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Impressionist & Modern Art

Part Two

Sotheby's

10:15 AM, May 9, 2002

Sale 7792

Catalogue cover has detail of Vlaminck's "La Seine à Bougival"

Cover of auction catalogue with large detail from Lot 179, "La Seine à Bougival," by Maurice Vlaminck, oil on canvas, 21 ¾ by 26 inches, circa 1907

By Carter B. Horsley

Although the auction houses generally put their most important offerings in the evening sales, they usually slip in a few major works into the day sales to help attendance, and bidding. There are, for example, several works in this day sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby's that could easily have appeared in the night sale.

A large detail of Lot 179, for example, is the cover illustration of the auction's catalogue and it is a very strong landscape by Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958), a very uneven artist best known unfortunately in the United States for his rather dark and dreary green and black, slapdash landscapes. Some of Vlaminck's early Fauvist work, however, is incredibly vibrant and very colorful and excellent. This is a very fine early landscape and while it is very green, it shows the important influence of Cézanne on the artist. The oil on canvas measures 21 ¾ by 26 inches and was painted circa 1907. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000 and was once in the collection of G. David Thompson of Pittsburgh. It sold for $614,500 including the buyer's premium as do all prices mentioned in this article.

"Souvenirs: by James Ensor

Lot 235, "Souvenirs," by James Ensor, oil on canvas, 27 5/8 by 23 ½ inches, 1926

The highlight of this auction is Lot 235, "Souvenirs," a 27 5/8-by-23 ½-inch oil on canvas by James Ensor (1860-1946), whose works very rarely appear on the art market. This work, dated 1926, also was once in the collection of G. David Thompson of Pittsburgh as well as Curt Valentin of New York and Sam Salz of New York and it comes from the collection of Samuel and Luella Maslon of Rancho Mirage, California. It has a very, very conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $174,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary about this lot:

"In the painting Souvenirs, Ensor effectively synthesizes the reality of the still-life with the symbolism of the elements which appear in many of his greatest paintings. The present work might therefore be viewed as a visual momento to Ensor's own life, featuring a self-portrait and objects he painted often, all displayed above the mantel of his fireplace. The masks which surround the self-portrait are essential as they figure prominently in some of Ensor's greatest paintings, including The Entry of Christ into Brussels, now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles. However, the masks are not the focal point of this work; instead, they appear on the periphery, both framing the other elements and reminding the viewer of the artist's other works. Likewise, the artist includes the circular image of the vivisectors, featured in Les infames vivisecteurs (The Vile Vilesectors). The assortment of objects might also be an homage to his parents and their souvenir store, which was the ground floor of the family home. The soothing palette and composition unite these items, invoking a moment of introspection and quiet contemplation as the artist reflects on his art."

Another artist whose works rarely appear at auction in the United States is Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) and Lot 203, "Autostrasse Im Taunus (Taunus Road)," is a strong and interesting landscape that was executed in 1916 by this very important German Expressionist. It is an oil on canvas that measures 27 7/8 by 23 ½ inches and has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $196,500. Kirchner is best known for his urban scenes and interiors with angular and distorted figures and strong, expressionist sense of tension. Here a hilly landscape resonates with energy and some foreboding.

Two other very important artists of considerable rarity are also in the auction: Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957). The former is represented by a fine drawing, Lot 205, which is a black crayon on paper, 14 1/8 by 19 inches, study for the painting "Women on the Bridge" in the Thiel Gallery in Stockholm, and by a fine watercolor, Lot 207, "Frydis and Oline Mjolstad," 19 ¼ by 23 inches. Lot 205 was executed in 1903 and Lot 207 in 1916 and both lots have modest estimates of $60,000 to $80,000. Lot 205 sold for $101,575 and Lot 207 sold for $130,500.

Two works by Frantisek Kupka

Lots 212 and 270, "Distillation Appartus (L'Alambric)," left, and "Le Sourire I," right, both by Frantisek Kupka


Kupka is represented by Lot 212, "Distillation Apparatus (L'Alambric)," a 20 5/8-by- 28-inch oil on canvas that was executed in 1929 and has an estimate of $120,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.

Lot 270, "Le Sourire I," is another Kupka, a 24 ½-inch square oil on canvas that was executed circa 1933 and is part of his Mechanical Cycle and another version of this work is in the Musée de l'Art Moderne in Paris. It has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $113,525.

Perhaps the best bargain of the season is Lot 262, a pencil drawing by Kupka that is a study for his famous "Plans Par Couleurs, Grand Nu," the very colorful nude of his wife that is one of the stars of the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. This drawing measures 5 ¼ by 8 1/8 inches and is stamped with the artist's signature and was once in the collection of Richard L. Feigen & Co., in New York and comes from the Collection of Samuel and Luella Maslon. It was executed circa 1909 and has a very, very, very conservative estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $7,170.

Several other fine lots in the auction from the Maslon Collection are 245, a fine 8 ½-inch-high bronze sculpture by Jean Arp (1886-1966) that has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 and sold for $95,600; 246, "Un Buste," a 31 7/8-by-23 5/8-inch oil on canvas painted in 1920 by Jacques Villon that has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and sold for $41,825; 251, another Villon oil, 24 by 28 ¾ inches, painted in 1948. Lot 251 was at one time in the collection of Lucien Goldschmidt of New York and it has a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $65,725.

Another major Maslon consignment is Lot 242, "Frauenkopf Femina (Head of a Woman, Femina)," a 15 ¾-by-12-inch oil on board painted in 1912 by Alexej Jawlensky (1864-1941). Jawlensky unfortunately painted many, many versions of an abstracted woman's face but this is one of the very best with more vibrant colors and much more interesting brushwork than usual. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $394,500.

Another major work in this auction is Lot 192, "L'Aumone," by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). This charcoal, pencil and peinture à l'essence on paper mounted on canvas measures 18 ½ by 12 ½ inches and was executed in Barcelona circa 1898-9. Picasso here depicts a female beggar seated in front of a brothel with prostitutes in the background. It is a strong though dark work and has a very modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It failed to sell.

"Princeteau dans son atelier" by Lautrec

Lot 118, "Princeteau dans son Atelier," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, oil on canvas, 21 2/4 by 18 inches, 1881

One of the auction's highlights is Lot 118, "Princeteau dans son Atelier," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). This charming 21 ¼-by-18-inch oil on canvas was painted in 1881 and has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $504,500. René Princeteau (1843-1914) was, according to the catalogue, "a successful painter of horses and hunting scenes in the late 1870s, and he was a friend of Lautrec's uncle Charles." "Beginning in 1878, Princeteau agreed to give lessons to the young Lautrec who developed so quickly that by 1882 Princeteau felt it necessary to find a more rigorous studio for Lautrec. Lautrec painted two portraits of his teacher in 1881 but it is the vigorous brushwork and composition of the present work which communicates the lively nature of Princeteau's approach to painting."

Lot 269, "Metamorphose," is a delightful Joan Miró (1893-1983) watercolor with black crayon and collage on paper, 18 7/8 by 23 1/8 inches. Executed in 1936, it has an estimate of $180,000 to $220,000. It sold for $207,500.

Lot 132 is a lovely though small floral still-life by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) that is property of the Frederic W. Ziv Trust. This 10 ½-by-13 ¾-inch oil on canvas has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 and is quite exquisite. It sold for $262,500.

David Burliuk (1882-1967) is an artist whose uneven and uninteresting later works generally obscured his quite excellent and interesting early Cubist work. This auction, however, has two quite fine late works that show that the artist had not forgotten his Cubist roots. Lot 311, "Sunrise on the Steppes," is a 50-by-39-inch oil on burlap that is signed and dated, according to catalogue, 1911. The very colorful painting shows five horses and a Chagallesque cow floating vertically in the center. It is very well painted and has a very modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $38,837. Lot 316 is a 33-inch square oil on burlap by Burliuk entitled "Peasants and Horse," that is more coarsely painted but has a very strong and rhythmic composition. The catalogue states it was painted circa 1961 and it has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $50,787. Lot 318 is another Burliuk, entitled "Untitled (Village from All Sides)," a 36-by-42-inch oil on canvas that the catalogue also states was painted circa 1961. This is perhaps the most interesting Burliuk to appear at auction in many years and while it is also Chagallesque in many of its elements it has a crispness and kaleidoscopic imagery that is less dreamy than Chagall's and more modern. It also has a $15,000 to $20,000 estimate. It sold for $38,837.

David Burliuk was the first owner of Lot 194, "Portrait of Benedict Livshits," an oil on canvas, 18 by 14 inches, painted in 1911 by Vladimir Burliuk ((1886-1917), David's brother. It sold for $163,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In 1907 Vladimir Burliuk, along with his brother David, joined forces with fellow artists Wassily Kandinsky, Mikhail Larionov, Kasimir Malevich, and Natalia Goncharova to stage what was the first of many acclaimed exhibitions of Russian avant-garde art. The subject of the present work is the poet and close friend of the artist, Benedict Livshits."

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening spring 2002 auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction at Christie's May 7, 2002

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day sale and Impressionist & Modern Works on Paper auction at Christie's May 8, 2002

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Smooke Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Nov. 5, 2001 auction of the Hoener Collection at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on Phillips May 7, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

See The City Review article on the November 9, 2001 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Phillips Fall 2000 Impressionist & Modern Art auction

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