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Legends of Modern Art

August 07, 2020 4 min read 0 Comments

The Bassetts

Mid-century Los Angelenos Edyth and Phillip Bassett shared a love for rare and special objects, collecting fine art prints by many of the titans of modern art: Picasso, Braque, Miró, Magritte, Cocteau and others. The Bassetts were self-taught art historians who shared a passion for extensive research, collecting one piece at a time and sharpening their aesthetic along the way. After decades of collecting, the couple left behind a treasure box of exquisite works with a list of names that reads like a blockbuster MOMA show. Now, decades later, we’ve archivally framed many of these works for the first time, preparing them for their next passionate custodian.
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The Mid Century Collector in California

For many Americans, the post-war era of the late 1940s and 1950s brought a period of economic stability, and domestic security. This economic boom also spurred a cultural explosion on the west coast. Hip, happening Los Angeles was the city of innovation and Hollywood glamour. From the silver screen to emergence of prominent art institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) - design and art gained new traction and became part of the aesthetic of what it meant to be a “cultured” Californian.

During the 1950s and 60s, the Bassetts began to acquire the fine art prints from notable 20th century artists reflected in our collection today. During this era, many of the pioneers of modern art such as Georges Braque, Joan Miró, Pierre Bonnard, and Pablo Picasso created limited edition lithographs of their work, often signed, numbered and dated. This production of prints contributed to the new burgeoning collector economy, simultaneously allowing further access to their work at accessible prices. At this time, antique shops, auction houses and art fairs multiplied across Los Angeles, encouraging the middle class to take part in the activity of collecting. For the first time, the position of the collector was not merely relegated to the elite. Instead, everyday Americans could become connoisseurs in their own right, learning about the world through objects, while simultaneously honing in on their own tastes and aesthetic leanings. Coinciding with the emergence of lifestyle magazines such as House Beautiful, it became popular to reflect one's own interests, style, and culture through the design of your home and the acquisition of cherished objects.We would like to extend our gratitude to the Bassett family, and especially their granddaughter Heather Lake, for bringing this collection our way.