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  • Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's London
    January 7, 2005 LONDON, UK.

    Les Trois danseuses jaunes by Edgar Degas, est: £1,200,000-1,800,000.

    Sotheby's evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art to be held on Tuesday, February 8, 2005 features an array of works by artists for whom the female form was a central theme. From Degas' studies of ballet dancers through to Delvaux's depiction of Venus, the selection of paintings demonstrate what a vital element women played to some of the most important artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The sale includes two particularly good works on paper by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) of one of his most familiar subjects, ballet dancers. Les Trois danseuses jaunes (above), dates from circa 1897, and with its vivid colours and spontaneous application of pigment, it is a particularly vibrant example of the artist's later style, with its more impressionistic approach and explosions of colour. It is estimated at £1,200,000-1,800,000. The second work, Étude de danseuses, closely relates to Degas' most famous sculpture, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans, which Sotheby's sold last February for £5 million and which is now in the Royal Academy in London. This drawing shows the dancer in the same pose, from slightly different angles, as the finished sculpture, and represents a fascinating insight into the most important Impressionist sculpture. Executed in 1878-79, it is estimated at £250,000-350,000.

    The theme that preoccupied Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) in Paris prior to the First World War was the Caryatid. According to legend, these female figures employed as weight-bearing elements in architecture, symbolized the punishment of the women of Caryae, a town near Sparta, for betrayal in the Graeco-Persian Wars (480-479 B.C.). In depicting this pair of female nudes, the artist was less interested in anatomical details than in the highly stylized forms. Examples of Modigliani Caryatids in oil are particularly rare, so the fact that a pair is appearing at auction is unique in recent saleroom history. The estimate for the pair is £800,000-1,200,000.

    Kees Van Dongen's (1877-1968) Les Escarpins mauves of 1921 shows the painter moving into a new phase in his artistic development. After the First World War, Van Dongen's vibrant style became refined into a brilliant technique for the depiction of fashionable Parisian womanhood. In this painting he is at the peak of this form, and it is easy to understand how his popularity reached a climax in these years. It is estimated at £750,000-1,000,000.

    One of the greatest painters of women in informal, domestic settings is Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). His Dans le cabinet de toilette of 1907 is a classic portrayal of a bathing nude, simultaneously combining intimacy with monumentality. It is expected to fetch £2,000,000-3,000,000.

    Executed in 1947, Femme au chapeau belongs to a period of Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) work characterised by an increasing energy and artistic freedom after the war years. The sitter is the young painter Francoise Gilot whom Picasso first met in May 1943 and whose youthful spirit inspired him towards a new direction in his portraiture. He gradually abandoned the grey, monochromatic palette of wartime and, stimulated by a new optimism, the light of the Cote d' Azur, and his beautiful muse, he began to embrace a much lighter, livelier colour scheme. It is estimated at £2,500,000-3,500,000.

    Among the German and Austrian paintings in the sale is a major work by Max Beckmann (1884-1956), Dame mit Spiegel painted in 1943 during the artist's years in Amsterdam, which were among the most productive and innovative in his career. The long, narrow format of the work is characteristic of this period, combining the artist's feelings of confinement with a subtle sensuousness. Dame mit Spiegel is estimated at £2,500,000-3,500,000.

    One of a number of works by Egon Schiele is Sitzende mit angezogenem linken Bein (Torso), a fine example of the artist's recurrent obsession with the female figure. Although depicted clothed, the woman's suggestive pose and brilliantly painted flesh give this work a seductive, erotically charged quality. Signed and dated 1917, it is estimated at £350,000-450,000.

    From the Surrealist sale is an important work by the leading Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), La Naissance de Vénus. Painted in 1947, at a high point in Delvaux's career, it presents a modern interpretation of one of the most familiar themes of Classical mythology, echoing Sandro Botticelli's famous painting from the 15th century. It is expected to fetch £1,800,000-2,500,000.