The Patricia and John Roche Collection of Paintings and Prints at Freeman's

BOW TIES copy.jpgPHILADELPHIA, PA - On September 18, Freeman’s will present at auction works from the Patricia and John Roche Collection, including 100 paintings, prints and watercolors from highly regarded European and American artists. Proceeds from the sale of the collection will go to fund the Patricia Kelly Roche Scholarship at St. John’s University in New York. Mrs. Roche was herself the beneficiary of a scholarship to St. John’s, awarded by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. She was the first of her family to go to college, an opportunity that would not have been possible without the financial assistance her scholarship provided. 

Patricia and John Roche were married just out of college in 1957. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Mr. Roche began his legal career at the firm of Shearman & Sterling in New York in 1963. He became a partner in 1971, specializing in banking law. In 1989, Mr. Roche left Shearman & Sterling to become the chief legal officer of Citicorp and Citibank. He retired in 2000 as the co-general counsel of Citigroup. 

Mrs. Roche received a Master’s degree in English from New York University. It was while raising their two children, Janet and Keith, and reading to them at the family’s home in Brooklyn Heights, that Mrs. Roche discovered she wanted to tell stories of her own. She took courses in art and writing children’s books at the New School and, combining her interest in drawing and painting, began to write and illustrate stories for children, many of which were inspired by her deep love for her own son and daughter. Mrs. Roche found a receptive editor at Dial Press in New York, and began her career as an author. She has since published seven books.

Later, as her interest turned to landscape painting in watercolors, the couple began collecting watercolors and prints. On their trips to London for vacation or for Mr. Roche’s business, Mrs. Roche visited art galleries and fell in love with the work of artists of the 19th century, the “golden age” of English watercolors. 

Mr. Roche was a willing partner in acquiring what was to become a large and varied collection of artists such as William Lionel Wyllie, Charles Bentley and William Cornwallis Harris. Her interest was also sparked by contemporary artists in England, Scotland and the United States. Soon, their collection expanded to include works by American painter and printmaker, Wayne Thiebaud and, in a nod to Mrs. Roche’s background in children’s book, the drawings of Maurice Sendak. 

Highlights of the collection include a group of six works on paper by Wayne Thiebaud. Two, ‘Bow Ties’ and ‘Dark Cake’, are prints from published editions. Executed in lithography, the first is a quintessential Thiebaud composition, comprised of rows of brightly patterned subjects. The medium showcases Thiebaud’s skill as a draftsman, and presents his delight in color and repetition, a style and subject that echoes fellow pop artist, Andy Warhol. Packed tightly together and extending beyond the picture plane, each tie is offered up like so many bespoke cupcakes or desserts for our delectation. ‘Dark Cake’ is another joyful exercise for the artist. This time, however, he executes the print in a lush, richly layered woodcut process which showcases the artist’s hand and the three dimensionality of the cake. Here, one of the oldest modes of printmaking is manipulated in a way that reveals Thiebaud’s delight in process as well as subject.

In his forward to a 2013 exhibition featuring his hand-colored prints, Thiebaud writes, “When is a work finished? And how does that differ from work that feels complete?” The four additional works from the Roche collection are examples of the artist’s quest to answer these questions. Three of the four are unique works executed in watercolor, gouache and other media over existing printed matrices. Each work represents the artist’s exploration of an image after and beyond a ‘finished’ print. In one, an etching of a songbird momentarily poised on a perch, the background has been richly colored with pastels and gouache focusing our attention on the bird itself. In another, extensive watercolor additions bring to life the interplay of light and sky upon a sunny California hillside. And finally, in what may well be the jewel of the collection, a jar of brightly candy sticks pops off the paper in a hand-colored triumph, ‘Glassed Candy.’

After decades of collecting, Mr. and Mrs. Roche have decided to part with their lovingly curated collection and, with the proceeds, fund a scholarship in Mrs. Roche’s name, as it was her artistic talent that was the guiding force behind the selection of many of the individual works.

As with the recent Kaplan Collection in April, and the Forbes and Brewster Collections in December of 2016, Freeman’s understands the art and passion of collecting, and has long held that keeping a collection together and offering it as a whole allows the vision of the collector to shine through. Freeman’s is honored to steward the Patricia and John Roche Collection to auction this fall.

Image: WAYNE THIEBAUD (AMERICAN, B. 1920), “BOW TIES”, Color lithograph on wove paper, $20,000-30,000.

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