on paper are by their nature more fragile than canvases or panels
and very often they play second fiddle in the art market to works
by the same artist in more durable media. They do, however, often
have an immediacy that is very alluring, in part because they
are often studies for more complete works and thus often have
a greater freedom and spontaneity. Some artists have consistent
styles in any media and some treat them differently.
may start out only collecting works in one specific medium, but
often end up dabbling in others because they decide to concentrate
on the works of one artist or they want works by certain artists
but cannot afford their major paintings.
auction well demonstrates, often the works on paper are as fine
or better than many paintings aesthetically.
had a sales total of $6,716,075, including the buyer's premiums,
and 51 of the 57 offered lots sold, or 89 percent, a very respectable
of Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) usually fetch a few million dollars
each, but his works on paper are often available for much, much
less. Lot 112, for example, "La grande caryatide," shown
at the top of this article, is a 39 3/8-by-24 ¼-inch pastel
and blue gouache over pencil on paper joined by the artist, laid
down on board. Drawn circa 1913-4, it is a large and monumental
work that is striking because of its deep blue background and
very interesting because the artist decided to enlarge it to change
the composition. The added portions are lighter in color than
the original drawing and the borders between them are quite evident
and add to the work's tactile delight.
reinforce the classical element inherent in this archaic subject,
Modigliani hones and reduces his forms to their utmost simplicity.
The violent, primitive expression found in Picasso's early cubist
works, which also draws heavily upon archaic and tribal sources,
is absent in Modigliani's treatment of the caryatid theme. He
is more concerned with formal balance and repose, in which each
contour is firmly rendered and set in counterpoint to adjacent
lines, creating a fugue-like composition of repeated and inverted
forms. His use of ovoid shapes lends the composition a sense of
sculptural volume, contrasted with the flatness of the drawn line
and the application of monochrome paint. The overall effect is
that of a monumental structure unified by its linear rhythms and
he careful balance of its proportions. The present work in unusual
in the artist's series off caryatids for its Degas-like addition
of paper joined to the top edge of the original sheet. Modigliani
also expands the composition onto the mount, as seen in the lower
and left hand edges of the painted image. Whereas the cropping
of the figure on the original sheet implies a sense of compressed
and coiled strength, the enlargement of the composition imparts
to it a monumental dimension, as if the figure is radiating outward
into an immense, unlimited space. The hourglass shape of the enlarged
figure, almost globular in the upper and lower portions, and hinged
by her narrow, elongated torso, is an extreme interpretation of
the caryatid idea. It reaches into the realm of the mythic and
superhuman, as if the caryatid is an Atlas-like figure, bearing
the burden of one world on her shoulders while resting on another."
has a very conservative estimate of 250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $534,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results
mentioned in this article.
is another Modigliani, entitled "Cariàtide,"
a 10 ½-by-8-inch pencil and blue wax crayon on paper mounted
at the edges on paper, also drawn in 1913-4. This drawing, which
is on brown paper, shows the pronounced influence of tribal sources
in the handling of the face, but is enlivened by the artist's
softer and multiple strokes to delineate the breasts. It has a
conservative estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $47,000.
One of the
pleasures of leafing through auction catalogues is that the specialists
often make delightful pairings on facing pages of lots by different
artists. Opposite Modigliani's Lot 120, for example, is "Femme
nu debout," a colored wax crayons on paper laid down on board,
by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), which is a superb mate to
the Modigliani because it also has an ovoid face and pronounced
breasts. The 16 ½-by-10 3/8-inch drawing , Lot 121, which
is blue on cream-colored paper, has an estimate of $80,000 to
$100,000 and was once in the collection of Lee and Isabel Ault
in New York. It failed to sell. Brancusi, of course, is
famous for his sculptures, which rarely appear on the market and
now go in the seven figures.
(1879-1940) is one of the most lyrical and whimsical 20th Century
masters and this auction has three of his works. Lot 119, "Voralpiner
Ort," is a 14 ½-by-10-inch watercolor on paper laid
down by the artist on board in 1925. It was once in the collection
of Blanchette H. Rockefeller and has a modest estimate of $150,000
to $200,000. It sold for $138,000. It is not one of the
artist's most vibrant works, but it presents a crowded cityscape
with considerable energy. The catalogue provides the following
commentary: "The present work represents a village in the
foothills of the Alps; Klee subsequently painted five other watercolors
of similar subjectsIn each of these works the artist uses a Cubist-derived
structure to render the spatial complexity of the landscape; the
present work recalls Picasso's view of Horta de Ebro painted during
the summer of 1909, and Braque's depictions of the castle at La
Roche-Guyon done around the same time. Klee's palette, with its
muted blue, green and violent tones, recalls the colors that Cézanne
liked to employ in his watercolors. In these respects the present
work stands as an homage to the progenitor and creators of Cubism.
During the mid-1920's Klee introduced a hatched technique, executed
with a fine brush in the present work, which denotes `states of
becoming and passing away.The `fuzziness' of this method may appear
at odds with the weightiness of the underlying cubist structure,
but it is clear that Klee intends to interpret the aspects of
experiencing the landscape. He renders with firm contours the
physical substance of the buildings and the hillside on which
they are perched. By means of the hatched colors he hints at the
fleeting effects of light. Ultimately, form and color, realty
and appearance, and the permanent and the transient are merged
into a vibrating haze of lines."
"Festungbau," is another Klee watercolor, 9 7/8 by 7
3/8 inches in size, that was painted in 1921 and has an estimate
of $120,000 to $160,000. It sold for $226,000. According
to the catalogue, it "immediately precedes a series of four
compositions similarly constructed of rail fence-like planes,
which were intended as abstract studies in perspective."
"The use of these partially open planes allows the artist
to create an architectural sense of space that is maze-like and
overlapping while remaining airily transparent," it continued.
119 and 136 are interesting, Lot 140 is a much more pleasing Klee.
Entitled "Neuer Stadtteil in M," the 12 3/8-by-17 7/8-inch
watercolor, shown above, was executed in 1928 and has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $314,000.
(1893-1983) is represented with a very strong oil, gouache and
pencil on handmade paper, Lot 135, entitled "Femme attrapant
un oiseau nocture." The work, which is the cover illustration
of the catalogue, measures 53 ½ by 23 inches and was painted
in 1970. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold
highlight of the auction is Lot 42, "Tête de femme
aux cheveux bouclés," by Henri Matisse (1869-1954).
The strong, 22 1/8-by-15-inch brush and India ink on paper is
the illustration of the catalogue's back cover and was executed
in 1952 and has an estimate of $180,000 to $250,000. It sold
"Fleurs dans une cruche bleue," is a nice floral still
life by Odilon Redon (1840-1916). The 24 5/8-by-20 ¼-inch
pastel on buff paper laid down on boar was drawn circa 1920 and
has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $259,000.
"Nu debout," is a pleasant colored wax crayons and pencil
on board, 13 by 9 7/8 inches, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) that
was drawn in 1970 and has an estimate of $150,000 to 200,000.
It sold for $336,000.