Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tête de femme (Dora Maar), signed 'Picasso' (lower left); dated ཕ mai 41' (on the stretcher), oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 13 1/8 in. (41 x 33.5 cms). Painted 25 May 1941. Est $6.5-8.5 million. © Christie's Images Ltd. 2007.
NEW YORK - Christie’s New York will show Faces in Art ~ Iconic Portraiture, a select exhibition of paintings from the fall sales of Impressionist and Modern, Post-War and Contemporary and Latin American Art as well as Old Master Paintings that will run from October 29 through 31. Captured in time between Rubens’ intimate Two studies of a young man, head and Andy Warhol’s sexy Liz, Iconic Portraiture will pay homage to the power of and in the face. As ‘looking at’ invariably evokes a sense of ‘being looked at,’ Faces in Art will provide gentle confrontation and genuine engagement with the floating and the fixed, the questions and the answers, and the same eternal mysteries reflected in every portrayed pair of eyes throughout time.
Guy Bennett, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s New York: “We are absolutely thrilled to open our galleries to the public with this outstanding group of portraits. While masterpieces in their own right, presented as an ensemble they also highlight the crucial position each of these artists occupy in the great pantheon of art. For three days only, this viewing at Rockefeller Center will depict the influences and dialogue between these great masters over the last four hundred years.”
Sir Peter Paul Rubens’s masterly Two studies of a young man, head, was painted between 1615 and 1617 and was a preparatory study for Melchior who would later appear in the artist’s The Adoration of the Magi, currently in the Musee des Beaux Arts in Lyon. The work shows a Levantine head, pictured en face and en profil, and wearing a plain shirt and leather hat. The painting was rediscovered in 1934, as part of the contents of a box acquired at an auction in England and became part of the collection of the Dutch businessman Anton Philips. It was displayed on few occasions but did make appearances at the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels and during the seminal exhibitions devoted to Rubens oil sketches at The Museum Boymans van Beuningen in Rotterdam in 1953. The work will be flanked by a Jan Lievens’s Vanitas and Quinten Metsys’s Portrait of a gentleman.
The sensuous, colorful contours of the Odalisque have mesmerized artists for centuries with even the great masters such as Picasso and Matisse succumbing to her seductive charms. Matisse’s L’Odalisque, harmonie bleue portrays his typical femme-fleur, languishing and lost in the exotic and luxuriant decor of a secluded environment which is so attractive to the voyeuristic gaze. Picasso’s Femme accroupie au costume turc (Jacqueline), painted on 26 November 1955, is the crowning painting in a group of ten portraits of his companion Jacqueline Roque and based on Delacroix’s Les Femmes d’Alger. It shows the sensual and very Delacroix-exotic looking Jacqueline in a colorful and strikingly patterned Matisse-inspired interior.
An intensely subtle and delicate work is Cezanne’s rendition of Vallier, the gardener who tended the property surrounding Cezanne’s studio at Chemin des Lauves. Executed in pale blues and greens, Portrait de Vallier breathes calmness, stillness and the quiet contentment and ease this loyal gardener and companion clearly felt in the company of Paul Cezanne. The portrait fits into a series of peasant and laborers depictions which Cezanne had begun in the late 1880s but it transcends these works in its powerful emotional charge.
Where Cezanne’s Vallier is the epitome of serene delicacy, Modigliani’s Portrait du sculpteur Oscar Miestchaninoff vibrates with concentrated energy and confidence. Although structured through linear rhythms, reminiscent of African art and of Modigliani’s work as a sculptor, Miestchaninoff is very much a real-life person with real-life traits running through the work. Head and neck are slightly tilted, the position of the hands reveals a shimmer of awkwardness, the striking rosy-red cheeks transform what could have been mask-like features into living flesh – here is a strikingly alive portrait of a sympathetic friend, a fellow émigré artist, and with every stroke of the brush, Modigliani expresses his desire to make life throb through the work.
Coolly sexy and stunningly beautiful, Andy Warhol’s Liz, is part of a series of portraits the artist executed in the 1960s when his near-obsession with the three legendary muses in his life – Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe – drove him to create some of the most iconic portraits of the 20th century. He chose to portray his three semi-goddesses during times of utter distress and beyond but the Liz portraits take a different stance as they eventually came to portray her recovery after a near-lethal illness. In Warhol’s own words: “I started those a long time ago when she was so sick and everybody said she was going to die. Now I am doing them all over, putting bright colors on her lips and eyes.” And Liz is nothing if not alive, showing blood-red lips, a splashy turquoise background and the legendary fatally attractive violet eyes.
The iconic and very much public image of Liz is juxtaposed with Lucian Freud’s highly intimate Ib and her husband, a deadly honest and deeply intriguing portrait of Freud’s daughter Isobel and her partner. The scene shows Ib and her partner, huddled together on a brown rug in the artist’s studio and provides a close-up view which creates an extreme sense of intense proximity. Ib features in many of her father’s works and this painting offers another splendid example of the intricate and complex father-daughter relationship.
Famous for his family portraits, the Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang will be represented with Bloodline Series: Mother with Three Sons (The Family Portrait), painted in 1993.
Tamayo’s Trovador, 1945, stems from a period in the artist’s career when he consolidated his pictorial style, masterly walking the fine line between arte puro and arte social-politico. Trovador, the wandering singer who beseeches his audience with plaintive eyes, strumming his guitar in an image that conveys the sturdy self-possession of the musician and his resilience against a world of suffering, could very well be the archetypal image of man facing the world, Everyman.
Sales and Dates: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, New York, November 6. Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, New York, November 13. Latin American Art, New York, November 19. Asian Contemporary Art, Hong Kong, November 25. Important Old Master and British Pictures, including Property from the Collection of Anton Philips, London, December 6.