By Carter B. Horsley
With just over a hundred lots, this is a rather
small day auction, but, as always, there are numerous works that
many collectors should not overlook.
Among the highlights are small but fine works
by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Kurt Schwitters
(1887-1948), Joseph Cornell(1903-1972) and
Edouard Vulllard (1868-1940), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Pablo
Picasso (I 881-1973), René Magritte (1898-1967), and Odile
Redon (1840-1916) as well as good examples by Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
and Romare Bearden (1912-1988).
The Mondrian, Lot 352, "The Lily,"
shown above, is an exquisite floral watercolor, signed, 11 3/8
by 8 7/8 inches, that was painted circa 1920-5. It has an estimate
of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $259,000 including
the buyer's premium as do all sales results in this article.
The Schwitters, Lot 354, entitled "Femspr.
MZ 26.53," is a 8 1/2-by-6 5/8-inch collage on board mounted
on paper that is signed and dated 1926. It is very colorful example
of this important artist's stunning collages and has an estimate
of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $138,000.
The Cornell, Lot 392, entitled "Robert
Schumann/German Romanticism (recto and verso), shown above, a
paper collage and blue pencil on board, 12 by 9 1/4 inches, that
was executed in 1965-7 and is very delightful, depicting a large
head of a black cat, an angel playing a violin and a steam locomotive
crossing a bridge in the mountains. It has a modest estimate of
$15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $49,350.
There are two nice Redons, Lots 311 and 312,
both from the estate of Marina Salz. The former, entitled "L'Ange
et l'homme," is a pencil on paper drawing that is very romantic
and exquisite. The 9 1/2-by-I 2 7/8-inch, signed work has an estimate
of $14,000 to $1 8,000. It sold for $37,600. The
latter, entitled "La Cape rose," is a watercolor on
paper, 9 3/4 by 6 3/4 inches that is very colorful and quite unusually
in its mix of a shrouded woman against a dark green landscape
beneath strongly delineated green leaves and a blue flower. It
has an estimate of $28,000 to $35,000. It sold for $58,750.
From the same consignor come two delightful
works, circa 1891-2, by Edouard Vuillard, Lots 308 and 309. The
former is an I 1-by-8-inch oil on board of "L'actrice (Marthe
Mellot), and which has an estimate of $50,00 to $70,000. It
sold for $138,000. The latter is a watercolor, pen and India
ink on paper, 9 by 5 3/4 inches, entitled "Chanteuse,"
which measures 9 by 5 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $30,000
to $40,000. It sold for $84,600.
The Pissarro, Lot 307, is entitled "La
gardeuse d'oies" and is a gouache over pencil on paper laid
down by the artist on board, 7 7/8 by 5 1/8 inches. The 1890,
signed work has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000 and was formerly
in the Sam and Marina Salz Collection. It is a very fine Pissarro
that combines the pastoral feel of Millet with the light touch
of Impressionism. It sold for $96,200. Another fine
Pissarro, Lot 314, "Paysanne assise et tricotant," a
gouache over black chalk on paper, 18 7/8 by 12 1/2 inches,
had a high estimate of $100,000 and sold for $303,000.
The most delightful work in the auction is
Lot 361, shown above, "Têtes," a 10 1/2-by-8 1/4-inch
pen, brush and India ink on paper, that was executed in 1963 by
Pablo Picasso. The drawing shows 10 heads, all of which would
be beloved by Renaissance artists absorbed with character. The
work has an estimate of $28,000 to $35,000. It sold for $35,250.
The Magritte, Lot 364, entitled "Le Modele
rouge," is a 7-by-5 3/4-inch gouache over pencil on paper,
signed and dated 1952. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000
and has been consigned by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
It sold for $366,000. The catalogue notes that Magritte
explained the picture's imagery in a 1938 lecture: "The problem
of the shoes demonstrates how far the most barbaric things can,
through force of habit, come to be considered quite respectable,"
adding that thanks to the picture, "people can feel that
the union of a human foot with a leather shoe is, in fact, a monstrous
custom." The present work, the catalogue noted, is probably
the second of three variations in gouache. The earliest version
in oil dates from 1935 and it and two later versions in oil are
in museum collections.
The Matisse, Lot 360, entitled "Femme
au jabots et collière de perles," is a 22 1/4 by 17
3/4 inch pen and India ink on paper mounted at the edges of stretched
Japan paper mounted at the edges on panel. Drawn in 1937, the
signed work is one of his more exquisite line drawings. The catalogue
quotes John Elderfield from a 1984 exhibition catalogue of the
Museum of Modern Art as remarking that these drawings "are
among the greatest achievements of his draughtmanship," adding
that "Some of the individual sheets are breathtaking in their
assurance and audacity." The present drawing is most likely
a study for his portrait of Lydia Delectorskya known as the "Woman
in Blue" in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of
Art. The lot has an estimate of $220,000 to $280,000. It sold
The Bearden, Lot 393, "Illusionist at
4 PM," is a paper collage on board, 30 by 40 inches, that
was executed in 1967 and has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000
and is a very strong work. It sold for $44,650.
A very handsome watercolor, pen and India
ink over pencil on paper by Pierre-Auguste
Renoir (1841-1919), Lot 306, entitled "Paysage du Midi,"
almost 12 inches square, sold for $127,000, more than double
its high estimate. It was an extremely colorful work but executed
in a style that was not typical of the artist.
While a couple of minor Chagalls were passed,
a pleasant gouache over pencil on paper, 19
8/8 by 26 1/8 inches, by Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), Lot 336, "Course
à Goodwood," more than doubled its high estimate
and sold for $259,000.
The sale was quite successful with 91 of the
104 lots selling, 87 percent, many at prices over the high estimates,
an indication that while the very high-end of the market is a
bit unpredictable and very quality-conscious, the more reasonable
priced sector of the market is quite strong even with current
uncertainties and slides in the stock markets. In comments after
the evening sale of Twentieth Century Art at Christie's May 9,
2000, Christopher Burge, the auctioneer, remarked that the consensus
appeared to be that collectors were not phased by the current
Federal anti-trust investigation into fee-fixing policies at Sotheby's
and Christie's and were focused on the lots being offered.