B orn in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, Helen Solomon Darion studied the violin and modern dance as a child, and performed as a young adult in New York City. She married Joe Darion, an American lyricist, with whom she shared a love of the arts. Joe Darion is best known for writing the lyrics for the 1965 blockbuster and long-running musical, Man of La Mancha. He is also remembered for lyrics to many popular songs, including hits like Ricochet Romance, Midnight Train, The Ho-Ho Song and Changing Partners.
The couple had an eclectic collecting taste spanning the arts of East and Southeast Asia. Together they travelled the world to import and collect art. In the 70s, by good luck and fate, the Darions became neighbours with one of the most respected connoisseurs of Chinese Paintings, Mr. Wango Weng. Mr. Weng not only introduced them to the beauty of Chinese paintings, some of which were sold at Sotheby's New York, 23 March 2018. Mr. and Mrs. Darion had a tireless appetite for learning; keeping handwritten notes for each artwork they acquired.
Their outstanding collection became well-known among scholars, connoisseurs, and museum curators, and artworks from their collection were eagerly sought after for exhibitions. Today, many can be found published in museum catalogues and scholarly dissertations.
The Persian and Indian paintings in this collection span a time period of some three hundred years, with examples of manuscript illustration from Safavid Persia, lyrical scenes from Mughal India and the Deccan, and examples of Hindu painting from the Pahari Hills of North India. Most interesting in the collection is a drawing of an enthroned Akbar surrounded by courtiers, which may well be a previously unrecorded leaf from the ‘British Library/Chester Beatty Akbarnama’ of 1602-03 (lot 75). Dr Fred Olsen (1891-1986), founder of the Olsen Foundation, was one of the greatest art collectors of the mid-twentieth century.
Darion's fortune came from industrial chemistry, but his interests in art collecting were wide and eclectic. He formed major collections of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Art from Coptic to Contemporary and including an extensive collection of Islamic Art and Persian and Indian Miniatures. He donated to many institutions including Yale University and the University of Illinois, and his foundation, based in Bridgeport, Conn., de-accessioned most of his Persian and Indian paintings in the 1960s. Several of the miniatures in the Darion Collection were acquired from the Olsen Foundation.
The Darions bought a second home in Lyme, New Hampshire, where they eventually settled. Hellen took up Japanese calligraphy as a hobby, and the philanthropic couple supported many charitable organisations in New York and the Lyme area. Mrs. Darion lived to be 103 years old (1915-2018) and Mr. Darion lived to the age of 90 (1911-2001).