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  • Monet's Parlement Leads Impressionist and Modern Art
    November 03, 2004 NEW YORK.

    Monet's 'The Parliament, London, Effect of Sun in the Fog' (detail) which is set to become the most expensive view of London by the Impressionist artist ever sold. Christies Handout/Getty Images.

    Christie’s fall sales of Impressionist and Modern Art, taking place on November 3 and 4 at Rockefeller Center, will again evoke the many atmospheres, styles, palettes and themes characteristic of the intense and often revolutionary artistic endeavors that were started by the Impressionists and carried forward by the early 20th century European artists. Led by historic masterpieces, some of which have not been on the market for decades, the sale will offer several estates and private collections including Property from the Estate of Nathan L. Halpern; Property Restituted to Baron Pierre de Gunzburg and his Family, the Heirs of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hirsch and Property from a French Private Collection highlighting Londres, le Parlement, effet de soleil dans le brouillard, one of Monet’s breathtaking views on the Houses of Parliament clad in London’s fog, backlit by orange and red sunlight penetrating the mist.

    An anglophile at heart, Claude Monet embarked upon a monumental project when in September 1899, he rented a suite in London’s fashionable Savoy Hotel on the North Bank of the Thames with panoramic views of Waterloo Bridge and Charring Cross Bridge. In addition, he also made frequent visits to the balcony of St. Thomas’ Hospital, separated from the Houses of Parliament only by the Thames. These two locations became his pied-a-terre from 1899 till 1904 while he worked on the series of ninety-five views of the two famous Bridges and the London parliament. Londres, le Parlement, effet de soleil dans le brouillard (estimate: $12,000,000-18,000,000) is arguably one of the finest paintings of this fabled series and having never been on the open market since it was painted 110 years ago, it comes with a spectacular provenance. The extraordinary light effects offered by London during the winter months - Monet’s main reason for undertaking the series - are expressed in all their sublimity, the Houses of Parliament being mere specters in a city that is completely silent and timeless. Of the three series, Monet was most satisfied with the Houses of Parliament, a feeling that was shared by the public that by 1915 had acquired 17 out of the 19 paintings depicting this institution. Today, 15 out of the 19 belong to museum collections while the present painting is one of only four still in private hands.

    Van Gogh’s legendary love affair with color and light is beautifully expressed in Le pont de Trinquetaille (estimate: $12,000,000-18,000,000), executed in 1888 and showing the Trinquetaille Bridge which connects Arles with Trinquetaille on the opposite bank of the Rhone River. In 1888, looking for the “Japan of the South,” Van Gogh traveled to Provence and settled down in Arles. Freed by the pressures of urban life and mesmerized by the brilliant light and the colorful landscape, the artist started integrating the results of his experimentations and one modern masterwork after another was created. In the present work, described by Van Gogh as “A view of the Rhone in which the sky and the water are the color of absinthe, with a blue bridge and the figures of little black urchins,” color has an overall importance and has become one of the main compositional elements, a feature reminiscent of Japanese techniques used by artists such as Hiroshige. From the same European Collection as the Van Gogh comes Camille Pissarro’s Quatre Saisons (estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000), a rendering of each of the four seasons, all executed in 1872. This cycle of four landscapes marks a critical juncture in Pissarro’s oeuvre since it was the first major commission the artist ever received from a collector and it is one of his finest achievements from the early 1870’s, arguably the most purely Impressionist period in his career. Painted in Pontoise, except for L’Hiver which was done in Louveciennes, the quartet is devoid of any allegorical content, and focuses entirely on the regenerative cycle of nature and life. Quatre Saisons was commissioned in 1872 by Achille Arosa, brother of one of the most prominent collectors of Impressionist art, Gustave Arosa, but the cycle was split up twenty years later by Galerie Bernheim. In 1901 the paintings were reunited by dealer Paul Cassirer and they have remained together ever since.

    Property from an Important American Collection includes pivotal works from the major 20th century artists Miro, Giacometti, Picasso and Leger. Mousquetaire a la Pipe (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000) painted by Pablo Picasso in 1968, splashes off the canvas in its bright greens and yellows. Nearing the end of his life, Picasso started expressing all the energy, virility and flamboyancy that were slowly disappearing from his life in his paintings. The musketeer theme came about after the artist re-read Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’ and was charmed by the figure of the reckless, romantic 17th century cavalier, a theme that had equally appealed to Picasso’s great examples Velazquez and Rembrandt. The present work is part of a series that ultimately presented a ‘journey into time,’ linking Picasso’s own lifetime with Dumas’ mid nineteenth epoch and the Baroque era of Velazquez and Rembrandt. A splendid Leger, La Charmeuse d’oiseux, 1942 (estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000) depicts the rooster, the French national emblem and a prominent feature in Leger’s work after his arrival in America in 1940. The charmer is probably Maria Martins, the wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the US during the 1940s, who was a painter in her own right and the first owner of this painting. The Collection further includes Personnage, oiseau, etoiles (estimate: $700,000-900,000) executed by Miro in Palma de Mallorca in 1942; Picasso’s Femme Assise, 1953 (estimate: $600,000-800,000), which catches the artist between two liaisons and Buste sur Socle, a bronze of Diego Giacometti by his brother, Alberto (estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000).