Over three decades, Henry Pearlman assembled one of the finest collections of modern art remaining in private hands. A lifelong New Yorker, Pearlman in 1919 founded the Eastern Cold Storage Company, which made important contributions to marine shipbuilding during World War II. He began seriously collecting avant-garde art in the 1940s with the purchase of a canvas by Chaïm Soutine, a Russian-born artist known for his bold use of color and the intensity of his brushwork. Pearlman quickly became interested in Amedeo Modigliani, another artist of the so-called School of Paris, and eventually began to collect works by some of the artists who influenced them, including Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne.
By assiduous dealing, Pearlman built close relationships with a number of dealers in the U.S. and abroad, and befriending artists directly he was able to secure numerous paintings that today are deemed masterpieces. He relished the hunt for secreted masterworks and was fascinated by the networks of aesthetic influence and personal relationships among artists.
The result of Pearlman’s extraordinary vision—the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection—was on view view in a major international traveling exhibition that showcased 50 modern masterworks from the late 19th through early 20th centuries.
Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection, organized by the Princeton University Art Museum (where the collection has resided since 1976), debuted at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford in England on March 13, 2014, and has had subsequent stops in France, Canada, and the U.S. before culminating in Princeton, its final venue, in September 2015. This was the first international tour of the entire collection since Henry Pearlman’s death.