By Carter B. Horsley
Phillips Auctioneers, which is based in London,
has been active in the New York marketplace for some time, but
this season has raised its sights ambitiously and is presenting
a superb Impressionist & Modem Art evening auction Thursday
at 5 PM, May 11, 2000 and an Impressionist & Modern Art day
auction Friday at noon, May 12, 2000 and should make a big splash.
Both auctions will be held at 40 West 53rd Street although the
auction house has had smaller facilities for many years on East
The star of
the auction, the Malevich, on the easel at the Phillips sale
Its timing could not be better for Sotheby's
and Christie's, the two giants that have dominated the high-end
of the art auction business here and internationally for decades,
are under a cloud due to a Federal anti-trust investigation launched
this winter into alleged fee-fixing. The investigation led quickly
to the resignations of A. Alfred Taubman and Diana D. ("Dede")
Brooks, chairman and president, respectively, of Sotheby's and
while Christie's was granted some provisional immunity for coming
forward first with pertinent information, it remains uncertain
what the investigation's outcome will be. (See
The City Review article.)
The crowd at
Phillips begins to break up after the auction was held in the
lovely space of the American Crafts Museum across from the Museum
of Modern Art
Lot 12, "La
Loge au Thêatre des Variétés," by Pierre-Auguste
Renoir, an oil on canvas, 26 by 32 1/2 inches, 1898 (vertical
white line right of center in reproduction is crease from catalogue
For its evening auction that will be held
at the American Crafts Art Museum at 40 West 53rd Street across
from the Museum of Modern Art, Phillips has assembled a very
impressive group of works that clearly rivals the best being
offered this season at Sotheby's and Christie's.
The much publicized and anticipated event
launched a major initiative by its new owner to became a significant
player in high-end of the art auction business.
While the evening's results were mixed
with several major lots failing to sell, Phillips's owner, Bernard
Arnault, shown at the top of this article, and other major executives,
made it clear that it plans further major auctions. "We
will continue," he said, adding that the "long-term
plan" was to make it a "significant" part of the
Phillips's foray into the "big leagues"
so long dominated here by Sotheby's and Christie's has been the
topic of conversation all during this major week of sales. One
executive from one of those auction houses left the Phillips
auction early, mumbling "it's a parody," but such remarks
could not disguise the fact that major collectors and dealers
turned out and that Phillips had achieved an enormous amount
of publicity and had mounted a very tastefully designed exhibition
and produced a very handsome catalogue. The New York Times
even wrote an article entitled "Natty New Image for the
'Other' Auction House" on the front page of its House &
Home section the day of the auction.
The good news was that the auction's star
lot and cover illustration, Lot 31, "Suprematist Composition,"
by Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935), sold for $17,052,500, which
includes the buyer's premium, as do all sales results in this
article, a very impressive price for such a severly intellectual,
sophisticated pure abstraction by an artist whose name is not
bandied about in most households.
The bad news was that superb paintings
by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Pierre-Auguste Renoir
(1841-1919), and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), failed to sell even
though they were of major museum class and not unreasonably estimated.
It is quite amazing and most mystifying that these works, discussed
below, did not sell.
The total sales results for the evening
session were about $44 million and only 61 percent of the 31
offered lots sold whereas the other major auctions this week
sold generally 85 percent or more of the lots, which is far better
than the early 1990s when the market was at a low and many sales
had 30 percent or so of their offerings unsold.
Thomson, chief executive officer of Phillips, shortly after the
Christopher Thomson, the
chief executive officer of Phillips, shown above, remarked after
the auction that it was neither a spectacular success nor a diaster,
but a big step. He said that Phillips planned similar major auctions
as soon as next fall and he and Dan Klein, its international
director who also served as the evening's auctioneer, said it
was seeking larger and more permanent quarters, possibly in midtown.
There was limited ticketed seating for the auction and a crush
of people attempting to get in without tickets delayed the start.
Because of the limited, but beautiful space, and the demand for
tickets, Phillips decided to only let 10 members of the press
attend, whereas several times that number normally attend the
Mr. Arnault described the
evening auction as a "big success" and said he had
no regrets about it or guarantees to consignors, adding that
they are part of the business and he would "do it again."
Mr. Klein said that Phillips
was now "safely launched on a trajectory we hope to continue,"
emphasizing that it was "amazing" how far it has come.
He remarked that its policies about financial interests were
"more transparent than the other auction houses." Mr.
Klein had some help in spotting bids for Alfred Sisley's "Un
Jardin à Louveciennes" from Sharon Stone, the actress
who is chairperson of the American Foundation for Aids Research
to which Phillips was contributing 3 percent of the sales. The
Sisley sold for $3.2 million, more than twice its high estimate.
An article in the Wall Street Journal May
5, 2000 by Daniel Costello and Alexandra Peers, noted that Phillips
"garnered some of the top items of its sale with generous
guarantees, or even purchased some highlights outright, to encourage
sellers to take a chance on the company," and quoted Bernard
Arnault, the owner of Phillips as well as LVMH Moet-Hennessy
Louis Vuitton SA, as saying "You have to do it in some cases
- it's a seller's market." In recent years, Sotheby's has
been aggressive in offering such financial inducement to sellers,
although Christie's has been more reluctant and the practice
is not without some controversy.
In any event, no serious collector can ignore
the quality of Phillips' offerings this season.
Highlights include a great landscape by Paul
Cézanne (1839-1906), a great portrait by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
a very important abstraction by Kazimir Malevich , a fine landscape
by Paul Gauguin , a very good port scene by Camille Pissarro
(1830-1903), a memorable portrait sculpture by Julio Gonzáles
(1872-1942), a fine Joan Miró (1893-1983), a good Pablo
Picasso (1881-1973), and two very delectable and fine works by
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, an exquisite group of knock-out works
worthy of any museum.
Lot 14, large
detail of "Environs de Gardanne," by Paul Cezanne,
an oil on canvas, 23 by 28 1/4 inches, 1886-90 (crease in center
is from fold-out page in catalogue)
The Cézanne, Lot 14, "Environs
de Gardanne," is an oil on canvas, 23 by 28 1/4 inches,
shown above, that was painted between 1886 and 1890 and whose
provenance includes Ambrose Vollard, Paul Cassirer, Paul Rosenberg
& Co., Mrs. John Wintersteen and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shipman
Payson. The work has been widely exhibited and has extensive
While most landscapes by Cézanne have
an unfinished, unresolved, sketchy appearance, this work represents
a complete, finished vision that is rather unusual for the artist
in its long, horizontal format and its palette that is brighter
with more oranges and yellows than many of his works. It is very
strong and striking.
The catalogue provides the following pertinent
"The years between 1885 and 1895 are
often described as the classical period of Cézanne's art
and the landscapes executed near Aix as the apex of his achievement
at this time. Abandoning the network of oblique, parallel brushstrokes
that had characterized his work earlier in the decade, Cézanne
began to apply paint in thin, translucent coats that emphasize
the structure and solidity of his compositions. Space is rendered
as a series of large planes, architecture and landscape reduced
to their geometric essentials, producing works of a clarity and
monumentality unmatched in Cézanne's career. As Joseph
Rischel asserted on the occasion of the 1996 Cézanne retrospective,
'What is certain is that there is a new quality of tranquility
and grandeur in the landscapes done in the second half of the
The catalogue also quotes John Rewald: "The
fruit of Cézanne's Parisian experiences, both visual and
technical, appears in the pictures he painted on his return to
the Jas de Bouffan; they constitute a virtual rediscovery of
Provence. He sees it now in terms of colored planes organized
in a firm, almost architectural construction, irreconcilable
with the doctrines of Impressionism." Of the eight views
around Gardanne that the artist is known to have made, this is
the only one in private hands. The other seven are in the Barnes
Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania, the Metropolitan Museum Art,
and the National gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Gardanne was,
the catalogue, maintained, "a small, steep hamlet in the
center of a coal district, located between Mont Sainte-Victoire
and the mountain range of L'Étoile. The town was situated
on a gentle slope, with the majority of the houses nestled against
the hillside and a steepled church a with a square bell tower
standing at the apex."
"The overall effect of the painting is
one that Rewald has called "an indescribable serenity, as
though the artist had found here the very harmonies, pure shapes,
and soft colorations that struck a particularly felicitous chord."
The catalogue also provides the following
1943 quotation by Erle Loran about the painting:
"by the ... avoidance of aerial perspective
and the forward tilting of the entire plane of the earth and
hills, Cézanne has achieved a mural quality that is an
essential element of the monumental austerity characterizing
this great painting. And yet, very few paintings by Cézanne
demonstrate more obviously the element of three-dimensional solidity,
which he always aimed to achieve. The textural character of trees
and plants has been avoided completely. Austere and naked form
alone has been expressed. One may even say that the form of houses,
fields, and hills has a solidity comparable to the three-dimensionality
of a sculptured relief. But of course the painting is anything
but an imitation of sculpture, and all the form-space effects
are ideally related to the picture plane."
The catalogue also maintains that "with
their rigorously structured geometries and interlocking planes
of color, the views that Cézanne made in and around Gardanne
have been called the most Cubist of his paintings. The term is
more than an anachronism; pictures like the present one represents
a key source of inspiration for the landscapes executed by Braque
and Picasso at L'Éstaque, La Roche-Guyon and Horta de
Ebro in 1908 and 1909 ... Both artists recognized the enormity
of their debt to Cézanne."
The painting, which is not signed, has a very
conservative estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It was
sold for $5,062,500.
Lot 31, "Suprematist
Composition," by Kazimir Malevich, 31 5/8 inches square,
oil on canvas, 1919-20
The Russian Suprematists and Constructivists
were an astounding group of abstract artists whose work flourished
during the period right after World War I and whose works rarely
appear on the market. The highlight of the Phillips auction is
Lot 31, "Suprematist Composition," by Kazimir Malevich,
an oil on canvas, 31 5/8 inches square, shown above, which shows
a slanted red and black cross against a white background and
was painted circa 1919-20.
In 1927, the artist was granted an exit visa
from Russia to exhibit at the Grosse Berliner Kunstaustellung.
He took with him many of his best works, but a few months later
was summoned back to Russia and left the art still on display,
including this work, for safekeeping in Germany. Despite repeated
requests, Malevich was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union
In 1935, Alfred Barr, then director of the
Museum of Modem Art, was traveling in Europe gathering works
for a "Cubism and Abstract Art" exhibition planned
for the next year and was overwhelmed to discover the cache of
Malevich works that were stored at the Hanover Landesmuseum on
display behind curtains as the museum's curator, Alexander Dorner,
was concerned about Nazi campaigns against modern art. Barr arranged
for a group of 21 paintings, gouaches, drawings and charts by
Malevich to be included in his exhibition and in MOMA's collection.
In June, 1999, Malevich's 31 descendants reached
an agreement with MOMA in which several works, including this
one, were returned to the painter's heirs - grandchildren, nieces
In a Phillips press release about the painting,
a spokesman for the heirs was quoted as telling the auction house
that the family "believes that it is important for the international
community art lovers and museum curators to have their first
chance to compete for a major work by Kazimir Malevich offered
on the free market in this way." "This first opportunity
to purchase a major work by the legendary founder of the abstract
art movement is a truly justified triumph, long in coming, both
for our family and for Malevich himself," the spokesman
continued. Christopher Thomason, the CEO of Phillips, was quoted
in the same press releases as declaring that the work is the
highlight of the ... sale....[that] will add to our reputation
as a significant force in the international art market."
The painting has long hung at MOMA and this
is the first offering of a Suprematist work by Malevich at auction.
"Suprematism" was a term coined by Malevich in 1915
to describe his new art theories and he used the term to describe
the supremacy of his new art that was purely aesthetic in form,
free from any political or social meaning. "From the very
beginning, Malevich saw Suprematism as the crowning achievement
of the Western modern movement - the successor to Cubism and
Futurism....he is recognized as the forerunner of Minimalism
and geometric abstraction generally," according to a Phillips
The famous and bold painting has an "estimate
on request" and is likely to fetch more than $10 million.
Lot 19, "Tête
de jeune fille," by Julio González, wrought iron
sculpture, 8 5/8 inches high, 1928
Another stunning work in this auction is Lot
19, "Tête de jeune fille," a thin, wrought iron
sculpture, 8 5/8 inches high, by Julio González, dated
1928. The artist moved to Paris in 1900 and worked as a metalsmith
and by 1925 he was assisted Constantin Brancusi in his studio.
González would collaborate with Pablo Picasso on several
works between 1928 and 1931, but the catalogue notes that this
work "bears a more striking resemblance" to Brancusi's
work. The catalogue provides the following commentary on this
"In its radically reductive treatment
of the human form, the present work may be related to the series
of resting heads that Brancusi produced throughout the 19 20s
and 1920s, including Sleeping Muse, The Newborn, and the
Beginning of the World. González's certain exposure
to these sculptures is evidenced by a 1918 photograph of González
and his sisters in the Paris apartment. A marble version of Sleeping
Muse can be seen on the mantelpiece....Similar to Brancusi's
treatment of his bronze, marble, and wooden forms, González
has minimized anatomical detail in order to emphasize the material
reality of his sculpture as an iron object. Margit Rowell [in
an essay in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1983 retrospective
exhibition on González] has explained this affinity as
follows, 'Together, yet separately, Brancusi and González
transformed the face of twentieth century sculpture from an art
of representational images to an art of invention: an art of
formally self-referential objects evoking ideas. A subway was
no longer a model to be imitated but a theme on which to compose
autonomous formal variations. A material was no longer a medium
in the literal sense but the basic determinant of form....In
fact, it was through the artist's direct realization of his work
- Brancusi through direct carving in wood and stone, González
through the direct forging of metals - the new vision of sculpture
as we know it today was born."
The catalogue correctly observes that the
work has an "exquisite, economic counterpoint." It
is also brooding and mysterious, the oblique, muted face shrouded
with a cloak of parted hair but not hidden in shadow. This is
a sensitive, exposed Darth Vader, a blind Justice. What perhaps
is most striking is the startling simplicity of the sharp nose
line emerging from the weighty mass beneath the very soft curves
of the parted hair. The piece is solitary, but dynamic. Quixotic,
but interested. A masterpiece.
This lot has an slightly ambitious estimate
of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,552,500, an impressive
price for such a small sculpture.
While these potent icons of abstraction are
riveting, the unquestioned star of the auction is Renoir, who
is represented by two great paintings that show this uneven artist
at his best.
Lot 12, "La Loge au Thêatre des
Variétés," is an oil on canvas, 26 by 32 1/2
inches, painted in 1898, shown at the top of this article. Its
provenance includes Ambrose Vollard, Jacques Gelman, Ruth Lamar
Lehman, M. Knoedler & Co., and Mr. and Mrs. Edgar William
Garbisch. It is one of the artist's most spectacular paintings
because of its very vivid, broad expanse of emerald green and
its unusual and finely animated composition. The young woman,
a well-known actress, wearing the emerald-colored dress has her
back to the viewer and is turned around in her box at the theater
to chat with a handsome man who is bending forward towards her
over the back of her friend who wears a bright red sash around
her neck and is quietly listening to the conversation with her
eyes cast down. Wearing a white dress that is largely obscured
by the extended arms of the woman in green, she is the real focus
of the painting as her face is among the most beautiful Renoir
has painted. Two other women are sketched in rather fully in
the background and are obviously attentive to the magnetic attractions
of the two seated women. The woman in green has both her arms
extended outwards and centers the composition. The left side
of the picture is very sketchily painted and faint, so as not
to distract from the "action" at hand - the possible
flirtation between the young woman and the man. Like many of
the best Impressionist paintings, it appears to have be halted
in progress, unfinished intentionally because the artist has
achieved the effect he envisioned and had no need to further
embellish. Renoir's brushwork here is more robust than in much
of his work and the sleeves of the young woman's emerald-colored
dress and the voluminous pile of reddish blond hair tied atop
her head have great depth and dimensionality - one very much
wants to touch....It is a night on the town. It is the peak of
romance. It is the first blush of the pangs of the heart. It
is the moment.
This work has an estimate of $5,000,000 to
$7,000,000 and a very strong argument that Renoir is deserving
of a major retrospective that only shows his best work. It
was "passed" at $3.7 million.
The other major Renoir painting is Lot 7,
a still life entitled "Grand corbeille de fleurs d'été,"
an 'I on canvas, 25 by 31 1/8 inches, dated 1890. This painted
was formerly in the collections of Colonel C. Michael Paul and
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Renoir painted many still lifes,
but this one is overwhelmingly lush, colorful, alive, and painted
in a much looser and freer style than most of his other works.
The painting has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $5,000,000. It
was passed at $2.6 million. For those on a smaller budget,
there is another Renoir still life, Lot 9, "Nature morte
aux fraises," that is an oil on canvas, 9 7/16 by 19 5/8
inches, that is must calmer but a very excellent work with a
modest estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It sold for $310,500.
Lautrec is a far more consistent artist than Renoir,
of course, and Lot 13, "Femme de maison refaisant son chignon,"
an oil on board, 25 5/8 by 12 1/4 inches, painted in 1893, shown
at the left, is a superb work that is something of a surprise
for the strong and deep pink colors of the woman's gown and the
strongly mottled gray and blue patterning of the wallpaper in
the background and the focused verticality of the simple composition.
As always, Lautrec's line brilliant create a portrait of a beautiful
woman perhaps past her prime and the profiled face fully conveys
a sense of contentment in her expression. Lautrec has sometimes
been wrongly criticized for a lack of involvement with his subjects.
Here the scene is terribly intimate and warm, but the unusual
palette exudes both coolness and heat.
"Belying Lautrec's reputation as a painter
of caricature, his bordello denizens are depicted with sensitivity
and subtlety, not as coarse or venal types. Their placid stares
and weary postures, the calm resignation with which they conduct
even the most humiliating of routines, the slight smile that
accompanies an intimate exchange with a fellow fille: all
these suggest the poignant combination of hope and despair, warmth
and alienation that distinguished the marginal life of the
soumise. Lautrec himself provided perhaps the best characterization
of this peculiar admixture when he described his search for "that
touch of ugliness without which there is no salvation,"'
the catalogue noted.
This wonderful lot has a quite conservative
estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000, perhaps reflecting the
fact that it seems to have been in two pieces at one point. It
was passed at $2.6 million.
For those in search of a more conventional
Impressionist painting, one look no further than Lot 15, "Port
du Havre, marée haute," an oil on canvas, 25 3/4
by 32 inches, by Camille Pissarro. This wide-angle scene of boats
puffing smoke, sail boats wafting by, a trolley making a stop,
a horse pulled a carriage taking a breather, and people milled
about the waterfront under a cloudy blue sky is fresh and an
unusually busy but successful composition. It has an estimate
of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 and was executed in 1903. It sold
Another Pissarro painting is Lot 5, "Un
verger de Pointoise en hiver," an oil on canvas, 18 1/2
by 22 inches, dated 1877, is a very good and painterly landscape
that was once in the collection of Alain Delon, the actor. It
has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It sold for $431,500.
Lot 8, "Le Seine près de Bougival,"
is a pleasant river scene by Claude Monet, an oil on canvas,
19 1/4 by 37 1/2 inches, painted in 1872, that would make a nice
pendant for Pissarro's Havre scene. This Monet has an estimate
of $5,000,000 to $6,000,000 and is notable for its stretched
horizontal composition highlighted by the white house in the
distance and its rippled reflections in the water. It was
passed at $3.7 million.
A more dramatic but less satisfying Monet
is Lot 10, "Plage de Juan-les-Pins," an oil on canvas,
28 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches, dated 1888. This painted was once owned
by Theo van Gogh who included it in an exhibition of 10 Monet
paintings executed in Antibes, France, the first in which the
artist showed paintings depicted one locale exclusively, the
catalogue noted. The boldness of the composition is the cluster
of trees on the right that overhang the water with a hill faintly
in the distance. The top of the trees extends beyond the confines
of the canvas and there is almost a sense of vertigo in this
work. It is one of those works that seem to have a slightly askew
perspective and the quality of light here is that super bright
light of a clear day at twilight or shortly after dawn. The brushwork
of the very prominent tree trunks and their leaves, however,
is rather rudimentary and uninspired. The lower right corner
seems to have part of a pier but it is odd and distracting. The
lot has an ambitious estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 11, "Paysage
martiniquais," by Paul Gauguin, oil on canvas, 261/2 by
45 inches, 1887
A much more satisfying landscape is Lot 11,
"Paysage martiniquais," by Paul Gauguin, an oil on
canvas, 26 1/2 by 45 inches, painted in 1887, a year after he
had fled Paris for the more savage environment of Pont-Aven.
In 1887, Gauguin, escorted by Charles Laval, a friend and painter,
traveled to Martinique after a two-month trip to Panama. The
catalogue provides the following pertinent quotation from Françoise
Cachin as quoted in an essay in the exhibition catalogue on "The
Art of Gauguin" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington
"There they found a veritable drunkenness
of color. The canvases he brought back from his stay in
the Antilles, though few in number, represent an important step
in his stylistic development ... Gauguin's stay in Martinqiue
may be seen as the first concrete step toward the exoticism and
primitivism for which the artist would search during the remainder
of his life."
This fine painting has an estimate of $5,000,000
to $7,000,000. It failed to sell.
Three other good works in the auction are
Lots 21, "L'Arlequin au violon," by Juan Gris, an oil
on canvas, 36 3/8 by 28 3/4 inches, 1919, is a strong example
of Gris's simplified but strong version of Cubism and it has
an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000. It did not sell.
Lot 23, "Le Baiser," by Joan Miró,
is an oil on canvas, 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches, 1924, that is the
cover illustration of the auction catalogue and a very refined
and subtle example of this vibrant artist's talent. It has an
estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for $1,652,500.
The catalogue has very handsome reproductions,
although many of the lots have fold-out color reproductions rather
than switching more conveniently to flipping the image on the
page, which would result in smaller pictures for the horizontal
pictures but doing away with the fold-out pages that are annoying
The day auction of Impressionist & Modern
Art at Phillips May 12, 2000 is at noon, a rather unusual time.
It is a relatively small auction, consisting of lots 100 to 154,
but it has very high quality items including many superb works
by lesser-known Cubist and Suprematist artists.
The sale was even less successful than the
evening sale the night before as only about half of the lots
sold, and again many of the best paintings were among those that
Lot 116, "Still
Life with Candle-Holder and Box," by Arthur Segal, oil on
panel with painted frame, 32 by 39 1/2 inches including the painted
Among the many stunning and surprising paintings
are works by Arthur Segal (1875-1944), Georges Valmier (1885-1937),
Alexander Shevchenko (1883-1943), Ilya Chashnik (1902-1929),
Pierre Fevre (1889-1975), and Marie Vassilieff (1884-1957).
Lot 116, the Segal, is entitled "Still
Life with Candle-Holder and Box, an oil on panel with painted
frame, 32 by 39 1/2 inches including the painted frame, 1926,
shown above. The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Romanian by birth, Segal began his art
studies in Berlin at the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1896,
he left Berlin for Munich and then traveled through France and
Italy before returning to Berlin in 1904. During the First World
War, the artist left Germany for Ascona, then traveled to the
Monte Verita community, a melting pot for anarchist thought,
and finally stayed in Zurich where he was introduced to the founders
of the Dadaist movement. Segal participated in the 1916 exhibition
at the Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dadasim, and from
1916-1919 he contributed to important Dada exhibitions, including
Dada 3. He also published many articles about the group's
radical vision. at the end of 1919, Segal returned to Berlin
where he met Raoul Hausmann and became a member of the Novembergruppe.
Forerunners to the Weimar Bauhaus, the Novembergruppe aimed to
unify arts, architecture and city planning in the socialist state.
After 1919, Segal's works were marked by several innovations.
Inspired by Rayonism and the work of Larionov, he experimented
with light, particularly light filtered through prisms. Segal
placed a new emphasis on painting beams of pure color that evoked
apparent movement in his canvases."
This magnificent work has a very conservative
estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. It sold for $101,500.
Lot 120, "Composition
Cubiste," by Georges Valmier, watercolor, gouache and collage
on paper, 6 5/8 by 3 3/4 inches, 1919
Lot 120, "Composition Cubiste,"
by Georges Valmier, watercolor, gouache and collage on paper,
6 5/8 by 3 3/4 inches, 1919, shown above, is an exquisite Cubist
work worthy of the more famous Cubist masters. While more delicate
and colorful than many other Cubist works, it has a vibrant three-dimensionality
quality that is most impressive. It has a conservative estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 119, "Rayist
Composition," by Alexander Shevchenko, gouache on paper
laid down on board, 8 by 5 1/2 inches, 1913
Lot 119, "Rayist Composition," by
Alexander Shevchenko, gouache on paper laid down on board, 8
by 5 1/2 inches, 1913, is a startling work that shows that Jasper
Johns was about half a century late!
"Shevchenko," the catalogue remarked,
"began exhibiting with various avant-garde groups after
studying at the Stroganov Art School, the Moscow Institute of
Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and the Académie
Julien in Paris. Well-known for his still-life paintings, Shevchenko
became a professor at Svomas, Vkhutemas, Vkhutein, the Ukranian
academy of Arts, the Leningrad Proletarian Arts Institution,
the Stroganov Art School and the Moscow Textile Institute. In
1913, the year of the present work, the artist wrote the manifesto
Neoprimitivism, Its Theory, Its Potentials, Its Achievements.
The artist was influenced by the work of Mikhail Larionov as
well as by the theories of the Futurists and he placed great
emphasis on apparent movement and lines of force."
This stunning work has a very conservative
estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It did not sell.
Lot 124, "Suprematist
Composition," by Ilya Chashnik, gouache, watercolor and
pencil on paper, 11 1/2 by 8 inches, 1926-7
Lot 124, "Suprematist Composition,"
by Ilya Chashnik, gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper, 11
1/2 by 8 inches, 1926-7, shown above, is a very strong work that
is a preparatory study for an oil painting in the Thyssen-Bornemisza
Collection in Lugano, Switzerland. It has an estimate of $40,000
to $60,000. It sold for $46,000.
"Chasnik began his study of art in 1919
under the direction of Malevich at the Vitebsk Institute of Applied
Arts. There the artist learned to apply Suprematist aesthetics
to industrial subjects, following the dictums imposed by Communism.
In many of Chasnik's works warm-toned reds, oranges and yellows
collide with cooler-toned blues, purples and greens. He scattered
these colors across his surfaces as thin, long, colored rectangles
and arranged them vertically and horizontally in the form of
crosses. These abstract pictorial compositions, based on geometric
figures, were dynamic diagrams organized as rhythmic and sequential
arrangements," the catalogue noted.
Lot 130, "Untitled,"
by Pierre Fevre, gouache on paper, 11 by 8 inches, circa 1917
Lot 130, "Untitled," by Pierre Fevre,
gouache on paper, 11 by 8 inches, circa 1917, shown above, is
a beautiful work that conjures both Feininger and Sheeler in
its cool palette and dynamic geometries. It has a very conservative
estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $3,738.
Lot 115, "Femme
assise," by Marie Vassilieff
Lot 115, "Femme assise," is a strong
oil on canvas, 38 by 23 1/2 inches by Marie Vassilieff (Mariya
Ivanova Vasil'eva) that has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
It sold for $145,500.
"Abandoning her studies in medicine in
St. Petersburg," the catalogue noted, "Vassilieff traveled
to Paris in 1905, enrolled in the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
after a brief return to Russia, she permanently settled in Paris
in 1907 and worked as a correspondent for a number of Russian
journals. At this time she studied under Matisse and it was an
article she published in the Toison d'Or that prompted
the famous Moscow collector Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin to add
mumerous works by Matisse to this collection of avant-garde paintings.
In 1908 she founded the Académie Russe, which was re-christened
the following year as the Académie Vassilieff. Her studio
became a locus for the cutting-edge art of her time, frequented
by Picasso, Gris, Léger, Matisse, Braque and Modigliani
among many others. The academy continued its activities well
into the First World War, serving as avenue for Léger's
famous series of lectures and as a refuge for the artists and
writers of the avant-garde afflicted by the visissitudes of the
Lot 118, "L'Homme
a la pipe" by Henri Laurens
Other excellent works in this very interesting
and good auction is a fine Cubist work by Henri Laurens (1885-1954),
Lot 118, shown above, "L'Homme à la pipe," a
10 1/4-by-7-inch gouache and pencil on paper mounted on board,
1919, that rivals similar works by Pablo Picasso and has a conservative
estimate of $120,000 to $140,000, but did not sell; Lot
122, a strong work by Ivan Semenovich Blokin (1887-1954) that
has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000, but did not sell;
Lot 123, a very good oil by Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953) that has
a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $25,000 and sold for
$36,650; Lot 125, a strong work by Wassili Scherischew (circa
1900-1930) that has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000, but
failed to sell; Lot 132, an excellent but dark Max Ernst
(1891-1976, "Vogel im Wald," a 12 5/8-by-9 1/16-inch
oil on board, 1917, that has an estimate of $125,000 to $150,000,
and did not sell; Lot 133, a quite lyrical work by Bela
Kádár (1877-1956), that has a modest estimate of
$4,000 to $5,000, and sold for $10,925; Lot 134, which
is the catalogue's cover illustration, "Bildnis Ernst Kirschbaum,"
a 1924 portrait by Paul Citroen (1896-1983), that has a modest
estimate of $15,000 to $20,000, and sold for $10,525.
See The City
Review article on the Christie's evening sale of Impressionist
and Post-Impressionist Art May 8, 2000
See The City
Review article on the Christie's evening sale of Twentieth Century
Art May 9, 2000
See The City
Review article on the Sotheby's evening auction May 10, 2000
of Impressionist & Modern Art
See The City
Review article on the May 11, 2000 auction at Sotheby's of Impressionist
& Modern Art, Part 2
See The City
Review article on the Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art
Auction, Part I, Nov. 11, 1999
See The City
Review article on Part Two of the Sotheby's auction November
11, 1999 of Impressionist & Modern Art
See The City
Review article on the Christie's Nov. 8, 1999 evening sale of
Impressionist & Post Impressionist Art
City Review article on the morning auction Nov. 9, 1999 of Impressionist
and Post-Impressionist Art at Christie's
City Review article on the afternoon auction Nov. 9, 1999 of
Impressionist and Twentieth Century Works on Paper at Christie's
City Review article on the Christie's Nov. 9, 1999 evening auction
of Twentieth Century Art
See The City
Review article on the Christie's Nov. 10, 1999 day auction of
Twentieth Century Art
City Review analysis of Part 1 of the Sotheby's auction May 11,
1999 of Impressionist and Modern Art
See The City
Review analysis of Part 2 of the Sotheby's May 12, 1999 auction
of Impressionist and Modern Art
See The City
Review article on the Christie's May 12, 1999 auction of Impressionist
Art and 19th Century Art
See The City
Review of the Christie's May 13, 1999 auction of 20th Century
and Modern Art
Recap of the
Spring 1998 Impressionist and Modern Auctions