LONDON - Sotheby’s 23rd June 2014 Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is characterised by its breadth of range within this collecting category, combined with an outstanding level of quality across the board. Encompassing works of the highest order by the most sought-after artists including Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Joan Miró and Wassily Kandinsky, to name but a few, the 46 lots in the Evening Sale are estimated to fetch a combined total in excess of £86 million / $142 million / ˆ100 million.
Sotheby’s first Impressionist & Modern Art auction of 2014, in February, achieved the highest sale total for any sale series in any category in the history of London auctions. This June, the group of works that will be presented for sale comprises a selection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper that will appeal to the most discerning of collectors, offering access to pieces from prestigious private collections and works with exceptional provenance which have been revered internationally and exhibited at the most celebrated museums and galleries.
Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide , said: “For our forthcoming Impressionist & Modern Art sales we are very excited to be offering a range of extremely appealing opportunities to a breadth of collectors. These include collectors with whom we already work closely and also a growing number of individuals around the world who are about to take the step of adding supreme Impressionist & Modern artworks to their collections. We set out to source a selection of works for this June sale that would capture the attention of the global collecting community - whether it is a monumental painting of museum-quality, or a small work on paper of extraordinary beauty and rarity – and we very much look forward to opening our London exhibition of these works in London this week. ”
Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies), est. £20-30 million / $33–50 million
Instantly recognisable and revered the world over, Claude Monet’s Nymphéas are among the most iconic and celebrated paintings in the evolution of modern art, and arguably Monet’s greatest achievement. This painting was selected by the artist to be exhibited at his seminal exhibition held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, in 1909 to unveil his Water Lily paintings in a show dedicated purely to this subject. It had also been singled out and acquired by Paul Durand-Ruel - the legendary art dealer who championed the Impressionists and represented Monet– and it remained in his personal collection throughout his lifetime. The painting has since been widely exhibited at some of the world’s most prestigious international museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, and since 2011 has been on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is this painting, together with the others in this series, that eventually led to Monet’s Les Grandes Décorations which were painted between 1914-26, now in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
Composition with Red, Blue and Grey, 1927 (est. £13-18 million / $22-30 million)
A highlight of the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is a supreme example of Piet Mondrian’s unique style, Composition with Red, Blue and Grey . This major work is one of very few to come to the market in decades. The painting’s significant size (66 by 50cm), together with its prime colour combination and balanced composition, distinguish it as one of the finest achievements of the artist’s career. The painting’s grid pattern and primary block colours represent Mondrian’s unique style and his pursuit of a purified aesthetic which became a template for both the aesthetic and the ideals of twentieth century modernism. Such was the importance of this painting that it remained in Mondrian’s private collection until he died. Composition with Red, Blue and Grey was acquired by the father of the present owner in 1959 from the renowned dealer and collector, Ernst Beyeler, and the painting has since been included in some of the most important retrospective exhibitions of Mondrian’s work, including the 1971 show at the Guggenheim, New York, and more recently the 'Mondrian\De Stijl' show held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2010-11. The work now comes to auction for the first time.
MUSEUM-QUALITY PAINTINGS FROM THE COLLECTION OF RALPH C. WILSON, JR.
The collection of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., visionary founder of the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise, who died earlier this year is highlighted by two exquisite paintings by Claude Monet that represent the pinnacle of the Impressionist movement. The collection features two landscapes by Claude Monet each of the highest calibre of their kind. Monet’s paintings of the river at Argenteuil from the 1870s are among the crowning achievements of Impressionist art, and La Seine à Argenteuil is an exquisite example (pictured left, est. £7-10 million/ $12-17 million). Now an iconic image of the period, this painting was among the works Monet chose to exhibit in the Second Impressionist Exhibition in 1876 and has since been extensively exhibited in numerous international museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, to which this work once belonged. Antibes, vue du plateau Notre Dame (pictured right, est. £6-8 million/ $10-13 million, pictured above) is one of Monet’s most vibrant and brilliantly hued compositions of the 1880s, depicting a dazzling view of the south coast of France. The painting is closely related to the version in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which bears the same title.
American Football as it is known today would not exist if it weren’t for Mr Ralph Wilson, but while he was best known as the long-time owner of the Buffalo Bills, privately he was a passionate collector of the highest order with rarified taste and foresight.
Pablo Picasso, Portrait de femme (1937), est. £4 – 6 million
Portrait de femme is a striking image of Picasso’s ‘golden muse’ Marie-Thérèse, the woman who was his model, lover, mother to his child, and who inspired one of the most prolific and celebrated outpourings of creativity in twentieth century art. Picasso’s depictions of Marie-Thérèse are among the most celebrated in his œuvre and represent the continuing technical and stylistic innovation that Picasso pursued in an effort to articulate the emotions she aroused in him. Portrait de femme belongs to a series of works painted in 1937 in which Picasso experimented with the dynamic of a figure in front of a striped background. In many of his earlier portraits of Marie-Thérèse, Picasso, responding to his arch- rival Matisse, had depicted her against elaborately decorated backgrounds, but in the present work he focuses his attention on effects of the definition of space.
Tamara de Lempicka, Suzanne au bain (circa 1938), est. £1.6 – 2 million
Suzanne au bain can be seen as among the most important works Lempicka produced during the 1930s. The artist had come to New York only a few months earlier and Suzanne au bain became a central part of her efforts to promote herself in the United States. In Suzanne au bain Lempicka offers her own, very contemporary, interpretation of the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, which transforms the painting into both a celebration of the female body and a tale for the modern age.
CLASSIC IMPRESSIONIST PAINTINGS
Auguste Renoir, Jeune femme lisant (1889), est. £1.5 - 2 million
Among the finest and most fully realised of Renoir’s pastels, Jeune femme lisant perfectly captures the grace of his young subject, affirming his position as the Impressionist master of the female figure. From the luminous translucence of the girl’s skin to the glowing russet tones of her skirt and chair, Renoir’s masterful skill as a colourist is fully realised in the present work. Jeune femme lisant was purchased from Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1889 by the esteemed collectors Mr and Mrs Henry O. Havemeyer. A large part of their remarkable collection is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art following a bequest from the family, and this work was exhibited in the museum in 1914.
Camille Pissarro, Jeanne Pissarro (dite Minette) assisse au jardin, Pontoise (circa 1872), est. £1.5 – 2.5 million
Pissarro’s intimately observed depiction of his young daughter illustrates the artist’s true mastery of technique and colour. Showing his characteristic elegance, Pissarro builds the painting with deft, individual brushstrokes combining them with a light palette that captures the essence of a warm summer’s day spent with his daughter. Although Pissarro is principally known for his urban and rural landscapes and associated closely with fellow Impressionist landscape painters Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley, human figures occupy an important place in his œuvre. As with the majority of his portraits of Minette, Pissarro kept the work as part of his personal collection and it remained with his family until after the death of his wife, Julie Pissarro, in 1926.
Joan Miró, Peinture (Homme avec Moustache) (1925), est. £600,000 - 800,000
Joan Miró’s Peinture (Homme avec moustache) is a wonderful example of his poetic Surrealist art. The painting belongs to the artist’s fabled ‘dream paintings’ cycle in which he pioneered a poetic form of abstraction that is considered to be his finest achievement. The ‘moustache’ motif central to this work was repeatedly used in his work to indicate masculinity and even humanity as a whole in the ‘dream paintings’.
Jean Arp, Point-Virgule (1927), est. £180,000 - 250,000
In 1925 Arp arrived in Paris and took a studio neighbouring those of Max Ernst and Joan Miró. Over the next few years he created a number of painted reliefs, of which Point-virgule is an exceptional example, now offered at auction from the estate of Jan Krugier. Point-virgule ’s overlapping contours and colours transcend anatomical classification and embody Arp’s sensuous aesthetic. The first owner of Point-virgule was the writer and leader of the Surrealist group André Breton, for whom the literary symbolism of the work would have held great significance.
Max Ernst, Le Désert (1929), est. £700,000 – 1 million
Painted during an important period of experimentation for Max Ernst, Le désert is a compelling and powerful testament to his technical innovation and a masterful example of the artist’s contribution to the Surrealist œuvre. Ernst had always looked for new approaches to applying pigment that broke with traditional modes of representation, and his discovery of frottage in 1925 would prove a pivotal moment in his career. In Le désert, Ernst conjures a bare and expansive landscape in which strange, almost skeletal monoliths rise from the earth like vestiges of an ancient civilisation.
Max Pechstein, Die gelbe maske I (The Yellow Mask I) - Recto, Sängerin in rot (Singer in Red) - Verso (1910), est. £1.8 – 2.5 million
An extraordinarily vibrant and enigmatic double-sided canvas, Die gelbe maske I and Sängerin in rot demonstrates Max Pechstin’s mastery of form and colour at its maturity. Using brilliant colours, applied in thick brushstrokes and blended directly on the canvas, these two images represent the glamorous demi-monde of Berlin.
The bohemian tradition of the depiction of risqué entertainments had its roots in the art of Toulouse-Lautrec in the late nineteenth century and, more recently, in the work of Kees van Dongen in Paris. In Die gelbe Maske I and Sängerin in rot Pechstein draws on these two rich seams. By the time Pechstein painted Die gelbe Maske I and Sängerin in rot ,.
Wassily Kandinsky, Herbstlandschaft (1911), est. £3 – 5 million
This ground-breaking work represents Kandinsky’s achievement of the almost totally abstract idiom which he conceived in 1909-1911 alongside the completion of his text On the Spiritual in Art. Works from this crucial period still possessed specific figurative elements which possessed symbolic qualities for the artist, such as the folkloric representation of a lake with boats or the horse and rider, and almost all of them included the sharply defined motif of a mountain. These early near-abstract works are vital to understanding Kandinsky’s concept of abstraction which would influence the development of painting during the twentieth century.
Emil Nolde, Südseeinsel (South Sea Island) (1915), est. £500,000 - 700,000
Südseeinsel epitomises Emil Nolde’s fascination with colour and reflects the artist’s desire to provide not just a depiction of nature, but to express his emotional response to it, to create a visual equivalent of a physical experience. Attracted by the wilderness and vitality of the exotic, Nolde accepted an offer to travel to New Guinea as part of a scientific expedition organised by the German Colonial Office. On his return to Berlin he continued to produce pictures inspired by his journeys, which are characterised by a provocative palette of reds, blacks, and greens placed in stark contrast in thickly impastoed paint.