This evening sale
of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's November 4, 2003
is quite spectacular with three very fine works by Vincent van
Gogh, a very strong Paul Cézanne, an excellent Camille
Pissarro, a superb Fernand Léger, a good Pablo Picasso,
a lovely Juan Gris, a stunning Maurice Vlaminck, a beautiful Henri
Fantin-Latour, two good paintings by Claude Monet, a nice Gustave
Caillebotte, a charming Pierre Renoir, and nudes by Paul Gauguin
and Amedeo Modigliani.
The auction is highlighted by Lot 21, "Le Pont de Langlois
a Arles," a ravishing watercolor, gouache, chalk, pen and
ink over pencil on paper by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Although
it only measures 12 by 11 7/8 inches, this 1888 work of one of
the artist's favorite and most famous compositions is stunning.
It has a modest estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold
for $8,295,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results
mentioned in this article.
Van Gogh painted the bridge six times during a six-week period
and this was his fourth depiction. Other versions are in the Rijksmuseum
Kroller-Muller in Otterlo and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.
The bridge was erected in 1820 and demolished in 1935. The catalogue
entry notes that it was officially known as the Pont de Reginelle
but was "commonly known as the Pont de Langlois after its
keeper," adding that "in the inscription of the present
painting, van Gogh erroneously referred to it as the Point de
l'Anglais, a corruption of the latter name. "If van Gogh's
choice of the Langlois Bridge as a motif for painting was inspired
in part by the landscapes of his Dutch contemporaries, the manner
in which he rendered the bridge was indebted to an altogether
different source: Japanese prints. In the months before he left
Paris for Arles, van Gogh spent countless hours at Samuel Bing's
gallery studying Japanese woodcuts and drawings. He purchased
as many examples as he could afford and even organized an exhibit
of his acquisitions at Le Tambourin, a cafe on the Boulevard de
Clichy patronized largely by artists and writers," the catalogue
The cover illustration of
the catalogue is Lot 6, "Nature morte, branche d'amandier,"
by Vincent van Gogh, a small oil on canvas that measures 9 ½
by 7 ½ inches. Painted in 1888, it has a modest estimate
of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $4,375,500.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"As one of the first paintings that van Gogh executed following
his move to Arles in February, 1888, the present still-life occupies
a pivotal place in the artist's oeuvre. An exquisite and jewel-like
rendering of a flowering almond branch in a glass, the painting
embodies the excitement that van Gogh felt upon arriving in Provence.
'Nature here is so extraordinarily beautiful,' he wrote his brother
Theo. 'It is as soft and lovely as the combination of celestial
blues and yellows in Vermeer's paintings. I cannot paint it as
beautifully as that, but it absorbs me so much that I let myself
A similar still life without a book lying on the table is in the
collection of the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam. The
catalogue entry maintains that "Although the two paintings
are identical in size, the present example is arguably the second
and more definitive, with the almond branch in slightly fuller
bloom and a book added in the background." "The almost-branch
still-lifes are the immediate precursor to the first major series
that van Gogh undertook at Arles: a group of fourteen paintings
depicting orchards in bloom. Intended as the inaugural campaign
in a projeted sequence chronicling the seasons, this extraordinary
set of canvases struck van Gogh as one of his finest accomplishments
The third van Gogh work
in this auction is Lot 25, "L'allee des Alyscamps,"
a 36 1/8-by-28 7/8-inch oil canvas, also painted in Arles in 1888.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this work:
"Executed in Arles in October, 1888, the present picture
represents a key document in the evolution of van Gogh's art.
With its expressive palette and vigorous brushwork, the painting
is characteristic of the mature style that van Gogh established
during his fifteen months at Arles a period that Ronald Pickvance
calls 'the zenith, the climax, the greatest flowering of van Gogh's
decade of artistic activity. 'Moreover, it is one of the first
works that van Gogh made following Gauguin's arrival at Arles
for a nine-week sojourn, during which the two artists lived and
worked side-by-side in van Gogh's 'Yellow House.' Their partnership
gave rise to a period of intense aesthetic exploration and unprecedented
productivity for both painters.The present canvas was executed
during the first major painting campaign that van Gogh and Gauguin
undertook together at Arles. It depicts Les Alyscamps (The Elysian
Fields), an ancient Roman cemetery southeast of the old city walls.
Although literary references and archaeological evidence attest
to the town's Greek origins, it rose to prominence only in 49
BC when Caesar used it as a naval base against Marseilles. Three
years later, a Roman colony was founded at Arles with veterans
from Caesar's sixth legion. During the first century AD, the town
received a lengthy circuit of fortification walls as well as several
impressive public buildings. These included a forum town square
enclosed by a monumental double portico, a lavishly decorated
theater, and a large amphitheater modeled on the Colosseum at
Rome. In the later empire, Arles gained in status as an occasional
imperial residence and the site of the first Christian council
in 314. At the end of the fourth century, it replaced Trier as
the headquarters of the Roman military prefecture an the chief
city of the Roman West. After various vicissitudes, it was annexed
by the Visigoths in 476. Originally established in pagan times,
Les Alycamps remained in use well into the Middle ages. After
this time, its rich collection of Roman and Early Christian sarcophagi
was pillaged for building materials, gifts, and museum display.
By the nineteenth century, the city was somewhat dilapidated,
"a melancholy avenue of cypresses, lined with a succession
of ancient sarcophagi, all empty, mossy, and mutilated,' to quote
The lot has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It sold
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
is perhaps best known for a series of nude paintings he executed
between 1916 and 1920 and Lot 29, "Nu Couché,"
is the largest of the series. The 35 1/4-by-57 5/9-inch oil on
canvas was executed in 1917. It has an ambitious estimate of $20,000,000
to $25,000,000. It sold for $26,887,500, shattering the previous
world auction record for the artist of $16,,777,500 set at Sotheby's
New York, November 11, 1999. According to an article in The
New York Times November 5, 2003 by Carol Vogel the painting
was consigned by Stephen Wynn, the casino operator. "After
the sale, art experts were quick to point out that Mr. Wynn had
paid nearly $10 million more for the painting when he brought
it privately in the mid-1990s," Ms. Vogel wrote.
The auction has two major
works by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Lots 15 and 8. Lot 15,
"Chemin Montant," is a 39 1/4-by-49 1/4-inch oil on
canvas that was executed in 1881 and has an estimate of $6,000,000
to $8,000,000. It is a very interesting composition with a fine
handling of light. It sold for $6,727,500.
Lot 8, "Voiliers
sur la Seine à Argenteuil," is a smaller but more
dramatic work by Caillebotte. An oil on canvas that measures 28
7/8 by 17 inches, it was executed in 1893 and has a modest estimate
of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $1,407,500.
Another unusually vertical
composition is Lot 14, "Eve Bretonne," by Paul Gauguin.
A pastel and chalk on paper laid down on canvas that measures
22 by 10 3/8 inches, it was painted in 1889. It has an estimate
of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $657,100.
The auction has two good
paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Lots 23 and 19. The former
is entitled "Nympheas" and is an oil on canvas that
measures 66 1/2 by 38 1/2 inches. Executed between 1914 and 1917,
it has a modest estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold
The other Monet, Lot 19,
"Prairie à Giverny, effet du matin," is a very
lyrical oil on canvas that measures 19 5/8 by 32 1/4 inches. Painted
in 1888, it has a modest estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It
failed to sell and was passed at $480,000.
The auction also has two
excellent works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Lots 13
and 17. The former is a charming study of girls by the seaside.
An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by 18 1/8 inches and was painted
in 1894. It has a conservative estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.
It sold for $1,575,500.
The other Renoir is a beautiful
portrait of Madame Fould. An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by
18 1/8 inches. Executed in 1880, it has a very modest estimate
of $600,000 to $800,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
Eugene Boudin is famed as
an early Impressionist painter who focused mostly on harbor and
shore scenes. Lot 2, "Trouville, Scene à Plage,"
is a wonderful example of his fresh colors and lively brushwork.
An oil on canvas that measures 7 7/8 by 13 inches, it was painted
in 1880. It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold
Lot 7, "Paysage,"
is a strong landscape study by Paul Cézanne that is intriguing
for the apparently unfinished sections in the sky that rhythmically
reinforce the verticality of some poles or trees on the ground.
The catalogue observes that the vertical treatments in the sky
are pentimenti that indicate that the composition was painted
over another one. The oil on canvas measures 18 by 21 3/4 inches
and was executed circa 1881. It has a modest estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $567,500.
Lot 31 is a very beautiful
still life by Juan Gris entitled "Damier, bouteuille et verre
sur an table." A gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper,
it measures 9 by 7 1/8 inches and was executed in 1916. It has
an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell and
was passed at $340,000.
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)(See
The City Review article on Léger)
went through many styles but his geometric abstractions are his
most impressive. Lot 22, "La femme en rouge et vert"
is a particularly striking example. The oil on canvas measures
39 1/2 by 31 3/4 inches and was executed in 1914. It has an estimate
of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $22,407,500, far
surpassing the previous world auction for the artist of $16,726,000
set at Christie's New York November 6, 2001. It had been looted
from the gallery and residence of Paul Rosenberg by the German
Army during World War II and restituted in September 2003 to the
Rosenberg family, some of whose members attended this auction.
The auction audience broke into applause at the Léger
Another Léger is
Lot 39, a very handsome oil on canvas that measures 36 1/4 by
23 5/8 inches. Executed in 1926, it has an estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $903,500.
Lot 37 is an excellent oil
on canvas by Paul Signac (1863-1935). An oil on canvas, it measures
18 1/8 by 25 5/8 inches and was painted in 1927-8. It has an estimate
of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $679,500.
Lot 36, "Launischer
Strich," is a classic work by Wassily Kandinsky. An oil on
board that measures 27 1/2 by 19 1/2 inches, it was painted in
1924. It was once in the collection of Diego Rivera. It has an
estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,239,500.
Lot 4 is an exquisite floral
still life by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904). An oil on canvas,
it measures 19 by 15 5/8 inches and was painted in 1865. It has
an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It failed to sell
and was passed at $950,000.
Early works by Maurice de
Vlaminck (1876-1958) are among the best Fauve paintings and Lot
27 is a very strong example of the artist's bold but simple palette.
An oil on canvas, it measures 18 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches and was
executed in 1905. It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $1,400,000.
The auction was extremely
successful with 36 of the 43 offered lots selling for $117,011,300.
According to Christopher Burge, the auctioneer, the low estimate
for the auction had been $90,500,000 and the high estimate $125,200,000.
At a news conference after the auction, Mr. Burge noted that the
consignments had been "discretionary" and not pressured
or estate sales. He said that 66 percent of the buyers were American.
He was obviously elated with the results and remarked that it
was "a fantastic start to the two to three weeks of hyperactivity"
that characterize the fall season.
A world auction record
was also set for Henry Moore, whose "Three Piece Reclining
Figure: Draped," a huge 1975 sculpture, sold for $6,167,500.