The Truth About Greta Garbo's Impressive Art Collection

Greta Garbo was a renowned actress who is still remembered today for her alluring glamour and beauty (via Britannica). The Swedish native was born into poverty and began acting in the early 1920s. Biography writes that she was working at a department store when she was discovered. Garbo subsequently starred in "The Legend of Gosta Berling" and "Streets of Sorrow." Both were silent films that were widely popular in Europe. In 1925, she moved to the United States to launch her American career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Per Turner Classic Movies, she made a series of successful American silent films between 1926 and 1927.

In 1930, Garbo appeared in her first "talkie," "Anna Christie." This was followed up by "Romance." Ultimately, the films and the revelation of her sensual voice propelled Garbo into superstardom. The New Yorker reports that the actress's refinement and her distinct androgynous beauty only added to her appeal. Although she continued to make films into the 1930s, her success began to wane. In 1941, she starred in "Two-Faced Woman." The film flopped and Garbo decided that her time in Hollywood was up. As The Christian Science Monitor explains, she was never truly interested in fame. At heart, Garbo was all about art.

Greta Garbo began her collection after her retirement

In 1941, 36-year-old Greta Garbo retired from acting for good (via The New Yorker). The BBC reports that she starred in a total of 28 films in her brief career. Although Biography states that she retired due to disagreements over her contract with MGM, others blame Garbo's tendency to isolate herself. According to Time, she never did interviews or attended film premieres. Garbo also refused to interact with fans. When she announced her retirement, the icon left Hollywood and moved to New York City. Garbo lived by herself and never married or had children. At one point, Garbo almost decided to return to acting but chose to stay put in her New York City apartment (per Britannica).

Christie's Auction House writes that she focused her energy on collecting art. In 1942, she acquired two paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and another by Pierre Bonnard. These were her first big art purchases and the collecting only continued from there. Per Town & Country, Garbo later preferred abstract and expressionist art. She had several friends in the art world and took advantage of their knowledge.

Greta Garbo loved color

Although Garbo is remembered for her black & white filmography, Christie's reports that when it came to art, she loved color. Many paintings in her collection featured shades of greens and pinks. Despite learning about art from other connoisseurs, she always chose not what was in fashion, but what she wanted. One of her friends later stated, "She had natural taste" (via Architectural Digest). Town & Country writes that some examples of these colorful paintings include "La Femme à l'Ombrelle ou La Parisienne" by Robert Delaunay, and "Femme à la poupée" by Chaïm Soutine, among others.

The former was said to be one of Garbo's favorites and she expressed to her grandniece, Gray Horan, that "It makes a dour Swede happy" (per Vogue). She reportedly purchased the painting for $30,000 in 1964. Garbo was said to have often sat and admired the painting with a drink and a smoke. Additionally, she had artwork by Kees van Dongen and Alexei von Jawlensky.

Greta Garbo housed her collection in her New York City apartment

Greta Garbo died on April 15, 1990 at the age of 84 (per Britannica). According to Architectural Digest, Garbo lived in a Manhattan apartment located at 450 East 52nd Street. She filled her residence with her extensive art collection, antiques, and much more. In fact, almost every inch was covered in paintings or other relics she had amassed throughout the years. Garbo especially loved floral artwork and anything that was infused with drama and color. Known to be a trendsetter, it's believed she helped von Jawlensky become a popular artist.

Per The New York Times, Garbo's grandniece Gray Horan inherited her entire estate. A few months after her death, some of her artwork was set to be auctioned off. Garbo Forever writes that this auction earned $19 million. In 2017, another auction of Garbo's artwork was announced by Christie's.

Her favorite painting, "La Femme à l'Ombrelle ou La Parisienne," was included in this sale. Although it's unknown what it eventually sold for, Town & Country states that it was believed to be worth anywhere between $4 million and $7 million. As for her apartment, it stayed in Garbo's family much as she left it for years after her death. They later sold it for $8.5 million in 2018.