Collection of Paul Jean Cels (c. 1886–1917), Brussels, Belgium and Magill, South Australia, before 1917[i]; by whom deposited at Adelaide Bank, Adelaide, 1917; Estate of Paul Jean Cels, administered by the Public Trustee of South Australia, until 1919; from where claimed by Peter Mackenzie Abercrombie (d. 1944)[ii], Walkerville, Adelaide, 1919[iii]; his collection, Adelaide and Hobart, 1919–27; from whom purchased, on the advice of Bernard Hall, for the Felton Bequest, 1927.
[i] Cels, a noted connoisseur and collector, was an unfortunate victim of enemy poison gas during a battle near Ypres in the First World War. On being discharged from service on medical grounds, he was encouraged to relocate to Australia to allow his lungs to recuperate in the better-quality air. Sadly, not long after arriving, he died in November 1917. The majority of his art collection, stuck in Sydney due to a coal strike, arrived shortly after his death and was subsequently exhibited at the Art Gallery of South Australia at the behest of the Public Trustees, the Estate administrators. Bernard Hall, then director of the NGV, was asked to provide advice on the collection. After a period of consideration amid calls for the Gallery to acquire paintings from the Cels collection, it was shipped en masse to London for auction by Christie’s, 19 November 1920. See ‘Old Masters Needed: Our Art Gallery Condemned’, in The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Friday 8 June 1917, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15704970, ‘Cels Art Collection’ in The Advertiser, Adelaide, Tuesday 5 March 1918, p. 9, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5532354, and ‘Cels Art Collection’ in The Register, Adelaide, Friday 1 March 1918, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60345173.
[ii] Abercrombie was born in Scotland and arrived in Australia in 1889. He was Manager of the National Australia Bank branches in the Victorian towns of Cobden and Sale before relocating to Adelaide in 1917 to become the Manager of the South Australian branches of the NAB. He later became Tasmanian State Manager of the NAB 1924–26, and lived in Hobart until his death in 1944. See ‘Personal’ in The Mercury, Hobart, Friday 16 February 1923, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23626469.
[iii] “In the Civil Court on Tuesday (before Mr Justice Poole) a matter referred from chambers came on for hearing. The question was whether the public Trustee would be justified in admitting the claim of Peter Mackenzie Abercrombie…to two paintings, free of death duties… out of the estate of the late Jean Paul Cels [sic], of Magill…One of the paintings was a marine subject and the other a small portrait of a woman’s head…” According to the reminder of the article, the paintings were apparently a gift from Cels to Abercrombie. See ‘A question of Gift: Two paintings involved,’ in Daily Herald, Adelaide, Wednesday 29 October 1919, p.3, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/106483191