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Sotheby's Unveils The Wolf Family Collection: The Spirit of America

The Most Important Collection of American Art, Sculpture, Furniture & Decorative Arts, and 20th Century Design Ever to Appear at Auction

Assembled Over the Last Century, the Collection Celebrates American Artistry in All its Forms, from the Colonial Period to 20th Century Modernism

Spanning 1,000+ Lots, The Collection Features Quintessential Works by William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Greene & Greene, and Van Cleef & Arpels Among Others

It is a special honor to celebrate the life and legacy of my family who collectively were extremely passionate about art and objects of superb craftsmanship. My parents, in particular, dedicated their lives to pursuing the things that inspired them, whether personally, professionally, or as collectors. As collectors, they were devoted friends and supporters of museums and institutions, and were driven to expand their knowledge of American art and the objects they loved. The collection is a tribute to their curious spirit and passion for discovery, which they in turn instilled in me and my siblings from an early age.” Mathew Wolf

  NEW YORK, 13 January 2023 – Erving and Joyce (Joy) Wolf were pioneers in all aspects of life, and their remarkable journeys, beginning with their upbringings at a Wyoming Air Force Base and in Brooklyn, in many ways, epitomize the romantic ideals of the American Dream, from their whirlwind courtship of just over two weeks to building the Wolf Land Company and Inexco Oil Company from the ground up amidst the backdrop of the American West, and much more.

One of the guiding principles that defined their seven decades of marriage was the Wolfs’ shared passion and love of American art and objects. A mirror to their insatiable curiosity, wide-ranging interests, and decades-long friendships within the art community, the vast collection that filled the Wolf’s Fifth Avenue residence is unique in its superlative quality and unparalleled depth. Replete with more than 1,000 individual works that adorned its carefully curated spaces, the rooms of the home each spotlight a different a style and time period while creating a unique harmony that ties them all together and evokes the grandeur and authenticity of museum period rooms. The home exudes an effortless style that is a testament to Erving and Joy’s natural ability to live with and care for their collection, from paintings adorned with the most elegantly carved frames to works on paper preserved to their highest integrity to exquisite ceramics placed around the residence.

The Wolf Family Collection is comprised of a remarkable breadth of exceptional works of fine and decorative arts, with extraordinary examples of paintings and watercolors, sculpture, early American furniture, silver, Chinese export porcelain, design, and jewelry. In its impressive totality the collection embodies the spirit of American artistry, design, and craftsmanship, spanning the 18th through 20th centuries. Each unique space in the Wolf home allows for conversations and natural connections between paintings and objects which provide an intimate window into American history, from the Colonial Era to the Arts & Crafts Movement to the avant-garde artists of the Stieglitz Circle in the early 20th century.

Fitting of their long-standing position within the American art community, the Wolfs went on to notably endow The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery in the American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – where Joyce was a founding member and both were part of the William Cullen Bryant Fellows – and later made contributions to the Denver Art Museum and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C, defining their legacy as stalwart friends of American art in the truest sense.

Estimated to realize in excess of $50 million, The Wolf Family Collection will be offered at Sotheby’s New York beginning this April across an historic series of single-owner sales (see full schedule below), all together constituting one of the largest and most significant private collections of American art to ever come to auction.

The sale series will launch with a season-defining Evening Sale, The Spirit of America, showcasing a selection of the Collection’s top masterworks in fine art, sculpture, furniture, Chinese Export porcelain, silver and 20th century design. The Spirit of America will be the first sale of its kind to present masterpieces from these diverse collecting fields in one auction, followed by a series of cross-category live and online sales curated to reflect the narratives and dialogues across the collection.

The Wolf Family and their Collecting Journey
Erving (1926-2018) was born in Nebraska and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming where his father, Leon, was the tailor on the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, while Joyce (1927-2022) was raised in Brooklyn, New York, about as far from Cheyenne as possible. After honorably serving in the Navy and stationed in Guam during World War II, Erving met his future wife in Denver shortly before she proposed to him only days after meeting each other, and they were married in 1951. A brief courtship and an enduring love served as the foundation for an exceedingly prosperous partnership in life and business.








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  • From left to right: William Merritt Chase, In the Studio, 1892; An Exceptionally Rare and Important Pair of Chinese Export Famille-Rose ‘Torchbearer’ Wall Sconces, circa 1740; An Important Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Serpentine-Front and Side Dressing Chest Of Drawers, Circa 1785
    From left to right: William Merritt Chase, In the Studio, 1892; An Exceptionally Rare and Important Pair of Chinese Export Famille-Rose ‘Torchbearer’ Wall Sconces, circa 1740; An Important Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Serpentine-Front and Side Dressing Chest Of Drawers, Circa 1785
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • The Wolf Family Fifth Avenue residence featuring Winslow Homer's On the Beach at Marshfield, 1872; The Important Gibbs Family Chippendale Block and Shell Carved Mahogany Kneehole Bureau Table, Newport, Rhode Island, Circa 1770 (full details attached)
    The Wolf Family Fifth Avenue residence featuring Winslow Homer's On the Beach at Marshfield, 1872; The Important Gibbs Family Chippendale Block and Shell Carved Mahogany Kneehole Bureau Table, Newport, Rhode Island, Circa 1770 (full details attached)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • William Merritt Chase In the Studio oil on canvas 29 by 23 ½ in. (73.7 by 59.7 cm.) Executed in 1892
    William Merritt Chase In the Studio oil on canvas 29 by 23 ½ in. (73.7 by 59.7 cm.) Executed in 1892
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Greene & Greene Monumental Lantern from the Entry of the Robert R. Blacker House, Pasadena, California Circa 1908 Iridized and opalescent glass, mahogany, ebony, abalone, copper, fruitwood and silver inlays 23 in. (58.4 cm) drop
    Greene & Greene Monumental Lantern from the Entry of the Robert R. Blacker House, Pasadena, California Circa 1908 Iridized and opalescent glass, mahogany, ebony, abalone, copper, fruitwood and silver inlays 23 in. (58.4 cm) drop
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • The Important McMichael-Tilghman Family "Acme Of Perfection" Chippendale Carved And Figured Mahogany Scalloped-Top Tilt-Top Tea Table Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Circa 1755
    The Important McMichael-Tilghman Family "Acme Of Perfection" Chippendale Carved And Figured Mahogany Scalloped-Top Tilt-Top Tea Table Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Circa 1755
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 9497 lot 28 Bonnard
    9497 lot 28 Bonnard
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus