Ex Libris: Chester Dale

Books about art were important to Chester (1883–1962) and Maud Dale (1876–1953). Maud was an author and critic who wrote extensively on art. Chester supported Maud’s publication projects and avidly acquired books and catalogues as aids to their collecting.

Bookplate of Chester Dale, c. 1960, lithograph, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Chester Dale in the West Garden Court, National Gallery of Art, c. 1943, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives

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Maud Dale, c. 1926, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives, Ellen B. Hirschland Dale Research Materials

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In the mid-1950s Chester Dale became fascinated by the work of Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) and befriended the artist. He urged Dalí to undertake work on the monumental canvas The Sacrament of the Last Supper, which Dale later purchased and bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art. In autographing books for his friend, Dalí reveled in the opportunity to show his skill as a draftsman. The inscriptions are in phonetic French, flavored by the spelling of Spanish.

Chester Dale and Salvador Dalí at the preview of The Sacrament of the Last Supper on Easter weekend, March 30, 1956, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives

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Inscriptions in translation:

 

Above:

For my great friend Chester Dale, the connoisseur who learns more quickly than any I’ve known, because he learns with his heart.

 

Below:

Saint George fighting the dragon of stupidity, our common dragon!

Saint George is the patron saint of Dalí’s native Catalonia.

Drawing and inscription by Salvador Dalí in Michel Tapié́, Dali, Paris: Éditions du Chêne, 1957, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Here Dalí addresses Chester and his second wife, Mary Dale. Dalí’s wife, Gala, added her greeting on the facing page.

Drawing and inscription by Salvador Dalí in Carroll Carstairs Gallery, Salvador Dali, 1958, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Inscription in translation:

For Chester and Mary Dale, my American Don Quixote, with the gratitude and friendship of Dalí.

Drawing and inscription by Salvador Dalí in Albert Reynolds Morse, Dali: A Study of His Life and Work, 1958, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Drawing and inscription by Salvador Dalí in Dalí on Modern Art, 1957, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Maud Dale considered Pablo Picasso to be one of the greatest painters of the modern age, describing him as an artist "whose genius wields a weapon that never loses its cutting edge." She ardently promoted his work in the United States, publishing a monograph on the artist in 1930 and featuring his work in her 1931 comparative exhibition Picasso-Braque-Léger at the Museum of French Art in New York. The Dales also were astute collectors of Picasso and eventually owned some fifteen of his works.

Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques in the stairwell of the Dale residence at 20 East 79th Street, c. 1935, S. H. Gottscho, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Library Image Collections

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Madame Picasso on view in the Dale residence, c. 1935, S. H. Gottscho, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Library Image Collections

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Picasso made this elegant drawing for the Dales at the opening of the retrospective exhibition of his work at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris on June 16, 1932.

Drawing and inscription by Pablo Picasso in Galeries Georges Petit, Exposition Picasso, 1932, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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In 1931, the year after her monograph on Picasso was published, Maud Dale asked the artist to autograph a copy for Chester.

Inscriptions by Maud Dale and Pablo Picasso, 1931, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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The Dales loaned seventeen works to the great 1930 retrospective exhibition of French art at the Galeries Georges Petit. Four artists represented in the Chester Dale Collection—Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, Louis Marcoussis, and Jean Lurçat—signed the Dales’ copy of the exhibition catalogue to commemorate the event.

Signatures in Galeries Georges Petit, Cent ans de peinture française, 1930, graphite on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Inscription by Raoul Dufy in Galeries Georges Petit, Cent ans de peinture française, 1930, graphite on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Chester and Maud Dale were patrons and supporters of many contemporary artists and deeply enjoyed their company. In 1931 they were honored guests at the opening dinner for the great Henri Matisse retrospective exhibition at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. Henri Matisse is on the right with beard and glasses; Maud Dale is seated to his right, with Chester Dale two seats to his left.

Dinner at the Galeries Georges Petit June 16, 1931, photograph, National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives, Chester Dale Papers

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Inscription by Henri Matisse in Galeries Georges Petit, Henri Matisse: Exposition organisée au profit de l’Orphelinat des arts: 16 juin–25 juillet 1931, 1931, pen on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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One of the paintings that the Dales loaned to the exhibition was Matisse’s Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised, Green Striped Chair.

Galeries Georges Petit, Henri Matisse: Exposition organisée au profit de l’Orphelinat des arts: 16 juin–25 juillet 1931, 1931, lithograph, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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In 1926, Chester posed in New York for a caricature by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias (1904–1957). They remained friends, and some two decades later, Covarrubias reciprocated with a copy of his book including an inscription and the caricature of himself seen in the next slide.

Chester Dale, c. 1930, Miguel Covarrubias, watercolor and pencil on paper, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution NPG.85.39

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Drawing and inscription by Miguel Covarrubias in Mexico South: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 1946, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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The Dales admired the work of the young French painter and tapestry designer Jean Lurçat (1892–1966), whom Chester described as "a poetic, sensitive artist who sees his friends through the colors of his own imagination and creative mind." In 1928 Chester and Maud commissioned Lurçat to paint their portraits, shown here, and during the next few years Chester purchased more of his works. The artist personalized his books for the Dales with whimsical drawings and wistful, lyrical inscriptions.

Sitting room of Chester Dale’s apartment at the Plaza Hotel, New York photograph, National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives

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Inscriptions in translation:

 

Above:

For Mrs. Maud Dale and Chester Dale, New York 1930
To thank them for that which cannot be purchased—friendship

 

Below:

The sky, the sun, the stars are available to all, provided we can find machines to take us there. Here is one. I use it. It sometimes works, if you don’t mind that it consumes gas. I loan it to my friends. But I warn them that nearby is Man, whose shadow is often very heavy. But a shadow is never more than a shadow. Have you noticed that one can walk on a shadow?

Drawing and inscription by Jean Lurçat in Recent Works of Jean Lurçat, 1930, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Inscriptions in translation:

 

Above:

For Chester Dale. This machine, to show him my affection. New York, 1930. Lurçat.

 

Below:

From the Earth to the Moon, there is more than one "Machine." Also plant a ladder, and at its foot, at its summit, Man. There remains, for God’s sake, still a little gap between Man and the Moon. This little gap, you could call it "Death." (It’s cold there!)

Drawing and inscription by Jean Lurçat in Recent Works of Jean Lurçat, 1930, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Drawing and inscription by Jean Lurçat in Lefevre Gallery, Paintings by Jean Lurçat, 1930, pencil on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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Drawing by Jean Lurçat in Philippe Soupault, Jean Lurçat, 1928, pen and ink on paper, National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Chester Dale

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