This evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's
is highlighted by an excellent and large waterlily painting by
Claude Monet (1840-1926), two fine works by Georges Braque (1882-1963),
a superb gouache and watercolor by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944),
a nice portrait by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), a very good
Balthus (1908-2001), a bold still life by Raoul Dufy (1877-1953),
a nice cutout by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a lovely painting
by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), three good works by Pierre-Auguste
Renoir (1841-1919), a good Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), an interesting
cityscape by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), a good Paul Klee (1840-1926)
watercolor, a wonderful painting of two cows by Heinrich Campendonk
(1889-1957), and a strong work by Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955).
Lot 133, "Le Bassin aux Nympheas" is a stunning and
large waterlily oil on canvas by Claude Monet that is one of numerous
works in this auction consigned by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation.
The painting, which is the catalogue's cover illustration, measures
39 3/8 by 79 inches and was painted circa 1917-9. It is stamped
with the artist's signature. Given its size, it has a modest estimate
of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $16,808,000 including
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
The sale total of $96,071,200
brought the two-day total of this sale, the day Impressionist
and Modern Art Sale May 6, 2004 and the Greentree Foundation sale
the night before to $314,880,100, the auction house's highest
seasonal total for the department since May, 1990.
This was a successful
sale with just over 80 percent of the 52 offered lots selling,
but there were some disappointments. In contrast with the crowded
and buzzing scene at the sale of the Whitney paintings the night
before there were some empty seats and not as much excitement
at this sale. David C. Norman, co-chairman of the department at
Sotheby's, said he was "just thrilled at the sale" and
Charles S. Moffett, the other co-chairman, said it is "a
very robust market." Mr. Moffett said that institutions were
active but unsuccessful bidders at this sale and at the Whitney
Another major work from
the Stark foundation is Lot 136, "Femme à La Guitare,"
a fine work by Georges Braque that was formerly in the collection
of G. David Thompson of Pittsburgh and Mr. and Mrs. Lee A. Ault
of New York. An oil on canvas that measures 45 ¾ by 35
3/8 inches, it was executed in 1931 and has a modest estimate
of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. "This combination of fluid line
and carefully balanced planes of earth tones result in a harmonious
and enchanting composition," the catalogue entry notes. It
is a refined and esoteric work. It sold for $2,136,000.
The auction has another
excellent work by Braque, Lot 129, "Paysage de L'Estaque,"
an oil on canvas that measures 19 5/8 by 24 inches. Painted in
1906, this Fauve landscape has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.
It sold for $2,136,000.
Another consigment from
the Stark Foundation is Lot 135, "Knabe am Sofa (Boy on a
Sofa)," a strong work by Hermann Max Pechtstein. An oil on
canvas, it measures 27 ½ by 31 inches and is dated 1910.
It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $1,072,000.
Pechstein was a member of Die Brücke, a group of avant-garde
German artists including Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
who are known as German Expressionists. This painting was exhibited
by Pechtstein in an exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter in 1912.
The first 13 lots of this
auction consist of works from a European estate. The catalogue
notes that "The 20th Century European paintings, drawings
and sculpture featured on the following pages, along with a superb
ensemble of works by the Cuban painter, Wilfredo Lam, modern prints,
medieval works of art and furniture, antiquities, pre-Columbian
and Tribal artifacts, are the product and reflection of an independently
minded European couple who were passionate about the arts and
intellectual pursuits. These two individuals escaped from pre-war
Europe to later meet and marry in New York and then lead an international
and peripatetic life, moving to South America, then Holland and
Perhaps the most stunning work in this group is Lot 112, an untilted
gouaches, watercolor and India ink on paper by Wassily Kandinsky.
Executed in 1923, it measures 14 ¼ by 9 7/8 inches and
has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for
$355,200. Kandinsky started teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar
in 1922 and his work, according to the catalogue, "gradually
moved away from the free flowing, irregular lines and shapes of
his earlier years, towards a more geometric form of abstraction.
His watercolors and paintings of this period are dominated by
circles, triangles and straight lines rather than by undefined
shapes and loosely applied paint. This shift to strict geometric
forms reflects the influence of Russian Constructivist art to
which he was exposed during the war years spent in Moscow.
Another lovely work of the
same period from the estate is Lot 113, "Hauser Am Park (Houses
in the Park)," by Paul Klee, a watercolor on paper laid down
on the artist's mount. Dated 1925, it measures 9 ¼ by 6
1/8 inches. It has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $220,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $120,000. Klee also
taught at the Bauhaus. The catalogue notes that "it reveals
his fascination with architecture a subject that the school inspired
in his paintings and drawings of the period." "The complex
beauty and draftsmanship of these compositions became the basis
for his reputation as one of the great intellectual artists of
the 20th Century."
One of the highlights of
this estate group is a fine cut-out by Henri Matisse, Lot 110,
"Les Quatre Rosaces aux Motifs Bleus." The work measures
14 ½ by 21 inches and was executed circa 1949-50. It has
an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,584,000.
The work, the catalogue maintained, "is said to have
been designed originally for a book cover, but the artist kept
it instead as an independent composition," adding that "Matisse
focuses here on the shapes of flowers and elevates them from merely
decorative objects to emblems of modern style."
One of the best lots in
the auction also comes from the same estate consignment: Lot 101,
"Komposition mit zwei Kühen (Composition with Two Cows),"
a wonderful gouache and watercolor on paper by Heinrich Campendonk.
The work measures 17 by 21 ¼ inches and was executed circa
1913. It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It
sold for $209,600.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Campendonk completed Komposition mit zwei Kühen
while living in Sindelsdorf, a small town near Murnau in Upper
Bavaria. The artist moved there in 1911 at the invitation of fellow
painters Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky, and, later that year,
these men formed the artistic group known as Der Blaue Reiter.
Including such artists as Gabriele Munter and August Macke, the
members of Der Blaue Reiter were among the leaders of the avant-garde
in Europe during years before the Great War; and contributed to
the style of painting known as German Expressionism. Although
the influence of the Fauvists and the Futurists is evident in
their work, these artists prided themselves on the originality
of each member's individual aesthetic and encouraged each other
to paint freely and without the restrictions of unifying stylistic
principles. The present pictureis a fine example of Campendonk's
unique approach. This work is from Campendonk's series of geometric
depictions of farm animals, a theme which was also favored by
Franz Marc. Marc often acted as a mentor to Campendonk during
their time together in Sindelsdorf, and both artists were fascinated
by mystical depictions of the natural world and were inspired
by the rural surroundings. But unlike Marc, Campendonk renders
his subject with overlapping, transparent colors, using a luminous
palette and application of color that is not unlike that of the
Orphists and the Fauves."
The estate of Ruth G. Hardman
is offering six works in this auction including a very attractive
portrait by Amedeo Modigliani, Lot 119, "Jeune Fille à
la Collerette." The oil on canvas measures 21 7/8 by 15 ¼
inches and was painted in 1915. It has a modest estimate of $1,500,000
to $2,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,200,000.
The Hardman estate also
is offering an interesting cityscape by Robert Delaunay, Lot 117,
"La Fleche de Notre Dame," which shows the spire of
Notre Dame with the Seine in the background. The oil on canvas
measures 32 by 21 5/8 inches and was painted circa 1909-10. Although
it is a bit sketchy with a dark palette, it is an unusual and
interesting composition. It has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $750,000.
Another important Hardman
offering is Lot 116, "L'Acrobate," by Jacques Villon
(1875-1963). An oil on canvas that measures 39 ¼ by 28
¼ inches, it was painted in 1913 and has an estimate of
$500,000 to $700,000. It was once in the collection of John Quinn.
It sold for $1,296,000, far surpassing the artist's previous
world auction record of $495,418.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Like his younger brothers, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel
Duchamp, Villon was an insightful and progressive artist, often
choosing subjects that challenged the norms of visual representation.
One of the best examples of this artistic goal is the present
work, a two-dimensional representation of an acrobat in motion.
Villon's first attempt in rendering this theme was in 1897, when
he completed a lithograph called Danseuse de carde for
a Parisian periodical. In 1912-13, he returned to the subject
in three drawings depicting an equilibriste balancing on
his hands. Like Degas, Villon was fascinated with the depiction
of movements performed by dancers and other stage performers.
But as he progressed as an artist, his concentration shifted from
representing the physicality of the figure to trying to capture
the energy of motion itself. This achievement is the defining
characteristic of the present work, in which the figure's limbs,
torso and head are no longer visible in the swirl of motion."
Also in the Hardman group is Lot 114, "La Console de Marble,"
an oil, collage, and mirrored glass on canvas, by Juan Gris (1887-1927).
The work was executed in 1914 and measures 24 by 19 ¾ inches.
It has an ambitious estimate of $4,500,000 to $6,500,000. It
sold for $7,400,000.
One of the auction's highlights
is Lot 120, "Le Sauvetage," by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).
An oil on canvas, it measures 38 ¼ by 51 ¼ inches
and was painted in 1932. A pleasant scene of figures prancing
about, it has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000.000. It sold
Another Picasso, Lot
105, "Nu Accroupi," sold for $11,768,000, almost triple
its high estimate.
Balthus (1908-2001) is an
artist whose subject matter is often more important than composition
or technique and his subject matter is often young girls and reverie
in dark surroundings. Lot 138 is a rare Balthus that has an interesting
composition and a light palette. An oil on canvas, it is 78 ¾
inches square and was executed in 1957. It has an estimate of
$4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $3,816,000 just over
the artist's previous world auction record of $3,675,637. The
work's title, the catalogue entry notes, is "derived from
the poem by Lewis Carroll All in the Golden Afternoon,
adding that "There is also a strong thematic resemblance
between much of Balthus's work executed after 1950 and the photographs
of young girls taken by Lewis Carroll in the 1860s."
Lot 130 is an extremely
vibrant and sold Fauve still life of flowers by Raoul Dufy. The
oil on canvas measures 35 ½ by 25 ¼ inches and was
painted in 1906-07. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $500,000.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Having executed a number of Fauve canvases, particularly
seascapes, in 1907, Dufy's focus started turning away from this
style, to gradually adopt the prevailing Cubism. Fleurs dans
un vase witnesses this important transition in Dufy's oeuvre,
displaying increasingly simplified forms verging on abstraction,
while at the same time maintaining the vibrant palette of his
earlier work. In the first decade of the century, Dufy rarely
chose to depict flowers as an isolated subject, preferring to
present them as part of an interior or a landscape or garden scene.
In the present work, the vase of flowers seems to be floating
against an oval green background resembling a table top, which,
combined with stylized trees behind it transforms into a patch
of grass of an en plein air composition. In using bright
green, red and yellow tones, Dufy follows his theory of couleur-lumière,
observing the painting's own, internal principles of color and
light, rather than copying nature. In fact, unlike his fellow
Fauves who adopted a quieter palette after seeing Cézanne's
work at the 1907 Salon d'Automne, Dufy's fascination with bright,
primary colors never abandoned him. From this period on, he developed
his own Cézanne-inspired brand of Cubism that came to be
known as `Para-Cubism,' characterized by flattened and increasingly
geometric forms. Although Dufy had probably not yet seen Cézanne's
art by the time he painted the present work, the juxtaposition
of warm and cool tones applied in broad brushstrokes and the reduction
of elements to nearly abstract color patches present in Fleurs
dans un vase show some affinities with Cézanne's own
artistic experimentations. The present work thus heralds an important
transition not only in Dufy's own painting, but also in the work
of his fellow Fauve artists including Vlaminck and Derain."
Lot 145, "Liegender Akt In Starker Verkurzung (Reclining
Nude Sharply Foreshortened)," is a strong and fine work by
Max Beckman 1884-1950. An oil on canvas, it measures 29 by 21
inches and was executed in 1948. It has an estimate of $1,800,000
to $2,500,000. It sold for $2,472,000.
This auction has three nice
works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Lot 123, "Jeunes Filles aux
Lilas," a 21 5/8-by-18-inch oil on canvas is the back cover
illustration of the catalogue. Executed circa 1890, it is being
sold by a private New York collector and the Wadsworth Atheneum.
It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for
$5,496,000. The catalogue notes that the models for this pleasant
work were "most likely Julie Manet, the daughter of Berthe
Morisot and the niece of Edouard Manet, and Paulette (Paule) Gobillard,
her first cousin."
Lot 125 is a sketchy oil on canvas by Renoir of a young woman
with an umbrella. It measures 10 by 7 6/8 inches and was painted
in 1872. It has an estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000. It sold
for $1,016,000. The catalogue notes that the woman depicted
is "mostly likely Madame Claude Monet."
Lot 126 is a pastel and black crayon on paper by Renoir that is
a fine study of a dancing couple for "La Danse à Bougival,"
one of the artist's most famous paintings that is in the Museum
of Fine Arts in Boston. It measures 8 5/8 by 5 ½ inches
and was executed in 1883. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
It sold for $635,200.
Lot 127 is a very painterly
work by Edouard Vuillard that depicts a child at a table. An oil
on cardboard laid down on cradled panel, it measures 19 1/8 by
24 ½ inches. It was executed in 1900-01 and has an estimate
of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $792,000.