Ron & Linda Williams Estate Art & Antiques featuring Chinese Dynastic Ceramics – Session II
Every collection is to some extent a self-portrait. The collection that will form the centerpiece of our August 19th auction captures quite faithfully the intense curiosity, sense of adventure and charming humor of its founders and owners, Linda and her late husband Ronald (Ron) Williams. Intrepid globetrotters who were equally passionate, among other things, about the arcane roots and evolution of Chinese art and about the striking beauty of sundry varieties of orchids, they devoted much of their time and attention to a collection that would easily stir the envy of many museums. Imagine now a museum whose atmosphere is anything but stuffy or professorial, and which welcomes you with its understated, but unmistakable elegance, and is flanked by a large garden that is itself a feat of art and design, and an open-air museum / playground (a wonderland for Linda and Ron’s grandchildren). If you do so, you are beginning to get the picture of the ideal setting in which this collection was patiently and lovingly gathered over some five decades of marriage and of joint exploration.
There was certainly a method to this process, and you get the impression that Linda and Ron responded with remarkable consistency to artworks that revealed the spontaneous elegance of nature as well as to objects that permeate our everyday life and render it – and us – more graceful. You see this in things as varied as contemporary Italian paintings of autumnal landscapes or Asian carved wood panels, stunning majolica or fine cut glass. But there is also plenty of whimsy to go with that method, and you can spot it in a variety of lots, from prints by Toulouse-Lautrec, the master of whimsy, verging on the naughty, to the occasional ceremonial mask or ritual dagger!
The core of this collection, however, is a truly impressive homage to archaic and classical Chinese ceramic. We are talking about roughly two hundred cups, jars, pots etc. spanning more than two millennia, each of which could be the pride of a serious collector. In this artistic treasure, styles generally vary with wonderful subtlety, but sometimes they mark out decidedly different aesthetics and worldviews. What appears to run through much of this collection, though, is a sense of quiet sublime. Deceivingly simple contours and shades of celadon and gray pottery, of yellow or off-white ceramic that are as immediately enthralling in their irreducible simplicity as a line from the Tao Te Ching.
Collectors who prefer more intricate designs will not be disappointed either. They can marvel at Qing dynasty bowls with swirling blue dragons and Ming dynasty cups with explosions of floral motifs and superb depictions of fish which create the illusion that you are looking at the finest fishbowls. Several cups, plates and bowls (e.g., lots 150 and 151) also generate an illusion of a different order: you may be excused if, at first sight, you thought you were admiring contemporary design pieces that abandon any pretense of perfect symmetry or fully controlled decoration in favor of spontaneity and studious imperfection.
Overall, you are faced with a paradox that goes to the heart of this achievement, five decades in the making: Linda and Ron successfully avoided uniformity and excessive rigor, and there is a certain streak of playfulness in their collection; at the same time, they went about their favorite passions like true professionals, whether it was gardening at its most exquisite or the acquisition of artworks which consistently betrayed deep knowledge and fine taste. Their love for art was a perfectly natural continuation – and expression – of the mutual love that defined five decades of their lives.