Collecting with Substance

This insightful collection of the arts, humanities, and sciences is up for auction on September 4.

It’s no secret a collection is a labor of love driven by the passions or interests of the collector. Some collectors, however, have a different kind of eye. Like many, Maurice Car was a dedicated collector of the arts, sciences, and humanities, but his training and work as an engineer helped him bring a precise scientific eye to his collection.

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Raymond Radiguet. Le Diable au Corps. Corrected Typescript and Manuscript. Circa 1922. Estimate: $15,000 and up.

“Though many collectors pick up odds and ends that fit within the categories they collect, Maurice Car was different,” said James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage Auctions. “He really went after material with substantive content.”

From Sir Isaac Newton’s “New Theory of Light and Colors,” handwritten in 1672, to correspondence of scientific luminaries, Car’s collection contains materials relevant to findings from ages of human discovery. It contains items such as Andre-Marie Ampere’s revelations on the human nervous system; Antoine Lomet’s letters discussing the calculation of the radius of the Earth; a treatise on the theory of perspective with handwritten tables and drawings by astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille; a letter from Augustin-Jean Fresnel to Francois Arago developing a “mechanical theory of light,” and letters from Louis Pasteur relating to experiments and the rabies vaccine.

Car and his artist wife, Fanny, lived in Paris and then moved to Washington, D.C., in 1940. Even after this transition, the Cars maintained relationships within the Parisian art community and built much of their collection through their friendships, as well as auctions.

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Tristan Tzara. Autograph Documents about Dada. Journal with numerous Holograph writings. Circa 1910s. Estimate: $20,000 and up.

“Maurice and Fanny Car were friendly contemporaries with many artists represented in the collection,” Gannon says. “Due to their personal relationships, some material in the collection came to them directly from the artists. Spanning the breadth of early 20th century art movements, the Car Collections includes Cubism, Surrealism, and Dada.”

A friend of Maurice and Fanny Car, Jean Cocteau gave Fanny his signature self-portrait, along with the manuscript and a limited-edition copy of L’Ode a Picasso inscribed to her. Another friend, surrealist Valentine Hugo, gave the Cars two Picasso ink drawings, along with the brushes Picasso used to create them. Additionally, Hugo gave them her manuscript memorializing Dada poet and novelist Raymond Radiguet, whose manuscript works also appear in the collection, including Le Diable au Corps, Francois Mauriac’s four-page, handwritten study of Radiguet, a bound copy of “Trent-Neuf Poems,” which includes forty-five pages of manuscript poems, illustrated limited editions of Les Jeunes en Feu and Les Pelican, and a collection of correspondence.

The Car Collection also contains Dada artist Tristan Tzara, including correspondence and manuscripts called “Documents, Autographs Sur Dada.” Some of the correspondence is on Dada Institute letterhead, and there is a collection of 3 x 5 inch. Cubist and Dadaist sketches bound in an exceptional Paul Bonet binding.

Also including in the collection is Paul Gaugin’s Tahitian and French lexicon, written while he lived in Tahiti. Other major French impressionists are also represented, including Henri Matisse, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, and Jules La Forque, along with more art and artistic writings.

A collection of Ezra Pound’s letters and manuscript works written in 1926-1927 are also represented in the Car Collection, along with other items representing the humanities.

With dedication and a keen scientific eye, Maurice Car’s collection includes major insights into the worlds of science, art, and the humanities. With groundbreaking material and unique pieces, collectors can find these works and more on sale at Heritage Auctions’ September 4 sale.