Eugene V. Thaw (1927–2018)

Eugene V. Thaw––a collector of European old masters such as Andrea Mantegna and Francisco Goya, and the coauthor of a major catalogue raisonné of Jackson Pollock’s work—died on January 3 at his home in Cherry Valley, New York, writes Holland Cotter of the New York Times. He was ninety years old.

Thaw was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan to a schoolteacher and a heating contractor. He studied at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and took graduate classes at Columbia University in New York with art historians Meyer Schapiro and Millard Meiss. He began his career as an art dealer by selling posters by Toulouse-Lautrec, prints by the Nabis, and works by American Indian artists. His gallery, which was located on West Forty-Fourth Street in Manhattan, over the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, hosted Joan Mitchell’s first solo exhibition. He eventually moved his gallery to Madison Avenue in 1954. That year he married his gallery assistant, Clare Eddy, who suggested he not sell objects that he was especially fond of—this bit of advice prompted his move into collecting. He sharpened his tastes as he was mentored by dealers including Leo Castelli, Sidney Janis, Janos Scholz, and Pierre Matisse. Down the road, Thaw developed relationships with important museums, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and collectors such as Norton Simon and Paul Mellon.

In 1981, Thaw and his wife established a charitable trust with the funds from the sale of one Van Gogh painting. The Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust supports the arts, animal rights, and the environment. In 1987, the Thaws moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they acquired more than one thousand pieces by American Indians. The collection was gifted to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, close to their home in Cherry Valley.

New York’s Morgan Library & Museum has been receiving works in small allocations from the Thaws since 1975, when the Morgan decided to expand its acquisition guidelines to include works made in the nineteenth century. “Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings From the Thaw Collection,” an exhibition at the Morgan from September 29, 2017, to January 7, 2018, marked the fulfillment of the Thaws’ gift to the institution.