Newly discovered Diego Rivera paintings going to auction with Doyle

Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers has announced the auction of several newly discovered works of art from the Estate of Mary Ellin Barrett, the eldest daughter of 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, 2024, auction 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 procession, 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.

These exciting discoveries and many more works will be featured in Doyle’s auction of Latin American Art on Wednesday, March 13 at 11am, at 175 East 87th Street in New York. Interested bidders can view the catalogue and place bids online at Doyle.com.

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