and Mrs. John
Hay Whitney had a famous art collection and after their deaths
many of their masterpieces were given to museums such as the National
Gallery of Art in Washington, which received the sensational "Marcelle
Lender dansant le bolèro dans 'Chilpéric" by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the great "Charing Cross Bridge,"
by André Derain, a luminous "Fenetre ouverte, Collioure,"
by Henri Matisse, and a wonderful self-portrait by Vincent van
Gogh, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which received
a nice "Les Oliviers," by van Gogh.
Mr. Whitney was the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James's,
the publisher of The New York Herald Tribune, a
chairman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1946 to
1956, and a horse breeder. His wife, Betsey Cushing Whitney, was
well known for her philanthropy.
The works of art being offered at several different auctions at
Sotheby's this season from their collection will finance the
work of the Greentree Foundation established by Mrs. Whitney.
Greentree was the name of their estate of about 500 acres in Manhasset
on Long Island.
While their bequests to major museums are most impressive, this
auction is not simply leftovers. Indeed, Lot 7, the highlight
of the auction may well be the finest work in the collection,
"Garçon à La Pipe," a large and poetic
Rose Period work by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).
There is a melancholic lyricism in much of Picasso's Rose and
Blue Periods. Lush, soft pastel colors contrast with stark black
outlines. Ambiguity reigns. Figures are lovingly depicted but
they seem to be sad.
"The painting has never failed to impress viewers both with
the nobility of its composition and the mysterious grace of the
sitter who gazes reflectively into space," the catalogue
entry noted. "It conjures up Verlaine's poem 'Crimen Amoris,'
about a palace in Ecbatana where 'adolescent satans' neglect the
five senses for the seven deadly sins, except for the most handsome
of all these evil agents, who is sixteen years old under his wreath
of flowers...and who dreams away, his eyes full of fire and tears,"
according to John Richardson in his 1991 book, "A Life of
The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:
"One of the iconic images of the Blue and Rose periods, Garçon
à la pipe, is a masterpiece of Picasso's early years
and the finest painting of that era remaining in private hands.
This extraordinary work probably began as a study from life in
Picasso's immediate surroundings but was dramatically transformed
in a moment of sudden inspiration. According to André Salmon:
'After a delightful series of metaphysical acrobats, dances like
priestesses of Diana, delightful clowns and `wistful Harlequins,'
Picasso had painted, without a model, the purest and simplest
image of a young Parisian working boy, beardless and in blue overalls:
having indeed, more or less the same appearance as the artist
himself during working hours. One night, Picasso abandoned the
company of his friends and their intellectual chit-shat. He returned
to his studio, took the canvas he had abandoned a month before
and crowned the figure of the little apprentice lad with roses.
He had made this work a masterpiece thanks to a sublime whim."
Picasso's work of the Rose period has always been admired for
its melancholy charm and haunting poetry, contrasting with the
deep gloom of the immediately preceding Blue period, yet in both
instances the source of inspiration was in his immediate surroundings.
Since 1904, he had been living in the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre.
Although the model for the present work has sometimes been identified
as an actor, it seems likely that he was an adolescent known as
'p'tit Louis,' who was frequently to be found at the Bateau Lavoir
along with, in Picasso's own words, other `local types, actors,
ladies, gentlemen, delinquents.He stayed there, sometimes the
whole day. He watched me work. He loved that.' A number of preliminary
studies for the present painting show Picasso depicting his model
in a variety of different positions, standing, sitting, leaning
against a wall, lighting a pipe or simply holding it in his hands.This
remarkable painting differs radically from any of the preliminary
studies, transforming the young boy who might light his pipe into
a slightly more a mature adolescent who gazes absently into space.
Even before the addition of the garland of flowers, any trace
of the anecdotal had been removed. The pipe in held in the left
had with the stem pointing away from the youthful smoker, as
an emblem of maturity, perhaps, rather than a purveyor of tobacco
smoke....The effect is not unlike that of some of the late portraits
of Odilon Redon who frequently surrounded his sitters with masses
The oil on canvas measures 39 ¼ by 32 inches and was painted
in 1905. It has an "estimate on request" and is likely
to fetch an extremely high price. One recent press report quoted
an enthusiastic, anonymous source as speculating that it might
fetch as much as $100 million, which seems rather ambitious.
sold for $104,168,00,
almost double the artist's prior world auction record of $55,006,000
and, more importantly, exceeding by $20 million or so the previous
world auction record for any work of art.
Albert Taubman, the former chairman of Sotheby's, said with a
big smile to Ira Spanierman, the art dealer, as the auctiongoers
Meyer, the night's
auctioneer, opened the bidding on the lot at $55 million and it
moved relatively quickly up to the low 70's and then seemed to
end at $79 million. Mr. Meyer, of course, was patient. There were
seven bidders and they started again and it went up, slowly, to
$91 million, then $92 million and finally Mr. Meyer banged his
hammer at $93 million. to a long round of applause. That, of course,
was just the hammer price, and with commissions the final price
was $104,168,000 for a telephone bidder. Sotheby's declined to
disclose any information about the identity of the winner bidder.
The Whitneys had purchased the Picasso for about $28,000 in 1950.
sale was very successful
with 32 of the 34 offered lots selling for a total of $189,894,400.
set for four other artists.
the Whitney's passion
for horse-racing it is not surprising that it is a subject of
numerous paintings in their collection.
30, "The Red
Prince Mare," by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) sold
for $7,848,000, far above his previous auction record of $4,292,500
set at Christie's in December, 1999. It was one of four works
by Munnings in the auction. "The
Red Prince Mare" is a 40-by-60-inch
oil on canvas that was executed in 1921 and has an estimate of
$4,000,000 to $6,000,000. Munnings was president of the Royal
Academy of Art in London for several years and was antagonistic
to much "modern art." His work is painterly but rather
academic, but he is generally regarded as the best painter of
horses in the 20th Century and horse lovers apparently tend to
not mind paying a great deal of money for portraits of their steeds
disproportionate to their artistic merit.
"Pots de Fleurs," is a large floral still life by Jean-Frederic
Bazille (1841-1870) that is dated 1866. The oil on canvas measures
39 ½ by 31 ¾ inches and has an ambitious estimate
of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $5,328,000,
soaring above the artist's
previous auction record of $1,270,890.
5, "The Good
and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child," by
William Blake (1757-1827), sold for $3,928,000, well above the
artist's previous auction record of $2,532,500. In announcing
the work's title, Mr. Meyer add "Or Two Bidders Trying to
Get the Picasso," which elicited a lot of laughter in the
jam-packed auction room.
It is a
large monotype, pen and block ink, watercolor and gouache with
touches of graphite on paper. The 17 ¼-by-23 1/16-inch-work
has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It is the reverse
of a watercolor composition of the same title by Blake that is
in the Cecil Higgins Clark Art Gallery in Bedford, England. The
watercolor is more lyrical and fluid.
provides the following commentary:
"The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of
a Child is one of a group of twelve compositions known as
the Large Color Prints datable to 1795-1805. They show Blake at
a period of remarkable productivity, in full control of his imaginative
powers and technical skill. The works are hand-colored monotypes,
the largest and most successful works on paper that Blake had
made to that date. There are 32 different versions of the twelve
subjects, though two remain untraced since the 19th Century, and
no more than four of any one composition. The Good and Evil
Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child is known in two
versions, the present example and another in the Tate Britain,
London. It is generally accepted that the Whitney version was
the first impression. It is freer in handling, with none of the
exaggerated musculature of the Tate version. Of the 30 Large
Color Prints known today, eleven are in the Tate Britain,
five are in other British museums, ten in American museums and
one Newtonis the property of an American religious
The remaining three are currently in private hands but it is highly
unlikely that other than the present work will come onto the market."
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) is perhaps best known for the bright and
gay illustrative style of his later career, he produced some extremely
fine Fauve works early in his career of which Lot 6, "Fete
à Saint-Adresse," is an excellent example. An oil
on canvas that measures 25 ½ by 31 ¾ inches, it
was executed in 1906 and has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,200,000.
Dufy did not adhere fully to the Fauve style and this work contains
black, a color generally shunned by the Fauves. It sold for $3,144,000,
the artist's previous auction record of $2,532,500.
are two great
horse-racing paintings by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Lots 18 and
"La Promenade des Chevaux," is a superb oil on canvas
by Edgar Degas (1834-1917). It measures 15 ¼ by 35 1/8
inches and was painted circa 1892. The striking horizontal composition
is quite bold with five horses and their jockeys on the right
and one on the left, close to the center. The riders on the right
are in front of 8 tree trunks while the one on the left is in
front of open space. The painting is quite abstract with little
attention to detail. It has a lovely palette. It has a modest
estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for only
Degas equestrian scene is Lot 20, "Avant La Course,"
an oil on canvas that measures 11 7/8 by 19 inches and is dated
circa 1882-8. Although it is smaller and much less interesting
than Lot 18, it has the same estimate, which is ambitious. It
sold for $4,376,000. There are other versions in the
& Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts
and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.
"Les Courses Au Bois de Boulogne," is a good horse-racing
picture by Edouard Manet (1832-1883) that is sketchy but has some
marvelous Impressionist brushwork. An oil on canvas, it measures
28 7/8 by 37 inches and was painted in 1872. Manet's "Courses
à Longchamp," at the Art Institute of Chicago is one
of the great racing pictures of all time with its panoramic viewpoint
of thoroughbreds racing directly towards the viewer. This painting
shows a few riders and their horses in the left lower foreground
but most of the composition is focused on attendees at the race
and the surrounding landscape. It has an ambitious estimate of
$20,000,000 to $30,000,000. It was the second costliest lot
of the auction and sold for $$26,328,000. It was sold to a bidder
on the telephone with Charles S. Moffett, the co-chairman of the
auction house's Department of Impressionist & Modern Art,
who was standing alongside Mr. Meyer's podium and next to David
C. Norman, the other co-chairman with whom he was competing on
the lot. Mr. Meyer was being very patient and giving Mr. Norman
plenty of time to coax another bid from his telephone caller and
Mr. Moffat kept motioning with his hand on Mr. Meyer's podium
to bring his hammer down, which after quite a while he did. At
the post-sale press conference later, Mr. Norman said that there
was "tremendous buoyancy in the market."
There are several dazzling works in the auction of brilliant color
and unusual composition including a fine Pointillistic still life
by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and a very strong sailing picture
by Paul Signac (1863-1935).
"Nature Morte au Purro II," is a quite ravishing still
life by Henri Matisse. Executed circa 1904-5, it is an oil on
canvas that measures 11 by 14 inches. It has a modest estimate
of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,856,000.
1904, he painted "Nature Morte au Purro I," which was
Cézannesque and is now in the Phillips Family Collection
in New York. This lot was painted the next year after he had spent
the summer at St. Tropez at the invitation of Paul Signac. The
catalogue entry notes that in this work Matisse "employed
a vastly different approach," adding that "The resulting
picture was considerably more modern than its predecessor and
clearly reflected the impact of Signac's Neo-Impressionist aesthetic
on Matisse's work. With such a strong use of color and emphatic
brush strokes, this picture makes an important stage in the evolution
of his oeuvre, and is an obvious precursor to the Fauvist style
that would take over his production in 1905."
Lot 8, "Collioure,
Le Mohamed-El-Sadok," is a very striking small oil on panel,
10 3/8 by 13 5/8 inches, by Paul Signac. Executed in 1887, it
has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for
Lot 9, "Bateaux sur Le Galet," is an oil on canvas,
28 ¾ by 36 ¼ inches, by Claude Monet (1840-1926).
Executed in 1884, it depicts fishing boats on the shore at Etretat
and has modest estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It is very
similar to an 1885 work by the artist in the Szpmuvészeti
Museum in Budapest. It sold for $4,488,000.
"Demoiselle en Rouge," is a lovely small oil on canvas
laid down on cradled panel by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). It
depicts a young woman wearing a red and white dress standing by
a paintbox. It was painted in 1893 and measures 14 by 9 ½
inches. It has a conservative estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
It sold for $321,600. The catalogue entry provides
the present work, the sitter is framed by a large negative space,
a device inspired by the Japanese prints of Hokusai and Utamaro
among others. The viewer's eye is drawn to the model's vibrant
red dress that Vuillard delineates by employing Divisionist
His brushwork has little to do with the depiction of light or
the optical theories of Seurat. Instead, Vuillard uses the
technique to break down the composition into areas of surface
patterns. In startling contrast to the delicate brushwork employed
in the sleeves and skirt, the model's bodice is indicated by a
broad application of pigment that has been scored with the blunt
edge of a brush. This same effect is visible in the dark red block
at the center right side of the work. It is clear that the sitter
is an artist, and she is depicted reaching into her paint box.
He easel and paintings, the attributes of her profession or favorite
domestic pastime, are visible in the background."
Lot 24 is
a good and rare oil on canvas by Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). Entitled
"Heureux Quatuor," it measures 37 3/8 by 22 7/8 inches
and was executed in 1902. It has a modest estimate of $1,250,000
to $1,750,000. Surprisingly, Mr. Meyer opened the bidding on
this lot at only $320,000 and it failed to sell and was passed
at $380,000. At the press conference after the sale, Charles Moffett
said that the Rousseau "was the anomaly, the conundrum of
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Heureux Quatuor was first exhibited at the Salon
des Independents in 1902. Rousseau clearly attached great importance
to the painting as an annotated copy of the catalogue shows that
it was priced at 2000 francs, far more than any of his other paintings
that were exhibited in the same Salon. One of the few depictions
of nudes in Rousseau's oeuvre, Heureux Quatuor is
for its idyllic tone and for its curious updating of themes that
had become clichés in much contemporary academic painting.
Situating his emblematic nude figures in a freely painted, sylvan
landscape, Rousseau evoked the ideal world that Matisse was to
explore in his masterpiece of 1906, Le Bonheur de vivre.
It is one of his rare excursions into the world of allegory, quite
distinct in character from his explorations of the modern world
or the lush jungles of his imagination, immeasurably enlivened
by the presence of the dog who lifts his head and seems to join
Daumier (1808-1879) is one of the great caricaturists in art history.
Lot 12, "Jouers de Cartes," is a pleasant, small oil
on panel by him that was executed circa 1859-62. It measures 10
5/8 by 13 ½ inches and has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $550,000. The
notes that Daumier's paintings "usually depict intimate genre
scenes that engage and amuse the viewer" as opposed to the
"intense social criticism" of his famous illustrations.