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Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby's

7PM, November 2, 2005

Sale 8125

"La Mer" by Ernst

Lot 17, "La Mer," by Max Ernst, oil on canvas, 16 1/2 by 13 inches, 1925

By Carter B. Horsley

The best works in Sotheby's first evening auction of the Fall 2005 season do not carry the highest estimates.

This auction of Impressionist & Modern Art, in fact, really has no blockbusters, although many "big" names are represented. It does, however, have many very choice, "connoisseur" pictures that any museum would be proud to possess.

Probably the most beautiful painting is Lot 17, "La Mer," an oil on canvas by Max Ernst (1891-1976), show above. Relatively small, it measures 16 1/2 by 13 inches and was executed in 1925. The Metropolitan Museum of Art held a major retrospective on Ernst earlier this year and this work certainly would have held its own if it had been included. It has been consigned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to benefit the acquisition fund and it is difficult to understand the rationale for its deaccession as it is a superb work that could easily be mistaken for a fine work by Wassily Kandinsky.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"1925 was a particularly eventful year for the artist: he signed a contract that provided him the financial freedom to paint full-time; he participated in the first Surrealist group exhibition at the Galerie Pierre; and he developed one of the more consequential techniques of his career: frottage. The frottage technique consisted of placing paper over objects such as leaves or uneven surfaces, particularly those with wood graining, and rubbing the sheet to pick up those forms and textures. The images that emerged ignited his imagination and allowed him to tease out fantastical forms and landscapes from the pre-existing patterns. During the summer of 1925, Ernst worked by the sea at Pornic, Brittany. It was at this time that the artist discovered the possibilities of adapting his frottage technique to oil painting which he called grattage. With grattage, he scratched the evenly applied surface of paint with various tools such as combs. The smoothly painted surface of this work has been incised with fine elegant lines that give the impresssion of currents and vibratory waves across the surface of the water."

The lot has a very conservative estimate of $140,000 to $180,000. It sold for $912,000 including the buyer's premium as do all the results mentioned in this article.

The sale was very successful with about 87 percent of 60 offered lots selling for a total $130,126,000, nicely above the pre-sale high estimate $125,455.

David Norman, co-chairman of the auction house's Impressionist Department, said after the sale that he was "thrilled" with the "fabulous sale," adding that "fair and reasonable estimates...end up with the best results.

"Nature Morte Avec Bouteille et Cigars" by Gris

Lot 22, "Nature Morte Avec Bouteille et Cigars," by Juan Gris, papier collé, gouache, pastel, charcoal, pen and India ink and pencil on gray paper, 18 3/4 by 12 1/8 inches, 1912

Great Cubist works by Juan Gris (1887-1927) do not come up at auction often. Lot 22, "Nature Morte Avec Bouteille et Cigars," is a superb example. It is papier collé, gouache, pastel, charcoal, pen and India ink and pencil on gray paper that measures 18 3/4 by 12 1/8 inches. It was executed in 1912 and was once in the collection of Douglas Cooper of London. The catalogue notes that this work "is one of the first examples of the use of collage in a Cubist composition," adding that "Gris, along with Picasso and Braque, was one of the pioneers of Cubism and the use of collage."

"One of the ways that Gris decoded the essential geometry of objects," the catalogue entry continued, "was by revealing that all forms could be plotted and reconstructed within the confines of grids and overlapping planes. In the present picture, he strips the labels of a bottleof wine and a box of cigars and redefines them as an assemblage of rectangles and triangles. He uses overlapping, vertical lines to cut and shift compositional perspective, but he never compromises the legibility of the object in his composition. Following the success of the present composition, Gris continued to employ this vertical structuring device and explored the relationship between word and image, and vertical orientation became the key organizing principle of the paintings executed the following year."

The lot has a conservative estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,136,000.

"Nu Jaune" by Picasso

Lot 4, "Nu Jaune," by Pablo Picasso, watercolor, gouache and India ink on paper, 23 by 15 1/2 inches, 1907

Several of the finest works in the auction have been consigned from the Collection of Josephine & Walter Buhl Ford II. Josephine Clay Ford was a granddaughter of Henry Ford, the automobile maker and Walter Buhl Ford II was the head of Ford & Earl, a design firm. The couple donated many important works, including Vincent Van Gogh's portrait of the Postman Roulin, to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The most stunning of these works is Lot 4, "Nu Jaune," a wtercolor, gouache and India ink on paper by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The work was executed in 1907 and measures 23 by 15 1/2 inches. The catalogue notes that Pierre Daix has maintained that this work "is the first study" for the artist's famous masterpiece, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," that is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The lot has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $13,736,000, the highest price at the auction.

"Guitare, Verre, Bouteille de Vieux Marc" by Picasso

Lot 6, "Guitare, Verre, Bouteille de Vieux Marc," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 by 13 1/4 inches, 1912

Also from the Ford collection is another Picasso, Lot 6, "Guitare, Bouteille de Vieux Marc," an oil on canvas that measures 18 1/8 by 13 1/4 inches. Executed in 1912, has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,000,000. The work was once in the collection of Arthur B. Davies, the painter. It sold for $3,712,000.

Another fine work from the same collection is Lot 5, "Sizilanerin mit Grunem Shawl (Sicilian Woman with Green Shawl)," by Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941). An oil on board that measures 20 3/4 by 18 1/2 inches, it is dated 1912. A very strong and bold Expressionist portrait, it has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $5,168,000.

Clown with Child by Klee

Lot 41, "Clown mit Kind (Clown with Child)," by Paul Klee, oil on board, 26 1/2 by 19 3/4 inches, 1931

Paul Klee (1879-1940) is best known for his small, cheerful and fanciful works that often are fine geometric studies. Lot 41, "Clown mit Kind (Clown with Child)," is quite a surprise in his oeuvre because of its intense colors, unusual depiction of spatial depth, good size and technique. It is an oil on board that measures 26 1/2 by 19 3/4 inches and is dated 1931. After a visit to Egypt in 1928, Klee began to use hieroglyphic elements in this work. Many of his works from this period are abstract compositions. In this work, the catalogue maintained that Klee introduced "charming and witty human elements," adding that "the clown is evoked by the interweaving shapes which suggest his walking figure, whilst the child peeping out of the papoose on his back adds a delightful comic aspect."

This superb painting has a modest estimate of $350,000 to $500,000. It sold for $464,000.

Self portrait as St. Sebastian by Schiele

Lot 37, "Selbstportrat Als Heiliger Sebastian (Self-Portrait as St. Sebastian)," by Egon Schiele, pencil on paper, 12 5/8 by 19 inches, 1914

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) is the subject of a major retrospective this fall at the Neue Gallerie on Fifth Avenue at 86th Street. Lot 37 is a very fine pencil drawing on paper that is dated 1914. It measures 12 5/8 by 19 inches and is a self portrait of the artist as St. Sebastian. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $2,256,000.

"Robe Jaune et Robe Arlequin (Nezy et Lydia)" by Matisse

Lot 32, "Robe Jaune et Robe Arlequin (Nezy et Lydia)," by Henri Matisse, oil and pencil on canvas, 18 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches, 1941

For those with larger budgets and a desire for more famous "names," Lot 32, "Robe Jaune et Robe Arlequin (Nezy et Lydia)," is a very pleasant late work by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). An oil and pencil on canvas, it measures 18 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches. It has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $10,936,000.

"Cache-Cache" by Morisot

Lot 9, "Cache-Cache," by Berthe Morisot, oil on canvas, 18 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches, 1873

Lot 9 is a work with an impressive provenance that has changed hands several times in recent years. Entitled "Cache-Cache," it is an exquisite oil on canvas, 19 ¼ by 21 ¾ inches, by Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). Its title means "hide-and-seek," and it was painted in 1873. It was included and favorably reviewed in the first Impressionist show in 1874, where it was lent by Morisot's brother-in-law, Edouard Manet.

The work was sold by the estate of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney at Sotheby's November May 10, 1999 where it was acquired by Steven Wynn for his Bellagio casino in Las Vegas for $3,852,500.

Sotheby's auctioned the work again November 9, 2000 when it sold for $4,405,750, a world auction record for the artist, and Charles S. Moffet of Sotheby's remarked that it was quite remarkable for a work to reappear at auction so soon and do better, adding that "quality rules."

The estimate for the work at this auction is $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $5,168,000, setting another auction record for the artist, and Mr. Norman noted that each of the three times Sotheby's has sold it in recent years it gained about 10 percent in value, confounding the conventional wisdom that works do not do well that are offered at auction too soon.

Morisot was one of two great women Impressionist painters. The other, of course, was Mary Cassatt, the daughter of a founder of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

"Le Déjeuner à Berneval" by Renoir

Lot 55, "Le Déjeuner à Berneval," by Pierre-August Renoir, oil on canvas, 32 1/8 by 26 inches, 1898

Another "family" picture is Lot 55, "Le Déjeuner à Berneval," by Pierre-August Renoir (1841-1919). An oil on canvas, it measures 32 1/8 by 26 inches and was painted in 1898. The catalogue notes that the work is "one of Renoir's most accomplished group portraits that depicts the members of his family." The lot, which is a very nice composition, has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $3,376,000.

Child in Straw Hat by Cézanne

Lot 38, "L'Enfant au Chapeau de Paille," by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 31 7/8 by 21 5/8 inches, circa 1902

Lot 38 is a very nice sketch of a child in a straw hat by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). An oil on canvas, it measures 31 7/8 by 21 5/8 inches and was executed circa 1902. It is a very simple and nice composition with classic Cézannesque brushwork. It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. This lot was withdrawn.

"Paysage du Cannet" by Bonnard

Lot 39, "Paysage du Cannet," by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas, 48.4 by 108.3 inches, 1928

The most spectacular work in the auction is Lot 39, "Paysage du Cannet," a very luminous, large and dramatic landscape by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). An oil on canvas, it measures 48.4 by 108.3 inches and was executed in 1928. The scene depicts the grounds of the artist's villa that overlooks the bay of Cannes. Panoramic and lush, it is extremely painterly and has a modest estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4,944,000. It may be his masterpiece.

"Le Grand Canal" by Monet

Lot 12, "Le Grand Canal," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches, 1908

Lot 12 is an example of Claude Monet's series on The Grand Canal in Venice. An oil on canvas that measures 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches, it is dated 1908. Very similar, but brighter and more colorful examples from this series are in the collections of The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This lot has an ambitious estimate of $12,000,000 to $16,000,000. It sold for $12,896,000. In response to a question from the press after the sale, Charles Moffett, co-chairman of the Impressionist Art department, said Monet did not care about the time of day but what was in his heart and emotion and he urged everyone to go to the Gritti Hotel in Venice, have a Bellini, and gaze across at the church.

"Le Pont Japonais" by Monet

Lot 10, "Le Pont Japonais," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 35 by 45 3/4 inches, 1918-1924

A more interesting Monet is Lot 10, an example of his studies of his "Japanese" bridge at his home in Giverny, France. An oil on canvas, it measures 35 by 45 3/4 inches and and was executed 1918-1924. The painting is very vigorous to the point of abstraction and is more interesting than many of his "water lily" paintings. It has a modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $5,168,000 reflecting its furious brushwork and high degree of abstraction.

"Le Petit Bras de la Seine à Argenteuil" by Monet

Lot 54, "Le Petit Bras de la Seine à Argenteuil," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 21 5/8 by 29 inches, 1876

Lot 54, "Le Petit Bras de la Seine à Argenteuil," is an excellent oil on canvas by Claude Monet. It measures 21 5/8 by 29 inches and was executed in 1876. It has a very conservative estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000 as its brushwork and color are intense and exciting. It sold for only $1,472,000 indicating that the Monet market is uneven and that are fine bargains to be had.

"Les Maisons Dans La Neige, Norvége" by Monet

Lot 57, "Les Maisons dans la Neige, Norvége," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 26 by 36 1/2 inches, 1895

Another Monet is a quite abstract winter farm scene in Norway, Lot 57. An oil on canvas that measures 26 by 36 1/2 inches, it was executed in 1895 and has a modest estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,416,000.

"La Mer Vue de Villerville" by Caillebotte

Lot 45, "La Mer Vue de Villerville," by Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas, 23 1/2 by 29 inches, 1882

Lot 45 is a very nice landscape by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) that isentitled "La Mer Vue de Villerville." An oil on canvas, it measures 23 1/2 by 29 inches and was executed in 1882. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $800,000. It sold for $744,000.

"Buste de Manuel Humbert" by Modigliani

Lot 15, "Buste de Manuel Humbert," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas, 26 by 20 1/4 inches, 1916

Lot 15 is a good portrait of Manuel Humbert by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). An oil on canvas, it was painted in 1916 and measures 26 by 20 1/4 inches. It was formerly in the collections of Zeppo Marx and Mr. and Mrs. William Wyler and has been consigned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to benefit its acquisition fund. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $5,504,000.

"Les Constructeurs" by Léger

Lot 24, "Les Constructeurs," by Fernand Léger, oil and gouache on paper on canvas, 101 by 126 3/8 inches, 1950

Lot 24 is a good example of one of the most famous compositions by Fernand Léger (1891-1955)(see The City Review article on a Léger exhibition). Entitled "Les Constructeurs," it is an oil and gouache on paper on canvas that measures 101 by 126 3/8 inches. It was executed in 1950. Léger began his series on construction workers in 1950. The lot was an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,392,000.

"Young Garden (Rhythms)" by Klee

Lot 29, "Young Garden (Rhythms)," by Paul Klee, oil and incision marks on canvas, 25 1/2 by 20 5/8 inches, 1927

Lot 29 is a large work by Paul Klee (1879-1940) that is entitled "Young Garden (Rhythms)." Oil and incision marks on canvas, it measures 25 1/2 by 20 5/8 inches. It is dated 1927 and has an estimate of $1,400,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for $3,152,000.

Lot 35, "Le Grand Sirène," was a large and impressive work on paper by Paul Delvaux that sold for $710,400, an auction record for a work on paper by the artist.

Lot 51, "Clemens Braun," a portrait by Conrad Felixmuller, sold for $1,136,000, an auction record for the artist.

 

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's November 1, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale at Sotheby's in the Spring, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction in the Fall, November, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's November 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's May 4, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's May 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the May 5, 2004 evening auction at Sotheby's of Property of the Greentree Foundation from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 6, 2004

See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art Part 2 day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art Part Two day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Smooke Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Hoener Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on Phillips May 7, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

See The City Review article on the November 9, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Phillips Fall 2000 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

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