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Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby's

7 PM, May 6, 2003

Sale 7890

"Suprematist Painting, Rectangle and Circle" by Malevich

Lot 35, "Suprematist Painting, Rectangle and Circle," by Kazimir Malevich, oil on canvas, 17 by 12 1/8 inches, 1915

By Carter B. Horsley

The good news for Sotheby's and Christie's is that Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg is not competing in many areas this spring in such major auction categories as Impressionist Art and American Paintings. The bad news is that uncertainties about the nation's economy has made for slim pickings.

Although the offerings are not huge in number, there are, of course, some goodies.

One of the highlights of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction May 6 is Lot 35, "Suprematist Painting, Rectangle and Circle," by Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935). The stunning, 17-by-12 1/8-inch oil on canvas, shown at the top of this article, was executed in 1915 and has been widely exhibited.

The work until recently was entrusted to the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University for more than 40 years. The catalogue notes that Malevich's Suprematist paintings "are among the most compelling works of 20th Century art," adding that "With its sharply defined blue and black forms set against a field of white, this composition is what Malevich considered to the be the pinnacle of artistic expression and 'the creation of intuitive reason.'" The work, it continued, "demonstrates the liberation of form and the celebration of the abstract in an extreme manner that was unmatched by avant-garde artists of the day."

The painting has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. Bidding opened at $4,000,000 and the lot was passed at $4,600,000 with no apparent bidders in the room. After the auction, Charles S. Moffett, co-chairman of the auction house's Impressionist and Modern Art department, said he was "very surprised" that it did not sell because there had been "lots of pre-sale interest."

Mr. Moffett and his co-chairman, David Norman, however, both said they were thrilled with the auction's results. While only 71.79 percent of the 39 offered lots sold, most were within or slightly above the pre-sale estimates. The auction's sales total was $65,604,000. The pre-sale estimate for the auction was $70,910,000 to $99,400,000. Given pre-sale nervousness about the length of the war in Iraq and the continued uncertainty over the nation's economy, there was obviously some anxiety about this first major sale of the Spring season and despite some passes the auction appeared to indicate that the art market has not run out of fuel and still has some strength.

Detail of "Le Thonier Entrant à La Rochelle (Couchant)" by Signac

Detail of Lot 20, "Le Thonier Entrant à La Rochelle (Couchant)," by Paul Signac, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 inches, 1927

One of the most glorious works in this auction is Lot 20, "Le Thonier Entrant à La Rochelle (Couchant)," by Paul Signac (1863-1935). The 28 3/4-by-36 1/4-inch oil on canvas was executed in 1927 and is exceeding vibrant and beautiful and as fine as any work in the recent Signac exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,576,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. Since January of this year, Sotheby's has raised its buyer's premium to 20 percent of the first $100,000 and 12 percent of the amount over $100,000.

"Les Deux Lavandieres au Bord de La Cascade" by Sérusier

Lot 8, "Les Deux Lavandieres au Bord de La Cascade," by Paul Sérusier, oil on canvas, 29 by 36 5/8 inches, circa 1890

Another superb work is Lot 8, "Les Deux Lavandieres au Bord de La Cascade," by Paul Sérusier (1864-1927). This 29-by-36 5/8-inch oil on canvas was executed circa 1890 in Brittany where the artist worked with Paul Gauguin to whose oeuvre it bears a strong similiarity. Indeed, it looks like a masterpiece "Although greatly influenced by Gauguin," the catalogue observed, "Sérusier's paintings often surpassed those of the elder artist with their daring abstraction, and the present composition is an example of this tendency. In this picture, which was once attributed Gauguin, Sérusier employs the rich palette that was popular among the artists working in Brittany. The organic treatment of the sky and the figures, however, is evidence of Sérusier's own distinctive technique." It has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $624,000, setting a new auction record for the artist.

Another stunning work is Lot 22, "Paysage à Chatou," by Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). An oil on canvas that measures 29 1/8 by 21 5/8 inches, it was painted circa 1907 and shows the influence of Cézanne. It is a very strong composition and has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $680,000.

"Dans Les Roses (Madame Leon Clapisson)" by Renoir

Lot 18, "Dans Les Roses (Madame Leon Clapisson)," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 by 32 inches, 1882

Another major work in this auction is Lot 18, "Dan Les Roses (Madame Leon Clapisson), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). The lush oil on canvas, which measures 39 1/4 by 32 inches, was executed in 1882.

According to the catalogue, this painting "ranks among Renoir's most beautiful and significant figurative works" and "is an exceeding effective synthesis of the best characteristics of Renoir's 'high' or 'classic' Impressionist style of the 1870s and the more linear manner that he began to experiment with in the early 1880s." This work was rejected by the sitter's husband as too "daring" and Renoir "had to paint a second picture, in soberer tones, which was accepted," the catalogue noted.

The lot has an ambitious estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000. While the brushwork is quite free and the blue of the sitter's dress very pretty and the composition is pleasant, this painting is charming, but not masterful. It sold to Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas gaming entrepreneur, for $23,528,000.

Another Renoir is Lot 12, "Gabrielle et Coco Jouant aux Dominos," a 20 1/2-by-18 1/8-inch oil on canvas that is very charming. Executed circa 1905-6, it has a conservative estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,600,000. It sold for $1,688,000.

"Danseuse" by Degas

Lot 11, "Danseuse," by Edgar Degas, pastel on paper, 30 1/4 by 17 3/4 inches, circa 1885-1890

It has been consigned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has also consigned two works by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) including Lot 11, "Danseuse," which is the cover illustration of the catalogue. "Danseuse" is a 30 1/4-by-17 3/4-inch pastel on paper mounted on cardboard that was once in the collection of Jacques Seligmann. It was executed circa 1885-1890 and has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $10,648,000.

"Danseuses Près d'un Portant" by Degas

Lot 10, "Danseuses Près d'un Portant," by Degas, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 by 18 1/4 inches, circa 1888

It is a more finished work that Lot 10, another Degas consignment from the museum entitled "Danseuses Près d'un Portant," which measures 23 1/4 by 18 1/4 inches. Lot 10 is a pastel on paper mounted on cardboard on a wooden stretcher and was executed circa 1888. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It is sketchier but has two main figures as opposed to the solitary dancer in Lot 12. It sold for $3,928,000.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) is an uneven artist but Lots 2 and 7 show him at his best. Lot 2, "Meules de Foin Dans Le Pre, Eragny," is a 28 3/4-by-36 3/8-inch oil on canvas. It is dated 1896 and has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,352,000. Lot 7, entitled "La Route de Rocquencourt," is an oil on canvas that measures 20 1/4 by 30 3/8 inches, it is dated 1871 and has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $5,608,000.

"Les Trois Ages (Maternité)" by Bonnard

Lot 14, "Les Trois Ages (Maternité)," by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas, 17 3/4 by 13 1/4 inches, 1893

Lot 14, "Les Trois Ages (Maternité)," is a fine painting by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), although at first glance some observers might assume it was by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) because of its muted green and dark red palette and patterning. The work, which was painted in 1893, was once in the collection of actress Natalie Wood and has a conservative estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $568,000.

Lot 13, "Devant La Tapisserie: Misie et Thadeé Natanson, Rue St. Florentin," is by Vuillard. An oil on board, it measures 19 by 20 3/4 inches and was painted in 1899. It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,600,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $750,000. The catalogue notes that while the famous couple are seated with their backs to the "spectator, the viewer has an unmistakable sense of the intensity of their relationship."

"La Clariere" by Giacometti

Lot 29, "La Clarière (Composition avec Neuf Figures)," by Alberto Giacometti, bronze, 23 1/8 inches high

Lot 29, "La Clairière (Composition avec Neuf Figures)," is a 23 1/8-inch-high bronze by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) that is one of six cast. It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $10,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $7,250,000. A similar work is being offered this spring at Christie's (See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's).

Auction records were also set for Max Lieberman, whose "Mein Haus in Wannsee, Mit Garten," Lot 6, sold for $1,576,000, and André Masson, whose "Pasiphae," Lot 38, sold for $904,000.

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art Part 2 day auction at Sotheby's

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

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

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

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Impressionist Art Part Two day auction at Sotheby's

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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