Joan Miró, Peinture (Étoile Bleue). Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON - Hot on the heels of the recent, widely acclaimed exhibitions dedicated to Joan Miró at Tate Modern in London, the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Sotheby’s London today announces the sale of a landmark work by the artist: Peinture (Étoile Bleue) – which is among the most important works by Miró ever to come to the market and a painting that the artist himself identified as absolutely key to his oeuvre. Having formerly belonged to André Lefevre, a leading collector and connoisseur of early 20th century art, this masterpiece of modern art comes to the market at a moment when demand for iconic works of this period is at an all-time high and leads Sotheby’s landmark Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in London on 19th June 2012.
According to Helena Newman, Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department, Europe, “Peinture (Étoile Bleue) is one of Miró’s most important paintings, effortlessly bridging the transition between figurative and abstract art. His works from this period are supremely modern, timeless and of great universal appeal, making this precisely the type of painting that today’s international collectors are looking for. Peinture (Étoile Bleue) comes to the market at a time of unprecedented demand for iconic modern masterpieces.”
Set upon a field of magnetically charged azure, Miró’s Peinture (Étoile Bleue) belongs to the artist’s seminal ‘dream paintings’ cycle, examples of which can be found in major international museums such as the Musée National d'Art Moderne (Centre Pompidou, Paris), the Fondation Beyeler (Basel), the Tate Gallery (London) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York). Characterised by the same, luscious blue palette (which was later to influence artists such as Mark Rothko and Yves Klein), this cycle marks the key moment of the artist’s engagement with the Surrealist movement. Later in his life, Miró specifically identified Peinture (Étoile Bleue), executed in 1927, as central to this period of his career, and to his oeuvre as a whole. Miró’s achievements as a Surrealist painter were recognised by Breton himself, who said that Miró“ may be looked upon as the most Surrealist among us”.
In the dream paintings cycle, Miró developed the symbolism that was to inform his work for the rest of his career. Peinture (Étoile Bleue) is a work of incredible intensity and visual harmony.
Further highlights from the Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art
Homme assis, 1972
(estimated at £6-9 million/ US$ 9.50-14.2 million / ˆ 7.4-11 million)
In his last decade Picasso commented, “I have less and less time and I have more and more to say” – Homme assis is a remarkable example of Pablo Picasso’s mature style, brimming with verve and stylish intention. Having gone through many phases of stylistic and technical experimentation, in his later years Picasso pared down his style to paint monumental works with rapid, spontaneous brushstrokes. As often in Picasso’s late works, he portrayed elements of his personality as an enigmatic musketeer, and the lustrous colour of Homme assis endows the figure with a vivid presence inspired by artists such as El Greco, Rembrant and Velázquez. Just one month after the artist’s death in 1973, Homme assis was included in the second of two landmark exhibitions staged at the Palais des Papes, together with a selection of other works handpicked by the artist.
Nu Debout, 1930 (est: £ 4.5-5.5 million/ US$ 7.1-8.7 million / ˆ 5.5-6.8 million)
From the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd
Nu Debout is a masterpiece from Pierre Bonnard ’s mature period and comes from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, preeminent American philanthropists and collectors of art. Hung in the living room of the duplex on Beekman Place in New York City, this work is a fascinating example of Bonnard’s own domestic interiors. Such pictures are often dominated by his wife Marthe, who is shown here drying herself after a bath, and the setting is probably in the couple’s home in Le Cannet. Focus on Bonnet’s nudes has been particularly strong in recent months following the landmark exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler.
La Seine à Bougival, 1869
(est: £2.2–3.2 million/ US$ 3.5-5.1 million / ˆ 2.7-3.9 million)
Winter landscapes fascinated Monet throughout his career and La Seine à Bougival
is an outstanding early example of this important theme. Armed with a heater and laden with overcoats, the artist would venture outside with his easel on the coldest days and La Seine à Bougival is one of five snowscapes the artist painted there during the winter of 1869–70. This preoccupation with snowy landscapes would extend to several other Impressionist painters, including Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissaro, though Monet’s ‘effet de neige’ paintings are often viewed as the most successful examples of the theme and this is early example of Monet’s use of broken brush marks to convey the ambience of his surroundings.
Terrasse de Meudon, 1899
(est: £ 3-5 million/ US$ 5.5-7.1 / ˆ4.3-5.5 million)
Terrasse de Meudon, a dazzling example of Paul Signac ’s mature Pointillist compositions, applies the freshest tones of his palette to the landscape of the Seine valley with Paris in the distance. The artist’s outstanding contribution to Modern art is exemplified by this work.
Kees van Dongen
(est: £3-5 million/ US$ 5.5-7.9 million / ˆ 4.3-6.1 million)
Following the early success of the artist’s Fauvist paintings, Kees van Dongen’s Lailla reflects the artist’s fascination with the demi-monde of the French capital and its cast of actresses, dancers and prostitutes. Works such as this propelled van Dongen to the forefront of the Parisian art scene, both for his striking palette and daring subject matter, with Lailla also betraying his special interest in the Orient. The dramatic palette of pastel greens and yellows is typical of van Dongen's early work, revealing his enduring fascination with the female form.
L’Arbre de Jessé, 1960
(est: £3-5 million/ US$ 4.8-7.9 million / ˆ 3.7-6.1 million)
Marc Chagall’s L’Arbre de Jessé comes from the Estate of achitect Marcus Duener, a close friend of the artist. The work was acquired directly from Chagall and has remained with the family ever since. Historically, the Tree of Jesse was a common subject for church windows, such as that at Chartres, and Chagall himself worked on his own commissions for stained glass windows when he painted this work. With its combination of Biblical, folkloric and personal symbolism, the choice of jewel-like colours create the same luminescent quality and transparency as stained glass.
Deux Femmes Couchées, 1945
(est: £2–3 million/ US$ 3.2-4.8 million / ˆ 2.5-3.7 million)
Unseen in public for 66 years Paul Delvaux’s Deux Femmes Couchées is among the artist’s most sensuous compositions. An alluring example of Surrealist art, it explores his fascination with perspective while these passive women recall the timeless beauty of a Botticelli. As with most of Delvaux’s paintings, the meaning behind the scene remains unclear, inviting speculation about the relationship between the two women.
Entwurf zu grüner Rand (1919)
Est. £750,000 –900,000/ US$ 1,185,000-1,423,000/ˆ920,000-1,110,000
Schweben (Floating) (1924)
Est. £ 450,000-600,000/ US$ 711,000-950,000/ ˆ 555,000-740,000
Eight Watercolours from a Distinguished Private Collection
(combined est: £3.85-4.95 million/ US$ 5.9-7.7 million / ˆ4.1 –6 million)
A comprehensive group drawn from a Distinguished Private Collection, the eight watercolours by Wassily Kandinsky featured in this sale not only exemplify their respective periods, but also epitomise the qualities of expression for which Kandinsky’s entire oeuvre is celebrated, affording an overview of Kandinsky’s role in the birth of Abstraction and his life-long experimentation with different modes of artistic representation.
The works act as a survey of Kandinsky’s career: Ohne Titel comes from a brief but seminal trip to Sweden in 1916; the magnificent Entwurf zu grüner Rand of 1919 is an important example of his work from post-revolutionary Russia; Kandinsky’s Bauhaus years are gloriously illustrated by four exemplary works including the wonderful Schweben of 1924; and finally his triumphant years in Paris are represented by La Forme Blanche and Etude pour ‘Contraste reduits’. Rarely does such a complete set of works come to the market and this group is a testament to the passionate collecting and profound understanding of the present owner.
Sitzender Akt Mit Blondem Hair, 1931
(est: £ 4-6 million/US$ 6.3-9.5 million / ˆ 4.9-7.4 million)
The pioneer of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, Otto Dix created some of the most electrifying images of the female form in 20th century art. Influenced by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, his depictions of women are unconventional, stripped of any superficial traces to reveal the subject’s true, and occasionally grotesque, self. Sitzender Akt mit blondem Haar (Seated nude with blond hair) is a particular testament to Dix’s technical skill. By applying the paint in many thinly glazed layers upon a white primed support, the surface of his work glows, creating the appearance of textual depth and emotional profundity and bestowing the sitter’s skin and hair with an iridescent glow.
Stilleben mit Violetten Dahlien, 1926
(est: £ 1-1.5million/ US$ 1.6-2.4 million / ˆ 1.2-1.8 million)
Stilleben mit Violetten Dahlien is one of Max Beckmann’s finest allegorical still-lifes from his Frankfurt period. In 1925, Beckmann married his second wife, the young violinist Mathilde von Kaulbach, and music was central to the couple’s courtship and marriage. Music was also hugely symbolic in Beckmann’s paintings–here, as so often, he imbues the instruments with feminine symbolism, with the curved guitar symbolising Mathilde.
Composition aux deux danseuses, 1929
(est: £ 1.5-2 million/ US$ 2.4-3.2 million / ˆ 1.8-2.5 million)
Composition aux deux danseuses is an impressive example of Fernand Léger’s influential post-war style. The combination of the dancing nudes and Art Deco inspired shapes shows the masterful manner Léger in which approached the Cubist aesthetic. The work also draws on contemporary influences, with the cinema referenced in the film reel shapes shown far left
Mother and Child with Apple, 1956
(est: £ 1.8 –2.8 million/ US$ 2.9-4.4 million / ˆ 2.2-3.4 million)
‘I discovered when drawing, I could turn every little scribble, blot or smudge into a Mother and Child…so that I was conditioned, as it were, to see it in everything. I suppose it could be explained as a ‘Mother’ complex’ (Henry Moore). Mother and Child with Apple is one of the most elegant and compelling of Moore’s interpretations of a theme which has traditionally inspired some of Europe’s greatest painting and sculpture; a motif which Moore turned to repeatedly in his oeuvre. The second cast from an edition of ten, this richly textured bronze sculpture epitomises the artist’s masterful approach to the depiction of the human figure, balancing playfulness and monumentality.