L iterate and cultured, when emotion took over he would tirelessly tell his friends and children about the history of art. He could spend hours looking at the collection he had built up while listening to Mozart's operas or Fats Waller's stride piano. Everyone remembers his collection of paintings and objets d'art, his love of little-known artists, his love of jazz and great operas, of travel and architecture, his freedom of thought and open-mindedness at a time when it was not fashionable.
Son of Alphonse Bellier, a leading auctioneer of the 20th century, and Renée Deville, a lyrical artist, herself the daughter of a renowned tenor of her time, godson of Edouard Vuillard, friend of Jacques Kerchache, tireless explorer and organiser of international exhibitions of early art, Jean-Claude Bellier was one of the youngest experts in the French courts and a lifelong lover of beauty.
In 1970, his exhibition "Pour le plaisir" summed up his love of artworks and the very special relationship he maintained throughout his life with his professional environment.
"Edouard Vuillard is the most important of the great artists about whom a relevant light has yet to be shed, if only to unravel the Enigmatics in him that he fashioned for himself like a breastplate against the world. For a time, the most brilliant minds praised his fairy-tale magic while confessing that they could not go as far as he did. Claude Roger-Marx saw no equivalent to the Jardins Publics cycle other than Seurat's Grande Jatte in that they linked the fullness of pictorial art to philosophical thought. Mallarmé confided to the artist 'what a beautiful evocation you have given me'. Matisse admired Vuillard's pictorial mattness as 'a definitive touch', and Picasso himself, in the winter of '44, after the artist's death, wanted to have his Vuillard, which he acquired from Louis Carré. And as for Picasso and Braque, it would be unfortunate to deceive ourselves about the high esteem they had for his audacity and inventions. The 20th century is a risky time for a dialogue with tradition, with some works of lesser interest, the resulting misunderstanding deserves to be re-read. For there remain masterpieces which, through their skilful compositions and incredible psychological acuity, present a pictoriality that is unique to him and the invention of electric light. It is this man who so warmly pleased Alphonse Bellier to make him the godfather of his son.”
The many works by Vuillard in the Bellier collection highlight the extremely strong ties between the Bellier family and Vuillard and the Hessels. As early as the 1920s, Alphonse Bellier, then the most famous auctioneer in Paris, established close ties with the painter. It was he who later signed Vuillard's death certificate in La Baule in 1940. Jean-Claude Bellier was Vuillard's godson, and the links between the artist and the Bellier family are attested to by several works, such as La Famille Bellier or La Sainte Famille (a 1934 work unfortunately destroyed in a fire) or La Goélette, presented in this sale. It was in Les Clayes, where La Goélette was painted, that Vuillard introduced Jean-Claude Bellier to the rudiments of painting, even agreeing to exchange a sketchbook with him, as Jean-Claude Bellier told Guy Cogeval during a discussion on 9 April 2001 (in Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval, Vuillard, le regard innombrable, Paris, 2003, p. 1547).
"From a very early age I learned to look, and was helped in this by exceptional people. Fifty years ago, I was able to put this way of looking into practice and I began building a collection. These were decades of immense happiness because an incessant and all-encompassing quest led me to discover not only magical countries and astonishing museums, but also extraordinary people: curators, dealers, collectors and artists. Africa, Oceania, Alaska, Malaysia, Borneo allowed me to meet people and have left me with unforgettable memories. From the earliest acquisition to the most recent discovery, the dialogue between the object and myself has never ceased. I loved them and they made me happy.”