This relief print on Japon paper by renowned painter Alfred Leslie was based upon a portrait that Leslie did of collector Robert Scull in 1968. Alfred Leslie became known as an Abstract Expressionist, but in the late 1960's he turned to figurative work and portraits -- so it would be fitting that one of his most famous portraits of that era would be of Robert Scull - one of the most influential collectors of the era. Scull and his wife Ethel made their fortunes running a fleet of taxis in New York City. (In collecting, it doesn't matter where the money comes from!) They went on to become some of the most prolific investors and collectors of Ab Ex and Pop art relying on the taste of powerful dealers like Dick Bellamy and Leo Castelli; Indeed, Scull was an early collector of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist - whose works he bought at rock bottom prices. However, in 1973, when Scull decided to auction off much of his collection at Christie's he was roundly criticized, as collectors were expected to invest in art for a lifetime. In a press conference after the high profile auction, Robert Rauschenberg famously confronted Scull for being "disloyal" - buy buying the works for a song, and selling for a fortune. Little did Rauschenberg realize at the time that Scull's auction would be the beginning of stratospheric prices for him and for all of his contemporaries -- so that when Rauschenberg died, his estate was worth hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. (Scull, as a businessman, understood it better than Rauschenberg, and retorted that he had just made them both very rich.) Scull, a high school drop out and son of Russian immigrants, famously admitted to using art to climb socially, "It's all true. I'd rather use art to climb than anything else." Alfred Leslie's portrait of Robert Scull is dated 1968/1991 as the original was first done in 1968, but the multiple was printed in 1991 to raise funds for the Elaine de Kooning Memorial Portfolio. Other artists who contributed works to ths portfolio were: Yvonne Jacquette; Red Grooms; David Shapiro; John Cage; Rudy Burkhardt; Michael Goldberg; Alfred Leslie; Barbara Schwartz; and Michael David.
This print is unframed and in fine condition. It makes a terrific conversation piece -- for all the reasons described above!
Signature: Titled "Robert Scull" in red crayon at the top (recto); numbered in red crayon from the edition of 60; dated 1968/1991 in red crayon (recto), and signed boldly by the artist in red crayon, lower center front (recto).
About Alfred Leslie
The ever-versatile Alfred Leslie has been on the frontlines of many major movements in postwar American art. Early in his career, Leslie ran with the Abstract Expressionists in New York, producing immense, lush abstractions and counting Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, and critic Clement Greenberg among his close associates. From there, Leslie would experiment radically, making silkscreen boxes years before Andy Warhol’s emergence and painting hyper-realistic figurative scenes that would show alongside Chuck Close and Philip Pearlstein. “I don't think he's gotten his due,” Whitney curator Barbara Haskell once said. “I think he did fall between the cracks chronologically…I think it was difficult for people to understand his career as one unit.” Leslie was also at the forefront of experimental film, collaborating with Robert Frank to make Pull My Daisy (1959), a tribute to the Beat generation featuring Richard Bellamy, Allen Ginsberg, Alice Neel, and Larry Rivers.
American, b. 1927, Bronx, New York