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T.S. Eliot widow's art collection sells for $12.9 million

November 21, 2013|By David Ng
  • A detail of a landscape sketch by John Constable that was sold as part of the collection of Valerie Eliot, the widow of T.S. Eliot.
A detail of a landscape sketch by John Constable that was sold as part of the… (Christie's / Associated…)

T.S. Eliot never lived to see the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical "Cats," based on Eliot's collection of poems "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." But Eliot's second wife and widow, Valerie, did live long enough to profit from the musical, amassing a sizable fortune from the royalties, which she used at least in part to buy art.

On Wednesday, Valerie Eliot's art collection was auctioned off for approximately $12.9 million, including buyers' premium, at a Christie's auction in London. Valerie Eliot, who died in 2012, had created the Old Possum's Practical Trust, a charity for young writers and artists. Proceeds from the auction are expected to benefit the trust.

The auction featured close to 400 individual items, mostly British art, including works by David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. The top seller was a John Constable landscape sketch that went for about $1.1 million. The auction included works by Picasso, Matisse, Manet, Rodin, Corot and Kandinsky.

ART: Can you guess the high price?

A painting by Winston Churchill that depicts a wooded pathway and that was created in the 1930s, sold for $583,625. The auction also included jewelry, furniture and miniature portraits.

"Cats" opened in London in 1981 and in New York the following year. The musical ran on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre for 18 years and close to 7,500 performances -- the second-longest run in Broadway history. ("The Phantom of the Opera," another Lloyd Webber creation, holds the No. 1 spot.)

The musical continues to be produced around the world, including a current tour in Britain.


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