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Impressionist & Modern Art

Christie's

7PM, May 4, 2005

Sale 1514

"Oiseau dans l'espace" by Brancusi

Lot 7, "Oiseau dans l'espace," by Constantin Brancusi, overall height 48 inches including stone base and cylinder and blue-gray marble sculpture, 1922-3

By Carter B. Horsley

Christie's starts its Spring 2005 auction season with a large Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale May 4, 2005 that is highlighted by a very beautiful sculpture by Constantin Brancusi, an excellent painting of trees by Paul Cézanne, a large Classical-style painting of the head of a woman by Pablo Picasso, a good cityscape by Vincent Van Gogh and several very nice works by Claude Monet.

In dramatic contrast to the very disappointing Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's the night before, this was an extremely successful sale with 52 of the 59 offered lots selling for $142,892,000, far above the pre-sale low estimate of $111,200,000 and close to its pre-sale high estimate of $147,600,000.

It was marked by lively bidding and 20 lots were bought in the auction room rather than on the telephone, also in marked contrast to the Sotheby's sale. Questioned about the difference in the two auctions, Mr. Burge said that Christie's "had very attractive properties," and "sensible estimates," adding that there had been "very little tampering with the reserves" following the Sotheby's auction.

Describing the sale as "wonderful," "extraordinary" and "incredibly lively," Christopher Burge, Christie's honorary chairman and the auctioneer, noted after the sale that only 52 percent of the purchasers were American, an indication of increased international participation, probably reflected the relatively low value of the dollar.

Lot 7, "Oiseau dans l'espace," is a magnificent blue-gray marble abstract sculpture on a stone base, 48 inches tall overall, by Constantin Brancusi (1867-1957). It was only recently rediscovered "in the attic of a venerable Northern European mansion" and the catalogue described it as "a keystone in the history of 20th Century sculpture. It has a conservative estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. Described by Mr. Burge after the sale as "an absolutely transcendental object," it sold for $27,456,000, including the buyer's premium as do all the results mentioned in this article, surpassing the artist's world auction record by about $9 million while also, and more importantly, setting a world auction record for a sculpture.

The Brancusi sculpture was recently rediscovered in a European private collection where it has been since 1937. It originally was in the collection of Léonie Ricou, a Parisian collector who was a friend of many artists such as Brancusi, Picasso, and Modigliani. The work was carved in 1922-3 and Christie's maintained in a press release that it "can rightfully be considered a keystone in 20th century sculpture, reflecting a critical turning point in Brancusi's sculpture evolution in his extended series devoted to the bird subject. The present sculpture stands between the version belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the one at the Foundation Beyeler, Switzerland....Apart from its art historical importance..., the most striking element in Bird in Space is the very sophistication and delicacy of its execution. The subject of the bird is so closely captured within the carved marble that even the stone's white veins play an important role, cleverly linking the two parts of the body into a unified whole. From whichever angle the sculpture is observed, there is a wonderful sense of balance and refinement...."

"Les Grands arbes au Jas de Bouffan" by Cézanne

Lot 22, "Les Grands arbes au Jas de Bouffan," by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 by 23 1/4, circa 1885-1887

Many of the auction's best works were consigned by the Maspro Collection. The Maspro Art Museum in Japan was founded 30 years ago by Takashi Hashiyama, president of the Maspro Denkoh Corporation and director of the museum.

This group is highlighted by Lot 22, "Les Grands arbes au Jas de Bouffan," by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). A fabulous example of the artist's stylized brushwork, it is an oil on canvas that measures 28 3/4 by 23 1/4 inches. Executed circa 1885-7, it has a modest estimate of $12,000,000 to $16,000,000. It sold for $11,776,000, a price that one observer declared was "the bargain of the evening."

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"The present picture depicts a group of tall trees along the western wall of the Jas de Bouffan, a country retreat just outside of Aix-en-Provence that belonged to Cézane's family from 1859-1899. Throughout his career, the grounds and farmland of the Jas de Bouffan provided Cézanne with many of his favorite landscape motifs....The group of five trees depicted....still stand today....A closely related painting of the same five trees..., now housed in the Courtauld Galleries in London, probably dates to 1885-1887 as well, as aoes a watercolor depicting the same motif....Of the three versions, the present picture is the only one that emplys a vertical format, which enhances the monumentality of the trees. Both this work and the Courtauld version are noteworthy for their sensitive execution....Pigment is applied in vertical or diagonal series of connected zigzag strokes, each group forming an elongated spot of the same tint. This rhythmic network of color captures both the impression of quivering foliage and the shimmering effect of the sunlight as it filters through the trees....The handling of the foliage...is closely related to the system of densely packed, parallel brushstrokes (the so-called 'constructive stroke') that Cézanne developed around 1880. This systematic, structured approach to facture was a breakthrough for the artist, and helped him to develop beyond the ephereral character of Impressionism."

Lot 43, "Paysage avec conduite d'eau," is another, smaller and earlier Cézanne landscape. An oil on canvas, it measures 18 1/4 by 21 7/8 inches and was executed circa 1879. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,256,000.

"Tete et main de femme" by Picasso

Lot 31, "Tete et main de femme," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 by 21 3/8 inches, 1921

The auction has four works by Picasso (1881-1973), all from different periods of his career. Lot 31 is an impressive "monumental" head and hand of a woman in the artist's "Classical" style. An oil on canvas that measures 25 3/4 by 21 3/8 inches, it was executed in 1921. It has an "estimate on request" that was approximately $13,000,000. It sold for $13,416,000.

"Nature Morte" by Picasso

Lot 54, "Nature Morte," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 by 36 1/4, 1937

Lot 54 is a far lovelier Picasso work, a still life. An oil on canvas, it measures 25 1/2 by 36 1/4. Executed in 1937, it has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,000,000 and has been consigned by the Cincinatti Art Museum. It sold for $2,928,000. According to the catalogue, this was the last and most complex of a series of six still life paintings with pitchers that Picasso did in April, 1937, "at the height of the Spanish Civil War," adding that the day after the present picture the artist produced the first setches for his celebrated mural Guernica.

"Boulevard de Clichy" by Picasso

Lot 26, "Boulevard de Clichy," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 24 1/4 by 18 1/4, 1901

Lot 26, "Boulevard de Clichy," is a 1901 Parisian cityscape by Picasso. An oil on canvas that measures 24 1/4 by 18 1/4 inches, it has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000. It sold for $1,696,000.

The fourth Picasso work is Lot 47, "Tete d'homme barbu," painted sheet metal, 12 inches high, executed 1961-2. The lot has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $710,000.

"Les Drapeaux" by Dufy

Lot 4, "Les Drapeaus," by Raoul Dufy, oil on canvas, 18 by 14 1/4 inches, 1906

Lot 4 is a Fauve cityscape with flags by Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) entitled "Les Drapeaux." An oil on canvas that measures 18 by 14 1/4 inches, it was executed in 1906. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. "With its brilliant color brushed straight from the tube, or heightened with white, and a composition constructed on a stark white ground from the contrasts betwen these vivid tonalities, Dufy's Les Drapeaux defines the very essence of Fauve painting," the catalogue entry maintained. It failed to sell and was passed at $450,000.

"Femme Leoni" by Giacometti

Lot 35, "Femme Leoni," by Alberto Giacometti, bronze, 65 3/4 inches high, conceived in 1947 and cast in 1960, number 5 in a series of 6

Lot 35 is "Femme Leoni," a 65 1/2-inch-high bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). Conceived in 1947, it was cast in 1960 and this lot is numbered 5 in a series of 6. It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for $8,416,000.

"Donna con collana rossa" by Modigliani

Lot 51, "Donna con collana rossa," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas, 36 3/8 by 25 1/4 inches, 1918

Lot 51 is a pleasant portrait by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) entitled "Donna con collana rossa." An oil on canvas, it measures 36 3/8 by 25 1/4 inches. Executed in 1918, it was consigned by the Cincinnati Art Museum and has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4,608,000.

"La Grève à Fécamp" by Monet

Lot 37, "Le Grève à Fécamp," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 18 by 31 1/2 inches, 1881

The auction has several works by Claude Monet (1840-1926), the best of which is Lot 37, "Le Grève à Fécamp," an oil on canvas that measures 18 by 31 1/2 inches. Executed in 1881, it is a very strong composition with a marvelous impressionistic treatment of waves. It has a modest estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,192,000.

"Bouquet de glaieuls, lis et marguerites" by Monet

Lot 20, "Bouquet de glaieuls, lis et marguerites," by Monet, oil on canvas, 32 5/8 by 24 1/2 inches, 1878

Lot 20 is a large and decorative floral still life by Monet, entitled "Bouquet de glaieuls, lis et marguerites." An oil on canvas, it measures 32 5/8 by 24 1/2 inches and was executed in 1878. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,704,000.

"Vétheuil, après-midi" by Monet

Lot 18, "Vétheuil, après-midi," by Monet, oil on canvas, 35 by 36 1/2 inches, 1901

Lot 18 is a riverscape by Monet entitled "Vétheuil, après-midi." An oil on canvas, it measures 35 by 36 1/2 inches. Executed in 1901, it has an ambitious estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for $6,624,000.

 

"Vue de la chambre de l'artiste, rue Lepic" by van Gogh

Lot 27, "Vue de la chambre de l'artiste, rue Lepic," by Vincent van Gogh, oil and pencil on board, 18 by 15 inches, 1887

Lot 27 is a very detailed cityscape by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) thatis entitled "Vue de la chambre de l'artiste, rue Lepic." An oil and pencil on board, it measures 18 by 15 inches. Executed in 1887, it has a modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $2,704,000.

"La table, la fin du déjeuner chez Madame Vuillard" by Vuillard

Lot 10, "La table, la fin du déjeuner chez Madame Vuillard," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on board laid down on cradled panel, 18 1/4 by 27 1/4 inches, circa 1895

Lot 10 is a very good painting by Edouard Vuillard entitled "La table, la fin du déjeuner chez Madame Vuillard," by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). An oil on board laid down on cradled panel, it measures 18 1/4 by 27 1/4 inches. Executed circa 1895, it has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,480,000.

"Nature morte au pichet" by Braque

Lot 13, "Nature morte au pichet," by Georges Braque, oil on canvas, 23 3/8 by 28 3/4 inches, 1939

Lot 13 is a strong still life by Georges Braque (1882-1963). An oil on canvas, it measures 23 3/8 by 28 3/4 inches. Executed in 1939, it has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $1,304,000.

"Polichinelle" by Manet

Lot 15, "Polichinelle," by Edouard Manet, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 by 12 5/8 inches, 1873

Lot 15, "Polichinelle," is a bright work by Edouard Manet (1832-1883). An oil on canvas that measures 19 3/4 by 12 5/8 inches, it was painted in 1873. It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 and had sold at Christie's in New York November 8, 1999 for $2,972,500. It failed to sale at this auction and was passed at $1,500,000.

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 3, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction in the Fall, November, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's November 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's May 4, 2004

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's May 5, 2004

See The City Review article on the May 5, 2004 evening auction at Sotheby's of Property of the Greentree Foundation from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's May 6, 2004

See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on Spring 2003 Impressionist & Modern Art day auction at Christie's

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

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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