Félix Vallotton, Coucher de soleil à Grâce, ciel orangé et violet. Est. CHF 1,800,000-2,500,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
ZURICH - This autumn, Sotheby’s Zurich auction of Swiss Art on 6 December will celebrate Félix Vallotton in a sale bringing together masterpieces by the Swiss master. Estimated between CHF 9.3 and 12.9 million, the 133- lot sale will also be spearheaded by works by eminent representatives from the 19th and 20th centuries’ Swiss art production, including Giovanni Giacometti, Cuno Amiet, Albert Anker and Ernest Biéler.
Commenting on the exceptional quality of this autumn sale, Urs Lanter, Sotheby’s Director and Swiss art expert, Sotheby’s Zurich declared : “It is a huge honour to bring to auction for the first time major works by Vallotton, some of them unknown until now, which represent an undeniable enriching of our understanding of the artist’s creative process. The solid result of our June sale – one of the strongest ever in this category – has underlined the appetite for fresh-to-the-market works which are important in the artist’s oeuvre and bear an exceptional provenance. We are confident that the exceptional quality of the forthcoming selection will generate excitement among Swiss Art collectors and attract the interest of new buyers”.
Félix Vallotton will be at the heart of the sale with seven paintings, three drawings and two prints. Most of these works come from a prestigious Zurich collection. Built over 15 years starting in the 1960s, this collection has never appeared on the market and comprises works representative of the artist’s oeuvre. Reflecting in a unique way the richness and diversity of Vallotton’s production, this group includes landscapes, still-lives and works of maturity.
Landscapes represent an important part in Vallotton’s oeuvre. Testament to the artist’s fascination for sunsets, the highlight of the sale – Sunset at Grâce, Orange and Violet Sky (Coucher de soleil à Grâce, ciel orangé et violet (lot 19) features a view of the Seine estuary from the Côte de Grâce – a recurring theme in the artist’s work inspired by his numerous summers in Normandy. Dating from 1918, this major work is one of the finest examples of sunsets painted by the artist from 1910 onward. Estimated at CHF 1,800,000-2,500,000/ˆ1,350,000–1,870,000, this composition with sharp contrasts of colour demonstrates the inspiration the painter drew from Japanese prints.
Valloton’s contribution to the Nabi movement clearly appears in Women at their toilette (Femmes à leur toilette) - with no doubt one of the most important Nabi works of the artist (lot 18). While the “intérieurs à figures” produced by Vallotton in the 1890s are characterised by moderate formats and the representation of only one figure, this large canvas of Orientalist inspiration represents a maid and three naked female figures. Estimated at CHF 900,000–1,200,000/ˆ675,000–900,000, this work contains references to Ingres’s Bain turc.
Vallotton’s art of landscape and the great inspiration he found in the Normandy countryside are shown in another work: The Fields, Plateau of the Croix-Rouge (Les champs, plateau de la Croix-Rouge) (lot 21). In his Livre de raison – a notebook in which Vallotton listed all his works until his death, the artist gives a precise description of the painting: “Paysage, betteraves, blés et choux, au fond silhouettes d’arbres, au premier plan longues ombres” (“Landscape, beetroot, wheat and cabbage fields, trees at the back and long shadows at the forefront”). Dating from 1914 and estimated at CHF 500,000–700,000/ ˆ374,000–525,000, this work was formerly in the property of the Vallotton family.
Vallotton’s interest in landscape painting is also found in Landscape at Loguivy (Paysage à Loguivy), a work dating from 1923 and featuring a beach in Brittany (lot 22, estimated at CHF 700,000–900,000/ˆ525,000–675,000) and The Tower of Goubing (La Tour de Goubing) painted in 1919 and inspired by the artist’s stay in Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais (lot 24, estimated at CHF 80,000–120,000/ˆ60,000–90,000).
The extraordinary richness of Vallotton’s production is also represented by two stilllives. Dating from 1925, as Vallotton knew he was condemned by illness, Apples, jug, glass of water and tin pan (Pommes, cruche, verre d’eau et casserole de ferblanc) is most certainly the artist’s last work since it is not listed in Vallotton’s Livre de raison (lot 23). The refined composition and execution of the work are evocative of a vanitas in which all the elements of the canvas become allegories of finitude and the transient character of life (estimate: CHF 150,000–200,000/ˆ112,000–150,000). The subject matter of this still-work heavily contrasts with Green vase and white bol (Vase vert et bol blanc), a luminous canvas dating from 1919 and estimated at CHF 100,000–150,000/ˆ75,000–112,000 (lot 20).
Among Vallotton’s prints and drawings offered for sale is a Street scene (Scène de rue) from 1895, a project cover for Les Rassemblements. Badauderies parisiennes, physiologies de la rue, published in Paris in 1896. The book included thirty prints featuring scenes of Parisian streets commented on by some of the greatest writers of the time, such as Tristan Bernard, Jules Renard, Félix Fénéon and Thadée Natanson. Illustrated left and lot 25 in the sale, this drawing is estimated at CHF 15,000–20,000/ˆ11,200–15,000.
In addition to Vallotton, major Swiss artists from the 19th and 20th centuries will be featured in the sale, including Giovanni Giacometti. One of the highlights of the sale, Piz Duan (lot 31) dates from 1908. This view of the summit from the Bergell valley during snow-melting has never appeared on the market. It was exhibited only once and has remained in the same collection, unseen by the public since it was bought from the artist in 1908. The same year, Giacometti was exhibited in the Zurich Künstlerhaus (today Kunsthaus), next to Cuno Amiet and Van Gogh whose influences are striking in this canvas (est. CHF 800,000-1,200,000/ˆ600,000–900,000) and in another work in the sale View from Stampa towards Italy (Blick von Stampa gegen Italien).Painted in 1924, this work (lot 37) is estimated at CHF 400,000–600,000/ˆ299,000-448,000.
The selection will also include a sumptuous still-life by Cuno Amiet, Stillleben from 1909 (lot 80, illustrated left). The simplification of forms and patches of colours underline the influence of the School of Pont-Aven, Van Gogh and the Expressionist movement Die Brücke over Amiet’s work(estimate: CHF 600,000–800,000/ ˆ448,000–600,000).
Complementing the offer are two works by Albert Anker, one of the most important Swiss artists of the 19th century. A watercolour, Knitting Girl by the window (Strickendes Mädchen am Fenster) features one of the painter’s favourite themes: the representation of the everyday life and the private sphere of people of his time (lot 7, estimated at CHF 120,000-180,000/ˆ90,000–135,000).
The peaceful tranquillity emanating from Anker’s painting is also reflected in a Girl with a red hair-ribbon (Mädchen mit roter Haarschleife). Dating from 1868, this work reveals the painter’s deep interest in the human being as an individual but also in his environment (lot 8, est. CHF 450,000–600,000/ˆ336,000–448,000). From Valais (Deux valaisannes) by Ernest Biéler from 1922 (lot 12, estimated at CHF 100,000–150,000/ˆ 75,000–112,000) and a work by François Bocion, The Wood Loading (Le Chargement de bois) (lot 10, estimated at CHF 80,000–120,000/ˆ 60,000–90,000).
Félix Vallotton, The Tower of Goubing (La Tour de Goubing), 1919 (Estimate: CHF 80,000–120,000/ˆ60,000–90,000)
The sale also comprises works by other major artists, such as Ferdinand Hodler, Alice Bailly, Max Bill, Marius Borgeaud, Gustave Buchet, Augusto Giacometti, Le Corbusier and Jean Tinguely.
Sale Sotheby’s Zurich, Talstrasse 83 Monday 6 December at 6pm
Public exhibition Sotheby’s Zurich, Talstrasse 83 from 3 to 5 December 2010, from 10am to 6pm
* Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer’s premium