Henry Pearlman (1895-1974) was a self- made financial executive whose company, Eastern Cold Storage Insulation Co. specialized in marine refrigeration. With his wife Rose and two daughters, he enjoyed collecting art as a passion and would return at the end of a workday to relish his masterpieces. At the end of his 79 years, he had assembled an extraordinary collection of European masterpieces acquired through dealers, galleries, auctions and by trade. In 1955 Henry and Rose established a foundation to manage the works, and his heirs have been pleased that Princeton University assembled the best of scholars to address the many issues involved in the diverse collection which now resides on long term loan to the University’s art museum. The Pearlman’s nephew Daniel Edelman is President of the Foundation and noted that the pictures were very well received during their first world tour to Oxford, England, Aix-en-Provence, France, the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia and Vancouver, Canada in 2014.
Henry noted in his memoir that he bought two pictures in 1943 in New York, one by Chaim Soutine and another by Amedeo Modigliani: “The first pleasant experience with a modern painting started me on a road of adventure that has been both exhilarating and satisfying. I haven’t spent a boring evening since that first purchase.” 
Pearlman also wrote that luck played a large part in building up his collection. In 1950 he met a South American dealer who had located a major work by Van Gogh in a Montevideo bank vault. Pearlman was able to purchase the work that had been painted in a single afternoon when Van Gogh was preparing his studio for a visit by Gauguin in 1888. Currently enlarged as a wall mural , this work is one of the stars of the Pearlman collection in its current installation at Princeton.
Pearlman had his own portrait done by two artists: a painting by Oskar Kokoschka and a sculpted head by Jacques Lipchitz. The painting was done in 1948 in 14 sittings, and they became such good friends that Oskar spent a month at his home in New York in 1949, and they toured Vienna together that same year.
The bust was done in 29 sittings in his office on a revolving stool, and Pearlman stated, “ If I had received nothing else for the money, the experience would have been worth it.”
One of the outstanding aspects of his collection was the result of the purchase of 33 works by Paul Cezanne. One he bought at a public auction in Philadelphia, and the press singled him out for his high bid. Pearlman was a very private man and he noted, “ Had I known that I would get so much publicity, I would never have bought the painting.”
Henry Pearlman was the son of immigrants and only had a high school education. The rags to riches story of this collection is really a story of a lifelong passion for modern art which led Pearlman on the hunt for great works that were within his budget. He made his works available to museums through loans and his nonprofit foundation. At a recent symposium held at Princeton University, scholars discussed Cezanne’s isolation and obsession with his privacy in the rural areas near his home in Provence. Like Pearlman, he was obsessed with his passion for painting and did 60 views of Mont Sainte-Victoire, one of which is in this collection. This limestone outcropping could be seen from his painting studio which Cezanne built in the last years of his life in France . 
After Pearlman’s death the collection was shown at the Brooklyn Museum where it received great fanfare and attention. The then director of the Princeton Art Museum, Peter Bunnell, wrote to Rose Pearlman asking if the collection could come to his campus after the Brooklyn show was over. It came for two years and the loan has been renewed with the foundation ever since 1976. The ultimate disposition of the collection will be in the hands of the foundation in the years to come. Its time at Princeton University has served to fulfill Henry and Rose’s wishes that the works be available for study and used as a teaching asset for many audiences in the college and beyond.
Sept. 12 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016 Princeton University Art Museum