MANILA, Philippines—LEÓN Gallery saw a successful sale on Feb. 6 of Fernando Zobel de Ayala’s assembly of 73 paintings, drawings and letters from the Jim and Reed Pfeifer Collection.
“The Pfeufer Collection is most unique as it is not solely a collection of works by Fernando Zobel but it is also a story of friendship,” said León Gallery proprietor Jaime Ponce de León. “The letters from Fernando to the Pfeufers in the course of 40 years say so much about Fernando the man and the artist. The exhibition at the Corinthian Plaza space of Leon Gallery was very well-attended.”
The highest bid went to the 1953 oil-on-masonite board, “Garden Window with a Trumpet,” which was sold for P32.7 million.
Exhibited first at the Philippine Art Gallery in 1953, “Seated Man (Nothing III),” an oil-on-canvas, was auctioned off at P30.4 million. The event marked Zobel’s first exhibition.
Art critic Cid Reyes described the painting as “rendered in seemingly spontaneous brush strokes, the thick black pigments sloshed confidently on the canvas, delineating a stylized figure of a man seated behind a desk or table, his clasped hands resting on top of it; the work presciently prefiguring his future abstract works.”
Zobel’s portait of Joachim Pfeufer, himself a gifted painter and musician, was sold for P11.1 million. “Joachim” was rendered on oil on masonite board.
One of Zobel’s “Seata” series, an oil-on-canvas circa 1957, was bought for P4.2 million.
Another noteworthy piece is the oil-on-wood “Portrait of Jim Pfeufer with Clarinet,” which was sold for P1.4 million.
“Smiling Woman,” which depicts a woman possibly in military or diplomatic uniform, was sold for P934,400. Signed and dated 1954, the portrait was done in pen on paper.
Rendered on pen and ink on paper, “Saeta” (with “Hippo & Landscape” on revese side) was auctioned off for P584,000.
Zobel’s pastel-on-paper “Harvest” and watercolor-on-paper “(Moorish) Knight with Standard” was both sold for P525,600.
Famous Cuenca museum
Zobel (1924-1984) was a Spanish-Filipino modern master and the founder of the famous Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca, Spain.
He was taking his undergraduate studies at Harvard University when he met the couple Jim and Reed Pfeufer, both painters, in 1946.
Zobel visited the couple’s home in Massachusetts. They became friends through the introduction of a common friend, Paul Haldeman.
Zobel regarded the Pfeufers his second family and their friendship lasted for four decades, until his death in 1984.
Zobel returned to Philippines in the late 1950s and became active on the local art scene, exhibiting at the Philippine Art Gallery and becoming friends with then still unrecognized artists such as Vicente Manansala, Hernando Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, Nena Saguil, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Arturo Luz and Lee Aguinaldo.
Although he was already engaged in helping out with the burgeoning Ayala business, he still continued to paint. In fact, after office hours, he would rush home and pick up his brush.
He even studied under a Chinese master as he had a fascination with Chinese and Japanese paintings.
He died in Rome at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack.