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Impressionist and Modern Art

Christie's New York


7 P.M., November 1, 2011


Sale 2477

Bronze head by Brancusi

Lot 68, "Le Premier Cri," by Constantin Brancusi, polished bronze, 10 1/4 inches long, conceived 1917


By Carter B. Horsley

The November 1, 2011 evening auction of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's New York is highlighted by a very important and fine bronze head by Constantin Bracusi (1867-1957),  a fine painting by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a very fine early landscape by Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), an excellent painting by Max Ernst (191-1976), two very good works by Joan Miro (1893-1983), fine paintings by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) and Paul Klee (1879-1940),  a very nice portrait by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), a good sculpture of a dancer by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and good works by Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Paul Delvaux (1897-1994).

Lot 68 is a fabulous polished bronze sculpture entitled "Le Premier Cri" by Constantin Brancusi.  It is 10 1/4 inches long and was conceived i 1917.The catalogue provides the following commentary about this work:

"The genesis of the present bronze dates to 1913, when Brancusi carved Le premier pas, his earliest free-standing, full-length figure and his inaugural sculptural effort in wood....That work, which depicts a highly stylized figure of a toddler taking his first, unstable steps,was inclued in Brancusi's earliest solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession Gallery in New York March 1914.  Following the close of the exhibition, Brancusi appears to have destroyed the body of the sculpture, keeping just the head; the complete figure is known only through photographs....In 1914 or 1915, Brancusi re-worked the head of Le Premier Pas as an auomnomous object entitled Tete d'enfant, altering its position from upright to recumbent, aitha proinentridge ini the back to hold the ovid form inpace....In 1917, th sculptuor made a serie s of casts of ghe head, molded directly from the wood; four of the casts, including the present example, are polished bronze, while three are plaster and one is black cement....The sculptor's immense confidence in these egg-like works ermeged in a remark that he made about them in 1926: 'With this form I could move the universe.'"

It has a conservative estimate of $8,000,000 to $10,000,000.
 It sold for $14,866,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The auction sold 51 of the 82 offered lots for a total of $140,773,500.  The pre-sale estimate was about $210,000,000 to $300,000,000.  Those attending the sale moaned softly when a couple of the big-ticket lots failed to elicit bids and were "passed."

At the press conference after the auction, Conor Jordan, the head of the department, said that frankly the poor results reflected the fact that some lots had been on the market and were not considered "fresh" and that some estimates were too high.

Interior scene by Matisse

Lot 7, "Robe orientale violette sur la robe blanche, Ó la fenetre," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 by 14 1/4 inches, 1942

The auction has numerous works form the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Lew Wasserman.  Mr. Wasserman was president of MCA, the talent agency founded by Jules Stein

One of the best is Lot 7 is a lovely oil on canvas by Henri Matisse entitled "Robe orientale violetee sur la robe blanche, Ó la fenetre." It measures 21 1/2 by 14 1/4 inches and was executed in 1942.  It has a modest estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It was passed at $3 million.  It is one of a series of five paintings and the catalogue notes that "the sequence of young women in interiors projects a marvelous sense of serenity and repose, in the context of a well-to-do but not opulent bourgeois life-style that is kind to its adherents and apprecitated for its comforts and quality of well-being."  In addition to its pleasant, warm and pastel-like palette, the work is impressive because of its quite bold juxtaposition of patterns.
 

Landscape by de Vlaminck

Lot 30, "Soleil d'hiver," by Maurcie de Vlaminck, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 by 25 1/2 inches, 1905

Lot 30 is a very bold and wonderful 1905 landscape by Maurice de Vlaminck in full Fauve mode.  Entitled "Solei d'hiver," it is an oil on canvas that measures 21 1/4 by 25 1/2 inches.  It was once in the collection of C. Michael Paul.  The composition is closely related to his less riotous "Coteaux de Bougival" of the same year in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.  It has a modest estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.   It was passed at $4 million.

The catalogue entry notes that the work is "an exhilarating tour-de-force of saturated color and impassioned handling, in pristine physical condition with rich impasto throughout."  


Bather by Degas

Lot 9, "Femme s'Úpongeant le dos," by Edgar Degas, pastel on joined paper laid down on board, 27 1/2 by 23 1/2 inches, circa 1895

Another very fine work from the Wasserman collection is Lot 9, "Femme s'Úpongeant le dos," a pastel on joined paper laid down on board that measures 27 1/2 by 23 1/2 inches and was drawn circa 1895.  The work has a fantastic amount of very aggressive detailing that is very impressive.  It has a modest estimate of $3,500,000 to $5,500,000. It sold for $3,218,500.  It was once in the collection of Dr. Albert Barnes of Philadelphia.



Degas statue

Lot 18, "Petite danseuse de quatorze ans," by Edgar Degas, bronze with muslin skirt and satin hair ribbon with wooden base, 40 1/2 inches high, executed in wax circa 1879-1881 and cast in bronze later

Lot 18, which is the cover illustration of the catalogue, is a sculpture of a small 14-year-old dancer by Edgar Degas  that was executed in wax circa 1879-1881 and cast later in bronze.  It is 40 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000.  It passed at $18,500,000.

The catalogue notes that the work "is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and important sculptures of the modern era," adding that "it is the largest, most technically ambitious, and most iconograpically complex of Degas's sculptures, and the only one that he ever exhibited during his lifetime."


Painting by Ernst

Lot 36, "The Stolen Mirror," by Max Ernst, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 by 31 7/8 inches, 1941

Lot 36l  is a major oil on canvas by Max Ernst entitled "The Stolen Mirror" that has been consigned by the estate of Edith Dallas Ernst.  It measures 25 5/8 by 31 7/8 inches and was executed in 1941.  It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It sold for $16,322,500, a world auction record for the artist.  It has been widely exhibited and published  and Ernst used the "decalcomania" technique uses layers of different painters to create controlled marbled and porous effects.  


Giacometti portrait

Lot 39, "Homme," by Alberto Giacometti, oil on canvas, 40 by 32 inches, 1956

Lot 39, "'Home," is a large monochromatic oil on canvas by Alberto Giacometi that was created in 1956 and measures 40 by 32 inches.  It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It was passed at $5,500,000.


Vuilllard head

Lot 12, "Autoportrait au mirror de bambous," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on canvas, 17 1/2 by 21 inches, circa 1890

Lot 12 is another Wasserman work, "Autoportrait au miroir de bambous," by Edouard Vuilllard.  The oil on canvas measures 17 1/2 by 21 inches and was painted circa 1890.  It was once in the collection of Norman Woolworth.  It is one of the last and most sophisticated in a series of at least 15 youthful self-portraits that the artist painted between 1887 and 1890.  It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It sold for $1,594,500.

Portrait by Modigliani

Lot 4, "La blonde aux boucles d'oreille," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas, 18 by 11 3/4 inches, 1918-9

Lot 4 is a quite attractive portrait of a woman with short, curly hair with gold earnings by Amedeo Modigliani.  An oil on canvas, it measures 18 by 11 3/4 inches and was painted circa 1918-1919.  It has a modest estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It sold for $8,146,500.

Delvaux nudes

Lot 55, "Les Mains," by Paul Delvaux, oil on canvas, 43 1/4 by 51 1/4 inches, 1941

Lot 55, "Les Mains," is a painting by Paul Delvaux that has been consigned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  An oil on canvas that measures 43 1/4 by 51 1/4 inches, it ws painted in 1941 and has been widely exhibited and published.  It has an ambitious estimate of $6,000,000 to $9,000,000.  It sold for $6,578,500.


Sisley 1

Lot 17, "Paysage," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 21 2/3 by 29 inches, 1887

Lot 17 is a strong landscape by Alfred Sisley from 1887 that is an oil on canvas that measures 21 2/3 by 29 inches  It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.  It sold for $3,330,500.


Sisley 2

Lot 83, "Le printemps Ó Moret sur Loring," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 15 by 21 3/4 inches, 1891

Lot 83 is a very lovely smaller riverscape by Alfred Sisley entitled "Le printemps  Ó Moret sur Loring.""  An oil on canvas, it measures 15 by 21 3/4 inches and has a modest estimate of $1,250,000 to $1,750,000.  It sold for $1,314,500.

Picasso cat

Lot 73, "Homard et chat sur la plage," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 35 by 51 1/4 inches, 1965

Lot 73 is a large oil on canvas by Picasso of a cat and a lobster on a beach.  Painted in 1965, it measures 35 by 51 1/4 inches.  It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.  It was passed at $5,200,000.


Picasso head

Lot 32, "Femmie endormie," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 21 3/4 by 18 1/4 inches, 1935

Lot  32 is a strong portrait of a woman sleeping by Pablo Picasso.  An oil on canvas, it measures 21 3/4 by 18 1/4 inches and was painted in 1935.  It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It was passed at $11,000,000. The sitter is the artist's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.


Klee abstraction 3


Lot 5, "Schicksalstunde urn dreiviertel zwolf," by Paul Klee, oil on chalk-primed muslim mountaed onpanel in the artists's frame, 165 by 19 inces, 1922

Lot 5 is a very fine work by Paul Klee from 1922.  Entitled "Shicksalstunde urn dreivertel zwolf," it is painted oil on chalk-primed muslin mounted on panel in the artist's frame.  It measures 16 by19 inches.  it has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000000. It sold for $2,210,500.  It was once in the collection of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips of Washington, D.C.


Miro abstraction

Lot 40, "Tete," by Joan Miro, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches, 1976

Lot 40 is a very strong "head" by Joan Miro.  An oil on canvas that measures 21 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches, it was painted in 1976 and has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. It was passed at $1,400,000.

Nicolson abstraction

Lot 67, "Sept. 1943," by Ben Nicholson, oil and pencil on canvas in artist's frame, 43 by 47 1/2 inches, 1953

Lot 67 is a large and cool abstraction by Ben Nicholson that measures 43 by 47 1/2 inches and was executed in 1953.  It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000.  It sold for $1,650,500.

Picasso print

Lot 2, "La femme qui pleure, 1," by Pablo Picasso, drypoint, aquatint, etching and scraper, on laid Montval paper, a very fine impression of the seventh (final) state, 27 1/4 by 19 1/2 inches, 1937, number 3 of an edition of 15

Lot 2 is a large print by Pablo Picasso that is entitled "La femme qui pleure, 1"  The catalogue notes that it is a very fine impression of the seventh (final) state and was printed in 1937 as number 3 of an edition of 15.  It measures 27 1/4 by 19 1/2 inches.  It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  It sold for $5,122,500, a world record for a single print.

Conor Jordan

Mr. Jordan noted that foreign buyers were much in evidence with the top two lots selling to private European collectors and three of the top ten selling to private South American collectors.

There were 82 lots in the auction, a very high number for an evening auction at when Christopher Burge, the auctioner, was about to auction Lot 14, he said Lot 40 and then corrected himself by saying "wishful thinking."



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