Somerville among the glitterati
On 16 June, Christie’s held a glittering party on Somerville’s behalf, the first of its kind for us, when Honorary Fellow Hilary Spurling (Somerville 1959) spoke about her experiences researching and writing her prize-winning biography of Matisse. She drew an appreciative, invited audience of about one hundred Somervillians and art-collecting clients. We were fascinated by her account of the way she set about discovering the hidden personality of Matisse, and illustrated the influence of his origins in the textile manufacturing region of northern France by showing samples of the textiles juxtaposed with paintings in which the artist had included some of those designs. Mrs Spurling’s talk also explored the vicissitudes of Matisse’s fame, still relatively unknown in his home town when she first went there in the 1980s to discover more about him. The audience were dazzled too by Christie’s display of extraordinary works of art, assembled by the Director and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art Giovanna Bertazzoni and her colleagues for yesterday evening’s sale.
This morning Christie’s were able to announce proceeds of more than £140,000,000 from the sale, including three stunning Picasso works that reached high prices. One of them fetched nearly £13.5 million on behalf of the University of Sydney. Altogether the sale was one of Christie’s most successful ever in the field. I hope some of the guests at our Somerville evening were among the purchasers. Perhaps a future donor to the College will be inspired by the example of the benefactor who gave Picasso’s Jeune Fille Endormie to the University of Sydney in the hope that its sale would benefit scientific research. Meanwhile, I feel a deep sense of privilege to have been part of that event, surrounded by such spectacular works of art and graced by one of our most notable living authors.
…. and Somerville generations
I always enjoy connecting with generations of Somervillians, and there has been plenty of opportunity recently. The Christie’s event was one of several that took me to London on three separate evenings in the past two weeks. A celebration of Dr Kusoom Vadgama’s book on Cornelia Sorabji took place at the Nehru Centre, where I met up with one of the oldest Somervillians, Dr Elizabeth Monkhouse (matriculated in 1930) and one of the youngest, first-year classics student Anahita Hoose. The night before the Christie’s party saw a meeting of the Somerville City Group (also glittering in its way) at Goldman Sachs headquarters in Fleet Street. Yet again the College community was fortunate in the contributions of some distinguished alumni, with a panel on “Sustainability. Does it Pay?” led by investment consultant Nicola Ralston, with Professor of Animal Behaviour Marian Dawkins, June Aitken the founder and CEO of Osmosis Investment Management and Tesco Director and Company Secretary Lucy Neville Rolfe. The City Group includes a good representation of alumni who are successfully climbing the corporate ladder while clearly (to judge from the large and engaged audience at this event) maintaining a keen sense of corporate social responsibility.