Thursday, 10 June 2010

Josie Robertson

Late this afternoon we learned that Josephine "Josie" Robertson, wife of Julian, died in New York on Tuesday. Josie was only 67 but she had been battling breast cancer for a number of years and it finally took its toll. She was a truly energetic and passionate woman who provided much of the drive and inspiration behind the couple's global philanthropic and business interests. At the beginning of their life's partnership art was very much her interest but one that Julian quickly came to share. He often tells the story that he was virtually dragged into his first major art museum experience, while on their honeymoon in Paris 38 years ago. Josie insisted they make a visit to the Jeu de Paume and a lifelong love of the post-impressionists was born.

Josie had taken art as her major when she studied at the University of Texas, from where she graduated in 1965. Although art history was not taught at the time she became a regular visitor to art museums. Once she and Julian began to form their collection, she told Gallery curator Mary Kisler in 2008, "it really started to work for itself, leading the way". She and Julian would talk about it a lot, and it became a wonderful common interest for them. She said at the time that her favourite work was Picasso's Femme à la résille, a striking study of his mistress Dora Maar, painted in 1938 and included in the Robertsons promised gift to Auckland.

The Auckland Art Gallery is greatly indebted to the Robertsons for the stunning generosity of their gift of 15 European masterworks, including some truly exceptional works by Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse, which they announced in May 2009. It remains a signal gift on any standard, unprecedented in this part of the world, and Josie was very much its co-author. She and Julian shared an abiding love of the arts and particularly of late 19th and early 20th century painting, and she had a discerning eye honed through their long experience as collectors. Josie loved their collection - their children, as she and Julian would both refer to their paintings - as she loved life. Her loss will be very deeply felt by her husband Julian and by their family and friends.

The Gallery has lost one of its most remarkable, generous and far-sighted benefactors. Her name and Julian's are to be honoured in perpetuity when the Auckland Art Gallery dedicates the level one Kitchener Wing the "Julian and Josie Robertson Galleries" when our developed building opens in mid 2011.

Chris Saines
Wednesday 9 June 2010