By Carter B. Horsley
The day auction of Impressionist and Modern
Art at Sotheby's November 8, 2007 is highlighted by a fine work
by Jean Metzinger, a lovely Claude Monet, a stunning painting
by Félix Vallotton, and good works by August Herbin, Alfred
Sisley, Emile-Othon Friesz, Edouard Vuillard, Berthe Morisot,
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Henri Martin.
Lot 144 is a lovely waterlily oil on canvas
by Claude Monet (1840-1926). It measures 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 inches
and was painted in 1918. It has a conservative estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $1,777,000 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article.
The sales total for the auction was $61,753,750.
"In the present work," the catalogue
entry for this lot noted, "the surface of the water is alive
with elements from the verdant world Monet created. His dream
of immersion for the viewer is achieved, as the water's surface
dances with both the plants on its surface and the reflections
from the sky above. The dabs of deep purplish pink set among the
white blooms swirling on their stems make up the central element
of the composition, and the wisteria, seen in reflection, hangs
in a bright blue curtain that floats mysteriously upward from
the bottom of the picture plane. This characteristic use of broad
brushstrokes and near abstraction, along with the flatness of
the picture plane and abandonment of traditional perspective has
caused the Nymphéas series to be hailed as the first truly
abstract art, prefiguring Abstract Expressionism."
Lot 310 is a superb abstraction by Jean Metzinger
(1883-1956) that embodies the principles he published in 1912
in an essay on Cubism with Albert Gleizes. The oil on canvas measures
24 by 32 inches and is entitled "Nature Morte au Potiron
et Bouteille de Rhum." It was painted in 1917. It has a modest
estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $881,000.
Lot 226 is a superb landscape by Félix
Vallotton (1865-1925). Entitled "Les Pommes," it is
an oil on canvas that measures 28 7/8 by 39 1/2 inches and it
was painted in 1911. The lot comes from the estate of Margaret
Phipps Boegner. It has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
It sold for $577,000.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
it is common to categorize him as a Nabis painter, Vallotton remained
unaffiliated throughout his artistic career, following his own
path. His influences ranged from the emotional depth of Edvard
Munch's ouevre to the more common inspiration of Japanese woodblock
prints. His portrayals of Parisian society at the turn of the
last century are certainly highlights of his oeuvre, but the rural
landscape also fulfilled a vital role in his art. Although he
had painted landscapes from the conception of his artistic career,
he became particularly intrigued by the creative potential of
the French countryside from 1909 until his death in 1925. He imbued
these landscapes with a psychological profundity that surpassed
and inspired many of his contemporaries. The current work is a
brilliant demonstration of his ability to anthropomorphize a rural
landscape, creating a singular sense of emotional presence.
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) is represented
in the auction by two fine works, Lots 225 and 111. The former
is entitled "Femmes dans Le Salon à La Terrasse à
Vasouy." It is a gouache and oil on cardboard that measures
11 by 16 3/4 inches and was executed circa 1903-4. It has a modest
estimate of $120,000 to $160,000. It sold for $115,000.
Lot 111 is a lovely small oil on a card of
the artist's mother peeling potatoes. It measures 9 5/8 by 9 inches
and was painted circa 1895.
"Following the death of her husband in
1883," the catalogue noted, "Madame Vuillard moved her
corset-making shop to her home, where Vuillard lived with her
until her death in 1928. Mme Vuillard's atelier was the focus
of the artist's household, a milieu which influenced his work
significantly. Contrary to other Nabi painters, who based their
subjects on mostly esoteric or religious statements, it was the
representation of domestic interiors, traditionally reserved for
women, which had proved popular with Vuillard....In the present
work, Madame Vuillard is surrounded by an intimate atmosphere
of soft and warm light. She sits peacefully in a chair, peeling
potatoes. In the true Nabi spirit, the details of the dress are
given as much importance as the other elements of the painting.
A large white dish cloth rests on her knees, while the fabric
of her dress is carefully detailed with colored stripes and dots."
The lot failed to sell.
Lot 123 is a lovely oil on canvas by Berthe
Morisot (1841-1895) entitled "Petite Fille à L'Oiseau."
It measures 25 5/8 by 21 1/4 inches and was executed in 1891.
"Morisot was a pioneer among the avant-garde," according
to the catalogue entry, "not only because she was one of
the few female members of the Impressionist group, but also because
she approached portraiture with a distinctive style and intimacy
that was unmatched by her contemporaries. Her work was characterized
by what critics praised as a 'light and airy brushwork,' and her
models were usually women and children whom she knew from her
bourgeois circle. According to a letter from the artist's daughter
Julie, the model in Petite fille à l'oiseau was a girl
named Cocotte, who worked for a haberdasher. During the winter
of 1891-82, Cocotte sat for Morisot's Fillette au chapeau, now
in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Fillette
au panier, the pastel study of which is in the collection of the
Musée Marmottan, Paris....Morisot completed this picture
in her studio on the rue de Villejust, where Julie's pet sparrow
and parakeet fluttered about the drawing room."
It has an estimtae of $800,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $937,000.
Lot 102 is a fine landscape by Henri Martin
(1860-1943). Entitled "La Rivière au Printemps,"
it is an oil on canvas that measures 32 by 23 1/2 inches and was
painted circa 1930. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It failed to sell.
Another fine work by Martin is Lot 185, "La
Pergola à Marquayrol," an oil on canvas that measures
65 by 106 3/8 inches.
"After searching for the ideal house for
almost ten years," the catalogue entry remarks, "Martin
finally acquired Marquayrol in 1900, a beautiful mansion overlooking
Labastide-du-Vert, near Cahors, in southwest France. The house
and the region became his main sources of inspiration and deeply
influenced his style. It was here that the artist found the important
southern light denied him in Paris which stimulated and fulfilled
his artistic needs....The present work, painted circa 1915, is
a particularly fine example of Martin's mature style. The scene
of two women feeding a goat takes place next to Marquayrol, its
southern wall visible to the left of the composition. The famous
pergola, with its abundant foliage, provides the focus of the
composition. The house is set high on the hill above the village
of Labastide-du-Vert, situated here to the right. The rich colours
in this painting betray all the intensity of the southern light
that Martin so longed for in his work."
The lot has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $937,000.
Lot 234 is an excellent landscape by Emile-Othon
Friesz (1879-1949) entitled "La Cote de Grace, Honfleur."
An oil on canvas, it measures 15 1/8 by 18 1/8 inches and was
painted circa 1906/ It has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
It sold for $139,000.
Lot 182 is a very fine landscape by Alfred
Sisley (1839-1899) entitled "Sur La Route de Moret."
An oil on canvas, it measures 21 3/8 by 28 7/8 inches and was
painted in 1882. It was once in the collection of the Museum of
Fine Arts in Boston. It has a modest estimate of $650,000 to $850,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 396 is an excellent abstraction by Laszlo
Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). A gouache and collage on board, it measures
20 by 16 inches and was executed in 1941. In 1937, the Association
of Arts and Industries invited the artist to open an industrial
design school in Chicago and it opened as The New Bauhaus in the
old Marshall Field mansion in Chicago and the artist renamed it
the School of Design a year later. In 1944, it became the Institute
of Design.It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It failed
Lot 414 is a very vibrant work by André
Lhote. Entitled "Paysage," it is an oil on canvas that
measures 18 by 21 inches and was painted circa 1940. It has an
estimate of $45,000 to $65,000. It sold for $97,000.
Lot 401 is a strong work by Victor Brauner
(1903-1966) entitled "L'Animal Manuel." An oil on canvas,
it measures 21 1/4 by 25 1/2 inches and was painted in 1943. The
catalogue notes that the surrealist artist was "long haunted
by a paranoia of being blinded" and "he was to lose
the sight of his left eye while attempting to calm a violent argument
between two friends in 1938." The lot has an estimate of
$250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $277,000.
Lot 399 is a large painting by Gordon Onslow
Ford (1912-2003) entitled "Parliament of Space Makers."
An oil on canvas, it measures 39 1/4 by 81 1/4 inches and was
painted in 1944. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $229,000.
Lot 352 is a good Cezannesque landscape by
Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). An oil on canvas, it measures
35 3/4 by 28 3/8 inches and was painted circa 1912. It has an
estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It failed to sell.
A late and less dramatic but
still interesting Herbin work is Lot 338, "La Maison Rouge,"
an oil on canvas that measures 45 4/8 by 35 inches and was painted
in 1925. The work reflects his interests in Purism, "a movement
founded by Ozenfant and Le Corbusier based on a reassessment of
Cubism" The work has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
It sold for $713,000.
Lot 337 is a very strong work by Auguste Herbin
(1882-1960). Entitled "Etang et Petite Maison," it was
painted in 1908 and is an oil on canvas that measures 23 5/8 by
28 3/4 inches. Herbin exhibited with the Fauves in 1907 and would
win recognition in Germany where his work was shown in the Secession
and Die Brucke. The lot has a conservative estimate of $300,000
to $400,000. It sold for $337,000.