By Carter B. Horsley
This morning sale of Impressionist & Modern
Art at Christie's November 9, 2006 is highlighted by a wonderful
painting by Lyonel Feininger, several excellent works by Pierre
Bonnard, a very charming painting by Berthe Morisot, a very nice
painting by Edouard Vuillard, two superb landscapes by Camille
Pissarro, and a strong work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The cover illustration of the catalogue is
Lot 414, "Silbersternbild," is a great painting by Lyonel
Feininger 1871-1956). An oil on canvas, it measures 20 5/8 by
15 7/8 inches and was painted in 1924. It is property of the Andreas
Feininger Trust under the will of Julie Feininger and has a modest
estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $2,368,000 including
the buyer's premium, the highest lot in the auction, in which
84 percent of the 200 offered lots sold for a total of $45,121,600.
The catalogue provides the following commentary
by Achim Moeller on this lot:
"In 1924, Lyonel Feininger joined with
Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Alexej von Jawlensky to form
the Blaue Vier or Blue Four grup. But it was a prior affiliation
that more greatly influenced the painting Silbersternbild.
In 1919 Walter Gropius had named Feininger Formmeister at the
Bauhaus in Weimar. The artist's years as a commercial cartoonist
and his preoccupation with architectural forms in his paintings
proved relevant to the school's program of eliminating the distinction
between fine and applied arts. The Feininger woodcut which appeared
on the cover of the 1919 Bauhaus manifesto represented 'the spirt
of devoted craftsmanship in th modern world' that was so central
to the school....This combination of 'medieval mysticism' with
'modern political thought,' epitomized by the idea of a Cathedral
of Socialism, anticipates the present painting's simultaneous
spirituality and concreteness.....With this post came the extrmemly
benefit of new workspace, for 'the studio the Bauhaus gave [Feininger]
offered excellent working conditions, which immediately reflected
in his output''.....This space allowed Feininger, who had been
painting for just twelve years, to further develop his own pictorial
language, in which he created a synthesis of cubist form, Expressionist
feeling and Orphist light. As early as 1907, he articulated to
his second wife Julie Berg the notion that, 'what one sees
must be transformed in the mind and crystallized....Feininger's
introduction to Cubism while in Paris in 1911 confirmed that he
was on the right path. But it was not until the 1920s that Feininger
imbued these cubist structures with the incandescent glow that
characterizes the present painting. Hans Hess sees this command
of light as a turning point for the artist from the illumined
plane Feininger advances to the luminous plane.....No longer reflecting
light from other sources, the forms radiate from within, to the
extent that 'the light in the pictures seem to originate inside
the painting itself'.....The stars and crescent moon, which virtually
scintillate from the layered application of silver paint, accentuate
the overall sense of effulgence. The transparency of the forms
from which the edifices are built contrasts with their monumentality,
inducing a tension that further activates the pictures...."
Lot 326, "Au 'Star,' Le Havre (Miss Dolly,
chanteuse anglaise," is a magnificent tempera on panel by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). The work on panel measures
10 1/8 by 8 1/2 inches and was executed in 1899. It was once in
the collection of Florence J. Gould. It has a modest estimate
of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $168,000.
There are several superb works by Pierre Bonnard
(1867-1947) in the auction. Lot 307, "Dans la rue, deux figures,"
is an oil on cradled panel that measures 15 by 18 inches and was
painted circa 1906. It was once in the collection of Mr. and Mrs.
Peter O'Toole. It has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It sold for $352,000.
Another excellent Bonnard is Lot 340, "La
femme au chapeau bleu," an oil on canvas that measures 17
by 21 1/4 inches. It was executed circa 1910 and is one of many
fine works consigned to this auction formerly in the collection
of Janice Levin to benefit the Philip and Janice Levin Foundatin.
It has a modest estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for
Lot 342 is another fine Bonnard from the Levin
collection. Entitled "La Seine à Vernon," it
is an oil on canvas that measures 19 3/4 by 26 7/8 inches. This
work was formerly in the collections of Sam Salz and Mr. and Mrs.
Nate B. and Frances Spingold. Executed in 1927, it has a modest
estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $777,600.
In 1912, Bonnard bought a villa across the Seine from Giverny
and he would frequently visit Claude Monet there and, the catalogue
entry for this lot notes, "the influence of the older master's
late impressionist style made a significant impact on Baonnard's
own treatment of color and form, as evidenced in the present work."
The painting is quite remarkable in its strong blues and its very
impressionistic treatment of the foreground foliage.
Another work from the Levin collection is Lot
341, "Le déshabillé de dos," by Edouard
Vuillard, an oil on canvas that measures 9 1/8 by 10 5/8 inches.
It was painted circa 1902-3 and has a modest estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It sold for $261,400. Nudes are relatively
rare in Vuillard's oeuvre and this small painting could well be
mistaken for a masterpiece by Pierre Bonnard.
Lot 339 is an extremely pleasant and good impressionist
painting of a young girl studying by a window by Berthe Morisot
(1841-1895). An oil on canvas, it measures 24 by 19 5/8 inches
and was executed in 1893. It is from the Levin collection and
has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for
Lot 356 is a very impressive and monumental
Impressionist composition by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Painted
in 1877, it is an oil on canvas that measures 28 3/4 by 23 3/8
inches. Entitled "Les Mathurins, Pontoise," It has a
modest estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $800,000.
If "Les Mathurins, Pontoise" is a
fine Impressionist work with wonderful brushwork, Lot 314, "La
Sente des Pouilleux, Pontoise, effet de neige," also by Pissarro,
is almost incredible as its brushwork is extremely loose, bold
and almost wild and a precursor of Abstract Expressionism. An
oil on canvas, it measures 19 7/8 by 24 1/4 inches and was painted
in 1874. It was once in the collections of Sam Salz and Sol Hurok.
It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.
Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1932) is a Pointilist
with warm tones and serene paintings of houses with lush landscaping,
well represented by Lot 324, "La maison de l'automne,"
an oil on canvas that measures 29 by 36 1/2 inches. Painted in
1924, it has a modest estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It
sold for $598,400.
Lot 453 is an excellent work by Victor Brauner
(1903-1966), entitled "Tete dépliante." It is
an encausic on canvas laid down on masonite and measures 32 by
25 5/8 inches. Executed in 1955, it has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $180,000.