By Carter B.
This auction collection
of 49 works of art from the collection of Diethelm Hoener, an
investment banker who died this year, is rich in many fine examples
of German Expressionist art and is distinguished by a superb group
of works by Emil Nolde ((1867-1956).
This was a very successful
auction with 46 of 48 offered lots being sold for a total of $13,852,210
just below the pre-sale high estimate of $13,953,000.
The auction includes two groups of watercolors and a major oil
painting by Nolde.
Lots 20, 21 and 22 are watercolors of the sea by Nolde that are
sensational, lush and very powerful.
The catalogue provides the following commentary about these lots:
"Nolde, like his fellow artists in The Brücke, believed
colors could express emotional states of being. For Nolde, who
despised any type of pre-determined, rational approach to art,
seascapes permitted him to use the medium of watercolor with the
greatest degrees of freedom, allowing the heavily saturated paper
to create spontaneous, even unexpected results. His medium matched
the subject the sea in an almost alchemical sense. Max Sauerlandt,
Nolde's first biographer, writing in 1921, describes Nolde's special
affinity with this subject: `Nolde understands the sea like no
other painter before him. He sees it not from the beach or from
a boat but as it exists in itselfeternally in motion, ever changing,
living out its life in and for itself: a divine, self consuming
primal source that, in its untrammeled freedom, has existed unchanged
since the very first day of creation.' Nolde was invited to join
an expedition organized by the Imperial Colonial Office to the
German colonies in the Pacific Ocean in 1913, from which he returned
just after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. This experience
deepened his interest in the subject, and thereafter his works
reveal a sense of primeval energy. As he grew older, Nolde separated
himself from his contemporaries to purse his vocation far away
from outside artistic influences. He was not forgotten, however,
and artists who viewed his works in exhibitions during this period
admired their near-abstract, elemental qualities. In the introduction
to the catalogue of the exhibition marking Nolde's 60th birthday,
Paul Klee writes: `Abstract artists, far removed from this earth,
or fugitives from it, sometimes forget that Nolde exists. No so
I, even on my furthest flights, from which I always manage to
find my way back to earth, top rest in the gravititational force
I find there. Nolde is more than of the earth, he is the sphere's
guardian spirit. Domiciled elsewhere oneself, one is always aware
of the cousin in the deep.' Nolde left his former residence at
Utenwarhad and settled in Seebüll in North Frisia in 1927
where he designed and built the house in which he would remain
for the rest of his life. Increasingly, nature became his principal
subject and the landscape surrounding this refuge is the dominant
theme of his late works. Peter Vergo adds an interesting insight
into the Nolde marine pictures: `For much of his life, Nolde lived
on the edge of, or close to the sea, whose ever-changing aspect
had a symbolic, almost mystical significance to him. The elemental
forces of nature were a constant source of pictorial inspiration.'"
Lot 20 is entitled "Sonnenuntergang am Meer" and is
a 8 5/8-by-10 7/8-inch watercolor on Japan paper that was executed
circa 1937-1945. It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
It sold for $123,500 including the buyer's premium as do as
prices mentioned in this article.
Lot 21, shown at the top of this article, is entitled "Meer
und Zwei Dampfer Mit Rotem Abendhimmel" and is a 8 5/8-by-10
5/8-inch watercolor on Japan paper that was executed circa 1938-1945.
It has a very modest estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 inasmuch as
it rivals the best work of Turner. It sold for $167,500.
Lot 22 is entitled "Damfer Auf See" and is a 8 ¾-by-10
5/8-inch watercolor on Japan paper that was executed circa 1937-1945.
It as a modest estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for
$96,000. It and Lots 20 and 21 were acquired from Wolfgang
Werner in Bremen.
Slightly less wonderful is a group of four Nolde watercolors from
a series known as "Phantasien" Lots 15, 16,17 and 18,
that focuses on human relationships and the passage of time. They
are done is a more pronounced, delineated style than the marine
watercolors but are also full of very rich, saturated colors.
Lots 15, 16 and 18 were also acquired from Wolfgang Werner.
The catalogue notes that "Perhaps the most striking characteristics
of the finest works from this series are Nolde's powerfully subtle
use of color, his simplicity and his lyrical draftsmanship."
"In these pictures," it continued, "the viewer
is seduced by the black outlines of the figures, rendered with
the greatest economy of means."
This group is larger in size than the marines. Lot 15, for example,
is 17 ½ by 13 ¼ inches. It is entitled "Zwei
Fraunen (Grose Phantasien)," and has an estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It sold for $464,500. This lot illustrates
the back cover of the catalogue.
Lot 16, shown above, is
entitled "Alter Mann Und Junge Frau Jans Und Christine"
and meastures 19 5/8 by 14 ¼ inches. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $180,000. It sold for $189,500.
Lot 17 is entitled "Profil (Kopf Ulrich von Hutten)"
and measures 12 ¼ by 11 inches. It was executed in 1934
and was acquired from the Serge Sabarsky Gallery. It has an estimate
of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $156,500.
Lot 18 is entitled "Wikinger" and measures 17 ½
by 13 ¼ inches. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It sold for $189,500.
Lot 23 is a fine Nolde watercolor of a floral still life, which
is entitled "Strelitzien und Anemonen." It measures
18 ½ by 15 ¼ inches and has an estimate of $80,000
to $120,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 19 is an important painting by Nolde, entitled "Teetisch."
An oil on burlap, it measures 25 ¼ by 33 1/8 inches and
was executed in 1911. It comes from a series of paintings he did
in 1910 and 1911 depicting café nightlife in Berlin and
most of the other paintings in the series are in the Nolde Stifftung
in Seebüll. The painting depicts four ladies with elaborate
and large hats at a table in a nightclub. It has an estimate of
$1,000,000 to $1,500,000 and sold for $882,500.
Other major paintings in the Hoener Collection included two by
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Lot 12, "Die Lesende,"
and Lot 13, "Gehoft," Lot 10, "Gruppe im Freien
(recto) Drei Frauen (verso)," by Erich Heckel (1883-1970),
Lot 14, "Drei Badende Frauen am Meer," by Max Pechstein
(1881-1955), Lot 25, "Mutter und Kind," by Heinrich
Campendonk (1889-1957), Lot 26, "Heilandsgesicht," by
Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1961), Lot 36, "Merzbild 49 a
Galerie van Garvens," by Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), Lot
37, "Monument Aux Oiseaux," by Max Ernst (1891-1976),
and Lot 49, "Composition," by Christian Rohlfs (1849-1938).
Lot 12, Schmidt-Rottluff's
"Die Lesende," shown above, is a 30 ¼-by-33 ½-inch
oil on canvas that was painted in 1911. It is the cover illustration
of the catalogue and has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000.
It sold for $3,962,500. The catalogue observes that the
painting has "compositional audacity" and that it is
"strikingly original" and "an extremely rare example
of his figural work prior to 1912." It is a portrait of a
woman reading and the catalogue notes that the artist has presented
an alternative view of woman "from that usually suggested
by the more Dionysian work of The Brücke." "The
explosive orange and red coloring of the reader's skin references
the work of Gauguin, who was much admired by the artists of The
Brücke. This chromatic brilliance transforms the genre of
the bourgeois portrait: it is now afforded primal power.
Lot 13, the other Schmidt-Rottluff painting, "Gehoft,"
is a 30 ¼-by-35 ¾-inch oil on canvas that was executed
in 1914. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It is a very
strong landscape that shows a grange. It sold for $1,047,500.
Lot 10, the Heckel, is a 31 7/8-by-37-inch oil on canvas that
was painted in 1909 and has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000.
It sold for $1,652,500.
"The present work," according to the catalogue, "is
one of the most complex compositions from this vital period still
remaining in private hands. A seminal Brücke painting, Gruppe
im Freien is executed in vivid, primary colors and captures both
the raw, Arcadian allure of nature and a degree of psychological
intensity verging on distortion. By 1909, Heckel had moved away
from the influences of van Gogh and the wild impasto technique
that characterized his early Brücke paintings. While the
early works tended to compress pictorial space with their highly
charged textures and vivid clashes of color, Heckel increasingly
opened up his compositions, and the influence of Matissewas swell
as `primitive' art became more prounced. This is particularly
evident in the present work with its distribution of figures in
an almost frieze-like manner."
The painting on the reverse, "Drei Frausen," is an extremely
good and very colorful study of three standing female nudes.
Lot 14 is "Drei Badende Frauen am Meer," a 29 ¼-by-39
¼-inch oil on canvas that Pechstein executed in 1912. It
has an estimate of $600,000 to $900,000 and it is a lively and
strong study of three female nudes on a beach that harkens to
some of Matisse's oeuvre. It sold for $530,500.
Lot 25 is one of the loveliest
works in the auction. Entitled "Mutter und Kind," it
is a 19 7/8-by-15 ¾-inch oil and gouache on paper laid
down on card that was executed by Campendonk circa 1917. It has
a modest estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $178,500.
The work has a Chagallesque quality and is very fine.
"In 1911, at the invitation of Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky,"
the catalogue notes, "Heinrich Campendonk settled in Sindelsdorf
in Bavaria where he became involved with the Blaue Reiter group.
While Marc was to have a particularly profound impact on Campendonk's
oeuvre, the influence of Chagall is alluded to in the present
painting. Chagall had been exhibiting with the Galerie Der Strum
just prior to World War I and Campendonk, who also exhibited at
Der Sturm, likely viewed Chagall's work at the gallery."
Lot 26 is entitled "Heilandsgesicht" and is a 13 5/8-by-10
1/8-inch oil on linen-finish paper laid down on cardboard by Jawlensky
circa 1919. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $288,500. Jawlensky devoted much of his oeuvre to
abstractions of the human face and this is a fine example that
is more open than most and has an interesting and slightly muted
Lot 36 is an important and
very fine work by Schwitters. Entitled "Merzbild 49 a Galerie
van Garvens," it is a 17 1/2-by-12 5/8-inch oil and assemblage
on board that was executed in 1912. It has a very modest estimate
of $120,000 to $160,000. It sold for $189,500.
This lot is one of the few surviving early "Merz" assemblages
in private hands, according to the catalogue, and "also one
of his most boldly dramatic compositions, and one which challenges
the very notion of pictorial space, toying with the viewer's perception
and tow and three dimensions." "Schwitters deliberately
confuses the issue by painting on the three-dimensional circular
convex shape that dominates the composition." This work was
once in the collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim.
Lot 37, "Monument Aux Oiseaux," is a 31 7/8-by-25 5/8-inch
oil on canvas painted by Ernst in 1927. It has an estimate of
$600,000 to $800,000 and is a very good example of his work.
It sold for $486,500.
Lot 49, "Composition," is a very beautiful tempera and
gouache on paper that measures 18 7/8 by 26 ½ inches and
was painted by Rohlfs in 1934. This work is very abstract and
is highly reminiscent of some of Nolde's deeply saturated watercolors.
It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to
The auction has several fine works by George Grosz (1893-1959).
These include Lot 32, "Der Goldgraber," a 15 1/8-by
11 7/8-inch pen and ink on paper that has an estimate of $45,000
to $65,000, and sold for $79,500, Lot 33, "Ferm im
Sud Das Schone Spanien," a 14 ½-by-11 ¾-inch
watercolor and ink on paper that has an estimate of $90,000 to
$120,000, and sold for $145,500, and Lot 34, "Brindisi,"
which is a 17-by-11 7/8-inch watercolor, pen and ink on paper
that has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000, and sold for $$145,500.
These are great examples of the artist's work.
Lot 27 is a very interesting 9 ¼-by-11 ½-inch watercolor
by Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) that has a modest estimate of $10,000
to $15,000. It sold for $25,300.
Lot 28, "Alt-Sallenthin," is a very fine 8 ½-by-9
¾-inch watercolor, pen and ink on paper that was executed
in 1912 by Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956). The watercolor is an
important study for his 1913 oil that is in the Museum Folkwang
in Essen. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold