ZURICH - Christie’s spring sale of Swiss art at the Kunsthaus Zurich on 21 March 2011 will bring together outstanding works from famous artist fathers and their equally famous sons. The top lot of the sale, which comes from a Swiss private collection, is Giovanni Giacometti’s family portrait Unter dem Holunder / Under the elder tree (1911) (estimate SFr. 1,8 – 2,5 million). The family is one of the core subjects of Giovanni Giacometti’s oeuvre. Christie’s set a world record price of SFr. 3,240,000 for the rediscovered portrait Die Mutter / The mother (circa 1911) by the artist and successfully sold two other versions of the family subject Maternité (1908) which sold for SFr. 2,640,000 in 2008 and Der Nussbaum / The walnut tree (1908) which achieved Sfr. 2,280,000 in last June’s Swiss Art sale.
Under the elder tree (1911) is set in the garden of the Giacometti’s family home in Stampa. Pictured are Giacometti’s wife Annetta (1871–1964) and their four children. Affectionately, with a smile, Annetta focuses on her daughter Ottilia (1904–1937) who turns, with her back to the viewer, towards her mother. On a chair, on his mother’s lap, sits the youngest son Bruno, who is still alive today and aged 103 years. On the left, with his face hidden behind the trunk, stands Diego (1902-1985) and at the right border, likewise with his face covered, stands Alberto (1901-1966), the eldest of the four, with his hand resting on his mother’s shoulder. As it was for his father, family was intrinsic to Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) who – for the first time since the 2006 sale of the Buste de Isaku Yanaihara (which achieved SFr. 2,6 million) from the famous Gustav Zumsteg collection - will be represented with an important bronze at a Zurich Swiss Art sale.
Alberto Giacometti’s Buste d'homme from the Collection of Franz Meyer
At first glance Alberto Giacometti’s Buste d'homme (estimate SFr. 900,000-1,200,000) has nothing to do with the family theme but it was modeled on his brother, Diego, one of Alberto’s most popular subjects. The original plaster sculpture originated in 1956 and was auctioned in November 2010 at Christie’s New York for $3,8 million. Like the plaster version, the bronze also comes from the Zurich collection of Franz Meyer (1919–2007), Marc Chagall’s son-in-law and former director of Kunstmuseum Basel. Meyer was dedicated to the oeuvre of Alberto Giacometti throughout his life. In his early career, as director of Kunsthalle Bern (1955 -1961), Meyer curated one of the first Giacometti Retrospective exhibitions worldwide. He later became a board member of the Giacometti Foundation in Zurich.
The Segantinis – the higher the better
Christie’s sale then turns from Zurich to the Engadine village of Maloja, where the late home of the Segantini family was based and subsequently turned into a museum foundation dedicated to preserving Segantini’s legacy. Like his famous father Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899) Gottardo Segantini (1882-1974) was fascinated by the light and the colours of the Swiss Alps, which are pictured in most of his paintings. In Novembertag in Soglio / November day in Soglio (estimate SFr. 120,000-180,000), one of three paintings by Gottardo Segantini offered on 21 March 2011, he pictures the light of autumn in the mountains surrounding Soglio in Bergell, a village 1000m above sea level, which his father Giovanni used to call ”the doorstep to paradise” and where the family used to reside in a little hotel when it became too cold in Maloja, which is 1800m above sea level.
The scene of a mother carrying her child accompanied by a goat with her lamb in Giovanni Segantini’s Le due madri / The two mothers (1891) (estimate SFr. 800,000-1,200,000) is situated in Savognin, a village in Graubünden, where the Segantinis were based from 1886 to 1894. Le due madri is one of four works by Giovanni Segantini, which will be offered for sale on 21 March 2011 and was once part of the collection of the Austrian steel entrepreneur Karl Wittgenstein (1847-1913), father of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Le due madri was listed as “location unknown” in the Catalogue Raisonné as it was recently rediscovered by Christie’s Head of Swiss Art Hans-Peter Keller. The reverse of the canvas of Le due madri shows a drawing, which could be identified as a study for Ave Maria a trasbordo, one of the most important works by Segantini, whose oeuvre is currently celebrated in a large exhibition at Fondation Beyeler in Basel (16.01.2011 – 25.04.2011).
Another highlight of the 154 lots offered at the Swiss Art sale will be a large group of Art brut – such as Potentats d'Imfirmités (estimate SFr. 150,000 - 200,000) by Louis Soutter (1871-1942) and Brotkunst Zeichnung: 'Riesen-Stadt Lion-Nord' (1919) (estimate SFr. 50,000 -70,000) by Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930).
A rare find
The sale on 21 March 2011 also offers art lovers the rare opportunity to acquire a work by Andreas Walser (1908–1930). Walser, who was friends with the much older Augusto Giacometti and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, joined the artistic circle around Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau in Paris at the age of 20. In the two following years, 1929-1930, he developed a comparatively extensive body of work. However, tragically in 1930, Walser took an overdose and died at 21 years of age. Part of his estate ended up in Switzerland and it was not until 1981 that it was discovered in Paris. Doppelportrait (1928) (estimate SFr. 70,000 - 90,000) was originally part of that discovered collection. In Doppelportrait Walser’s face is fractured. The style is reminiscent to the Cubists of 1920, where works showed several perspectives visible at the same time.
The sale offers several wood cuts and drawings as well as four important paintings by the Paris based Swiss artist, Félix Vallotton (1865-1925). Quai de Berville (1918) (estimate SFr. 600,00-800,000) was executed when he visited Berville accompanied by the Swedish collector Axel Ullern.
The five Cuno Amiet works on offer span from landscapes as Föhnstimmung (Zürichsee) (1943) (estimated SFr. 100,000-150,000) to Japanischer Maler, Ingres kopierend (1933) (estimate SFr. 150,000 - 200,000) – which is a ‘l’art pour l’art’ painting full of allusions. The painter dressed in a white frock is featured copying Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ important painting, Une Odalisque. This act of copying, which takes place in the Louvre, is reinterpreted by Amiet and addresses the subject of the morals of copying on the one hand as well as the theme of the artist painting a painting within a painting.
And finally, Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918). From a Swiss private collection comes Hodler’s portrait of Josef Müller (1887-1977), one of Hodler’s key supporters. Josef Müller (1887-1977) grew up in a middle-class family from Solothurn and acquired his first Hodler paintings at the early age of 20, when he was a student. In the following decades Müller became one of the most important patrons and collectors of Ferdinand Hodler, and so did his sisters Margrit, Emma and Gertrud. Bildnis Josef Müller (circa 1916, estimate SFr. 250,000-350,000) was purchased by the sister of the portrayed in July 1916 directly in the studio of the artist.
Auction Swiss Art - Kunsthaus Zürich (grand auditorium)
Monday, 21 March 2011, 6 p.m.