Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spectacular Paintings By Monet & Matisse at Sotheby's

Spectacular Paintings By Monet & Matisse at Sotheby's

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Henri Matisse (1869-1964): Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier, £8 – 12 million. ©Sotheby’s London.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s has led the field in Impressionist and Modern Art auctions in London since February 2006. Its auction in February 2007 was Europe’s highest value series of sales -- £122 million -- and the summer sales on June 19 and 20, 2007 (carrying a combined estimate2 of £80.1–114.5 million) are set to be similarly extraordinary. Almost all the leading names of late 19th- and 20th- century art will be represented – many by works from private collections which have not been seen in public for many years. With major paintings by Claude Monet and Henri Matisse at its core, the evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art is set to be a landmark event. The pre-sale exhibition from June 14th-19th , open to everyone, will afford the public an opportunity to see a wide-ranging group of works from one of the most fertile and fascinating periods in art history.

Commenting on the sale, Simon Shaw, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department in London, said: “The strength of recent sales has drawn some exceptional works onto the market, enabling us to put together a tightly curated sale. The evening sale on June 19th, which is concentrated in just 45 lots of uniformly high quality, is exactly the kind of sale the market wants today.”

Leading the sale is Claude Monet’s Nymphéas of 1904. Not seen in public since 1936, this arresting, richly-colored painting is one of the finest from Monet’s waterlily series ever to have come to the market. Monet’s paintings of waterlilies are among the most iconic images of Impressionism. Only a few such works remain in private hands, and as a result, whenever works from the series come to auction, they command premium prices: Bassin aux nymphéas et sentier au bord de l’eau of 1900 was sold at Sotheby’s London in 1998, achieving £19.8 million ($33 million), still the World Record Price for the artist. Estimated at £10-15 million ($20–30 million), the example to be offered in June marks a major turning point, both in Monet’s approach to the waterlily theme and to his art in general.

Although Monet’s renderings of waterlilies dominated his late career, this seminal work of 1904 is one of the earliest examples to focus almost entirely on the water surface: there is barely any horizon or other ‘anchor’ beyond the water, so that the surface of the canvas becomes an almost two-dimensional pattern – marking a crucial moment in Monet’s move towards an increasingly abstract treatment of space. The early movement towards abstraction demonstrated here was to culminate in Monet’s Grandes Décorations (now housed in the Orangerie in Paris). In his bid to depict atmosphere and colour rather than to record a specific scene, Monet reached a level of abstraction that was to play a profound role in the development of later twentieth-century art. This transforming achievement had its genesis – in part at least – in the Nymphéas of 1904.

Alongside the Monet is a bold, powerful work by Henri Matisse (1869-1964): Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier. Painted in 1942 in his room at the Hôtel Régina in Nice, the work is among the most confident and colourful in the artist’s oeuvre. It belongs to a group of remarkably strident works, in which the sinuous shapes of the models (in this instance the dancer Carla Avogardo) act as a foil to the strong, geometric patterns of the setting. In the wake of the world record price of $18.48 million achieved at Sotheby’s New York last spring for Matisse’s Nu Couché du dos of 1927, Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier comes to sale from an American collection with an estimate of £8 to 12 million ($16–24 million).

Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeune Femme (Totote de la Gaîté), circa 1917, is one of a group of late portraits which rank among the most refined and accomplished works in the artist’s oeuvre, all of which are notable for the depth of their emotional and psychological intensity. In spite of their strong stylisation, the portraits from this period are all intensely individual, capturing with remarkable skill the likeness and inner life of their respective subjects (most of whom, as here, were drawn from the bohemian community in Montparnasse where Modigliani then lived). The accomplishment of these late works is borne out in the prices they command: the top three prices for Modigliani’s work (all sold for over $30 million and all sold at Sotheby’s) were all for late works, including the record $31.36 million for Jeanne Hébuterne (Devant une porte) of 1919, sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2004. Estimated at £3.5–4.5 million ($7–9 million), Jeune Femme (Totote de la Gaîté) last appeared at auction 25 years ago.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s (1841–1919) Réflexion of 1877 (est: £2.5–3.5 million/ $5–7 million) is an exquisite example of the artist’s work dating from the height of his Impressionist period, and captures the beauty of the sitter with all of his characteristic elegance and serenity. Portrayed in semi-profile, the portrait echoes those of the great 18thcentury masters Fragonard and Boucher – to whom he was deeply indebted.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Le Coucher (est: £2-3 million/$4 – 6 million), of 1899, is a very different kind of painting. A portrait of Madame Poupoule - a Parisian prostitute who featured regularly in the artist’s late works - the painting belongs to the artist’s great series of brothel scenes. During the last decade of his life, Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) spent weeks at a time in the brothels of Paris, observing every detail of the lives of the women who worked there. Fascinated by their daily rituals and instinctively empathetic with their outcast state, he painted them with an exceptional degree of understanding. Estimated at £1.5-2.5 million ($3-5 million), Die Sinnende (The Thinking Woman) of circa 1912 is a vibrant, powerful work by Alexej von Jawlensky (1854-1941). A remarkable example of Jawlensky’s portraiture, a genre that occupies a central position in his oeuvre, it shows the artist at the height of his Expressionist powers, abandoning naturalistic representation in favour of a highly expressive use of strong colours. Acquired by the Californian collectors and philanthropists Larry and Leah Superstein at Sotheby’s sale of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1984, the work has not been seen in public since then.

Painted in 1967, Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) Le Peintre (est: £2.2-2.8 million/ $4.4-5.6 million), belongs to a major series of paintings by Picasso on the theme of the musketeer – a subject that features large in the artist’s late career. A romantic, free, heroic figure from a past age, the idea of the Musketeer was one that held deep appeal for Picasso. Here, in Le Peintre, he depicts himself in the guise of this character from by-gone times in a way that echoes the fantastical self-portraits of Rembrandt – an artist whose work Picasso studied closely. The work has remained in the same private European collection for some 30 years.

Among a number of Surrealist works in the sale is a deceptively simple, powerful work by Joan Miró (1893 –1983). Painted in 1926, at the height of Miró’s involvement with the surrealist group, Peinture (est : £1.2–1.8 million/$2.4–3.6 million) is a powerful testimony to Miró’s central role in the evolution of Surrealist art. Whereas other members of the Surrealist group (Dalí and Magritte, for instance) used figurative elements in their work, Miro chose to eliminate representation from his canvases, preferring instead to employ seemingly whimsical, ambiguous forms (largely rooted in dreams and the unconscious) which –with their ambiguity and abstract nature –allow for multiple readings. Purchased i

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