Winston, Lydia, 1897-1989

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Lydia Winston Malbin (1897-1989) was an art collector and patron who assembled a major collection of modern European art with a concentration on Italian Futurism.

From the description of Lydia Winston Malbin papers, 1891-1997 (bulk 1938-1997). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702184662

Collector; Birmingham, Michigan.

Full name is Lydia Winston Malbin.

From the description of Lydia Winston interview, 1976, April 14. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220151690

Lydia Winston (1897-1989) was a collector from Birmingham, Mich.

Full name is Lydia Winston Malbin.

From the description of Oral history interview with Lydia Winston, 1974 Aug. 23-27 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 495596678

Lydia Winston (1897-1989) was a collector from Birmingham, Mich.

Full name is Lydia Winston Malbin.

From the description of Oral history interview with Lydia Winston, 1976 Apr. 14. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 779476829

Lydia Winston, b. 1897; d. 1989, Collector of Birmingham, Michigan.

Full name is Lydia Winston Malbin.

From the description of Oral history interview with Lydia Winston, 1976 Apr. 14. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 646393669

Collector; Birmingham, Michigan.

Full name is Lydia Winston Malbin.

From the description of Lydia Winston interview, 1974 Aug. 23-Aug. 27. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220188125

Art collectors; Birmingham, Michigan.

The collection is mainly focused on the Futurists and their successors.

From the description of Lydia and Harry Lewis Winston papers, 1900-1965 and [undated]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122545805

Lydia Kahn Winston Malbin was born November 13, 1897. She was the daughter of Albert and Ernestine Krolik Kahn. Her father was the Michigan architect whose reputation was based upon his innovative and daring designs for Ford Motor Company factories, including the famed River Rouge plant, as well as other industrial complexes elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad.

From her parents Lydia received all the benefits of growing up within a beautiful home amid the pleasures afforded by wealth and culture. Most significantly, she was able to observe the joys of collecting and living amidst great art.

A 1921 graduate of Vassar College, Lydia married Harry Lewis Winston, a young attorney, in 1927. Theirs was a happy union. They were to have three children: two daughters, Sally and Ernestine, and a son, Harry, Jr.

Harry Winston was a man of easy-going temperament and enormous charm who greatly loved his wife. His amused approval of her art collecting and his liking of artists later grew into a passion that nearly equalled hers. They ultimately became a successful and formidable team within the art collecting world: Lydia would search out the background information about an artist and his work and set out to charm and cajole him into parting with it; Harry would handle the actual negotiations and see to the myriad of arrangements necessary to transport the work safely to their home. In addition, he utilized his own hobby, woodworking, to construct boxes, tables and stands for the sculpture.

In 1940, Lydia helped to organize the first show of abstract art for the city of Detroit. She worked along with Hilda Rebay, director of the Museum of Nonobjective Art (which later became the Guggenheim Museum).

In the 1940s, Lydia began studying design at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. She painted watercolors and eventually received a masters degree in ceramics and painting in 1944. This interest and training in ceramics was important because it gave her an eye for shape and design and confidence in her artistic sensibilities. Typically, Harry encouraged this interest, building a ceramics studio for her at their home.

Her ceramics were exhibited in Karl Nierendorf's gallery and were displayed at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and in museums around the country as a part of the Ceramic National, an annual exhibition sponsored by The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. During World War II, Lydia created a Rehabilitation Program focusing upon ceramics for the American Red Cross, which was used for occupational therapy for wounded soldiers.

In the 1930's LWM began to develop a curiosity about modern art, a difficult interest to pursue at the time if one lived in the Midwest. She also made her first significant art purchases during this period. Around her earlier acquisitions were: two Marins, two Feiningers, one Chagall and one Soutine.

Lydia credited several people with early and enormous influence upon her career as an art collector. Among these were Alfred Stieglitz, Rose Fried, and Alfred Barr, Jr.

She met Alfred Stieglitz, the famed photographer and art dealer, in 1938 at his gallery, An American Place, where she had gone to inquire about purchasing a work by Marin. During this encounter, which she remembered vividly all her life, he questioned her at length and came to the conclusion that she was a woman of moderate means with a great passion for art. He instilled in her the idea that a collector has a great responsibility to art, to the artist and to the world.

Rose Fried, whom she met in 1945, was another art dealer, most notably for her art gallery, Pinacoteca. Ms. Fried helped Lydia form the early portion of her collection.

Barr's books, Cubism and Abstract Art and Twentieth Century Italian Art (which accompanied the 1949 exhibit Barr and James Thrall Soby mounted at the Museum of Modern Art) aroused her interest and planted the desire to experience more of this type of art. The MOMA exhibit included early Futurist artists as well as works by Morandi, Modigliani, and others. LWM did not see the exhibit, but she did receive the catalog, and her interest in Futurism was triggered. There was a certain logic in Albert Kahn's daughter's urge to collect Italian Futurist art, since the movement celebrated industrialism in general and the speed and power of the automobile in particular.

In 1951, Lydia and Harry made their first collecting trip to Europe. In Rome they were introduced to Benedetta Marinetti, wife of the founder of Futurism. From her Futurist collection they acquired numerous Ballas, Boccioni bronzes, and a Russolo; as well as Futurist manifestos. Signora Marinetti also gave them clues to help locate other Futurist works. During this magical journey they also met Gino Severini, whom they later visited at his studio in Meudon, outside of Paris. They acquired his painting, "Dancer Beside the Sea", the first of several works by this artist that were to grace his collection.

With the assistance of Laura Prudi Gamilla Crispati, co-editor of Archivi Futuristi, they made contact with Signora Callegari-Boccioni, the sister of Umberto Boccioni. Over the course of several years they returned to visit her and remained in contact with her. In time, she agreed to part with her collection of his drawings, which represented his development as an artist over the course of his short life. She also parted with his self-portrait in oil. As an act of friendship, she gave the Winstons her brother's principle palette and a gift.

Later trips produced additional treasures. From Giacomo Balla's daughter they obtained his painting, Lavoro and his sculpture, Fist of Boccioni, which became an emblem for the entire Futurist movement. Through Piero Dorazio, a Roman artist and friend, they tracked down and purchased other works by Boccioni, Balla, and Enrico Prampolini. Their friend Willem Sandberg introduced them to the Cobra.

One of their triumphs was their acquisition of Brancusi's sculpture, "Blonde Negress", the first time the artist had parted with one of his works in over twenty years. The Winstons wrote an amusing one-act play about this experience.

In the case of several artists including Balla, Boccioni, Severini, Russolo, Picasso, Carra, Sironi, Prampolini, Schwitters, Picabia and others, the Winstons' collection had an unusual depth. For, they acquired works from various time periods and in various media. The collection began to take on a definite shape. LWM discovered that her interests turned consistently in certain directions, and she was definite about what she did not want, as what she did. She was not interested in "easy" art, in famous artists, in works which were explicit in telling a story, in the pretty, the appealing and the charming. She was drawn to works based on construction and movement in space, to works that provided a challenge to the viewer.

Nor was LWM's interest confined to European artists. In fact, she purchased the first painting by Jackson Pollack to enter a private collection. However, she generally confined her American purchases to art which she felt was influenced by Futurism.

In 1961, LWM, along with Marcel Duchamp, was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in the humanities by Wayne State University.

Several themes ran throughout LWM's life, and frequently intersected. They were: her passion for and curiosity about art, particularly abstract art; her affection for Detroit; and her desire to help others. In 1964, the Mayor of Detroit appointed her to the Arts Commission for the City of Detroit. She also served as a member of the drawings and acquisitions committee of the Whitney Museum in New York City; sat on the Board of Bennington College, and served eight years on the acquisitions committee of the Art Institute of Chicago.

After the Winstons returned from a trip to Europe in 1964, Harry Winston suffered a heart attack. He never fully recovered, and he died April 14, 1965. His death meant much more than a passing of a singular individual and the loss of a much-loved husband and father: it brought an end to a remarkable team in twentieth-century art collecting. Significantly, their works figured in no major exhibitions in 1965.

Lydia later married Dr. Barnett Malbin, who plunged good-naturedly into his wife's world. The Malbins decided to move to an apartment in Manhattan. LWM loved New York City, the center of art activity, and had always wanted to live there. Moreover, Dr. Malbin had been born there.

Their lives slipped into a comfortable pattern: winters in New York, summers in Vermont, trips to France, Italy, Vermont, trips to Europe for the Biennale. Dr. Malbin died in 1985.

Lydia Winston Malbin died October 14, 1989, at the age of 91, in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

LWM took a uniquely feminine approach to her collection.

Purchases were not so much business transactions as whirlwind courtships in which she quickly learned as much as she could about the artist and got to know him and/or his family. No purchase was ever truly final until she and her husband has lived for a time with the piece, after which the relationship with the work lasted -- in most cases -- for the remainder of her life. The relationships with the artists and their families endured, as well, sometimes deepening into lasting friendships.

LWM lived with the works -- they graced her home and she often moved pieces about to experiment with new groupings. The result was "...a home that reflects warmth, class, care, and wisely applied passion..."

She nurtured her collection, caring for it with a close and affectionate eye and a determination to seek the best professional help with its upkeep whenever it was needed.

And, mindful of Stieglitz's tutelage, she loved to show off the pieces and share with others the joy they brought to her. Large portions of the collection anchored numerous shows in some of the finest galleries in the world. Individual pieces were sometimes lent to others. LWM frequently opened her home to single students and whole seminars, leading the tours herself. One result of this activity was "...the reciprocal enrichment of the students and the collection through the development of an expanding series of relationships."

As she grew older, LWM became less amenable to lending her art, especially to distant museums, especially after one of her precious Boccioni drawings was lost by a museum. Also, many of the works were inherently fragile because of their media. But, as the loans diminished, her home became more of a classroom.

She lovingly recorded every relevant piece of information she could obtain about every piece in her collection. In fact, LWM created two collections: the great art collection she amassed over the years, and the archives which supported it. The art collection has now been dispersed, but the archives will live on as a testament to a great art collector who brought to bear a knowledgeable eye, a lively intelligence, a feminine sensibility, a certain amount of luck, and excellent timing.

From the guide to the Lydia Winston Malbin papers, 1891-1997, 1938-1997, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Relation Name
associatedWith Albers, Josef. person
associatedWith Albers, Josef. person
associatedWith Armitage, Kenneth, 1916-2002. person
associatedWith Arp, Jean, 1887-1966. person
associatedWith Arp, Marguerite. person
associatedWith Arp, Marguerite. person
associatedWith Balla, Giacomo, 1871-1958. person
associatedWith Barr, Alfred Hamilton, 1902-1981. person
associatedWith Barrie, Dennis, person
associatedWith Boccioni, Umberto, 1882-1916. person
associatedWith Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976. person
associatedWith Callery, Mary, 1903-1977. person
associatedWith Consagra, Pietro, 1920-2005. person
associatedWith Cummings, Paul person
associatedWith Degand, Léon. person
associatedWith Degand, Léon. person
associatedWith Detroit Institute of Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith Dorazio, Piero, 1927-2005. person
associatedWith Dorazio, Virginia Dortch. person
associatedWith Dorner, Alexander, 1893-1957. person
associatedWith Dubuffet, Jean, 1901-1985. person
associatedWith Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968. person
associatedWith Feeley, Paul, 1910-1966. person
associatedWith Fried, Rose. person
associatedWith Fried, Rose. person
associatedWith Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898-1979. person
associatedWith Guilbert, Gilles, 1905- person
associatedWith Hamilton, Richard, 1922- person
associatedWith Hardy-Guilbert, Claire. person
associatedWith Hardy-Guilbert, Claire. person
associatedWith Hoflehner, Rudolf, 1916- person
associatedWith Jackson, Martha Kellogg. person
associatedWith Kahn, Albert, 1869-1942. person
associatedWith Kapralos, Chrēstos, 1909-1993. person
associatedWith Kuh, Katharine. person
associatedWith Longo, Vincent, 1923- person
associatedWith Macdonald-Wright, Stanton, 1890-1973. person
associatedWith Malbin, Barnett, 1897-1985. person
associatedWith Marinetti Cappa, Benedetta, 1897-1977. person
associatedWith Marlborough-Gerson Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Martin, Marianne W. person
associatedWith Mondrian, Piet, 1872-1944. person
associatedWith Nevelson, Louise, 1899-1988. person
associatedWith Pevsner, Antoine, 1886-1962. person
associatedWith Rich, Daniel Catton, 1904-1976. person
associatedWith Sandberg, Willem Jacob Henri Berend, 1897-1984. person
associatedWith Seuphor, Michel, 1901-1999. person
associatedWith Severini, Gino, 1883-1966. person
associatedWith Smith, Kimber, 1922-1981. person
associatedWith Solley, Thomas T. person
associatedWith Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946. person
associatedWith Sweeney, James Johnson, 1900-1986. person
associatedWith Taylor, Joshua Charles, 1917-1981. person
associatedWith Valentiner, Wilhelm Reinhold, 1880-1958. person
associatedWith Von Wiegand, Charmion. person
associatedWith Von Wiegand, Charmion. person
associatedWith Winston, Harry Lewis. person
associatedWith Winston, Harry Lewis. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Art, Modern
Art, Modern
Art, Modern
Art, American
Futurism (Art)
Futurism (Art)


Birth 1897

Death 1989



Ark ID: w686327g

SNAC ID: 60428894