Before becoming a renowned photographer and beginning his thirty-year tenure at Vanity Fair, Jonathan Becker studied under his idol, Brassaï, in Paris for a year in 1975. Becker emulated Brassaï's documentary, journalistic style and was inspired by his adage: "I find Surreal in the Real". Becker photographed Brassaï periodically over the years, capturing the artist whom he considers "the saving grace of [his] life". 

I remember Brassaï was upstairs with some big collector and his wife answered the door and said to me, ‘Go right up.’ I see him on this sofa with the collector. There were all these prints — beautiful, beautiful prints — scattered all over the floor. He had these big slippers he’d wear all the time, and at one point, he just got up to go to the bathroom and walked right across the prints. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The collector gasped, but Brassaï was like that. He didn’t care. He had a wicked sense of humor. He was very naughty, very childlike. —Jonathan Becker

David & Vivian Campbell

20th Century Collectors and Philanthropists

David and Vivian Campbell were prominent philanthropists of the arts in Canada and collectors of early modern masters. Over the course of half a century, David and Vivian built a collection around intimate and dazzling works by giants of early 20th century art—Picasso, Matisse, Gris, Gauguin, Munch and Rodin among them—as well as later 20th century artists such as Will Barnet, Saul Steinberg and David Hockney, who grew out of the traditions of earlier masters, with a reverence for landscape and portraiture.

The scope of the century, along with the Campbells' distinct tastes within its vastness, are presented in the selection offered here; a landscape study of Le Pont Neuf by Paul Signac from 1895, the earliest work in the sale, shares the same musicality of color as Andy Warhol's screenprint of Beethoven from nearly one hundred years later. Portraits by Matisse and Hockney, done forty years apart, both present subjects that are quirky and grounded, executed with an economy and confidence of line. Irving Penn photographs Igor Stravinsky with the same adulatory nod seen in a portrait by André Kertész of his predecessor, Brassaï. An exuberant collage by Picasso celebrates the birth of his son, while Old Man's Afternoon by Will Barnet meditates on loss and aging. A thread evident throughout the selection is the ability for the art that we love to reflect the life that we live.

David and Vivian Campbell in their home in Toronto, 1997,
with Picasso's Jacqueline tricottant. Image: Jeff Goode.