Art Collector and Dealer (Eugene V. Thaw) Is Dead at 90

Eugene V. Thaw, a major American collector of European old master art and one of the world’s most respected dealers in the field, died on Wednesday at his home in Cherry Valley, N.Y. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by Katie Flanagan, president of a charitable trust established by Mr. Thaw and his wife, Clare E. Thaw, who shared his art-collecting enthusiasms.

Mr. Thaw also earned distinction as the co-author of a monumental catalogue raisonné of Jackson Pollock’s work.

His personal collection featured more than 400 drawings, including rare works by Goya, Van Gogh and Andrea Mantegna and price-setting items by Rembrandt and Samuel Palmer.

But he insisted that “great art collecting need not be based on a great fortune; education, experience and eye are more important.” He spoke from his own history.

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He was born on Oct. 27, 1927, in Washington Heights in Manhattan. His father was a heating contractor, his mother a schoolteacher. They named him for the socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs, who had died the previous year.

As a young teenager, Mr. Thaw took drawing classes at the Art Students League on West 57th Street in Manhattan. But he did not pursue the hands-on practice of art.

“I can’t create the objects I crave to look at,” he later said, “so I collect them.”

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx at 15, he entered St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and began making day trips to art museums in nearby Washington.

Returning to New York in 1947, he took graduate classes in art history at Columbia University with Millard Meiss and Meyer Schapiro. He also followed the city’s contemporary-art scene, getting an early immersion in Pollock’s work at the Betty Parsons Gallery.

Having neither the money nor the social connections generally required to be a museum curator in those days, Mr. Thaw decided on selling art as a career option.

In 1950, with a loan from his father, he opened a gallery above the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street. He gathered stock in part by rummaging through antique stores and hanging out at small auction houses.

His wares were eclectic. To keep the doors open, he sold Nabis prints and Toulouse-Lautrec posters. But he also researched Rembrandt drawings, handled some Native American material and mounted the first solo show of a newcomer named Joan Mitchell.