Marcel Arland, a leading French intellectual close to André Malraux and André Maurois, was at the heart of French literary and artistic circles. He was a novelist, critic, journalist and member of the Académie Française, he directed the NRF (A leading French publishing house) from 1968 to 1977, first with Jean Paulhan, then on his own. In 1929 was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt for his novel L’Ordre. Arland greatly admired painting and its history but was especially fascinated with certain artists of his own time, whom he saw frequently and supported assiduously: “How can I fail to mention my affectionate relationships with artists such as Rouault, Chagall, Campigli, Masson, Atlan or Bazaine? A painter can say more in a few strokes than the most eminent critics.” He wrote in 1980. (Marcel Arland, Dans l’Amitié de la peinture, Paris, 1980, p.7).
Arland had privileged ties with artists. In 1926, he published a novel, Maternité, illustrated by four etchings by Marc Chagall and in 1931, Georges Rouault illustrated his Carnets de Gilbert. He kept up with exhibitions and auctions at Drouot, enthusiastically describing his purchase of a Chaïm Soutine painting in a 1932 letter to Paulhan: “We bought a Soutine for 1,400 francs,” he wrote. “Of course, that’s more than I thought I could afford; we’ll just skip our Easter holiday. So far we’re quite happy about it.” (Fonds Arland, Bibliothèque Jacques Doucet). From 1944 onward, Arland actively supported Jean Dubuffet and, later, Gaston Chaissac and then Jean-Michel Atlan, to whom he was close. In 1949, he published Chronique de la peinture moderne, with articles on Wols, Roger Bissière, André Masson and other contemporary artists.
Arland was a famous novelist, a critic, as well as a knowledgeable collector. In the speech Georges Duby delivered when he succeeded to Arland’s seat in the Académie Française, the historian stated: “As soon as he arrived in Paris, Marcel Arland ran not only to the museum, but also from one gallery to another on Rue La Boétie, then exhibiting Art Nouveau, taking up his post within the avant-garde, keeping an eye out for what seemed to connect the excitement of modernity to the tradition of the Old Masters.”
During the week of the Salon du Dessin in Paris Sotheby’s is honoured to present at auction the art collection that this eminent writer and intellectual assembled over his years of friendships, collaborations and above all commitment to the artists of his time.
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