This day auction
November 5, 2003 at Sotheby's of Impressionist & Modern Art
is highlighted by a superb Cubist painting by Louis Marcoussis,
an excellent work by Gino Severini, a fine drawing by Egon Schiele,
a very nice group of gouaches and temperas by Marino Marini, an
impressive oil by Henri Edmond Cross, a nice sculpture by Alexander
Archipenko, a good work by Man Ray, a small but strong painting
by Max Ernst, a lovely small painting by Georges Braque and a
nice small painting by Fernand Léger.
Lot 265, "Le bar du port," is a stunning oil on canvas
laid down on panel by Louis Marcoussis (1883-1941). The 31 ¼-by-25
5/8-inch work, which is the cover illustration of the auction
catalogue, was painted in 1913 and has a conservative estimate
of $200,000 to $300,000.
Marcoussis, Juan Gris and Jean Metzinger produced some of the
most lyrical and beautiful Cubist paintings. The catalogue entry
for this lot provides the following excellent commentary:
"Louis Marcoussis was born Lodwicz Casimir Ladislas Markus
in Warsaw, Poland. Like Juan Gris, he earned his living in Paris,
where he had been living since 1905, by making humorous drawings
for the reviews La Vie Parisienne and L'Assiette au
beurre. He painted in a Post-Impressionist style, but gave
it up around 1907 to concentrate on his cartoons. He was renowned
for his wit and he and his companion Marcelle Humbert (the pseudonym
taken by Eva Gouel, also Polish-born) were a popular couple among
the Bohemian set in Montmartre. They met Guillaume Apollinaire
(a fellow Pole) and Georges Braque at the Cirque Mèdrano
in 1910, and soon thereafter were introducted to Pablo Picasso
and his mistress, Fernande Olivier. Apollinaire persuaded Markus
to Frenchify his name and he adopted the name Marcoussis. Picasso
and Braque, who were then entering the `analytical' phase of their
cubism, encouraged Marcoussis to take up painting again, and he
quickly adopted cubism. Over the next two years, Marcoussis's
friendship with Picasso and Fernande became increasingly complicated.
He was drawn to Fernande and Picasso was attracted to Marcelle.
The situation came to a head in May 1912 when Fernande left Picasso,
and Picasso ran away with Marcelle (now Eva) to Cèret (Eva
sadly died of cancer two years later). Marcoussis, however, ended
up the better, for not long thereafter he met Alice Halicka (another
Polish émigré) in late 1912 and the two fell deeply
in love. He and Alice were married on 13 July 1913 and honeymooned
in Banyuls-sur-Mer, near the French border with Catalonia, where
the artist painted Le bar du port. The composition shows
the buildings in the town set against the rugged hills that decline
steeply into the sea, which is represented by the blue triangle
at lower center. The pronounced use of diagonals gives the effect
of the landscape being tilted to one side and viewed from a relatively
high vantage point elsewhere in the hills. Marcoussis's cubist
components consist mainly of overlapping rectangular and other
polygonal forms, this, and the use of stencil-like lettering show
his familiarity with the flatter and larger planar forms in the
recent paintings and papiers collés of Picasso and Braque.
The carefully balanced rhythms in Marcoussis's cubist forms, however,
suggest the presence of an overriding schematic design, and in
this regard, Marcoussis demonstrates a stronger affinity with
the cubism of Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and the other painters
in the so-called Puteaux group centered around the brothers Marcel
Duchamp and Jacques Villon. The Puteaux artists were interested
in mathematical theories of proportion, the `golden section' of
the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid. In fact, Marcoussis first
exhibited his cubist paintings with the Section d'Or exhibition
in October 1912. Organized by the Puteaux artists, this proved
to be the last great group enterprise of the cubist movement.
Le bar du port has been widely exhibited and is an important
work from the years 1912-1914, which marked the ascendancy of
the cubist movement in Europe prior to the outbreak of the First
World War. Marcoussis painted only a few cubist works before he
joined the French army when war was declared, and he did not resume
painting until 1919 by which time cubism had entered its late
mannerist phase. He was one of the few contemporaries whom Picasso
and Braque, the proud and often scornful pioneers of cubism, liked
and respected. Marcoussis possessed a profound understanding of
cubism, and was able to interpret and express those ideas in a
small body of pre-war work that was more insightful and accomplished
than that of many of his more prolific colleagues."
Another striking Cubist
work is Lot 262, "Femme à la plante verte," an
oval oil and sand on canvas by Gino Severini (1883-1966). The
painting was executed in 1917 and measures 39 3/8 by 32 inches.
It has a conservative estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
Italy entered World War I as an ally of Great Britain and France
in 1915 and many Italian Futurists saw the war, according to the
catalogue's entry for this lot, "as a means of achieving
the completion of the Risorgimento, the drive for national reunification."
"Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the chief theorist and author
of the Futurist manifestos, was the most bellicose, and clamored
for early intervention. Most of the Futurists patriotically joined
up and went off to war, and like their fellow artists in other
countries, suffered terrible losses in the trenches. Severini
lived the previous several years in Paris where he was the chief
contact between the Futurists and the French avant-garde. In 1913
he married Jeanne Fort, the daughter of Paul Fort, a poet and
review editor who championed progressive painters. By late 1914,
Parisian galleries had closed down and good shortages had developed.
Suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis, Severini left Paris
in early 1915 to recuperate in Barcelona; Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso
and others contributed money to defray his expenses. While in
Barcelona, he heard the news of Italy's declaration of war. Unfit
for service, he returned to Paris and painted a series of works
on the theme of war.Confronted with the appalling cost of the
war in lives and wasted creative talent, Severini, Carlo Carrà
and Ardengo Soffici began to question the militant tenets of Futurism,
and the concept of an ideologically motivated avant-garde. The
need for a new humanism became apparent, and Severini came to
understand painting as a form of expression in and of itself,
existing within the rational and tangible limits of the medium,
and stripped of extraneous agendas and intellectual dogmatism.
Prior to the war, relations between the Cubists and the Futurists
had been tenuous and problematic. Each group had influenced the
other but nevertheless remained antithetical on certain issues.
Both groups shared an interest in subject matter drawn from modern
life, and in varying degrees introduced the concept of simultaneity,
that is, the laying of multiple experiences within the same composition.
The cubists favored the perceptual analysis of static subjects,
and disliked the Futurists' preference for objects in motion,
which they felt the Italians treated illusionistically and with
a tendency to superficial, subjective effect, whereas cubism was
a reality in itself, expressed within the pure plastic means of
painting. With the demise of the Futurist movement, Severini became
increasingly interested in the latest developments in the cubism
of Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris, which had entered what
is now referred to as its 'synthetic' phase. Severini worked in
cubist assemblage, which led to increasing flatness into his compositions.
In July 1916 Severini contributed paintings to the exhibition
organized by the poet and critic André Salmon at designer
Paul Poiret's Salon d'Antin. Intended to demonstrate the solidarity
of the Paris avant-garde with the allied war effort since many
Frenchmen still considered modernism to be a conspiracy concocted
by foreign agents, the exhibition included paintings by Henri
Matisse, Fernand Léger, Giorgio de Chirico, Moise Kisling
and Kees van Dongen among others. Picasso allowed his Les Demoiselles
d'Avignon to be shown in public for the first time. The present
painting is notable for the richness and subtlety of its color
contrasts, and the carefully poised layering of the flat color
planes. It is a rare instance of Severini's use of an oval-shaped
canvas, and he had probably seen Picasso's and Braque's compositions
in this format. To create textural variations in the flatly painted
forms, Severini scraped areas of drying paint and elsewhere used
a monochrome pointillism, a technique that Picasso had already
borrowed from him in his synthetic cubist pictures. Severini first
arrived in Paris in 1906 and by 1917 had known Matisse for almost
a decade. The latter's Portrait d'Yvonne Landsberg, 1914
(coll. The Philadelphia Museum of Art) showed Futurist influence
in its wave-like forms emanating from the sitter. In still-life
and figure paintings done in 1915, Matisse introduced cubist elements
which he called 'the methods of modern construction.' Both Severini
and Matisse admired each other as colorists. Severini praised
Matisse's work in his theoretical text La peinture d'avant-garde
written in 1917. It is light of these shared interests that Severini
dedicated the present painting to Matisse in 1917 and presented
it to him as a gift."
Lot 219, "La Sieste
au bord de la mer," is a very striking and excellent oil
on canvas by Henri Edmond Cross. It measures 25 5/8 by 31 7/8
inches and was painted circa 1903. It has an estimate of $400,000
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964)
was an important modern sculptor whose first plaster version of
Dancers was illustrated on the front cover of "The Sketch"
October 29, 1913. That version, which was 24 inches high, was
probably executed in 1912. A second version that was three inches
taller was, according to the catalogue, "most likely a reconstruction
created in 1955, and the third version, of which the present bronze
is an example, most likely dates from 1960." The work has
an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
Lot 36 is a charming creation
by Man Ray (1890-1976) entitled "Boardwalk." The cord,
wood, fabric, furniture knobs, pen and India ink on panel measures
22 ¾ by 25 ¼ inches. It was conceived in 1917 and
this version was executed in 1973. It has an estimate of $25,000
Lot 321 is a good untitled
oil painting by Yves Tanguy (1900-1955). It measures 10 ¼
by 13 ¾ inches and was painted in 1938, the year in which
the artist had an affair with Peggy Guggenheim. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $200,000.
(1891-1976) is another Surrealist who painted in a variety of
styles. Lot 322, "Arizona Rouge," is a small oil on
panel that is quite abstract and very strong. It measures 9 3/8
by 13 inches and was painted in 1955. It has an estimate of $100,000
small but excellent work is Lot 346, "Le profil," an
oil on plaster by Georges Braque (1882-1963). It measures 8 ½
by 10 ¾ inches and was executed in 1946-7. It has an estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000.
is a cheerful, small oil on canvas by Fernand Léger entitled
"La femme au cactus." It measures 15 by 18 1/8 inches
and was painted in 1949. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
The morning session is highlighted by several good works on paper.
122, "Pferd und Mann," for example, is a 9-by-7 3/8-inch
gouache, watercolor, pen and black in k on paper laid down by
the artist on paper with an applied silver paper border. Executed
in 1923 by Paul Klee (1879-1940), it is being sold by the Museum
of Modern Art to benefit its acquisition fund. It has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000.
Another Klee work is Lot 136, "Dame mit Tomate," a watercolor
on paper laid down by the artist on board. Painted in 1930, it
measures 25 5/8 by 19 ¾ inches. It has an estimate of $200,000
is a 10 ¾-by-8 3/8-inch pastel and pencil on paper by Pablo
Picasso. Entitled "Guitare et compoteir sur une table carrée,
it was created in 1920. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
is a fine watercolor and pencil on paper by Egon Schiele (1890-1918).
Entitled "Schuhanziehende Frau (Dirne)," it measures
19 by 12 ½ inches and was executed in 1912. It has an estimate
of $140,000 to $180,000.
Lot 141, "Personnage devant le soleil," is a simple
but very strong work by Joan Miró (1893-1983). A gouache,
brush and India ink on paper, it was executed in 1942. It has
an estimate of $120,000 to $160,000.
are very handsome gouache, brush, pen and India ink on papers
by Marino Marini (1901-1980) that were once in the collection
of Albert Skira, the art book publisher. They measure 15 ¾
by 14 ½ inches and were executed circa 1951-2. Each has
an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.