By Carter B. Horsley
This evening auction of Impressionist &
Modern Art at Sotheby's is highlighted by a spectacular work by
Franz Marc (1880-1916), two fine paintings by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903),
a good landscape by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), a good early
Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), an excellent painting by Hermann
Max Pechstein (1881-1955), several good paintings by Kees van
Dongen (1877-1968), two pleasant works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973),
a good still life by George Braque (1882-1963), and an attractive
painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926).
Lot 41, "Der Wasserfall (Frauen Unter
Einem Wasserfall)" (Women Under A Waterfall), is a large
and extremely impressive and important oil on canvas by Franz
Marc. An oil on canvas, it measures 65 by 62 1/2 inches and was
executed in 1912. It was the cover illustration of the German
Art auction at Sotheby's in London October 6, 1999 and was in
the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for a brief
period after World War II.
The catalogue notes that this "is a pivotal
work of the German Expressionist movement" and that Marc
"championed freddom of expresion and a spirtualized, somewhat
mystical, approach to representing the natural world."
"This new type of art had aesthetic similarities
to the widly colorful compositions that the Fauves produced a
few years earlier in France. But the creative efforts and philosophies
of Der Blaue Reiter froup, as Marc, Kandinsky and their
fellow collaborating artists came to be known, resulting in some
of the most extraordinary pictures produced in central Europe
in the years before the war."
Another similar work, entitled "Die Verzberte
Muhle (The Bewitched Mill)," was painted one year later and
is in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago, Arthur Jerome
Eddy Memorial Collection.
"Marc explained to August Macke."
the catalogue entry continued, "that his coloration was not
arbitrary and that his color choices represented specific characteristics.
'Blue is the male principle, severe, bitter, spiritual and intellectual.
Yellow is the female principle, gentle, cheerful, and sensual.
Red is matter, brutal and heavy, the color that must be fought
and overcome by the other two!'"
The lot, which was sold by Sotheby's in
London in 1999 for about $8 million, has an estimate of $20,000,000
to $30,000,000. It sold for $20,201,000 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article. The price
was a record for the artist.
The cover illustration of the catalogue is
Lot 18, "Te Poipoi (Le Matin," a smashing and wonderful
oil on canvas by Paul Gauguin that measures 26 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches.
Painted in Tahiti, it was executed in 1892. It is property from
the family of Joan Whitney Payson. It has an estimate of $40,000,000
to $60,000,000. It sold for $39,241,000 to Joseph Lau of Hong
The catalogue maintains that this work "
is a refreshingly modern and daring interpretation of the ritual
of the bath, one of the most symbolically loaded themes in the
history of western art." The composition is very dense and
dynamic and its palette is rich and heated.
A less bold but still very bucolic Gauguin
of about the same size and date is Lot 21, "Paysage aux Trois
Arbes," an oil on canvas that measures 24 by 36 1/4 inches.
It was once in the collection of Adele and Arthur Lehman of New
York. It has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $7,750,000.
Lot 9 is a very strong landscape by Vincent
van Gogh entitled "The Fields (Wheat Fields)." An oil
on canvas, it measures 19 3/4 by 25 1/2 inches and was painted
It is related in quality to"Wheat Field"
in the Foundation Beyeler in Basel and "The Field under a
Stormy Sky" in the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam,
both of which are illustrated in the catalogue, but it is not
as dramatic as the very famous "Wheat Field under Threatening
Skies with Crows," also at the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh.
According to an article in the October 18,
2007 edition of The New York Times by Marlise Simons, Dominique-Charles
Janssens, the owner of Auberge Havoux, the country inn in Auvers-sur-Oise
that was van Gogh's final abode, hopes to buy this painting and
place it in the artist's room at the inn and has appealed for
donations to vangoghsdream.org.
The painting has a modest estimate of $28,000,000
to $35,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $25,000,000.
The auction had only 76 lots as compared
to 91 at Christie's the night before but only 74 percent sold
at Sotheby's compared to about 81 percent at Christie's, both
low figures for major evening sales. Whereas the Christie's sale
total of about $394 million fell within its pre-sale estimates
and its results were widely interpreted as indicating that the
art market was stable, the results of the Sotheby's sale were
more troublesome. The pre-sale estimate, not including buyer's
premiums, was $355.6 million to $494.2 million. The auction's
sale total including premiums was $269,741,600.
At the post-sale news conference, David
C. Norman, co-chairman, Impressionist & Modern art, Worldwide
head of department, New York, said "we had some good moments
and we had some tough moments," adding that in many instances
"our estimates were not accepted by the market." Mr.
Norman, however, emphasized that he felt the market remains "extremely
strong" especially for great pictures. The auction set a
record for a drawing by Egon Schiele, Lot 3, "Self-Portrait
with Checkered Shirt," which sold for $11,353,000, well over
its high estimate of $6,500,000. It also set a record a Picasso
sculpture with Lot 22, "Tete de femme (Dora Maar),"
selling for $29,161,000 just shy of its high estimate. At Christie's
auction, about half the buyers were American. Mr. Norman said
that two of the top ten lots at the Sotheby's auction were acquired
by Americas with the remainder split between Europeans and "others."
Lot 46 is a big and fine early Expressionist
work by Lyonel Feininger, entitled "Die Grüne Brücke
(The Green Bridge)." An oil on canvas, it measures 39 3/4
by 31 7/8 inches and was painted in 1909. It has been widely exhibited
and was auctioned at Christie's in London June 25, 2001. In the
past few seasons, several major works by Feininger have appeared
at auction. The artist submitted this painting in1911 to the Salon
des Indépendents where it hung alongside works by Matisse,
Kandinsky and Delaunay. The catalogue entry notes that when Matisse
came to hang one of his works next to this painting, he paused
and then took it out with him explaining that "he would have
to work over his painting before he would let it stand comparison
with Feininger's." Feininger returned to this scene again
in a 1916 work that is now in the North Carolina Museum of Art
in Raleigh. "The distorted and elongated characters walking
down the street," the catalogue entry continued, "echo
the structure of the crooked houses along the side of the road....There
was a strong socio-political subtext to many of his pictures,
and the present work is an example of the artist's concerns in
the years preceding World War I."
It has an estimate of $12,500,000 to $15,000,000.
It sold for $10,121,000.
Kees van Dongen is represented by several excellent
works in the auction, the most bold being Lot 36, "Femme
à La Cigarette (Cepue)." An oil on canvas, the strong
Fauve work measures 25 5/8 by 19 3/4 inches and was painted circa
1905-8. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It
sold for $5,417,000.
Lot 38, "Femme au Grand Chapeau,"
is another fine portrait of a woman by van Dongen that is very
painterly. While more alluring, it is somewhat less exciting than
Lot 36. It is an oil on canvas that measures 28 3/8 by 23 5/8
inches and painted circa 1912. It has an estimate of $3,500,000
to $4,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $2,700,000.
Lot 65, "Ines Napoli," is a strong
full-length figure of a woman in a black dress by van Dongen that
was painted circa 1908. An oil on canvas that measures 32 by 21
1/2 inches, it has a modest estimate of $1,400,000 to $1,800,000.
It sold for $1,273,000.
Lot 63, "La Porte Dauphine," is a
pleasant cityscape by van Dongen that was painted in 1924-5. An
oil on canvas, it measures 39 3/4 by 32 inches. It has an estimate
of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,385,000.
Lot 39 is a superb Expressionist painting by
Herman Max Pechstein, entitled "Frühling (Springtime)."
An oil on canvas, it measures 28 by 31 1/2 inches and was executed
circa 1919. A fine example of German Expressionism, the catalogue
entry notes that it "captures the mood of optimism and new
life that spring evoikes." It has a modest estimate of $1,000,000
to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,329,000.
There are two pleasant paintings by Henri Matisse
(1869-1954), Lots 44 and 51. The former is entitled "Espagnole
(Buste)" and is an oil on canvas that measures 19 7/8 by
13 5/8 inches. It was painted in 1922. The entry for this lot
notes that "This is one of his more intimate compositions
that allows for a close engagement with the lovely young model,
who is dressed in the exotic costume of a Spanish lady."
The lot has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $16,000,000. It sold
for $10,121,000. It was painted in an apartment Matisse rented
on the third floor of 1, Place Charles Félix in Nice, France.
Lot 51 is a nude by Matisse that was also executed
in 1922. An oil on canvas, it measures 21 7/8 by 13 3/8 inches.
It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for
There are two charming large works in the auction
by Pablo Picasso, Lots 28 and 52.
Lot 28 is entitled "La Lampe" and
is a very strong image, an oil on canvas that measures 63 3/4
by 51 1/8 inches. It was painted in 1931 and has an estimate of
$25,000,000 to $35,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Picasso's revelatory La Lampe
introduced an extraordinary and unexpected new presence in Picasso's
paintings. As a singular composition, it appears to be a vibrantly
colorful ode to classicism: a plaster bust, framed and illuminated
against the dark archway and surrounded by a garland of philodendron
leaves. But there is much more to this picture than meets the
eye, as it is the story behind the canvas that adds another powerful
dimension. What we see here, bathed in the warm glow of a gas
lamp that hung in his Boiseloup studio...is the unmistable likeness
of the artist's mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter...a
sensual young blonde whose unveiled presence here would raise
the suspicions of Picasso's wife the following year."
Lot 52, "Homme à La Pipe,"
is an oil on canvas that measures 76 3/4 by 51 7/8 inches and
was painted in 1969. It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $15,000,000.
It sold for $11,801,000. "This figure, in addition
to the obvious connotations of manhood, was essentially a reference
to the artist himself. In countless photographs from this era
the artist was pictured smoking a cigarette, and the reference
to smoking in this composition is a clue to the identity of the
sitter. For this picture from 1969, the pipe smoker has taken
on a persona of the musketeer, the hyper-masculine character that
recurred in a series of canvases that the artist completed at
the end of his life."
Large still lifes by Georges Braque are rather
rare on the auction block and Lot 32, "L'Echo," is a
superb example of the artist's wonderful compositions and lovely
palette. An oil on canvas that measures 51 1/4 by 63 3/4 inches,
it was painted 1953-6 and has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $13,000,000. The catalogue
entry notes that "Once finished, L'Echo remained a
source of inspiration to Braque," adding that "He kept
the work in his studio and it inspired subsequent compositions."
Lot 73 is a excellent Etretat coast scene by
Claude Monet with a muted palette. An oil on canvas, it measures
23 1/2 by 32 inches and was painted in 1883. When it appeared
at Christie's in New York November 1, 2005 it had an estimate
of $700,000 to $1,000,000 and sold for $1,920,000. Its quite conservative
estimate in this auction is $1,800,000 to $2,200,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $1,300,000.
Lot 15, "Femmes Dans Un Jardin,"
is a lovely dense landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).
An oil on canvas, it measures 21 5/8 by 25 3/4 inches and was
painted in 1873. It was once in the collection of Thelma Chrysler
Foy of New York. It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.
It sold for $12,249,000.
Lot 20, "Juive d'Alger (L'Italienne),"
is a lovely, small and very painterly work of a woman in a red
skirt by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875). An oil on canvas,
it measures 18 by 14 3/4 inches and was painted circa 1870. It
was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer
of New York and Wendell Cherry of Louisville and New York. It
has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $4,745,000.
The previous record for the artist was $2,866,000.
Lot 12 is a very good oil on canvas by Paul
Signac "La Corner d'Or, Le Pont," an oil on canvas that
was painted in 1907. In it, the catalogue entry notes, "Signac
focuses on the historically significant Golden Horn, a flooded
estuary of the Bosphorus near the port of Constantinople. As in
his other canvases of the Ottoman capital around this time....,
the artist depicts in opulent colors the passing ships in the
foreground. The skyline of Constantinople is easily recognizable
in the background by the famous minarets of the mosque of Hagia
Sophia....With a dazzling palette that dominated the latter decades
of his artistic career, Signac pays homage to the historical richness
and significance of this port while bringing a fresh vivacity
to its portrayal."
The lot has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
It sold for $4,745,000.
Lot 67 is a very strong work by Henri Edmond Cross (1856-1910)
that is entitled "L'Epauve." An oil on canvas, it measures
23 1/2 by 31 7/8 inches and was painted in 1899. It has a modest
estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It failed to sell and was
passed at $650,000.
"Cross painted this scene of a fisherman
and his fishing boat most likely near his home in Saint Clair
in 1899. The composition epitomizes the Divisionist style, with
its use of opposing colors to capture the intensity of the Mediterranean
sun. From the early 1890s until his death in 1910, Cross was interested
in exploring the nuances of light and color with a precision that
the Impressionists had never achieved. In this picture, the modulation
of color, the flatness of the forms, and the purity with which
Cross applied each dab of paint all characterize Divisionism and
the Neo-Impressionist style. Neo-Impressionism, a movement that
evolved from the Impressionists' emphasis on light and color,
was rooted in the color theories of Eugène Michel Chevreul,
a French chemist whose studies influenced the work of Cross and
Georges Seurat. In the mid-1880s Seurat expounded upon Chevreul's
teachings in his writings and his numerous studies for Un dimanche
après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte.
His developments in this area influenced artists, including Cross,
Theo van Rysselberghe and Paul Signac, to incorporate these pseudo-scientific
principles into their own painting in the 1890s."
Lot 14 is an excellent 1882 river scene by
Alfred Sisley (1838-1899). Entitled "Canal du Loing-Chemin
de Halage," it is an oil on canvas that measures 19 3/4 by
29 inches. It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It
sold for $1,,945,000.
Lot 33 is a nice townscape by Paul Cézanne
(1839-1906) that is entitled "Maisons dans La Verdure."
An oil on canvas, it measures 31 7/8 by 25 1/2 inches and was
painted circa 1881. It was once in the collection of Pierre-Auguste
The catalogue provides the following commentary
on this lot:
"Until the publication of John Rewald's
catalogue raisonné of the work of Cézanne in 1996,
Maisons dans la verdure had remained largely unknown. It
entered the collection of Ralph H. Booth, Grosse Point, Michigan
in June 1926 but was not exhibited in public after 1931 when it
was included in an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Lionello Venturi's dating of 1879-1882 was revised to circa 1881
by Rewald who stated that 'the blue slate roofs would indicate
that this is not a southern landscape. Stylistically it relates
to Cézanne's work in and around Pontoise of 1881; in view
of the fact that he spent five months in the region, this is probably
one of the paintings executed that year.'...Painted largely in
shades of dark green and ochre with touches of blue and white,
the present work was executed at a turning point in Cézanne's
development. During the previous decade it is impossible to overestimate
the influence of Camille Pissarro [See The
City Review article on the 2007 Pissarro exhibition at The Jewish
Museum] on Cézanne as he gradually moved away from
the feverish romanticism of his early work. Joseph J. Rishel has
summarized this relationship as follows: 'In August 1872, several
months after the birth of his son, Cézanne left Paris for
the village of Pontoise, about an hour west of the city. The principal
attraction of this place was Pissarro, who had lived and work
there since 1863. At the end of the year Cézanne moved
with his family to the nearby town of Auvers-sur-Oise. This short
move did not interrupt the close working relationship he had developed
with the older artist....The mutual influence that ensued between
these two artists over the next ten years is one of the great
chapters in the history of nineteenth century painting. At its
beginning, the sage Pissarro endeavored to calm the ferocious
young Cézanne, but, as time passed, the pupil progressively
found himself in the lead, encouraging the older artist to follow
his example in testing the limits of Impressionist landscape painting.'"
It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $9,000,000.
It sold for $6,761,000.
Juan Gris (1887-1927) is one of the founders
of Cubism and Lot 26 is a small but excellent oil on canvas by
him that was executed in 1913. "Verre, Tasse, et Journal,
it measures 18 1/4 by 10 3/4 inches. It was once in the collection
of Roger Fry of London, Norman Granz of Geneva and Dame Elizabeth
Murdoch of Melbourne. It has an modest estimate of $1,800,000
to $2,500,000. It sold for $3,961,000.
Lot 24, "Le Fermier et son Epouse,"
is an attractive fantasy painting by Joan Miró (1893-1983).
An oil on canvas, it measires 22 7/8 by 16 3/4 inches and was
painted in 1936. Four years later, it was acquired by Billy Wilder,
the great film director, who had bought it from Ludwig Charell,
a collector of Toulouse-Lautrec. The work was not seen in public
unit 1989. It has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It
sold for $10,401,000.
"In this remarkable work," the catalogue
notes, "the artist abandons half-tones and earthen hues in
favor of a searing palette of primary colors: spectacularly bright
reds and yellow play against cool blues and severe contrasts of
blacks. Certain aspects of the bodies are composed of inflated
limbs that convey an insistent sense of corporeality and mass;
while other parts of the body, particularly in the male figure,
become a transparent framework of colored lines, suspended against
the blinding-yellow sky like a multi-colored mobile. In the foreground
is the oft-repeated form of the rooster, a symbol of strength
and aggression standing by and perhaps protecting the egg that
appears on the verge of hatching. A few years later in Varengeville-sur-Mer
in 1940, the artist would make the Rooster the sole subject of
a related composition in gouache....Miró conveys the intensity
and fear that pervades Europe at this time, but never allows his
art to be overwhelmed by it - he remains sure-handed and the master
of his imagery."
Lot 71 is a nice riverscape by Alfred Sisley
(1839-1899) that is entitled "L'Inondation à Moret-sur-Loing."
An oil on canvas, it measures 20 7/8 by 28 1/2 inches and was
painted in 1888. It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,500,000.
It sold for $1,273,000.