LONDON - Sotheby's London biannual sale of Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints will take place on Thursday, 29 March 2012. Superlative examples by pre-eminent artists who are leaders in the print-making field span a period of over 500 years, from the Renaissance through the Dutch Golden Age to the Pop Generation and beyond. The 181-lot auction is expected to bring in the region of £2.3 million*.
Andy Warhol’s The Scream (After Munch)
The cover lot of the sale is a screenprint of Andy Warhol’s The Scream (After Munch), produced in 1984 in a unique combination of colours that are exceptionally fresh and vibrant. Warhol’s appropriation of iconic subject matter is taken to its obvious conclusion in this work, an image that is one of the most instantly recognisable in both art history and popular culture. Viewed within the context of the Pop artist’s exploration of famous images from the history of art, Munch’s seminal masterpiece was the perfect vehicle for Warhol’s vision. Commissioned as an edition print, which was never published, Warhol’s The Scream (After Munch) exists only in unique colour variants. Warhol used Munch’s very rare lithograph of The Scream as his primary source. The present version is estimated at £150,000-200,000 (lot 166).
Headlining the Old Masters section of the sale is a monumental etching by Rembrandt that is often singled out as the masterpiece of the artist’s graphic oeuvre. Christ Crucified Between the Two Crosses: ‘The Three Crosses’ rivals the master’s paintings with an impact achieved through its subject matter and grand scale. This rare work was executed in the delicate medium of drypoint. These impressions were produced with enormous care, as Rembrandt experimented with different tone and inking effects. The artist attained extraordinary results through this medium, and here the overall effect is atmospheric and dramatic. The drypoint lines have created a rich, velvety tone, for which this print is renowned. The fourth state (of five) of 1653 is considered one of the most exciting states of this subject, and the present work exhibits drastic differences to the previous three states. Rembrandt had previously produced a series of prints that had a more serene atmosphere, chiefly realised by flooding the scene with light. In contrast, here Rembrandt uses a dense network of lines and a much sparser use of light. This not only imparts the fourth state with a more imposing atmosphere, it also diverts attention from the remains of previous states. The artist has made Christ the focal point of the print by employing sharp and powerful diagonal lines and darkened passages on the left and right, creating the illusion of two curtains drawing in on the figure of Christ. Rembrandt chooses to illustrate the moment of Christ just before his death on the cross, capturing his physical anguish and pain through the expression on his face. This highly sought after print is estimated at £250,000-350,000 (lot 23).
Christ Preaching (‘La Petite Tombe’) by Rembrandt is an etching with engraving and drypoint, circa 1652, distinguished by a very fine ‘black sleeve’ impression. The artist’s subtle use of drypoint produces a rich, velvety burr on Christ’s robe and on the sleeve of the man standing at far left in the foreground; in later ‘white sleeve’ impressions, the rich burr disappears (est. £30,000-40,000, lot 18). Among Rembrandt’s female subjects, Woman at the Bath with a Hat Beside Her, is particularly intimate, showing a nude as she prepares to bathe. This etching and drypoint from 1658 demonstrates a mastery of light and shadow and is printed on laminated Japanese paper, which imparts a softness suited to the subject (est. £40,000-60,000, lot 24). Collectors of prints by Rembrandt will be afforded the opportunity to acquire the complete album containing over 80 etchings by the artist, produced circa 1807-1809. The Receuil De Quatre-Vingt-Cinq Estampes Originales was first published in 1789 as the ‘Basan Receuil’, comprising posthumous prints of the artist’s original copper plates, and takes its name from the Parisian print dealer and publisher Pierre-François Basan. The landmark publication comprised impressions taken from Rembrandt’s original plates and was the first survey of its kind of the artist’s printed oeuvre. It was coveted by art collectors and served as an illustrated catalogue raisonné (est. £60,000-80,000, lot 39).
The sale will present a selection of British prints by C.R.W. Nevinson, Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews that capture an extremely important moment in time, the inter-war period in twentieth-century Britain. This group of artists was influenced by the Futurist and Vorticist Movements and they created powerful and dynamic images which extolled movement, noise, and the atmosphere of the era. The prints mark a significant chapter in the history of British printmaking.
Christopher Nevinson is an artist widely remembered for his powerful evocations of life in wartime. Following the record price for any Nevinson print ever sold at auction, established at Sotheby’s in 2009**, the sale will present two prints which provide a startling contrast when compared. Banking at 4000 feet is one of six lithographs from the Building Aircraft series, The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals (est. £20,000-30,000, lot 47). Commissioned and published by the Ministry of Information, this work was produced to boost morale and participation, combining the glorification of flight mechanics and technology with speed and dynamic motion. The innovative aerial perspective has been employed to generate a composition that acts as the perfect platform for the Ministry’s patriotic and futuristic agenda, with a depiction of British air power and the modern apparatus at its disposal to defeat the enemy. The Road from Arras to Bapaume illustrates the shift in Nevinson’s style from the grandeur of the mechanical age to the emphasis on the harsh realities of wartime. The subject strips away any sentimental illusions about the glory of war and focuses instead on the devastation and harsh consequences. The viewer’s eye is led down a road that cuts through the composition, bordered on each side with a flat barren landscape. The transport vehicles and soldiers that populate what appears to be a never-ending pathway now seem to trudge along at a weary pace (est. £30,000-50,000, lot 46).
Power and Andrews set up the Grosvenor School in 1925 and created linocuts with an emphasis on speed and motion. They depicted urban subjects during a period of austerity in Britain, imparting colour and movement that perfectly highlighted the ideals of the Jazz Age. Power’s Divertissement was inspired by a 1920s performance of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, and features repetitive forms in a vibrant study of stage light and shadow. The gracefulness of the dancers is successfully offset by the dynamic motion of their bodies (est. £15,000-20,000, lot 45). Andrews’ Sledgehammers portrays the energy of the workmen in a generalised depiction that strips their identity to enhance the rhythm of the motifs used to portray their bodies in movement, and the stylised background (est. £8,000-12,000, lot 43).
A print by German Expressionist Conrad Felixmüller is resonant with many of the iconographic hallmarks associated with the group of artists who were active in Germany during the early twentieth century. Produced in 1920, Kohlenbergarbeiter is a rare lithograph printed in colours with extensive hand-colouring in blue, black and orange crayon (est. £25,000-35,000, lot 53). It is the first state of two, signed and inscribed by the artist. Felixmüller developed the shape of the subject's gaunt shoulders showing the collar bone in the first state into a rounder version in the second state. He then returned to only a few versions of the first and remodelled the shoulders with colour crayon. The present work is one such example, where extensive hand revisions are applied directly on the original lithograph.
Among a diverse group of prints by Pablo Picasso are portraits of two women who played an important role in his life and art. Femme au Chapeau (Portrait de Jacqueline au Chapeau de paille multicolore) depicts Jacqueline Roque, and is a vibrant linocut in fresh condition from 1962 (est. £35,000-45,000, lot 75).
Françoise, a lithograph dating to 1946, offers a beautiful depiction of Françoise Gilot, full face and in startingly direct engagement with the viewer (est. £30,000-40,000, lot 78). Three works produced after Picasso circa 1920, published by Editions Galerie Rosenberg in Paris and signed by the artist comprise Cubist still lifes, estimat £8,000-12,000 each (lots 86-88).
The sale will present an exciting range of prints by leading Post-War and Contemporary artists. These include Study for a Bullfight No. 1 by Francis Bacon, a boldly coloured large-scale lithograph from 1971 (est. £30,000-50,000, lot 94), two lots each comprising different complete sets of four screenprints in colours, circa 2005, after paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1982-1984 (est. 25,000-35,000 [lot 99] and £30,000-50,000 [lot 100]), and Retrospect by Keith Haring, a screenprint in colours from 1989 that measures 1170 by 2080mm (est. £25,000-30,000, lot 112).
Two butterfly prints by Damien Hirst feature the beautifully iridescent and kaleidoscopic Cathedral Print: Palais des Papes, which owes its shimmering quality to the addition of diamond dust (est. £25,000-35,000, lot 114) and the single motif of a blood-red butterfly, The Souls on Jacob’s Ladder Take Their Flight (Unique), a photogravure etching printed in a unique combination of colours (est. £20,000-30,000, lot 118).
Pop Art Prints
Prints by Pop artist Andy Warhol lead the Pop Generation section of the sale. In addition to Warhol’s print of The Scream (After Munch), several iconic images by the twentieth-century master feature icons of the modern age. A screenprint of Superman from the Myths Series, produced in 1981, is estimated at £60,000-80,000 and three screenprints of Marilyn, each in different colour variations, range in estimate from £40,000-60,000 (lots 160 and 161) to £60,000-80,000 (lot 162). Warhol’s distinctive method of adopting existing images and forms from mass media and making them his own can be seen in his Anniversary Donald Duck, an impression in a unique colour combination which derives from the original version of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck (est. £25,000-35,000, lot 170). In 1985, Warhol renewed his earlier interest in advertisements. Ads: Rebel Without A Cause (James Dean) (est. £35,000-45,000, lot 171) demonstrates the artist’s appreciation of the relationship between Hollywood and consumerism. The complete set of 18 lithographs with hand-colouring of 25 Cats Name(d) Sam and One Blue Pussy, produced circa 1954, is a charming addition to the sale (est. £50,000-70,000, lot 178) and provides a stark contrast with the complete set of ten screenprints in colours of Electric Chairs, produced in 1971 (est. £40,000-60,000, lot 179).
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium
** French Troops Resting, a drypoint etching of 1916, sold for £79,250 at Sotheby’s sale of The Collection of Lord and Lady Attenborough in London on 11 November 2009.