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Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby's

May 7, 2008

Sale 8437

"Girls on a Bridge" by Munch

Lot 25, "Girls on a Bridge," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 by 40 3/8 inches, 1902

By Carter B. Horsley

The evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's May 7, 2008 has several masterpieces included major works by Edvard Munch, Fernand Leger, Lyonel Feininger, and Alberto Giacometti and good ones by Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, Paul Signac, Vincent Van Gogh.

The major place of honor at the auction's exhibition was taken by Lot 25, "Girls on a Bridge," by Edvard Munch (1863-1944)(see The City Review article on a Munch exhibition), a very colorful, stunning and dramatic 1902 painting. It measures 39 3/4 by 40 3/8 inches and has what is probably a modest estimate of $24,000,000 to $28,000,000. It was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon and the Wendell and Dorothy Cherry Collection. It sold for $30,841,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article, a record for the artist at auction. Both Sotheby's and Christie's have raised their buyer's premium this season to 25 percent of the first $20,000, 20 percent of the next $20,000 to $500,000 and 12 percent of the rest.

Like Christie's the night before, the auction was less than spectacular with only 78.8 percent of the 54 lots selling for $235,333,000, "comfortably" in the middle of the pre-sale estimates of $203,900,000 to $280,100,000, Simon Shaw, the head of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, remarked after the sale.

The bridge in the painting is the same one in his "legendary" composition, "The Scream." Other "bridge" paintings of somewhat lesser quality are illustrated in the catalogue and are at the Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo and Bergen Billedgalleri and the catalogue notes that the artist did a total of 12.

The catalogue provides a commentary by Ranga Stang from her 1979 book, "Edvard Munch, The Man and His Art":

"Munch makes use of a handrail to accentuate the perspective - our eyes instinctively follow it towards the landscape in the background, even though we are unable to make out precisely where the railing ends and the road, which leads past the large sleeping house into the small town beyond, actually begins. The composition of this first version shows clearly how Munch has applied the same technique of elementary simplification that we have already seen in landscapes of the period. He has achieved a perfect sense of equilibrium in the way that the sharp diagonal of the handrail is matched by the white horizontal line in the water below the swirling lines of the shore. Munch specialized in the portrayal of still summer nights, and in this painting he has succeeded, by the use of subtle shades of pink, deep green and blue, in recapturing that mood as never before, the whole effect being further enhanced by the small, watery gold shape of the moon. Against this mellow and restrained background, the green, red and white dresses of the girls ring out as a fanfare of color, and we are reminded by the of the question once posed by Christian Krohg: 'Has anyone ever heard such resonant color...?"

In the lead article in the Arts & Leisure section of the May 5, 2008 edition of The New York Times, Carol Vogel reported that Wendell Cherry had bought the painting for $2.8 million at Christie's in 1980 and that Graham Kirkham, the founder of the DFS Furniture chain, bought it at Sotheby's in 1996 for $7.2 million.

"Etude Pour 'La Femme en Bleu" by Léger

Lot 16, "Etude Pour 'La Femme en Bleu," by Fernand Léger, oil on canvas, 51 by 38 inches, 1912-3

The cover illustration of this auction's catalogue is Lot 16, "Etude Pour "La Femme en Bleu," a 51-by-38-inch oil on canvas executed 1912-3 by Fernand Léger. A beautiful painting, it has an ambitious estimate of $35,000,000 to $45,000,000 as it is one of three versions. It sold for $39,241,000, a record for the artist at auction, to Doris Ammann, a dealer in Zurich.

The catalogue entry describes it as "heroic," adding that "this spectacular imageis one of the movement's most enduring achievements, and a milestone on the path to abstraction." The first version of this work is the same size and was kept by the artist in his private collection until his death when it was given to the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot. The second version, which was the largest, was included in the annual Salon in Paris and in the Armory Show in New York in 1913 and eventually wound up inthe Basel Kunstmuseum.

"Le Géranium" by Matisse

Lot 11, "Le Géranium," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 17 7/8 by 21 5/8 inches, 1910

Lot 11 is "Le Géranium," an oil on canvas by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). It is one of several superb paintings in the auction from the estate of Catherine Gamble Curran. It measures 17 7/8 by 21 5/8 inches and was executed in 1910.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Looking at this tranquil subject and the resonant palette of purple, green and pink, it is fascinating to consider that this composition dates from one of the most inventive and turbulent peirods of Matisse's carrer. Indeed, this lush depiction of a potted geranium was a truly avant-garde picture when Matisse painted it in 1910 During this period, Matisse's bold use of color and loose brushwork - remnants of Fauvism - were now taken to new extremes in sharp contrast to the monochrome tonality preferred by the Cubists."

The very beautiful work has a very conservative estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold to Acquavella Galleries for $9,561,000.

"Umpferstedt III" by Feininger

Lot 15, "Umpferstedt III," by Lyonel Feininger, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 by 31 1/2 inches, 1919

One of the masterpieces in the auction is Lot 15, "Umpferstedt III," by Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), an oil on canvas that measures 39 3/4 by 31 1/2 inches. In recent years, several large paintings by the artists with his highly expressionistic street scenes with memorable charactes have fetched fancy prices. This is just a monumental Cubist work that is simply thrilling. It has a very conservative estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,945,000. It was executed in 1919 when he was invited by Walter Gropius to be the head of the graphic workshop at the Bauhaus, the avant-garde art school located in Dessau.

Lot 28 is a mild landscape by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) entitled "Environs de Gardanne." An oil on canvas, it measures 23 by 28 1/4 inches and was painted 1886-1890. It was once owned by Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson of New York. It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $10,457,000.

"Le Pont de Moret - Matin d'Avril" by Sisley

Lot 30, "Le Pont de Moret - Matin d'Avril," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 by 36 1/4 inches, 1888

Lot 30 is an excellent riverscape by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) that is entitled "Le Pont de Moret - Matin d'Avril." Executed in 1888, it is an oil on canvs that measures 25 1/2 by 36 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $3,625,000.

"Femmes Dans La Nuit" by Miró

Lot 18, "Femmes Dans La Nuit," by Joan Miró, oil on canvas, 13 3/4 by 10 5/8 inches, 1946

Lot 18 is a small but just about perfect work by Joan Miró (1893-1983) that is entitled "Femmes Dans La Nuit." An oil on canvas, it measures 13 3/4 by 10 5/8 inches and was executed in 1946.

The catalogue entry notes that "The demand for Miró's work in the United States had become so great that in August 1946 [New York dealer Pierre] Matisse offered to purchase the artist's entire production of 1942-46 and to finance him for the next two years. Better yet, Miró was invited to the Untied States to create what would be his first public commisson - a mural for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. What the pubic, his dealer and his critics recognized in Miró's paintings from this era was a certain zeal and optimism that was in sharp contrast to the somber mood of post-war Europe."

"The modest size of the present canvas...was typical of Miró's work form the wartime era, when art supplies were limited. During these years he made a virtue of thse small-formated, intensely colorful canvases, with their jewel-like splendor and precision," the entry added.

The lot has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $6,761,000.

"Clipper" by Signac

Lot 9, "Clipper (Opus 155)," by Paul Signac, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 by 21 5/8 inches, 1887

Another highlight of the auction is Lot 9, a river scene in Asnieres, by Paul Signac (1863-1935) that was painted in 1887. The suburb of Asnieres northwest of Paris attracted several painters included the great Pointillist, Georges Seurat, who completed his first major painting there, and Vincent Van Gogh who also depicted the town's river. This is a superb work with wonderful light and a fine composition. It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,641,000. At the May 11, 1999 sale at Sotheby's it had a very low estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 and sold for $1,800,000, not counting the buyer's premium.

"Venise, La Douane de Mer" by Signac

Lot 33, "Venise, La Douane de Mer," by Paul Signac, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 by 32 inches, 1908

Lot 33 is an excellent work by Paul Signac entitled "Venise, La Douane de Mer." Executed in1908, it is an oil on canvas that measures 25 3/4 by 32 inches. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It is a superb example of the artist's "mosaic-like" brushwork. It sold for $4,633,000.

Giacometti sculptures

Several works by Alberto Giacometti got their own corner during the auction's exhibition

There are several works by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) in the auction.

Lot 13, "Composition Dite Cubiste II," by Alberto Giacometti, painted plaster, 15 5/8 inches high, 1926-7, foreground; Lot 38, "Buste de Diego," by Alberto Giacometti, bronze, 15 1/2 inches high, 1961, background.

Lot 13 is an excellent painted plaster sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, entitled "Composition Dite Cubiste II." It is 15 5/8 inches high and was executed 1916-7. It has a quite modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,833,000.

In his 1985 biography of the artist, James Lord discusses these plasters:

"About himself he learned that the solution of such problems could not provide him with the kind of fulfillment he sought. As he was often to say in years to come,what interested him was not art but truth. Still, one regrets that he produced only ten or twelve Cubist constructions, for they possess a bluff beauty unlike any other works in Giacometti's production. The juxtaposition of convex and concave, of angle and line, of inert mass and animated space are so tensile and inventive that they leave no questions as to Alberto's mastery of the Cubist idiom. It was not an original expression, but with vigor and sincerity he made something personal of it."

Indeed, as a work of art it is an exquisite example of Cubist sculpture. It wa later cast in a bronze version.

Lot 55, "Buste de Diego," is a 15 1/2-inch high bust of Diego Giacometti that was cast in 1961 and has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It failed to sell.

Another Giacometti sculpture is Lot 20, "Femme de Venise VIII," a 48-inch high work cast in 1957. It has a somewhat ambitious estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000 as the figure is a bit more "broad in the hip" than many of his other scrawny, totemic figures. The present bronze is numer 4 of an edition of 6. It sold for $10,121,000.

Lot 23, "Portrait de Caroline," by Alberto Giacometti," oil on canvas, 51 1/4 by 35 inches, circa 1963

Giacometti's paintings are more interesting than his popular and much more famous knobby sculptures. Lot 23, "Portrait de Caroline," is a superb example of his essentially monochromatic and sketchy painting style. An oil on canvas, it measures 51 1/4 by 35 inches and was executed circa 1963. It has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $14,609,000, an auction record for a painting by the artist.

Caroline's maiden name, according to the catalogue, was Yvonne Poiraudeau. The catalogue says she referred to the artist as her "grisaille," but adds that in his biography of the artist, James Lord states that he believed that "this was Giacometti's nickname for Caroline." The couple met in 1959 at Chez Adrien, "one of the artist's frequent haunts in Paris" and her "aloofness intrigued him as he chatted with her until dawn." She was then 25 and he was 63. "He adored the young woman, supposedly even turning down an evening with Marlene Dietrich at her insistence," the entry states, adding that "Over the next six years Caroline would become a fixture in Giacometti's life, ever-present with him in the studio, on the town, and finally at his deathbed."

"La Grue" by Picasso

Lot 14, "La Grue," by Pablo Picasso, painted bronze, 28 1/2 inches high, 1952-4, cast in an edition of four, each separately painted

Lot 14 is a delightful painted bronze sculpture of a bird, entitled "La Grue," by Pablo Picasso (1881-1975). It is 28 1/2 inches high and was cast in an edition of four, which were separately painted, 1952-4. It was once in the collection of David Wolper of Los Angeles. It has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $19,193,000 to Doris Ammann. The catalogue notes Picasso created his sculpture out of a shovel, a piece of twisted wicker, two forks, a gas spigot and a spike, all of which he set in plaster and then cast in bronze. It added that "the present sculpture of an elegant crane was one of the prized possessions that he kept in his home."

"L'Atelier" by Picasso

Lot 37, "L'Atelier," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 29 3/8 by 36 1/4 inches, 1961-2

Lot 37 is a bright and energetic 1961-2 oil on canvas by Picasso entitled "L'Atelier. It measures 29 3/8 by 36 1/4 inches and comes from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection. It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $6,481,000.

Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe" by Picasso

Lot 42, "Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 51 1/4 by 38 1/4 inches, 1961

Lot 42 is a pleasant, cool oil on canvas by Picasso that is one of several versions he did recalling Manet's famous painting, "Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe." Executed in 1961, it measures 51 1/4 by 38 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,193,000.

"Le Baiser" by Picasso

Lot 35, "Le Baiser," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 38 1/4 by 51 1/4 inches, 1969

Lot 35 is a 38 1/4-by-51 1/4-inch oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso entitled "Le Baiser." It was executed in 1969 and isproperty of the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection. The catalogue entry states that it "is one of Picasso's boldest and final interpretations of lovers in a passionate embrace. This lot has a very ambitious estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 as it is not particularly beautiful or painterly and pales beside a more colorful version done the same year in the collection of the Musée Picasso in Paris and illustrated in the catalogue. Some collectors should remember that Picasso was terribly prolific and not a few as his works, such as this, are horrible! Nevertheless, it did very well and sold for $17,401,000.

"Tableau Autobiographique..." by Brauner

Lot 44, "Tableau Autobiographique - Ultratableau Biosensible," by Victor Brauner, oil, pen, pencil and wash on canvas, 34 7/8 by 45 5/8 inches, 1948

Lot 44 is a wild and crazy work entitled "Tableau Autobiographique - ultratableau Biosensible," by Victor Brauner (1903-1966). An oil, pen, pencil and wash on canvas, it measures 34 7/8 by 45 5/8 inches and was painted in 1948. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $993,000.


See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Impresssionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's November 2, 2005

See The City Review article on the Impressionist & Modern evening sale at Sotheby's in the Spring, 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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