Within the world of auctions, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. was known as a collector of exquisite and important Impressionist paintings. To the world at large, he was a man of vision, extraordinary business acumen, risk-taking and passion.
Born nearly a century ago, Mr. Wilson’s career was as successful as it was varied. A lawyer by training, but an entrepreneur by nature, he was a leading figure in many industries, from insurance to energy. He was a creator and innovator, who also served his country in the Navy during World War II.
In the world of sport, he was legendary as a founding owner of the American Football League, and later orchestrated its merger with the National Football League in 1970. As owner of the Buffalo Bills for over 54 years, Ralph Wilson held the second-longest tenure as an NFL team owner. After a career punctuated by prestigious awards, Wilson was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Sotheby’s is honoured to present for sale Impressionist paintings from the Wilson Collection. In four wonderful examples, the Wilson collection encapsulates the aims and strengths of the Impressionist movement. Monet’s sumptuous riverside landscape of 1875, La Seine à Argenteuil, provides the keystone of the collection. With a painterly surface and iconic subject matter, this painting represents the high point of Monet’s Impressionism. Painted the following decade, Monet’s Antibes, vue du Plateau Notre-Dame reveals the artist redefining the boundaries of Impressionism in a landscape with fresh spontaneity and a high-keyed palette. These works, along with the boldly modern Jeune femme dans les fleurs by Edouard Manet and Sisley’s tranquil Les bords du Loing, present a testament to Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. as a collector with rarified taste and foresight.