Joaquín Sorolla, Pescadores valencianos. Est. £1,000,000-1,500,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- The wealth and diversity of Europe’s cultural and artistic heritage will be broadly represented at Sotheby’s 19th Century European Paintings sale on 20 November 2012 with works from the most prominent Continental artists. Leading the way is Spain’s greatest exponent of the period, Joaquín Sorolla with Pescadores valencianos, a work that marks a stylistic watershed in the artist’s oeuvre, was recognised at the time as a masterpiece and boasts a very distinguished provenance. The Spanish paintings section of the sale also includes museum-quality works by Ignacio Zuloaga, Ramón Casas, Ricardo Canals and Santiago Rusiñol that provide an eclectic composite of the artistic scene at the turn of the 20th century in Spain.
As the world’s unrivalled auctioneer of the work by Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923), Sotheby’s has been entrusted to offer a masterpiece by the Valencian artist. Painted in 1895 on the beach at Valencia, Pescadores valencianos celebrates the labour of the local fishermen in a composition that announces the emergence of Sorolla's mature style. The painter masterfully captures the dazzling sunlight as it reflects off the foaming sea washing over the men's feet as they clean their fishing nets. The works from this period proved to be pivotal in that they revealed the themes and language for which Sorolla became renowned.
In I896, Sorolla presented Pescadores valencianos at the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Berlin where the jury unanimously awarded it highest honours - a gold medal. At the time, the influential and charismatic art curator Hugo von Tschudi had just been appointed to direct the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and this work became one of his first acquisitions for the institution. The museum de-accessioned the work in 1930 and since then it has remained in distinguished private collections and has been included in the most important exhibitions on the artist in the United States and Europe, among them the comprehensive retrospective at the Prado in 2009. It appears for sale at auction for the first time ever with an estimate of £1,000,000 to 1,500,000*.
A year before painting this work, Sorolla had executed his landmark La vuelta de la pesca, in which the boat and oxen dominate the composition. Exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1895, the painting was purchased for the Musée du Luxembourg, and now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay. It was on his return to Valencia, following his Paris triumph, that he embarked on the present painterly tour-de-force, the quality of which was immediately evident to public and critics alike.
Adrian Biddell, Head of 19th Century European Paintings art Sotheby’s in London said: “Pescadores Valencianos is one of the finest oil paintings by Sorolla ever to appear at auction, and one of his earliest canvases to have been painted outdoors, not in the studio. It fully captures his love of his native Valencia and his intense fascination for the fishing community there. A landmark work, its subject matter and style would go on to influence Sorolla for the next quarter century, and the work itself has remained in quite excellent condition ever since.”
Following the establishment of a new world record for Ignacio Zuloaga (1870 – 1945) with the sale of Madame Souty reclining on a sofa for £713,250 in November 2011, Sotheby’s is delighted to offer one of the artist’s most provocative nudes, La Oterito. Painted in 1936 in Paris, this sensual portrait depicts Eulalia Franco, a flamenco dancer and singer famously known as La Bella Oterito. Set in the sitter’s dressing room, the velvet curtain pulled back to the left of the composition simultaneously alludes to the artist's debt to the Spanish Baroque and to Eulalia’s career on the stage.
Like many men who had seen La Oterito perform, Zuloaga was mesmerized by her smouldering performance and spell-binding looks. The complicity between the sitter and the artist breathes through this cunning composition; La Oterito sports little more than a bullfighter's short-cropped chaquetilla. Zuloaga masterfully captures the passionate chemistry between the model and the painter, the artist referencing himself in the portrait of the bullfighter in the background above La Oterito’s right shoulder. La Oterito has remained in the family of the artist and has been exhibited in London, Venice and widely in Spain. It now appears on the market for the first time ever with an estimate of £500,000 to 700,000.
This sale includes three superb works that have been in distinguished private collection for as long as half a century. Painted in 1904 at Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, A Balcony at the Bullfight by Ricardo Canals (1876-1931) measures over 2.5 metres in width, making it the largest and most imposing work by the artist that has appeared at auction. Following the artistic device used by Renoir, Manet, and Goya before him, Canals turns the spectators into the spectacle. The finely attired ladies attend the social occasion and become the actors on the stage. The central models for this monumental canvas are Fernande Olivier and Benedetta ('Bianco') Coletti. Later that same year when Picasso arrived at Bateau Lavoir, Fernande became his muse and lover while Bianco became Canal's lover and later his wife. This work is the most important by Canals that has appeared at auction and is estimated at £200,000 to 300,000, which could establish a record for the artist.
Following his solo exhibition at the Sala Parés in Barcelona in 1900, Ramón Casas (1866-1932) established himself as the leading portrait artist in Spain. In 1905, Casas met Julia Peraire, who became the artist’s muse, mistress and, eventually, wife. This portrait from 1908, Julia, is a rare and early work and catches the model in a moment of relaxed abandon and one of the more sensual renderings of his lover. Julia was 22 years younger than Casas and although he painted her on numerous occasions, it is rare that a portrait of her appears on the market. This is the first time in over 30 years that a portrait of his muse has come up for sale at an international auction. (Est. £200,000-3000,000).
The Blue Terrace, Arenys by Santiago Rusiñol (1861 – 1931) is the third in a series of four views of this distinctive 'blue courtyard' at the home of his friend and publisher Antoni Lopez in Arenys de Munt. The first and second versions of this vibrant garden are in the Museum d'Art Modern, Barcelona, and the Generalitat de Catalunya, respectively. As well as a painter, Rusiñol was an avid and polemic Modernist writer calling for cultural regeneration in the arts in Catalonia, from art to literature, and interestingly the title of the present work was also the title of one of his theatre plays. This rediscovered work has not been seen in public in almost a century and is estimated at £200,000 to 300,000.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium.