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Impressionist & Modern Art

Christie's

7 P.M., May 4, 2010

Sale 2311

Large Picasso sets World Auction Record for Painting of $106,482,500

Large mural by Henri Matisse in sublime setting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney F. Brody in Los Angeles, California. Mural has been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Carter B. Horsley

The May 4, 2010 auction at Christie's of Impressionist & Modern Art is highlighted by the impressive collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody with a large painting by Pablo Picasso, a fine self-portrait by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), a marvelous still life by Georges Braque, a nice painting by Henri Matisse, a gorgeous small work by James Ensor, a very fine painting by Jean Metzinger, and an important sculpture by Alberto Giacometti.

The auction also has many works from other consignors including a large painting by Edvard Munch, a striking floral still life by Gustave Caillebotte, and a good nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Christopher Burge

Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christie's, at press preview of Brody Collection. Photo by Michele Leight

Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christie's and its lead auctioneer, has a long essay in the special Brody catalogue about the Brody Collection:

"Nude, Green Leaves & Bust" by Picasso

Lot 6, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 63 3/4 by 51 1/4 inches, 1932

"I was priviledged to meet Frances Brody for the first time at her elegant Los Angeles house, in the fall of 1978. The meeting began inauspiciously as she was convinced, in spite of my letter of introduction, that I was a jewelry specialist; and she had laid out her diamonds on the dining table for my inspection. Once we had cleared this awkward hurdle, she graciously took me through the house to admire, as I did unreservedly, her magnificent paitings and sculpture. I was, of course, well aware that some of the collection had been sold a year earlier, in October 1977; indeed, I had attended the auction at Parke-Bernet, which included, amongst many others, important paitings by Matisse and Courbet, a gorgeous Tahitian Gauguin fan and perhaps Modigliani's chef d'oeuvre, his outsized portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne in a brilliant red shawl. It was all the more astonishing, therefore, to find the California house still replete with art of the greatest distinction. Here was Picasso's erotic but tender love poem to Marie-Therese Walter. Executed in the largest scale Picasso used at this time, the Brody picture is one of a number of superb portraits of her the artist made in 1932 when, having just turned fifty, he was preparing for his major retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. This is a tour de force even by Picasso's standards, driven as he was to prove to the world that he was as creative as ever at this age. One 'of the most memorable paintings of a memorable series,' as John Richardson has written, it is a masterpiece by any measure.

"Nu au coussin blue" by Matisse

Lot 22, "Nu au coussin blue," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 28 1/3 by 23 3/4 inches, 1924

"Nearby hung another extraordinary work of art: Matisse's Nu au coussin bleu of 1924, the Michaelangelesque seated nude with her elbows raised behind her head in a favorite pose, one used again bythe artist for a celebrated lithograph of the identical subject and also for more of his most important suclptures, the Grand nu assis. This was as good a Matisse oil as any in a private American collection at the time.

"Nature mort aux bibleots" by Ensor

Lot 9, "Nature Mort aux Bibleots," by James Ensor, oil on panel, 5 1/4 by 7 inches, 1937

"Every room revealed fruits of sophisticated connoisseurship: Vuillard's striking early self-portrait, for one; Ensor's charming small still life for another, a great late Braque still life of 1954 is only now coming in to its own.

"Cat" by Giacometti

Lot 4, "Le Chat," by Alberto Giacometti," bronze, 31 1/2 inches long, conceived in 1951 and cast in 1955

"And then there was the sculpture: two of Giacometti's greatest bronzes, his Le Chat (then prowling in the garden!) and his Grand tete mince, two inspired acts of collecting confidence at the time of purchase; a beautifully chosen array of Henry Moore at his very best, a perfect hand worked Marini bronze of a horse and rider, fine works by Degas and Calder, and not to be forgotten, the great Matisse ceramic tile composition, La Gerbe, in the courtyard outide, the unifying force in this harmonious synthesis of art and architecture.

"Grand tete mince" by Giacommeti

Lot 13, "Grand tete mince," by Alberto Giacommeti, bronze, 25 1/2 inches high

"It was only later that I learned of the 'dynastic' collecting tradition in the family, initiated by Frances Brody's parents, Albert and Mary Lasker, whose extraordinary Impressioist and Modern painting collection was one of the finest in the United States."

"Le Cirque" by Roualt

Lot 14, "Le Cirque," by Georges Roualt, oil on paper laid down on board, 35 1/8 by 29 inches, 1942

Lot 14 is a muted circus scene by Georges Roualt (1871-1958). An oil on paper laid down on board, it measures 35 1/8 by 29 inches and was painted in 1942. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $314,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The Picasso is a very fine painting from 1932 that measures 63 1/4 by 51 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $70,000,000 to $90,000,000. At a press preview, Christie's officials were particularly upbeat about the Impressionist & Modern Art market and in a lead article in the Sunday edition of The New York Times prior to the auction Carol Vogel predicted that some observers felt that the Picasso might very well break the existing world auction record of about $104 million!

Well, Carol was pretty darn close. It sold for $106,482,500, a world auction record for Picasso and a world record for any work of art sold at auction!

At the news conference following the auction, Mr. Burge said that the entire auction sales total of $335 million was the third highest in the history of Christie's in New York and the Brody section was the biggest single-owner auction ever held in New York. "It was an incredibly exciting night with an extraordinary range of prices," Mr. Burge declared, adding that it was "very thrilling." "The market is incredibly strong for really good works," he said.

Of the 69 offered lots, 56, or 81 percent, sold for a total of $335,548,000. The pre-sale estimates were $262.7 million to $368 million. Americans and Europeans each represented about 36 percent of the buyers.

Conor Jordan

Conor Jordan, head of the Impressionist & Modern Art Department at Christie's, discussing the Ensor painting (photograph by Michele Leight)

Lot 9 is the small but very beautiful oil on panel by James Ensor (1840-1949), the loveliest work in the auction. Entitled "Nature More aux Bibelots," it measures 5 1/4 by 7 inches and was painted in 1937. It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $242,500. It is property of The Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody. "The inxorable demons that ran rampant in Ensor's famously sardonic and macabre paintings of the late 1880s and 1890s appear to have been held at bay, and in place of an otrageously neurotic spectacle there is now the moving experience of observing the elderly artist as he finally relaxes in semi-quiescent acceptrance of the world, and enjoys its simple, familiar pleasures, however ambivalent and uneasy by nature he might remain. When the pesky devels come out to play, Ensor enjoys a laugh at their shenanigans - a series of grinning masks in profile appear along the right edge, while in the background a couple of men leer at nude women in Nature morte au bibelots.

Lot 2, "La Treille," by Georges Braque, oil and sand on canvas, 51 1/4 inches square, 1953-4, photograph by Michele Leight

Lot 2 is the large and handsome still life by Georges Braque (1882-1963). An oil and sand on canvas, it is entitled "La Treille" and is an oil and sand on canvas. It is 51 1/4 inches square and was painted in 1953-4. The catalogue entry notes that Braque was working in the 1950s on landscapes of "startling simplicity" and "large compositions of unsurpassed depth and complexity, which reveal a profound visual poetry." The lot has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $10,162,500, a world auction record for the artist.

In 1951, Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) created two life-size sculptures of horses and one of a cat, Lot 4, in plaster in one day. Unfortunately, he left the large horse sculptures outside they dissolved in the rain. The catalogue entry notes that the artist is reported to have once remarked that "in a burning building, I would save a cat before a Rembrandt." The lot has an ambitious estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It sold for $20,802,500.

"Le main" by Giacometti

Lot 30, "La Main," by Alberto Giacometti, bronze, 28 inches long, cast in 1948

Lot 30 is a bronze sculpture of an arm by Alberto Giacometti that is 28 inches long and was cast in 1948. It has an ambitious estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $25,842,500.

"Grand tete mince" by Giacometti

Conor Jordan of Christie's discussing large bronze head by Giacometti, Lot 13, "Grande tete mince," 3/6, 25 1/2 inches high, cast 1955

Lot 13 is a 25 1/2-inch high bronze head by Giacometti that was cast in 1955 in 6 copies. It has an ambitious estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000. It sold for $53,282,500. It is property from the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody.

"Self-portrait" by Vuillard

Lot 1, "Self-portrait," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on board laid down on panel, 13 3/4 by 10 3/4 inches, circa 1890

The catalogue entry for Lot 1, Edouard Vuilllard's striking, small 1890 self-portrant notes that art critic Stuart Preston once observed that the "vivid, hallucinatory self-portrait" carries out "boldly and simply, Gauguin's advice about eliminating superfluous detail and empolying pure expressive color in boldly outlined areas, decorative and arbitrary schemes with no more than perfunctory reference to visual fact." The catalogue entry also notes that "the radical pictorial and spatial experiments of Vuillard's Nabi work may be seen to herald many of the most important artistic developments of the modern era." The lot has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for $2,658,500.

Lot 22, "Nu au coussin blue," is a pleasant study of a nude in a chair by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). An oil on canvas, it measures 28 1/3 by 23 3/4 inches and it was painted in 1924. It has an ambitious estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000. It sold for $15,090,500.

"Woman in a Hat" by Metzinger

Lot 27, "Woman in A Hat," by Jean Metzinger, oil on canvas, 17 5.8 by 14 1/2 inches, 1906-7

Lot 27 is a lovely small painting of a woman with a big hat by Jean Metzinger (1883-1956). An oil on canvas, it measures 17 5/8 by 14 1/2 inches. It was painted in 1906-7. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,650,500.

"Fertility" by Munch

Lot 47, "Fertility," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 47 1/4 by 55 1/8 inches, 1899-1900

Lot 47, "Fertility," by Edvard Munch, (1863-1945) is an oil on canvas that measures 47 1/4 by 55 1/8 inches. It was painted in 1899-1900 and has been widely pulished and exhibited. The catalogue states that the painting is "an exceedingly rare masterpiece.

Tge catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"In 1898, Munch commenced a relationship with Tulla Larsen, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Kristiania wine merchant....Unlike Munch, Tulla came from the moneyed bourgeois class of Kristiania society. While at home the Norwegian critics continued to attack him, Munch made a nomadic progress across Eugope in the late 1890s, vacationing with Tulla at fashionable spas as well as paying visits to sanitoriums. Tulla seemed set on marriage and there are plans made for a ceremony, although Munch later denied having played any role. Their tumultuous affair was to end in 1902 with gunfire and the lost of part of the artist's finger. For Munch, Tulla seems to have represented the role of an 'earth mother,' a primal force of nature who whom reproduction is a raison d'etre. Wriiting, surely with Tulla in mind, around 1900, Munch said, 'It is an unhappy event when an earth mother meets someone such as me, who finds the earth too miserable to breed children....'"

The painting has an ambitious estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000. The painting failed to sell and was passed at $23 million.

The non-Brody works in the auction include a fine Caillebotte, a very good Renoir amd a pleasant Bonnard.

"Quatre vases de chrysanthemes" by Caillebotte

Lot 35, "Quatre vases de chrysanthemes," by Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas, 21 by 25 3/4 inches, 1893

Lot 35 is a very lovely still life by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) entitled "Quatre vases de chrysanthemes." An oil on canvas, it measures 21 by 25 3/4 inches and was painted in 1893. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It was passed at $380,000!

Nude Woman on a Sofa by Renoir

Lot 34, "Femme nue couchée, Gabrielle," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 by 61 1/4 inches, 1903

Lot 34 is a large painting of a nude woman on a sofa by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). An oil on canvas, it measures 25 3/4 by 61 1/4 inches and was painted in 1903. It has been widely published and exhibited. It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $9,000,000. It sold for $10,162,500. The catalogue entry notes that Renoir sent this work to the 1905 Salon d'Automne, "where it was the most notable of his nine contributions that year."

"Renoir strove in Femme nue couchée to emulate the painterly qualities of Titian's Venuses. The flesh of the young woman in the present painting has a delectiably glowing and milky appearance, replete with the perceptible sheen that emanates from healthy and youthful skin. One is reminded here of the reasons why oil paints evolved during the early Renaissance to become the preferred medium of many artists by the time of Titian and Tintoretto - no other medium permitted them to paint the skin of their human sujects in such subtle tones, capturing the translucent layering of tints and the radiant blush of living flesh," the catalogue entry gushed in appreciative rapture.

"Renoir's particular success in this picture owes much to the earthy and winsome appeal of his model. Devotees of this artist's work will instantly recognize that the young woman in the this painting is Fernande-Gabrielle Renard..., the best-known of the models who appeared in Renoir's later paintings - she features in about two hundred of his works, far more than any other. Known as Gabrielle, or simply called 'Ga,' she was born in the town of Essoyes, which was also the birthplace of Renoir's wife, Aline....Jean Renoir later recalled that 'at ten she could tell the year of any wine, catch trout with her hands without getting caught by the game warden, help bleed the pigs, gather greens for rabbits and collect manure dropped by the horses as they came in from the fields - a treasure which everyone coveted," the catalogue entry continued.

Ah, those were the days!

"Impasse ou La Ruelle (Le Cannet)" by Bonnard

Lot 11, "Impasse ou Le Ruelle (Le Cannet)," by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas, 29 1/4 by 20 3/4 inches, 1925

Lot 11 i a lovely cityscape by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) entitled Impasse our Le Ruelle (Le cannet). An oil on canvas, it measures 29 1/4 by 20 3/ 4 ionches and it was painted in 1925. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $842,500. It is property from the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody.

Absinthe drinkers by Raffaeli

Lot 33, "Les buveurs d'absinthe (Les Declasses)," by Jean-Francois Raffaeli, oil on canvas, 42 1/2 inches square, 1881

Lot 33 is a very pleasant oil on canvas of two abstinthe drinkers by Jean-Francois Raffaeli (1850-1924). An oil on canvas, it is 42 1/2 inches square and was painted in 1842. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $2,994,5000 to the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

"Festes" by Kandinsky

Lot 54, "Festes III," by Wassily Kandinsky, gouache, watercolor and pen and India ink on paper, 12 1/4 by 19 inches 1925

Lot 54 is a good gouache and watercolor on paper by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)(See The City Review article on the recent Kandinsky exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.) Entitled "Festes III," it measures 12 /14 by 19 inches and was painted in 1925. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,538,500.

 

"Foret" by Cezanne

Lot 62, "Foret," by Paul Cézanne, watercolor on paper, 13 1/8 by 20 1/8 inches, circa 1890

Lot 62 is a quite good forest scene watercolor by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) that measures 13 1/8 by 20 1/8. It was drawn circa 1890 and has a modest estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $992,500.

The evening sale had about 70 works and bidding on many of them was very protracted. At one point during the bidding on Lot 29, a Wassily Kandinsky, Mr. Burge could be heard muttering "so much work so little reward" at the small and slow incremental bids. Mr. Burge, nonetheless, never flagged and at the end of the news conference when asked how he managed to cope with so many lots and so much bidding he explained, calmly but with a twinkle in his eye, that he had had "sausages and eggs" for breakfast, "and catsup!" He then dashed off to have dinner with his daughter.

See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at Christie's

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

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

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

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