Christie’s next sale of Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, which takes place on 1 April 2021, will be led by a recently rediscovered Qajar painting of the utmost importance. The painting, depicting a Persian New Year, Norouz, procession, was bought by the artist and collector Frederic Clay Bartlett (1873-1953) in the early 1920s in the US, to be hung in his studio at the family’s winter retreat “Bonnet House” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Bartletts were important collectors of French Impressionist and Modern art. His collection in this field was donated to the Art Institute of Chicago, where the 25 paintings comprise the Art Institute’s Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection. As for the art collection at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, it comprises works by Frederic Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Bartlett, as well as objects collected throughout their lives, creating a historic artists’ estate. Bonnet House collection is perfectly understandable. We hope to fulfill Bonnet House’s wish to find a new home for the painting where it will be able to be seen and appreciated by many for the masterpiece that it is.”
Hugh Taylor Birch purchased the Bonnet House site in 1895 and gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919. The newlyweds began construction of Bonnet House in 1920 as a winter retreat where Frederic could pursue painting and Helen could compose music and poetry. Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer. Frederic’s visits to Bonnet House then became sporadic until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. With this marriage, a renaissance occurred on the site as Frederic and Evelyn entered a prolific period of embellishing Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day.
Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter until 1995. Today, the estate is a preeminent house museum dedicated not only to historic and environmental preservation, but also to learning and creative expression – much like the Bartletts and Birches themselves.