Retired gynecologist Michael Schlossberg, a former member of the board of directors of the High Museum of Art, knows from memory the story behind each piece of art in his Buckhead home.
For example, the Schlossbergs flew to New York in a flash when a dealer said he had a group of Picasso drawings consigned by the artist’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso.
To keep the collection fresh, they spend a month a year in Paris.
“The Schlossbergs’ passion for collecting rare and beautiful works of art is contagious,” said John Tilford, the curator of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.
Lana, an aficionado herself, is Michael’s muse and has to rein him in as he gets wound up in professorial detail. The doctor could give a course standing on one foot with no notes on any of his artists. He said: “I always think about who owned what and how it looked in its original setting. Drawings are so personal in showing the soul of the artist and the trials of creation.”
Jaffe: How does a boychick like you from Brooklyn get involved with art?
Michael: As a child I visited many of the great museums in New York. I was a born collector: baseball cards, stamps, coins, comic books. Every time I buy something new, I feel like a kid getting an electric train set. All three of our children are collectors. Our son Richard grew up with a Calder in his room and still has it in his own house. It’s a family passion.
Jaffe: I saw the exhibit at the Oglethorpe Museum. I thought the Barrère plasters contained in sealed jars were memorable, as well as Rodolphe Salis’ extremely rare drawing of the Emperor Napoleon III. Salis was the founder of the cabaret Le Chat Noir, which was the first bar to have entertainment — poets and such.
Michael: “The Sorrow of Too Many Joys: Satire in 19th Century France” ended in December. Actually it was our fourth at Oglethorpe. We like to relate to students and show the art in intimate settings. Satirical art pokes fun at corruption … in many cases French politicians. Out of our 600-plus pieces, 67 were there. There are letters, drawings, original stone lithographs before offset printing. Also, a tandem course is taught at Oglethorpe.
Names in that collection: Dantan Jeune, Daumier, Charlet, Carjat, Forain, Manet, Nadar.
Jaffe: The art in your Buckhead home has more recognizable, glitzy names.
Lana: We have Picasso, Rodin, Seurat, Degas, Matisse (still counting) … and my private salon is a tribute to novelist George Sand, who was a feminist, I’m actually just completing. That’s why my favorite Paris museum is Musée de la Vie Romantique — very intimate and has the re-creation of Sand’s parlor, which inspired me. The Gauguin mask is one of only two. Ours was acquired from the estate of Walter Chrysler Jr., and the other in the Musée d’Orsay.
Jaffe: It’s a dramatic contrast in here to have Russian nested figures with George Sand.
Did you use a designer?
Lana: Gene McIntosh pulled it all together. We wanted a minimalist backdrop to showcase the art. We keep the blinds drawn to protect the drawings from the sunlight.
Jaffe: As we enter from your private elevator, wham! The art soars when the door opens. What are we seeing?
Michael: The armoire is British, 1840. The Picasso is “Study for the Sailor,” which is probably a self-portrait because of the horizontally striped shirt, which he typically donned. I love the Matisse, “Study of Lydia,” and the Jean-Baptiste Greuze, “Study for the Marriage Contract,” done with red sanguine chalk.
Jaffe: This study setting contains over 4,000 books.
Michael: The large blue oil is by American Moses Soyer, “Two Hippie Girls.” There is a group of medallions by David d’Angers over 70 drawings, letters, bronzes and plasters of his. The drawing is by Corot, one of the most important artists of the Barbizon school.
Jaffe: Is this statue Rodin?
Michael: No, actually “The Expulsion” is by Leonard Baskin. He portrays himself as Adam and his wife as Eve. Next to it is a Picasso fashioned from cracker boxes made for his daughter. It is a decoupage that is owned by Bette Ann (Schlossberg’s daughter). Also, this bronze head of a warrior is by Antoine Bourdelle, “A Study for a Monument in Montauban,” Bourdelle’s birthplace.
Jaffe: What’s your favorite in the master bedroom?
Lana: The three statues by David d’Angers were homages to the great King René. It really puts you back in time. D’Angers was a genius and designed the Pantheon.
Here is the Seurat that the MOMA borrowed for their exhibition “Seurat: The Drawings.” The drawing by Gustave Doré shows the first fable of Fontaine, “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” Doré illustrated 3,000 books, like “Don Quixote,” the Bible and “The Legend of the Wandering Jew.”
Jaffe: Explain this vertical display in the dining room.
Michael: You gravitated to the Jewish artist Pissarro — self-portrait surrounded by his children. Also works by Gericault, Manet and Ingres (study for the Spanish ambassador painting found in the Petit Palace in Paris).
Jaffe: Where are you off to next?
Michael: The “Star Wars” movie. We’re big fans. Cecil B. DeMille and some of the great directors like Lucas got their ideas from studying the illustrations of Doré. By the way, there is no end in sight to my 50-year collecting spree.
Jaffe: If you could wake up tomorrow and have one more piece, what would it be?
Michael: Doesn’t matter. My next acquisition — be it major or minor — still excites me.
Jaffe: There’s not an inch of space to place anything else.
Michael: I’m happy with my collection. I enjoy it every day. Some say it’s a type of insanity. So be it.
Photos by Duane Stork