By Carter B. Horsley
The day auction of Impressionist
and Modern Art at Sotheby's May 6, 2009 is highlighted by several
works by Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) and some very nice works
by Paul Klee, Kees van Dongen, Odile Redon, Robert Delaunay and
The top lot is Lot 137, a very
beautiful but small picture of a young woman on a telephone by
de Lempicka. Entitled "Le Téléphone,"
it is an oil on panel that measures 13 3/4 by 10 5/8 inches. It
was painted in 1930 and is one of 10 works by the artist that
were consigned to Sotheby's this season by Wolfgang Joop, a German
It is the best of the several
works by the artist in the day auction although there were two
larger and more stunning works in the previous night auction.
The catalogue provides the
following commentary about Lot 137:
"The brilliantly painted
heroine of the present work, with her red lips, shining nails
and curls, brightly checked scarf, and sidelong glance, perfectly
captures this powerful figure who was to become such an icon of
the 1930s. The sitter's dramatic pose is not that of a beautiful
object to be consumed by her viewer, but is instead a woman filled
with dramatic intention. Lempicka has pointedly empowered her
subject through the use of bold contours and colossal scale."
The notion of a glamorous and
sophisticated woman was a touchstone of many of the most popular
movies of the Depression and Art Deco period and is best personified
by Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey." Lombard, however,
had an innocent sweetness that most of Lempicka's women do not
have. They are, instead, determined, calculating, "modern"
women with style and silver dresses rather than spoons.
The lot has anestimate of $800,000
to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,986,500 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
Of the 149 offered lots,
129, or 86.6 percent, sold, a remarkably good percentage given
the uncertain state of the market. The sales total was $23,073,500
including the buyers' premiums. The pre-sale estimate was $17,900,000
to $25,000,000. "As was the case in last night's sale, we
achieved an important objective for this season which was to secure
a high sell-through rate," declared Sophie Camu, Sotheby's
expert in charge of thesale. "We achieved the highest sell-through
rate in the category in a decade," she said, adding that
"The enormous amount of interest - more than 250 clients
registered to bid - included a number of new clients from around
the globe who bid and bought aggressively."
One of the most striking abstract
works in the auction is Lot 116, "Rhythme sans Fin,"
by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941). A gouache on canvas, it measures
80 3/8 by 18 1/8 inches and was painted in 1934. It has a modest
estimate of $125,000 to $175,000 and is property from the collection
of Eugene J. Lux and Gizella Lux. It sold for $182,500.
Lot 114 is a very strong painting
of a sunflower by Fernand Léger (1881-1955). An oil on
canvas, it measures 21 3/4 by 18 1/4 inches and was painted in
1954. It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for
Lot 110 is a strong landscape
by Jean Metzinger (1883-1956). An oil on canvas, it measures 39
1/2 by 28 7/8 inches and was painted in 1926. It has an estimate
of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $374,500.
Lot 128 is a great watercolor
by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Entitled "Delicate Soul,"
it measures 13 3/4 by 8 7/8 inches and was drawn in 1925. It has
a modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
Lot 207 is a fine work by Joan
Miró that is entitled "Personnages Surpris par le
Passage de L'Oiseau-Serpent Glissant dans l'Espace." An oil
and pastel on sandpaper, it measures 12 3/4 by 15 3/4 inches and
was painted in 1954. It has a modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
It sold for $422,500.
Lot 113 is a superb gouache
and pencil on paper by Miró that is entitled "Femme,
Fumée, Etoiles, Oiseau, Constellations." It was painted
in 1976 and measures 11 1/4 by 15 inches. It has a modest estimate
of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $146,500.
Lot 107 is a large and bold
watercolor by André Derain (1880-1954) with the lovely
title "La Mer Enchantée." It measures 19 by 25
inches and was executed circa 1905. It has a modest estimate of
$120,000 to $180,000 and was once in the collection of John Quinn
of New York. It sold for $134,500.
The auction has two fine works
by Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953) that were both once in the collection
of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and are the property
of Dr. and Mrs. Martin L. Charles. Lot 109 is entitled "Green
Point" and is an oil on canvas that measures 25 1/2 by 17
3/4 inches. Executed in 1920, it has an estimate of $50,000 to
$70,000. It sold for $170,500.
The other Bauer, "Red
Theme," Lot 108, is a larger oil on canvas that was executed
in 1938. It measures 37 5/8 by 29 3/4 inches and has an estimate
of $35,000 to $50,000. It sold for $146,500.
Lot 129 is a very strong tempera
on paper laid down on card by Paul Klee (1879-1940) of a "small
fire devil." It measures 13 1/8 by 9 7/8 inches and was executed
in 1927. It has an estimate of $350,000 to $500,000. It sold
Lot 135 is a small and very
charming painting of a woman viewed from the back in a garden
that at first glance appears to be a fine work by Pierre Bonnard
but is signed by Kees van Dongen (1877-1968). An oil on board,
it measures 16 by 10 5/8 inches and was executed circa 1907. It
has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $80,500.
One of the auction's most attractive
works is Lot 218, "Object Subjectivité," by Victor
Brauner (1903-1966). An oil and wax encaustic on canvas laid down
on board, it measures 25 5/8 by 31 7/8 inches and was executed
in 1957. It has an estimate of $130,000 to $180,000. It failed
Lot 144 is a very fine pastel
laid down on card by Odile Redon (1840-1916). It merasures 13
1/8 by 16 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $68,500.
A very handsome trio of maritime
paintings is show above: Lot 236, "Le Bassin de Deauville,"
by Eugène Boudin, oil on panel, 8 1/4 by 10 1/8 inches,
1878, left; Lot 147, "Anvers, Le Port vu de la Citadelle
Nord," by Eugène Boudin, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 by
30 inches,1871, center; Lot 148, "Navire Norvegien Sortant
du Port de Honfleur," by Johan Barthold Jongkind, oil on
canvas, 13 1/8 by 18 5/8 inches, 1865, right. Lot 236 has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. Lot 147 has an estimate of $90,000 to $120,000.
Lot 148 has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
Lot 153 is a oil on canvas
by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) of a cow and a horse. Painted in 1885,
it measures 23 1/2 by 28 1/2 inches. It has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It sold for $422,500.