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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."