Joan Rivers, Comedian and Amateur Painter, Dies at 81

Joan Rivers in 2011. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Actress, comedienne, and legendary fashion critic Joan Rivers died on September 4 at the age of 81. Known for both her satirical, tough-talking sense of humor and glamorous fashion sense, Rivers began her career in the late 1950s, helping to pave the way for generations of women in comedy.

When she wasn’t making perfectly pointed jabs at celebrities’ red carpet costuming, Rivers had a penchant for both art and high-end antiques. In April, Christie’s held an auction of some of her prized possessions, sourced from her beloved estate in Connecticut.

“I’d always wanted a house in Connecticut, so I spent my whole life collecting, hoping that one day I would have one—and then I did. It was filled with the things I loved,” she told the New York Times during a profile of the property. The sale featured an array of decadent decor from the 19th and 20th centuries, including a cobalt blue chandelier and a pair of Chinese cloisonne enamel vases, which hammered for over $32,000.

But what few people knew about Rivers was that in addition to her arts patronage, she was also a devoted Sunday painter, with a studio filled with oil paintings in her New York City apartment. She spoke to the Today Show about her painting practice: “My original concept was that I’d come [to the studio] and write, but I look around, and all I want to do is paint…Not one person in 10 years has asked me for a painting, that’s how bad I am.”


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