Paul Gauguin, Nègreries Martinique, 1890. Gouache, watercolour, ink, gold and collage on paper, 33.2 x 24.8 cm. Est. £300,000-400,000/ $500,000-650,000.
LONDON - On 5 and 6 February 2014, Sotheby’s London will present over 100 masterworks from a collection that has captivated the imagination of world connoisseurs since it was first unveiled 14 years ago: The Private Collection of Jan Krugier. A survivor of the Holocaust, the legendary art dealer – perhaps best known for his involvement with the work of Picasso – walked through life believing in the redemptive potential of art. Together with his wife, Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, he amassed one of the world's most spectacular collections of works on paper through which he was able to connect particularly closely with the artists he admired the most.
As he described it: “Marie-Anne and I began gathering works on paper by artists of all periods, their common denominator being an intrinsic timeless quality, a same universal, unique approach to the world and to things. It is also, somehow, an inner voyage, an ardent quest and a summing up of our tastes and our artistic aspirations.”
These were the works that they chose to hang in their private home.
Spanning the history of art from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, the group to be offered incorporates powerful works by the greatest names of their time: Goya, Delacroix, Géricault, Corot, Turner, Degas, Manet, Bonnard, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Matisse, Klee, Picasso and Giacometti.
Many of the works were included in a series of celebrated exhibitions of the Krugier’s private collection, which were shown at museums in Berlin, Venice, Madrid, Paris, Vienna and Munich.
Commenting on the forthcoming sale of the collection, Helena Newman, Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department, Europe, said: “Jan Krugier’s private collection is testament to a definitive journey in the history of the 20th century. Through it we come close to the mind and soul of this extraordinary man. Each work reflects his erudition, his devotion to art, boundless curiosity and inherent independence from convention. Regardless of their period of creation, these works of artistic genius describe a timeless vision of humanity, with unequaled power of expression. It is extremely rare for a private collection to boast such quality and variety and its appearance on the market will constitute a landmark event in 2014”.
Together estimated to realise in excess of £24 million (US$39 million), all 119 lots capture what Krugier looked for in art: “a deep spirit, something sacred and deeply experienced”.
Alberto Giacometti played a major role in Jan Krugier’s personal life and career. Krugier met the Swiss artist during a summer in the Alps in 1947 when he was himself a young artist. He became a valued confidant and it was he who encouraged Krugier to become an art adviser and gallerist: “After all that you have been through, you do not need a monologue, but a dialogue… You understand artists better than anyone else.” As a collector, Krugier was looking for the “be or not be” in art, as reflected in a group of drawings and sculpture by Giacometti led by the iconic bronze sculpture.
The February auctions feature Homme traversant une place par un matin de soleil, conceived in 1950 (est. £3-5 million/$5-8 million). While many have viewed Giacometti’s “walking man” as emblematic of the horrors of World War II, it is also a primary example of the visual depiction of Sartre’s existential man, moving through life, alone, yet free and responsible for his actions.
Picasso is certainly the artist most associated with Krugier’s career and his works occupy the core of his collection. Krugier met the Spanish master just once - in Paris in 1947 – but the effect was immediate and intense: Krugier was so deeply affected by Picasso, and in particular by the intensity of his eyes, that he was rendered speechless. Following Picasso’s death in 1973, Marie-Thérèse Walter, the artist’s long-time muse and lover entrusted him with her collection and in 1976, he became the sole agent for the collection of Picasso’s works inherited by the artist’s granddaughter, Marina.
The offering includes 18 works by Picasso, mainly works on paper, covering the key periods in the artist’s career, from 1902 to 1967. The Minotaur – a recurring figure in Picasso’s oeuvre dominates Composition au Minotaure, a gouache on paper executed in 1936 (est. £1.8-2.5 million/$3-4 million). Picasso’s use of the Minotaur as a symbol of the duality of violence and gentleness in all men profoundly echoes the experience of Jan Krugier who “discovered very young that there is a cohabitation of good and evil in human beings” and tried “to find something that sublimates this in the art” he surrounded himself with.
Picasso’s power of expression is captured in La Femme qui pleure I, a portrait belonging to a series of weeping women that the artist created in 1937, following the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War (est. £1.2-1.8 million/$ 1.94-2.9 million).
Exceptional works from the artist’s classicist period are found in a portrait of a young boy, Tête de jeune homme, executed in 1923 (est. £1-1.5 million/$1.5-2 million) and a stunning portrait of Dora Maar, Dora Maar à la coiffe from 1936 (est. £350,000-450,000/$600,000-800,000).
The collection is also distinguished by masterful Impressionist works, including a sublime pastel by Edgar Degas depicting a woman at her toilette – a theme central to the artist’s oeuvre which underlines his mastery of pastel. Dating from circa 1893, Femme s’essuyant les pieds is a work of genius in its subtlety of line and the boldness of its composition (est. est. £1-1.5 million/$1.5-2 million).
A group of post-impressionist works is spearheaded by three dazzling watercolours by Cézanne - a medium that the artist considered as a unique means of expression in its own right and which allowed him to combine drawing and painting. Executed in 1902-1904, Femme Assise (Madame Cézanne) is one of Cézanne’s late masterpieces in the medium. Its timeless beauty appealed to a series of prominent collectors before Jan Krugier, including Ambroise Vollard, Paul Rosenberg and Robert von Hirsch (est. £1-1.5 million/$1.5-2 million).
Watercolour inspired some of Paul Klee’s most exquisite works, as seen in Mit dem Eingang, a magnificent example of his “magic square” paintings, realised in 1931 (est. £300,000-500,000/ $500,000-800,000) and Vollmond in Mauern from 1919 (est. £300,000-500,000/$500,000-800,000).
FRANCISCO DE GOYA
Jan Krugier was both a connoisseur of art and humanity and his collection mirrors his lifelong quest for works that involve the viewer both visually and intellectually. Krugier once confessed that looking at drawings helped him overcome demons of the past and Francisco de Goya’s remarkable depiction of a man with a distressed expression entitled Loco (Madman) would probably have been be one of them (est. £700,000-900,000/$1.2-1.5 million). This prodigious drawing – one of four by Goya in the sale - is among the most powerful and extraordinary late works of the painter contained in the “Bordeaux albums”, an ensemble of works drawn during the artist’s exile in France, between 1824 and his death in 1828.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres described drawing as the “probity of art” and his work features strongly in Krugier’s private collection. In Three studies for the figure of Stratonice, Ingres works towards the final, eloquent depiction of the figure of Stratonice in his painting, Antiochus and Stratonice, commissioned in 1834 by the Duc d’Orléans, and completed in 1840. With its pensive mood, great technical variety and instinctively brilliant mise-en-page, this drawing - in some ways strikingly modern - is as profoundly beautiful and revealing as any that Ingres ever made. It captures the essence of his genius and shows how he created forms that, to quote Baudelaire, naturally attain the ideal (est. £350,000-450,000/$600,000-800,000).