By Carter B. Horsley
Christie's evening auction
May 9, 2007, of Impressionist and Modern Art is highlighted by
a dazzling Fauve work by Maurice Vlaminck, a great portrait by
Robert Delaunay, a very fine nude by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, two
fine works by Marc Chagall, a self-portrait by Paul Gauguin, a
city scene by Vincent van Gogh, a great still life by Juan Gris,
and very good works by Paul Signac, Eugene Boudin, Amedeo Modigliani,
Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard.
The Vlaminck, Lot 32, "Les
Barques," shown at the top of this article, is a magnificent
Fauve work. An oil on canvas that measures 19 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches,
it was painted in 1905. It has a conservative estimate of $3,000,000
to $4,000,000. It sold for $6,088,000 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article. The catalogue
entry for this lot reproduces, for purposes of comparison, "Bateaux
de peche en mer," an 1888 painting of sailboats by Vincent
van Gogh in the Rijksmuseum Van Gogh in Amsterdam that is remarkable
for its very bold brushwork, but is not as impressive as Vlaminck's
shimmering, almost pyrotechnical canvas.
The sale was very successful
with 68 of 78 offered lots selling for a total of $236,464,000
including the buyers' premium, not far off from the pre-sale high
estimate of $245,020,000 excluding the buyers' premium.
Christopher Burge, the auctioneer,
said after the lenghty auction that he was "exhausted"
but "very pleased...with the extraordinary result."
He noted that only 29 percent of the buyers were American, a remarkable
low percentage and a strong indication of the burgeoning international
art market. He said that 48 percent of the buyers were European,
2 percent Asia and 21 percent "other." He added that
52 lots sold for more than $1 million.
An equally arresting and wonderful
work is a great portrait of Jean Metzinger by Robert Delaunay
(1885-1941). An oil on canvas, it measures 28 1/2 by 19 1/8 inches
and was painted in 1906. It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.
It sold for $2,840,00. The painting was exhibited at the
1906 Salon d'Autome along with a portrait of Delaunay by Metzinger.
This masterful painting predates by three years Delaunay's great
Saint Severin and Tour Eiffel series that are important
harbingers of abstraction, but it is as powerful a Neo-Impressionist
portrait as can be imagined.
Lot 64 is a very strong nude, "Dodo mit
grossem Facher," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). An
oil on canvas, it measures 59 1/2 by 29 7/8 inches and was painted
in 1910. It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It
sold for $12,920,000. Dodo was the artist's lover.
Lot 11 is a wonderful small gouache on paper
by Marc Chagall (1887-1985) that is one of two "fiddler on
the roof" works by him in this auction. This one measures
13 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches and was painted circa 1924. It was once
in the collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim and then in the museum
named after him. This work has immense charm as well as a wonderful
palette and an off-kilter geometry. It has a modest estimate of
$800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $992,000.
The other Chagall is Lot 31, "Musicien,"
a 28 7/8-by-23 3/4-inch oil on canvas that was painted 1928-9.
It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. While it is a
classic Chagall and good-sized and an oil, it can't compare with
Lot 11. It sold for $6,872,000.
Lot 29 is an impressive self-portrait by Paul
Gauguin showing him playing a mandolin. An oil on canvas, it measures
24 by 19 1/2 inches and was painted circa 1889. It was once in
the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Cooper. It has a very modest
estimate of $600,000 to $900,000. Although it is sketchy, it is
a very striking composition. It sold for $3,176,000.
Lot 24 is a very detailed cityscape
by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) that is 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 had a
modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 when it was offered
at Christie's May 4, 2005. It then sold for $2,704,000 when it
was in the frame shown above. It has now in a black frame and
has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It sold for $4,968,000.
Lot 30 is an excellent oil and pen and ink
on canvas by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) that is entitled "Etude
pour l'apres-midi au jardin." It measures 14 7/8 by 17 7/8
inches and was painted circa 1891. It has an estimate of $2,800,000
to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,504,000. The catalogue remarks
that this work "represented the cutting-edge stle of a new
anti-naturalist tendency in the arts, derived from the Symbolist
movenent in literature led by the poet Stéphane Mallarmé,
whose creed was 'to paint, not the thing itself, but the effect
Lot 35 is an excellent river scene by Paul
Signac (1863-1935) that is entitled "Arrière du Tub."
An oil on canvas that measures 18 1/4 by 25 3/8 inches, it was
painted in 1888. It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
It sold for $11,688,00, shattering the artist's previous world
auction record of $6,632,727. The "Tub" is the name
of a sailboat in the painting. The catalogue remarks that this
work "in its composition, color, and brushstroke, depicts
Signac at the height of his divisionist powers," adding that
"Moreover, it forms a clear bridge between the past and the
present in its theme and technique, recalling the revolutionary
work of the Impressionists while inspiring the Fauves in their
continuing quest for freedom of color." After the auction,
Mr. Burge described this work "as good as anything [Signac]...ever
did, a glorious painting."
Lot 38 is a lovely Venetian scene by Eugene
Boudin (1824-1898) who is best known for his impressionistic beach
scenes. It is an oil on panel that measures 7 3/8 by 15 5/8 inches
and was painted in 1895. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $384,000.
Lot 59 is a masterpiece by Juan Gris (1887-1927)
that is a very beautiful Cubist still life of a pot of geraniums.
An oil on canvas, it measures 32 by 23 3/4 inches and was painted
in 1915. It has an estimate of $14,000,000 to $18,000,000. The
lot sold for $8,479,500, setting a new auction record at the time
for the artist, at Sotheby's New York in the spring of 2002 when
a major detail of it was the cover illustration of the catalogue.
At that time, it had an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
At this auction it sold for $18,520,000, setting a new auction
record for the artist.
Lot 44 is a small but very nice painting of
a seated woman against a red background by Henri Matisse (1869-1954).
An oil on canvas, it measures18 1/2 by 15 inches and was painted
in 1942. It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It
failed to sell and was passed at $5,800,000.
Lot 48A is a classic geometic abstraction by
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). Entitled "Composition with Yellow
and Red," it is an oil on canvas that measures 20 1/2 by
13 3/4 inches. It was painted in 1927. It has an estimate of $4,000,000
to $6,000,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $3,600,000.
Lot 53 is a fine portrait of a woman with a
green necklace (Madame Menier) by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).
An oil on canvas, it measures 39 by 23 1/2 inches and was painted
in 1918. It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $16,000,000. It
failed to sell and was passed at $11,000,000. It was considerably
stronger than two Modiglianis that failed to sell at Sotheby's
the previous night (see The City Review
Lot 10 is good, strong pastel on board by Pablo
Picasso (1881-1973) that is entitled "La jupe rouge."
It measures 21 7/8 by 18 1/2 inches and was executed in 1901.
It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It failed to
sell and was passed at $1,700,000.
Lot 51, "L'homme qui chavire,"
by Alberto Giacometti, a bronze sculpture that is 23 1/4 inches
high and was conceived in 1947 and cast before November, 1950,
sold for $18,520,000, setting a new world auction record for the
artist. It had an estimate of $6,500,000 to $8,500,000. A skinny
stick figure leaning forwards, it was once in the collection of
Richard and Dorothy Rodgers.