Carlyle Galleries to auction William G. Congdon paintings Oct. 4

William G. Congdon

William G. Congdon (1912-1998), ‘Piazza san Marco Oil,’ oil on wood panel, 1950, 7 ¾ in. x 21 ¾ in. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000. Carlyle Galleries image


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Carlyle Galleries International will offer an important collection of paintings by William G. Congdon (1912-1998) in an online auction Oct. 4 beginning at 11 a.m. Pacific time, 2 p.m. Eastern. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The paintings are being offered on the market for the first time in over 50 years. The collection of 13 oil paintings, watercolors and sketches were originally gifted by Congdon to fellow artist Letizia Cerio of Capri, Italy, in the 1950s, then passed by descent in the Cerio family in Boston and Capri.

It was during Congdon’s stays in Capri during the late 1940s with the Cerio family (who were the cultural epicenter of the island), that marked the beginning of his painting career.

Most remarkable, the paintings were carefully stored in an archival box, since the 1950s and are in an excellent state of preservation – with the colors as rich, and vibrant as the day Congdon first painted them.

William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998) was associated with the New York School Abstract Expressionists of the late 1940s and early 1950s, starting with his first one-man show at the Betty Parsons gallery in 1949. The show was positively reviewed by art critic Clement Greenberg, who was impressed by Congdon’s use of color to evoke “real painterly emotion.” Congdon showed alongside Clifford Still in 1950, and his association with Betty Parsons gallery lasted over 20 years.


William G. Congdon

William G. Congdon (American, 1912-1998), ‘Naples,’ 1945, a double sided work, oil and mixed media on paper, 14 ¾ in. x 20 in. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000. Carlyle Galleries image



At the peak of his success in the early 1950s, Congdon, becoming more interested in spirituality, turned his back on “The American Dream” and moved to Venice, Italy. Venice became a source of endless inspiration for Congdon’s paintings, which were extensively collected by Peggy Guggenheim.

“William Congdon is the only painter since Turner, who has understood Venice, its mystery, its poetry and its passion. He has a modern way of expressing himself, but his insight is as old as the city itself. He has been able to gather up the emotional essence of many centuries and has melted this vision into such a fantastic and beautiful dream that his paintings leave one breathless.” – Peggy Guggenheim 1953

Just as fascinating as the paintings being offered is their trans-Atlantic provenance. The painting in this collection were originally gifted by Congdon to fellow artist Letizia Cerio (1908-1997) of Capri during the 1950s. Cerio often painted alongside Congdon during his travel in Italy. The paintings of Venice were likely given in the traditional artist exchange during these trips.


William G. Congdon

William G. Congdon (American, 1912-1998) in Venice. Carlyle Galleries image


The Cerio family, one of the oldest and most renowned on Capri, were famous for hosting all the leading figures of the 20th century who came to the island: from Maxim Gorky and Lenin, to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Alexander Calder.

The Cerio family’s branch extended to Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston and as a result Letizia formative years were spent in Newport and Boston society. Letizia married Ramiro Alvarez de Toledo, Count of Caltabellotta, and Duke of Bivona, moving to Argentina as World War II began, before finally settling in Concord, Massachusets, with their son, Fernando. Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, who inherited his father’s titles, Duke of Bivona and Count of Caltabellotta, became a protege of Joseph Albers at Yale University, and a leading industrial designer and pioneer of medical device technology. The Congdon painting collection, was inherited by Fernando, and after his passing last year, passed by descent to the current consignors.

Carlyle’s October 4 auction, European, American & Latin Art, offers a curated selection of nearly 200 lots of museum-quality paintings, sculpture and works on paper. Many of the artworks being offered are from local Los Angeles estates and collections of entertainment industry luminaries.