In years to come, the general public will be able to say “Hello, gorgeous!” to a rarely seen John Singer Sargent portrait that has remained out of the public eye for much of its existence.
Barbra Streisand will be donating a Sargent painting from her private collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in recognition of the organization’s 50th anniversary. “Mrs. Cazalet and Her Children Edward and Victor” is a triple portrait painting that depicts members of an aristocratic British family. It dates from 1900 to 1901.
The Oscar-winning actress and singer-songwriter described the oil painting, which stands more than 8 feet tall, as a “perfect” fit for the museum.
“It is a piece that needs breadth and space,” she said via email. “It needs to be displayed on a museum wall, and LACMA fits the bill.”
Streisand is giving the painting as a bequest and the change of hands hasn’t taken effect yet. “I hope not for awhile. It will belong to the museum after I leave this earth,” she said.
The actress has supported the museum over the years and served on its board of trustees from 2007 to 2014.
LACMA has received a number of works of art from trustees and other prominent supporters as part of its 50th anniversary year. The works are diverse in nature and range from medieval pieces to contemporary works of art.
A lot of the art has come from donors with Hollywood and entertainment connections, including Activision executive Bobby Kotick, producer Steve Tisch and former Univision head Jerry Perenchio, who is donating more than 40 works from his personal collection.
But none has come attached with as much celebrity power as Streisand’s painting. The piece will eventually hang with another Sargent work in LACMA’s collection -- the 1890 painting “Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis.”
Streisand said she purchased her painting in a private sale in 2002. Museum officials declined to comment on how much the painting would sell for today, but it is believed to be worth in the millions of dollars.
Streisand said she has been an enthusiastic collector of American art at least since 1992 when Bill Clinton was first elected president -- an event that she describes as “a turning point for America.”
A visit to the White House during his inauguration “inspired me and drew me to collecting 18th and 19th century American furniture and art as a way to celebrate my love for this country,” Streisand said.
She added, “It was a time of special optimism and I wanted to grace my walls with those painters America had given to the world.”
In her 2011 book “My Passion for Design,” Streisand documented the artistic elements that have gone into creating her Malibu estate. She said that parts of the estate are decorated with American folk art and that a barn on the property was built to express her love for New England architecture.
The Sargent painting was originally commissioned by the Cazalet family, and is a companion piece to a portrait of family patriarch William Marshall Cazalet, which sold for $1.8 million at a Christie’s auction in 2007.
The pair of paintings hung in the family’s country home, Fairlawne, in Kent, England.
“Mrs. Cazalet and Her Children Edward and Victor” belonged to the family for decades and is believed to have been sold off after the family sold the estate in the 1970s, according to Ilene Susan Fort, curator of American art at LACMA.
The painting comes with a tragic footnote -- the older boy, Edward, died during World War I, and his younger brother, Victor, was killed in World War II. There were a total of four children in the family.
The work “will fit stunningly in our collection, which is strong in late 19th century paintings, especially in expatriate artists,” said Fort.
Sargent was American but he was born in Florence, Italy, and spent much of his life in Europe. The artist was one of the most sought-after portrait artists of his day and he created portraits of wealthy families from Europe and America.
Michael Govan, LACMA’s director, said that it was Streisand’s choice to donate the painting and that the museum didn’t request it.
“Barbra really loves this painting,” Govan said. “It was her initiative, and it has engendered so much generosity.” He said that Streisand is also donating a Tiffany lamp to the museum.
LACMA said that Streisand’s Sargent painting will also be hung with another promised gift of former trustee Abby Levy and her husband, Alan -- Robert Henri’s 1904 painting “Spanish Dancer -- Seviliana (Dancer With Castanet)."