Sotheby’s is honored to present In the Studio: Asian Art Featuring Works from the Collection of Bruce Dayton and Ruth Stricker Dayton, reflecting their collecting taste as literati scholars, the selections in this sale include scholar’s objects, Chinese paintings, ceramics, bronzes, furniture. Longtime philanthropists and supporters of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), the Daytons’ immense generosity, impeccable eye, eclectic interests, and continual curiosity shaped the institution into one of the leading encyclopedic art collections in America. Other works in the sale include a collection of snuff bottles from an important American private collection, works from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, and a selection of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art.
There have been few art collectors more influential than Bruce Dayton (1918-2015) and Ruth Stricker Dayton (1935-2020). Longtime philanthropists and supporters of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), the Daytons’ immense generosity, impeccable eye, eclectic interests, and continual curiosity shaped the institution into one of the leading encyclopedic art collections in the US. Bruce and Ruth Dayton visited China more than a dozen times, and it was during these trips that they became, in their words, ’confirmed Sinophiles.’ Unlike most private collectors, who bought with their personal preferences in mind, the Daytons always considered the public audience. As Bruce Dayton once said, ‘I believe that one does not really own a work of art, but merely has the temporary possession of it and, hence, has a responsibility to find its highest or best use.’ Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a higher or better collecting purpose than the Daytons’ commitment to philanthropy, civic duty, and reaching others through the power of art.
“We always have the museum audience in mind and seek to build collections that will speak to it of the wonders of China.”
“We have concentrated on the literati scholar, as he was central to so much of Chinese history. We started with an admiration for his taste in furniture: the simple beautiful lines, the interest in natural materials, and the superb craftsmanship, all of which created such an array of beautiful material. We expanded into painting and calligraphy as they express the literati’s thoughts so well. Ceramics, lacquer, and literati items all led to an understanding of these scholars who expanded their mind and talents after they had finished government service.”
This important collection of snuff bottles and other Chinese works of art was formed over the course of three generations. Its contents were principally selected by the women in the family, and the collection as a whole has passed through the matriline. The majority of the pieces were purchased by Kenyon Vickers Painter, Sr. (1867-1940) and Leila Maud Wyeth Painter (1885-1971). Mr. Painter was born to a prominent Quaker family in Ohio, in which his pioneering mother, Lydia Ethel Farmer Painter (1842-1909), was an author, poet, avid traveller, owner of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company, and had a fascination with East Asian philosophy.
Mr. Painter followed in his father’s footsteps as a banker, and became the head of the Union Trust Company, the largest bank in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1907, he went on his first safari in Arusha, German East Africa (now Tanzania), and subsequently returned to the region 30 times to explore its natural habitats (including a safari with U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt), and to invest in the region. Notably, he developed an 11,000-acre coffee plantation, a coffee research institute, a post office, hotels, hospital, church, and other infrastructure around Arusha. His keen interest in the natural world was reflected on the grounds of his Cleveland mansion, which housed mementos from his time in Africa, as well as a zoo, two aviaries, a deer park, and stables. Two years after he died, the widowed Mrs. Painter sold the home and grounds to the Ursuline nuns for use as a girls’ school, a function it continues to serve to this day as the Beaumont School, which fulfilled a wish of her own and her late mother-in-law’s to support women’s education.
Mrs. Painter, who went by Maud, was the driving force behind the couple’s collection of Chinese antiquities. Maud had travelled to Asia as a teenager, and returned with a passion for East Asian art. The couple principally purchased from major auctions in New York, including the 1916 sale of the A. W. Bahr Collection at the American Art Association, and the 1917 auctions of the Frederick Moore Collection (Anderson Galleries), the Abbott Collection (Anderson Galleries), and the Lee Van Ching Collection (American Art Galleries).
Beyond the Chinese artworks that the couple purchased together or inherited from Kenyon’s sister, Leila Marion Painter (1856-1901), Maud continued to build the collection even after her husband passed, and maintained a close relationship with auction house luminaries, such as Otto Bernet, who assisted her in making acquisitions. In addition, the Painters were major benefactors of the Cleveland Museum of Art and churches in the area. Following Maud’s death in 1971, the Chinese art collection passed to her daughter and her granddaughter, both of whom have added to the collection over the past 50 years.
Lot 873A Panel from a Sutra Box Depicting the Great Departure, Burma, 19th Century
Estimate: 2,000 - 3,000 USD
The panel depicted here was originally part of a sutra box, the contents of which would have originally contained sacred Buddhist texts. Illustrated here is a scene that is widely known as the Great Departure, which was first represented in the earliest Buddhist art of India at the beginning of the first millennium. In this image, Prince Siddhartha bids farewell to his beloved wife Yasodhara, who rests peacefully cradling their seven-day old son Rahula as he departs his life in the palace of Kapilavastu and his princely duties for the last time. His horse, Kanthaka, waits to the right, giving him a final moment with his family before he rides out of the palace walls to begin his life as an ascetic and his spiritual journey towards Enlightenment.