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Lehman familylocked

  • Laurence B. Kanter
  •  and Patrick Le Chanu

Auguste Renoir: Two Young Girls at the Piano, oil on canvas, 44 x 34 in. (111.8 x 86.4 cm), 1892 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975, Accession ID:1975.1.201); photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

American family of bankers and collectors. Philip Lehman (b New York, 9 Nov 1861; d New York, 21 March 1947) was director of Lehman Brothers, an investment banking firm, and initially began collecting early Italian Renaissance paintings. His purchases were particularly extensive between 1914 and 1920 when he bought Renaissance ceramics, furniture, tapestries, and such paintings as Memling’s Annunciation (1482; New York, Met.). Bernard Berenson numbered among his friends. Philip’s son Robert Lehman (b New York, 29 Sept 1892; d New York, 9 Aug 1969) was already an enthusiastic collector while a student at Yale University, New Haven, CT (graduated 1913). In 1928 he published a catalogue of the paintings collected by his father and became head of Lehman Brothers investment bankers. He retained this post for over 40 years, turning the firm into one of the pillars of the economy and of American culture. Its headquarters were moved in 1928 to an Italian Renaissance style building in William Street, New York, which he decorated with works from his collection. As well as adding early works to the collection, from 1927 he began acquiring paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, Seurat, and other modern artists, including Renoir’s Two Young Girls at the Piano (1892; New York, Met.). His interest in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, was fostered by the museum’s Curator-in-Chief, Ted Rousseau, and Robert often allowed public exhibitions of the Lehman collection, such as those held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1954 and at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, in 1957. He was a member of the acquisitions committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in 1967 he decided that after his death the family collection of over 1000 works would be donated to the museum. A specially built wing was added to the museum (opened 1975), which contains such world-famous works as Giovanni di Paolo’s Expulsion from Paradise (c. 1445) and Petrus Christus’s St Elgius and the Lovers (1449), both bought by Philip.


  • R. Lehman: The Philip Lehman Collection (New York, 1928)


  • G. Szabó: The Robert Lehman Collection: A Guide (New York, 1975)
  • The Robert Lehman Collection, New York, Met. cat., 14 vols (New York, 1987–)