Painting that hung at SUNY Fredonia sells for $2.3 million
A painting that had hung in Reed Library at the State University of New York at Fredonia for over 30 years will help preserve an important literary archive.
The painting by Niko Pirosmani, “Georgian Woman Wearing a Lechaki,” sold Tuesday at Sotheby’s in London for an estimated $2.3 million.
The Fredonia College Foundation, which owned the painting, has established an endowment which will invest all net funds generated through this sale (anticipated to be about $2 million) to support the prestigious Stefan Zweig collection, as well as archives and special collections in Reed Library, for the benefit of scholars and students who have the remarkable opportunity to study the works of an important writer.
“The proceeds will secure the Zweig legacy at Fredonia for future generations to learn about his literary and cultural influence,” said Mrs. Betty Gossett, executive director of the Fredonia College Foundation.
“This sale reinforces Fredonia’s commitment to the Zweig archives in Reed Library,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Terry Brown. “Fredonia will be able to not only maintain the collection, but preserve it with the highest standards of care.”
The endowment will generate significant, continuing funds to digitize Fredonia’s extensive collection of Zweig’s papers, making them accessible to people around the world. The endowment will also provide ongoing funds for improving the security and environment of the archives, through state-of-the-art technology, to preserve the original works, provide staff support for the Zweig collection, and promote student and scholar programming and events.
“While traditional print collections are on the decline, special collections continue to grow,” said Mr. Randy Gadikian, Reed library director. “We have a need to preserve these artifacts for their historical and literary significance.”
“We are pleased with Fredonia’s successful sale of the Pirosmani painting, a one- time possession of Stefan Zweig, but certainly not part of Zweig’s literary contributions,” said Dr. Klemens Renoldner, director of the Stefan Zweig Center in Salzburg. “Scholarly archives suffer from severe funding issues and the proceeds from this sale will be used to preserve, digitize and publicize Zweig’s literary legacy.”
The painting was given to Fredonia in 1981 by Dr. Harry Zohn, a professor of German at Brandeis University and founder of the International Stefan Zweig Society. Dr. Zohn received the painting in 1953 from Friderike Zweig, the first wife of noted Austrian author Stefan Zweig, who acquired the painting while in Moscow in 1928 to give a lecture for the centenary celebration of Tolstoy’s birth.
In 1968, Zweig’s widow gifted the collection of his works to Reed Library. Dr. Robert Rie, a professor of German at Fredonia for many years, who, like Zweig and Zohn were Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria, arranged for the Zweig collection to be given to Reed Library. Zweig’s niece has continued to gift archive material to the collection.
“Such paintings should be kept in climate-controlled rooms with a high level of security,” said Brown. “Fredonia does not have a museum and simply does not have the means to display, preserve, and secure this work of art.” There is no intention to sell any of the papers and artifacts from the Zweig collection, but to use the funds from the sale, in the spirit of the gift of the painting, to benefit the collection.
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1881, Stefan Zweig was one of the most prolific and influential European writers in the years preceding World War II. Zweig died in exile in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. The Zweig collection, housed in the archives and special collections area of Reed Library, has become a destination for scholars from around the world to read manuscripts in Zweig’s hand, including letters to some of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, such as Virginia Woolf and Sigmund Freud.