The 8-year-old Kimbell Art Museum of Fort Worth, Tex., has paid more than $4 million for Paul Cezanne's portrait of "A Peasant in a Blue Blouse," which Tuesday night became the most expensive Cezanne ever sold at auction.
The Kimbell's acquisition means that at least one of the 10 important pictures sold by Henry Ford II at Christie's in New York will remain in the United States. The buyers of the others remained anonymous last night.
Ford's canvases together fetched $18.3 million, a record total for a single auction in this country. One of them, an 1888 landscape by Vincent van Gogh of "The Garden of the Poet, Arles," brought $5.2 million.The Cezanne, which was knocked down for $3.9 million, was the second most expensive picture sold.
At the Ford sale, as at most art auctions nowadays, a 10-percent buyer's commission was added to the "hammer price." The real price to the Kimbell will be $4.29 million.
New York dealer Gene Thaw bid for the painting on behalf of the museum.
The Kimbell, whose building was designed by the late Louis I. Kahn, opened to the public in 1972. It houses the collection formed by the late Kay Kimbell (1886-1964), a Texas industrialist involved in flour milling, insurance, petroleum products and other businesses, whose endowment provided the money spent on the Cezanne.
"We have been looking for a major Cezanne for many years, and we feel very fortunate to acquire one of this quality," said Mrs. Ben J. Fortson, president of the museum's board. Mrs. Fortson is a niece of the founder's widow.
Henry Hopkins, once director of the Fort Worth Art Museum, now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, said, "It is wonderful to see a painting of this quality move from a private to a public collection in the United States, and especially to the Kimbell Art Museum , which serves a new and growing audience. Thank God it is retained for America."
The 31-inch high canvas was painted between 1895 and 1897. Scholars do not know the sitter's name, though his face is familiar from other portraits by Cezanne. He is one of the card players in the famous Cezanne paintings of 1890-92. In the Kimbell picture he is seated before a six-panel screen that is one of the earliest known paintings by Cezanne.
The canvas, whose previous owners include Ambroise Vollard, the famous Paris dealer, and A. Conger Goodyear of Buffalo, N.Y., was sold at Sotheby's in London for $408,900 in 1959.The previous auction record for a painting by Cezanne was the $1.4 million earned by an 1890 still life at Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, in 1973.