Gramercy Park Block Association - Neighborhood News #434
Since a major focus of the GPBA is Historic Preservation, we are vigilant about The Players, whose 1844 Greek Revival townhouse at 16 Gramercy Park South sits on one of the original lots laid out in the 1831 Samuel B. Ruggles Gramercy Park Trust.

The 1890 John Singer Sargent painting of Edwin Booth described below is not the Sargent painting of Joseph Jefferson that the Players recently reclaimed from lender after being put up as collateral. 

However, the painting of Booth was originally owned by The Players.  It was sold for $2.5 million after a 2000 agreement with the attorney general forced the club to settle a matter from the 1980s, when it borrowed money from a library and a charity that operated within the building.

September 5, 2013 

Seven-Figure Sargents
A John Singer Sargent Moves to Texas


A rarely seen John Singer Sargent painting once owned by a Gramercy Park theater club has been acquired by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.


Amon Carter Museum of American Art

John Singer Sargent's 1890 portrait of Edwin Booth

The Players Club in 2002 sold the work-an 1890 full-length painting of one of its founders, the actor Edwin Booth-to a private collector. Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter, declined to say how much the museum paid but said a work of this type is valued at between $4 million and $5 million.


"It's Sargent when he was really on his game," said Mr. Walker. "There is an audaciousness to the way he handles paint, and that's present in this work."

Born in Florence, Italy, to American parents, Sargent (1856-1925) became a well-known portraitist after the 1884 exhibition of his painting of Madame Pierre Gautreau, known as "Madame X." After years of commissioned portraits, he later turned to watercolors and landscapes.

Because the Booth painting hung within the private club, which commissioned it, the public has had only rare opportunities to see it. It was included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Sargent memorial exhibition in 1926 and was shown after the 2002 sale.

The acquisition is a benchmark for the Amon Carter Museum, and it comes at a time when the Players' last remaining Sargent painting is coming back to the club after being put up as collateral. That work, a seated portrait of actor Joseph Jefferson, also a club founder, is still for sale, and it could clear significant debts for the club.

President Johnnie Planco anticipated that the sale would, like the Booth painting, be a seven-figure deal. A party to celebrate its return is scheduled for next week.

"The idea is to attract a buyer," Mr. Planco said.

A version of this article appeared September 6, 2013, on page A21 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: 7-Figure Sargents.