Diego Rivera: A Newly Discovered Work

Diego Rivera: A Newly Discovered Work

03/05/2024     General, Modern & Contemporary Art, General Paintings

The 1948 Painting Was Commissioned by Legendary Songwriter Irving Berlin
March 13 Auction Also Features Works by José Clemente Orozco and Hector Hyppolite

NEW YORK, NY -- Doyle is honored to auction several newly discovered works of art from the Estate of Mary Ellin Barrett, the eldest daughter of the legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. Ms. Barrett accompanied her father on trips throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, and documented their travels in her 1994 book, Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir, published by Simon & Schuster. Highlighting Doyle’s March 13 auction of Latin American Art are newly discovered paintings by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and Hector Hyppolite from Berlin’s collection inherited by his daughter.

During a Christmas trip to Mexico in 1947, Irving Berlin met the great muralist Diego Rivera, who invited Berlin to sit for a portrait – an honor Berlin declined. However, Berlin commissioned a work from Rivera for his recent song, In Acapulco, to serve as cover artwork for a sheet music release – a very lucrative sector of the music industry at the time. In 1948, Rivera presented Berlin with an original painting for the cover, along with a color chart and detailed notes hand-written by Rivera himself. The artwork was ultimately rejected by the music label and never used, as Ms. Barrett discusses in her book. Estimated at $200,000-400,000, this newly discovered, commissioned work by Diego Rivera for Irving Berlin has apparently never been seen outside of the Berlin, and later, the Barrett homes.

On the same trip, Berlin and his family visited the studio of another prominent Mexican muralist, José Clemente Orozco, where they acquired two works – a gouache on paper estimated at $20,000-40,000 and a colorful oil on Masonite estimated at $150,000-250,000 that Barrett describes in her book as “…a bright and hectic fiesta scene (which turned out to be The Day of the Dead).” As with the Diego Rivera work, these two paintings by Orozco have been in the private homes of the Berlin and Barrett families since their purchase and have not been seen elsewhere.

While on a visit to Haiti, Irving Berlin acquired a rare and fantastic work from the studio of Hector Hyppolite. A practicing Voodoo priest, Hyppolite created strange and surreal images, such as this painting depicting a priest attending to a funeral ceremony, estimated at $80,000-120,000. Again, like the Rivera and Orozco works, this Hyppolite painting has remained in the homes of the families since its acquisition.

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was one of the most influential and prolific American composers and lyricists of the 20th century. Over the course of his career, Berlin wrote an estimated 1,500 songs and scores for twenty original Broadway productions and fifteen Hollywood films. His lasting contributions to the classic American songbook include Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Cheek to Cheek, Anything You Can Do, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and the celebrated patriotic song, God Bless America.

With the 1942 release of the film Holiday Inn featuring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin came the debut of the song, White Christmas. The song became the best-selling single in history with estimated sales of over fifty million copies worldwide, and Berlin won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Latin American Art

Auction Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at 11am EST
Exhibition Saturday, March 9 - Monday, March 11, Noon - 5pm

View Lots from the Estate of Mary Ellin Barrett

Angelo Madrigale

Angelo Madrigale

SVP / Director of Paintings / Director of Contemporary Art