de Pury & Luxembourg kicks off the fall's major art auction
season with a small evening Impressionist and Modern Art auction
that is highlighted by a lovely Claude Monet (1840-1926), an early
and flamboyant Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), a very fine Henri Matisse
(1869-1954), and a great Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956).
Last spring, the auction house canceled its Impressionist &
Modern Art New York auction although it had a good contemporary
art auction (see The City Review article) and a very successful American
painting auction (see The City Review article). While its Impressionist and Modern
Art offerings this fall are limited several of its lots are among
the best to be offered this season and it again promises to have
strong showings in Contemporary Art and American Art.
started pretty well with a group of drawings by Gustav Klimt and
Egon Schiele selling nicely and a great oil painting by Lyonel
Feininger at its high estimate and being sold for $2,209,500 including
the buyer's premium.
the bottom fell out and at the end of the auction only 19 of the
44 offered lots sold, meaning that more than 56 percent of the
lots did not sell. Worse, most of the "big-ticket" lots
did not sell. The pre-sale low estimate for the auction was $49,313,000
and the pre-sale high estimate was $66,702,000. The auction's
sale total, including the buyers' premiums, was only $7,010,360.
after the sale suggested that estimates were too high, but in
fact most were not unreasonable and it was clear from the way
Simon de Pury conducted the auction that many of the reserves
were reasonably low.
did expect it to be difficult," Mr. Pury said after the auction,
"but not that difficult. Clearly we are very disappointed
with the result."
auction room had about 20 vacant seats when the auction started
that were not filled up, which is rather unusual for such an important
observers were not surprised that the number of passes was high,
but this sale seemed to fly in the face of the proverbial recent
market wisdom that high quality works were still very much in
demand in a more sophisticated market.
showing not only presents problems for Phillips de Pury &
Luxembourg, but for the other auction houses as well. The art
market held up for a couple of seasons after the 1987 stock market
crash before falling on hard times in the early 90s, but even
then the fall was not as precipitous as this sale seems to indicate.
Many of the attendees mumbled about uncertainty and seemed to
hold out hope that the Sotheby's and Christie's sales this week
will not be as diastrous.
were not a lot of smiles in the salesroom.
was a crash.
de Pury remarked, however, in an interview following the auction
house's Contemporary Art evening sale Nov. 11, 2002 that "some
works" from this auction had been sold afterwards.
One of the icons of French Impressionism is Claude Monet's series
of paintings of a Japanese-style bride in his garden at Giverny
and Lot 26, "Pont Dans Le Jardin de Monet," shown above,
is one of the loveliest and one of the first, versions. The oil
on canvas measures 34 5/8 by 36 1/8 inches and was executed in
1895-6. It was auctioned at Christie's May 12, 1999 with an estimate
of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000 and sold for $5,942,500 including
the buyer's premium. Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg have now
given it a rather a rather modest estimate of $6,500,000 to $8,500,000.
Bidding was started at $4.8 million and the lot was passed
at $5.6 million.
"As one of the first pictures in this exceptional series,
the present painting occupies a position of seminal importance
in Monet's oeuvre," the catalogue stated. "In the present
example, the play of reflections is especially nuanced and lovely,
the gentle arc of the bridge mirrored in the still waters and
the reflections of trees and sky assuming independent shapes.
The double image of the bridge serves both to organize space and
to announce a human presence in this serene aquatic enclave, designating
the pond as a site for contemplation and meditation," the
catalogue's entry continued, noting that there are more than 40
paintings by Monet showing the bridge.
The auction has an earlier Monet, Lot 28, "Argenteuil, fin
d'apres-midi," a 23 5/8-by-31 7/8-inch oil on canvas. Executed
in 1872, this pleasant riverscape has an estimate of $5,000,000
to $7,000,000. Bidding started at $3 million and the lot was
passed at $3.6 million.
by Picasso are marked by lively brushwork and considerable vivacity.
Lot 31, "Buste de femme souriante," is a very painterly
and quite stunning portrait of a smiling woman that is mischievous
and flirtatious, qualities that would stay with the artist during
his long and fabled career. While the sitter is not particularly
ravishing, the painting is.
The catalogue provides the following commentary about this work
which is illustrated on the catalogue's cover:
"This resplendent painting belongs to an important group
of works executed in a Post-Impressionist manner, all of which
capture Picasso's excitement at the discovery of the avant-garde
in Paris at the turn of the century. Three other masterpieces
of the same year share stylistic features and similar subject
matter ["L'Attente," collection of the Museo Picasso
in Barcelona, and "Vieille femme parée," Philadelphia
Museum of Art, Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection].'Proto-Fauve'
provides an apt description of these pictures. The highly animated
brushwork evident here anticipates several of the most memorable
Fauve portraits by Vlaminck and Derain. The subject matter and
overall painterly treatment predates Matisse's scandalous portrait
of his wife, and much of Van Dongen's work before 1910. More importantly,
the confident and riveting gaze of the sitter reminds the viewer
of the posture that Picasso strikes in the celebrated self-portrait
Yo Picasso, which was also painted during the Spring of
1901. What distinguishes this striking series of early Picassos
from Fauve art is their technical mastery based on Picasso's knowledge
of earlier artists such as Goya and Velasquez. Picasso's training
as a portraitist was considerable, unmatched by any of the Fauves,
who tended to create more generalized images of human features.
Picasso's innate virtuosity would attract him to other prodigiously
gifted draftsmen like Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec when he came
to Paris. This heady mix of artistic influences on the dynamic
young Picasso, barely out of his teens, when he painted Buste
de femme souriante, would become positively explosive once
he encountered Van Gogh's exalted art."
This painting, which certainly shows Goya's influence and is a
far better painting than "Yo Picasso," has a conservative
estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. Bidding started at $3
million and the lot was passed at $4.2 million.
began working with paper cut-outs in the early 1930's, but they
would become his main focus when he was beset with illness later.
Lot 36, "Arbre en fleur (Mural Scroll, No. 11), is a very
fine example and served as the maquette for a silk screen commissioned
and printed by Katzenbach & Warren, Inc., in 1949 for their
Mural Scroll project in which designs by Matisse, Miró,
Matta and Calder were reproduced in editions of 200 as five by
six-and-a-half foot long silk screen murals. This lovely lot measures
20 1/2 by 25 1/2 inches and is paper painted with gouache color,
cut and pasted on paper board support. It has an estimate of $4,000,000
to $6,000,000. Bidding started at $2 million and the lot was
passed at $2.6 million.
describes his early paintings, which have a cartoonish style in
which figures seemed to reside in a fantasy world, as "mummery
pictures." They preceeded his involved with Cubism and reflect
a familiarity with the wild palettes of the Fauves, but they are
full of animation and intrigue. Lot 16, "Die Zeitungsleser
(The Newspaper Readers)," shown above, is a wonderful example
of his "mummery" work. An oil on canvas, it measures
19 3/4 by 24 7/8 inches. It was executed in 1909 and has a conservative
estimate of $1,700,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $2,209,500
including the buyer's premium.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this marvelous
"Die Zeitungsleser, with its ravishing color sense,
inventive treatment of landscape and highly characteristic figuration,
is one of Feininger's first fully mature works. The artist's excitement
at having discovered his vocation is quite evident in the palpable
energy of this canvas. It depicts the distinctive Peter and Paul
Stadtkirche in Weimar, a motif that would fascinate the artist
for the remainder of his career. The optimistic note of the present
work and others of a similar date are especially distinguished
for their brilliant, Fauve-like palette. Indeed, the daring coloration
in this painting bears comparison with the contemporaneous works
being produced by the Brücke artists, Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff
and Pechstein. 1909 marked the flowering of the Brücke movement,
and it is in our version of Die Zeitungsleser that Feininger
comes closest to the pure Expressionism of this movement."
An interesting companion for the Feininger would be Lot 18, "Untitled
(L'Amazone bleue)," a watercolor and Indian ink on paper,
12 1/2 by 9 3/4 inches, by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Executed
in 1918, it is an uncharacteristically realistic work by Kandinksy
and belongs to a series of 14 watercolors known as "bagatelles"
that the artist executed during the war years. "The present
work," the catalogue noted, "captures, in delicate tracings
and jewel-like color, the gallant pose of a lady rider on horseback
and the dreamy reverie of a romantic dandy kneeling opposite.
The spare landscape, punctuated by puffy clouds, flowers and sunbeams,
belongs to fantasy, while the domes and minarets of the illustrious
city in the near-distance recall the scenes of Russian folklore
that Kandinsky had produced over a decade earlier."
The lot has an estimate of $225,000 to $275,000. Bidding started
at $140,000 and the lot was passed at $180,000.
"Portrait," by Joan Miró, is an oil on canvas,
57 1/2 by 44 7/8 inches. Executed in 1927, it is an abstract work
that once belonged to Helena Rubenstein. It has an estimate of
$2,500,000 to $3,500,000 that is a bit ambitious given the work's
rather somber palette. Bidding started at $1.4 million and
the lot was passed at $1.8 million.
starts with 14 drawings by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele
(1980-1918) from a private American collection. Lot 8, "Sitzende
dame in Profil nach Rechts (Profile of a Seated Woman from the
Right), is a very delicate red pencil on paper drawn in 1907-8
by Klimt and has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold
for $28,000 not including the buyer's premium. Lot 11, "Akt
(Nude)," is a fine watercolor and black crayon drawing executed
in 1913 by Schiele and has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.
It sold for $339,500 including the buyer's premium.
has two good still life paintings by Max Beckman (1884-1950).
Lot 19 is an oil on canvas that measures 21 3/4 by 18 inches and
was painted in 1924. It has an estimate of $850,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $911,500 including the buyer's premium. Lot 21
is an oil on canvas that measures 30 7/8 by 29 3/4 inches and
was painted in 1935 and has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
It sold for $581,500 including the buyer's premium.
Lot 20 is a very good double-sided work in oil, 29 7/8 by 26 1/8
inches, by Georg Tappert (1880-1957). It was painted in 1915-7
and has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. It was passed