By Carter B. Horsley
Following on the heels of its
$35 million sale of a good Venetian scene by Turner earlier this
year in its Old Masters auction, Christie's starts the major spring
art auction season with a painting by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
in its May 2, 2006 evening auction of Impressionist and Modern
Art that has an estimate of $40,000,000 to $50,000,000.
The work, Lot 19, shown above,
is entitled "L'Arlésienne, Madame Ginoux," and
is an oil on canvas that measures by 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 inches and
was painted in 1890. It has an extensive exhibition history and
literature. It most recently was shown in the great exhibition,
"Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South," at
the Art Institute of Chicago and the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
in 2001-2, and before that in an exhibition entitled "The
Dr. and Mrs. Harry Bakwin Collection: An Exhibition of Paintings
and Sculpture for the Benefit of the Association for Mentally
Ill Children in Manhattan, Inc.," in 1967 at Wildenstein
& Co. Dr. Bakwin was a pediatriccian in New York and his wife
was an heir to the meatpacking fortunes of the Armour and Swift
Madame Ginoux was the proprietress
of the Café de la Gare in Arles, France. The two books
on the table in the picture are French translations of "Christmas
Stories" by Charles Dickens and "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The painting is one of several
versions that van Gogh did modeled on a portrait done by Paul
Gauguin. It is strong but not overwhelming and has a lighter palette
than the others.
It sold to an "anonymous"
buyer for $40,336,000 including the buyer's premium, as do all
the results mentioned in this article, becoming the fourth highest
price realized for van Gogh at auction. The sale was quite successful
with 86 percent of the 50 offered lots selling for $180,280,000,
the highest total for an Impressionist and Modern Art auction
at Christie's since May, 1990 when a van Gogh portrait of Dr.
Gauchet sold for $82.5 million. The pre-sale estimates ranged
from $144 million to $197 million and Christopher Burge, the auctioneer,
termed the auction a "triumph." He said that 51 percent
of the buyers were American, 35 percent were Europeans and 5 percent
were Asian. Mr. Burge noted that 53 percent of the lots sold for
above the high estimate and he described the market as being "strong
and in no way out of control."
Apart from the van Gogh,
however, the sale did not abound in major works.
Lot 36 is a nice floral still
life by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) that measures 22 3/4 by 28 1/4
inches . An oil on canvas, it was executed after 1890. It has
an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for only
$4,496,000 and after the sale Christopher Burge remarked that
the painting was lovely and had a quite low reserve. The painting
had been confiscated by the Nazis from O. Federer in Czechoslovakia
and restituted to him circa 1946 before passing to Justin K. Thannhauser
in New York and then Mrs. H. Harris Jonas and her descendents.
The catalogue notes that Gauguin painted about 20 still-lifes
during his Tahitian period. It quotes Charles Stuckey that "given
the discontinuities between its constituent parts, the painting
might be understood as a statement of Gauguin's priority of relationships
of color and form over logical subject matter."
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
is best known for his landscapes and studies of farmers, but Lot
3, is a lush floral still-life that Renoir or Monet would be proud
of. An oil on canvas that measures 27 by 33 inches, it was painted
in 1876. It has a modest estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It
failed to sell.
In comparison with the van
Gogh portrait, Lot 12, "Madame Juliette Pascal," by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), is a more appealing and
similar-sized portrait. An oil on canvas that measures 21 7/8
by 20 inches, it was painted in 1887. Madame Pascal was the wife
of one of the artist's maternal cousins. The work was once in
the collection of Florence J. Gould of New York. It has a very
modest estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for only
$1,360,000, the bargain of the auction, perhaps because its surface
was quite "dry."
Another good work by Toulouse-Lautrec
is Lot 15, "Au cirque: 'Clown,'" an oil on canvas that
measures 45 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. It was executed in 1888 and
has a very modest estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold
The lot with the second highest estimate is
"Le repos," Lot 43, a large oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso.
It has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000. It sold for
$34,736,000 to Larry Gagosian, the dealer, who was bidding on
behalf of a client. Bright, big and bold, it is a strong composition
although clumsily painted in the white areas. It is a portrait
of the artist's wife, Olga Khokhlova, and was consigned by the
Another Picasso work is Lot 29, "Portrait
de Germaine," an oil on canvas from 1902 that measures 19
3/4 by 16 3/8 inches. It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000.
It sold for $18,608,000. Germaine, the catalogue entry
observes, "was the young coquette for whose affections Picasso's
friend Carles Casagemas had killed himself," adding that
"Picasso also had a liaison with her....the presence of Germaine
ran like a throbbing vein in Picasso's life from the years 1900
Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958) was an important
member of the Fauves whose later works fell into a formulaic rut
filled mostly with dark, swirling green and black landscapes.
Lot 34, "Les arbres sur la place," is a very vibrant
and fine Fauve landscape by Vlaminck that is an oil on canvas
that measures 23 3/4 by 28 3/4 inches and was executed in 1906.
It has a modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $2,500,000. It sold
Lot 46, "La femme au pinceau,"
is a very appealing oil on canvas by Georges Braque (1882-1963).
It measures 36 by 28 3/4 inches and was executed in 1939. It has
a conservative estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000. It
sold for $3,376,000. The
catalogue entry for this lot notes that "Braque displayed
his mastery at orchestrating a virtual pictorial symphony, a canvas
brimming with themes, in which the figure and still-life elements
dovetail like polyphonic layers of melody," adding that "each
object is distinct and significant in itself, as in a Chardin
still-life, and all contribute to a richly satisfying whole, a
modern counterpart to a Vermeer interior."
Lot 42, "La tasse,"
is a smaller and exquisite, Cubist still-life by Braque that was
painted in 1911. An oil on canvas that measures 9 1/2 by 13 inches,
it has an estimate of $1,800,000 to $2,500,000. It sold for $2,872,000.
It was consigned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago
to benefit its acquisitions fund and was once in the collection
of Katherine and Morton G. Schamberg of Chicago.
Lot 27 is a strong but slightly
static abstraction by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Entitled
"Pfeile (Arrows)," it is an oil on canvas that measures
34 5/8 by 30 3/8 inches. It was executed in 1927 and has a modest
estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $3,880,000.
Lot 11, "Nymphéas,
temps gris," is a large, vertical waterlily oil on canvas
by Claude Monet (1840-1926). It measures 39 3/8 by 28 3/4 inches
and was painted in 1907. It was formerly in the collections of
Stavros Niarchos and Aristotle Onassis. It has an estimate of
$10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $11,216,000.