Fine Art Magazine Steps into Willowdon Estate and Phil Feldsine’s Art Collection
The November 2018 edition of American Fine Art Magazine had readers stepping through the doors of the impeccable WillowDon Estate and into the art collection amassed by Phil Feldsine.
As the article outlines, Phil Feldsine and Jill Hofstrand fell in love with the period Tudor revival on Lake Washington’s waterfront from the moment they saw the Arthur Loveless design and Olmsted Brothers gardens. Though the estate was a bit dilapidated, “the couple were up to the challenge.”
Feldsine drew upon his passion for historic properties by setting out to protect the integrity of the home’s original character. This meant advising the landscape designers (Richard Hartledge and Jason Morse of AHBL) not to use any plants that couldn’t have been found in the 1930s and 1940s when the garden was at its prime. Inside the home, Felsdine maintained the original Loveless design but replaced mechanical, electrical and plumbing, adding technological appointments suited for a modern lifestyle. And when he asked Aaron Mollick to design the coach house and porte-cochere, he said “I want this to look like Arthur Loveless did it!”
Research was key to Feldsine and Hofstrand’s efforts, as Fine Art Magazine outlines the painstaking attempts to replace the fountain’s missing sculpture (which a photo revealed was originally Putto with Dolphin by Andrea Del Verrocchio) and the inclusion of period light sconces, cement tiles and other systems. The end results, in Feldsine’s words: “So, now restored, basically you have the 2012 house in the skin of an Arthur Loveless Tudor.”
As the article describes, “within that skin is a growing collection of fine art that could have been in the home during the residency of its first owners, who lived there from 1927 to the 1990s.”
Much of Feldsine’s success as a collector may be attributed to his twenty-five-year friendship with Allan Kollar of Seattle-based A.J. Kollar Fine Paintings — Feldsine says he’s purchased somewhere around twenty-five pieces from Allan over the years, in addition to five or six at Christie’s auctions.
Far left: a glimpse at Pieter J.L. van Veen’s Cathedral Reims Façade (1925)
Though Feldsine says provenance is not his primary concern, Kollar remarks upon his natural eye and possession of “several pieces [that] have an illustrious pedigree.” As Kollar says, “Phil has done a marvelous job. His attention to the historical remodel of his home and the Olmsted Brothers gardens is beautifully reinstated. The house is a perfect setting for his art collection. He has selectively chosen art on the basis of aesthetics and historical reference. He has traded up (as we say) after living with some art objects, while continuing to educate himself. Phil has a good eye, and has been willing to step up when he realized a certain work of art will only come his way once in his collecting career.”
Among the distinguished pieces named in the magazine are a pair of lithographs by George Bellows, A Stag at Sharkey’s (1917) and Dempsey Through the Ropes (1923). Felsdine was drawn to the anatomical drawings and strong caricature abilities. As American Fine Art Magazine describes, the latter hangs beside an oil painting by John Singer Sargent, Villa Torlonia, Frascati (1907) while the former sits beside San Geremia, a Sargent watercolor circa 1903 to 1907.
Another element running through much of Feldsine’s collection is the stories each piece brings to life. For instance, he was drawn to Pieter J.L. van Veen’s Cathedral Reims Façade (1925) because van Veen traveled Europe painting the facades of cathedrals he didn’t think would survive another war.
At the end of the day, Feldsine says he has always been drawn to art that “makes a home warm, inviting and visually interesting. ‘Buy what your eye likes,’ he says, ‘and make sure it’s visually interesting and compatible with the house.’”