Sotheby’s is honored to be offering a selection of Old Master paintings, drawings, and works of art from the collection of David and Louise Carter during Masters Week in New York.
D avid G. Carter and Louise Belknap met at the Met in the museum’s library stacks where she was cataloguing for her first job after graduating as an Art History major from Bryn Mawr. David had a newly established Metropolitan Museum of Art fellowship after completing his doctoral studies at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. His earlier days saw him graduate from Princeton as an Art & Archeology major in a wartime accelerated class, then service as a diplomatic courier during WWII, followed by an MA at Harvard / the Fogg and his doctoral studies at NYU. The subsequent union of David and Louise in 1951 began a lifetime passion for building a superb art collection that they enjoyed surrounding themselves with over their 63 wonderful years together.
“Art was the framework for his entire world”
While David came to be known as a Dutch & Flemish scholar with a specialty in Rembrandt, his was also a fine and discerning eye as a connoisseur with deep understanding of artistry and quality when selecting Artworks for their personal collection or as the director of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design and The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ( where he nearly doubled the size of the exhibition space during his tenure). Art was the framework for his entire world. David and Louise traveled widely around the globe and the focus was always on immersing in the cultural wonders of each country. With an international outlook and a curiosity to constantly learn, David would often consult Louise, but if David came across a piece of rare beauty such as Wright of Derby’s Cottage on Fire at Night, his acquisitive nature for the exquisite would enter in. He acquired this remarkable painting as a surprise and gifted it to Louise in 1966. It has held pride of place in their homes throughout their long marriage that took inspiration from sharing so much beauty together.
David loved collecting. He loved to find Old Master drawings where one could observe the elegance of an artist’s hand at work. He was intrigued with heraldry and iconography from his youngest days. Arms and Armor were a passion from his childhood. He collected some excellent pieces and also was drawn to artwork that included it.
He had an eye for the Fine Arts, but also for Architecture. He analyzed everything he looked at constantly. The capturing of light was a fascination. Rembrandt was his specialty. For this reason too he was drawn to the Dutch Italianates. Not only did he find the brighter lighting attractive he was intrigued by the introduction of mountains by once untraveled Lowlanders and studied how these Northern Renaissance artists’ movements were visible through the appearance of such imagery.
The Antwerp Crucifixion was a particular favorite of his for its remarkable details, splendid rich colours, and fascinating iconography. It’s full attribution was a lifelong puzzle he constantly researched. He gave a never forgotten lecture to his son on a corner of the painting, and why if any modern artist had painted it he/ she would have been hailed as the second coming. It’s simply the robes. He felt if those had been painted as a contemporary work it would have been iconic.
One can develop an appreciation, but one can not always be gifted with “an eye” for connoisseurship. David was a scholar, but he was a museum man through and through. If he found a picture he felt his museum should collect he was ardent in the pursuit of that work. He wanted only the best for “his museum”.
The museum always got first choice. His scholarly expertise as a curator and museum director informed his own collecting interests. Louise did on a few occasions decline to live with certain subject matter. Later in life David & Louise gifted a number of remarkable paintings to several museums.
David enjoyed sharing his knowledge and love of his paintings. One could have the benefit of a graduate level seminar in an afternoon visit. In their eighties David and Louise had a joint show. His talented photographs and her beautiful bookbinding. Each brought their unique talents and sensibilities into their view of collecting and they had such joy in doing so together.
Property from the Collection of David & Louise Carter