oberlin College and Columbia University. “I don’t think you learn anything unless you buy” Walter commented in later years “It is about commitment, passion, testing one’s own judgement.” In 1968, Walter assumed leadership of Thermo Electric. During his tenure at the firm, the collector’s international travels allowed a wealth of opportunity to expand and enrich his private collection.

Walter greatly enriched the collections of cultural institutions across the country through generous bequests and financial support. His gift of photography to MoMA— encompassing the work of seminal figures including Julia Margaret Cameron, Cecil Beaton, Gustave Le Gray, and Henri Cartier-Bresson—was followed by additional bequests of important design by Christopher Dresser and Edward William Godwin, as well as works on paper by Julian Schnabel and Agnes Martin. Walter’s alma mater, Oberlin College, received Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna and Child, numerous Japanese woodblock prints, Modern etchings, and works by Contemporary masters such as Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, and Sol LeWitt. The Met Museum now holds a number of editions, photographs, and an important twentieth-century dressing table from Walter’s collection, while LACMA was the recipient of vibrant Indian paintings and Southeast Asian sculpture. Walter’s gifts to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum—which included ceramics, glassware, textiles, and other decorative art—are especially reflective of the collector’s penchant for a wide range of material culture.

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