By Carter B. Horsley
The Impressionist & Modern
Art auction May 3, 2010 at Sotheby's is highlighted by a superb
painting by Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), a a great painting by
August Macke (1887-1914), good floral still life by Henri Matisse
(1869-1954), a good portrait by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), two
nice landscapes by Claude Monet (1840-1926), a good landscape
by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), and two very good works by Pierre
Bonnard (1867-1947), a strong painting by Roger Delaunay (1885-1941),
and an early and very beautiful statue by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).
Lot 10 is a very fine oil on
canvas by Feininger that measures 39 3/8 by 31 7/8 inches. Entitled
"The Red Fiddler," it was executed in 1934 and has been
very widely exhibited and published. The artist made an excellent
watercolor and gouache study for this work in 1915 that is in
a private collection.
Feininger, according to the
catalogue entry, "was the son of a concert violinist and
was particularly adept himself at playing the instrument. But
the fact that he chose to resurrect his alter-ego, just as his
art was coming under siege by theNazis, is a powerful disply of
his artistic vigor....The crimson-frocked fiddler performs against
an architectural backdrop emblazoned in gold and ochre, just as
the Emperor Nero is fabled to have done during the burning of
"Following his success
with the German Expressionists," the entry continued, "Feininger
was appointed by Walter Gropius as the head of printmaking at
the Bauhaus upon the school's inception in 1919. When the Bauhaus
moved to Dessau in 1926, Gropius permitted Feininger the privledged
status of an artist-in-residence, excusing him of any teaching
rsponsibilities so that he could concentrate on his painting.
A year prior to that, Feininger had formed the highly influential
artist group known as the Blue Four, along with Kandisnky, Jawlensky
The lot has a conservative
estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $7,362,500
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
The auction total was $195,697,000
for the 50 lots that sold of the 57 offered.
At a news conference after
the auction, Simon Shaw, Sotheby's specialist in charge of the
auction, remarked that "it's nice to see things move in the
right direction," adding that the sale total was three times
its total a year ago. He described the bidding activity in the
room as "fantastic and rigorous and as global as ever."
Lot 49 is a fabulous oil on
canvas by August Macke that is entitled "Rokoko." It
measures 35 inches square and was painted in 1912.
The catalogue entry for this
lot provides the following commentary:
Rokoko exemplifies the aesthetic of German Expressionist landscape
painting at its most daring. Macke, along with fellow avant-garde
painters Kaindky and Marc, were proponents of an emotive style
of painting, free from historical associations or academic dictates.
Calling themselves, "The Savages of Germany" in their
artistic journal, The Blaue Reiter Almanach, Macke and
his colleagues took up the mantle of the Fauves, who had also
been proponents of wildly colorful and expressive redderings of
the natural world a decade earlier. But unlike his French predecessors,
Macke composes this vivid picture with bold color blocks that
are offset by sharp outlines of lustrous black oil. As was the
case for many of the German Expressionists, Macke's paintings
also evidence an appreciation for tribal art and the lineal elegance
of West African carvings."
Macke's reworking of the 18th
Century Rococo style is a masterpiece and its estimate of $1,200,000
to $1,800,000 is very, very, very low. It sold for $2,210,500.
David Norman of Christie's remarked during the exhibition that
the painter might be made a little brighter with stronger contrast
if it were varnished but pointed out that the German Expressisionists
historically usually did not employ varnish.
Lot 14 is a handsome, large
painting of flowers by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) that was painted
in 1919. An oil on canvas, it measures 45 1/2 by 35 inches.
The catalogue provides the
"A joyous bouqet of wildflowers
dominates this glorious picture, which Matisse completed on the
first Bastille Day following the Armistice ending World War I.
By his own account, the painting is a symbol of the artist's unrestrained
exuberance on that momentous day in 1919, when all of France celebrated
its national holiday amidst the newly retored peace....From an
artistic standpoint the painting heralds the fresh and colorful
style that would define Matisse's career thenceforwards, and signals
the artist's renewed sense of optimism following one of the most
troubling periods of his career."
The painting has an estimate
of $18,000,000 to $25,000,000. It sold for $28,642,500. Emmanuel
Di Donna of Sotheby's remarked after the auction that this painting
sold in 1982 for $1.5 million.
Lot 29 is a very pleasant oil
sketch on canvas of a seated nude woman by Henri Matisse. It measures
22 1/4 by 13 1/2 inches and was painted in 1920. It was once in
the collectin of Adolphe Lewison. It has a modest estimate of
$2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $3,666,500.
One of the auction's most sparkling
works is Lot 18, "Verre et Carte à Jouer," by
Juan Gris. An oil and sand on canvas, it measures 18 1/8 by 13
inches. It was painted in 1915 and once was in the collectin of
Katharine and Morton G. Schamberg of Chicago. The lot has an estimate
of $4,500,000 to $6,500,000. It sold for $4,842,500.
Lot 19 is a large and charming
late portrait of a woman in a grand hat by Pablo Picasso. An oil
on canvas, it measures 36 1/4 by 28 3/4 inches. It was painted
in 1965 and is property from the estate of Patricia Kennedy Lawford.
It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for
Lot 34 is a large landscape
of Spring in Giverny by Claude Monet. An oil on canvas, it measures
23 1/2 by 39 3/4 inches. It was painted in 1890 and was once in
the collection of Lord Spencer Churchill of London. It has an
estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $15,202,500.
The catalogue entry notes that Monet painted the same view in
three other compositions.
Lot 32 is an excellent river
scene by Claude Monet entitled "Fin d'Apres-Midi, Vetheuil."
An oil on canvas, it measures 28 1/2 by 39 1/4 inches. It was
painted in 1880. It has a modest estimate of $2,800,000 to $3,500,000.
It sold for $6,242,500.
Lot 39 is a very pleasant Rouen
landscape by Paul Gauguin. An oil on canvas, it measures 20 1/2
by 30 1/4 inches. It was executed in 1884. The painting was once
in the collection of Eric Estorick and later J. Paul Getty. It
has a conservative estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It
sold for $2,322,500.
Lot 41 is a pleasant early
landscape by Paul Cézanne (1832-1906) entitled "Paysage
aux Environs d'Aix-En-Provence." An oil on canvas, it measures
16 by 23 inches and was painted with a great deal of impasto circa
1865. It has a modest estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It
sold for $1,538,500.
Lot 12 is a good watercolor
and pencil on paper by Paul Cézanne entitled "Route
entre des Rochers à Bibémus." It measures 11
1/2 by 18 inches and was painted between 1895 and 2000. It has
an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 50 is a very fine sketch
of a woman with her blouse off by Edvard Munch. An oil on canvas,
it measures 32 1/4 by 26 inches and was painted in 1916-7. It
has a conservative estimate of $1,600,000 to $2,200,000. It
failed to sell and was passed at $1,400,000.
Lot 47 is a very great small
interior of the artist's wife, Marthe, woman and her dog by Pierre
Bonnard. An oil on canvas, it measures 17 by 17 3/8 inches and
was painted circa 1930. It was once in the collection of Maximilien
Luce, who received it a a gift from Bonnard. It has a very modest
estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $1,022,500.
An earlier Bonnard is Lot 9,
a very nice Parisian street scene with a complex composition and
very impressionistic detailing. It is an oil on canvas that measures
38 5/8 by 29 7/8 inches. The catalogue notes that it was painted
circa 1904. It has an ambitious estimate of $4,000,000 to $4,600,000,
which certainly seems quite ambitious when compared with the lusciousness
and vibrancy of Lot 47 whose estimate is only $700,000 to $900,000.
Lot 9 failed to sell and was passed at $3,250,000.
Lot 11 is a fine twilight Parisien
scene by Maximilien Luce entitled "Le Quai Conti." An
oil on canvas, it measures 23 5/8 by 29 inches and was painted
circa 1894. It was once in the collection of Arthur Altschul of
New York. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It
sold for $1,082,500.
Lot 58 is two thirds of a triptych
by Robert Delaunay painted as a homage to Louis Blériot,
the French aviator who was the first to cross the English Channel
in 1909. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold
Lot 26 is a oil on canvas by
Joan Miro (1893-1983) entitled "Peinture (Le Cheval de Cirque)."
It measures 39 by 51 1/8 inches and was painted in 1927. It is
property from the collection of Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford
II. It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. It sold
Lot 7 is a small portrait of
Jeanne Hébuterne au Collier," by Amedeo Modigliani
(1884-1920). An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by 15 1/4 inches
and was painted circa 1916-7. It has an unusual amount of impasto.
It has an ambitious estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.
It sold for $13,802,500.
Lot 27 is an oil of canvas
by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) that depicts the back of a nude woman.
It is entitled "Weiblisher Ruckenakt (fragment)" and
measures 75 5/8 by 20 5/8 inches. It was painted in 1913. It has
an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $5,122,500.
Lot 5 is a lovely portrait
of a seated woman wearing a very large hat with roses by Kees
van Dongen (1877-1968). An oil on canvas, it measures 39 1/4 by
32 inches and was painted circa 1910-1911. It was once in the
collection of Alphonse Kann. It has an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It sold for $3,778,500.
Lot 54 is a very beautiful
and sensuous bronze statue by Jean Arp (1886-1966) entitled "Figure-germe
dite l'Apres-Midinette." It is 31 1/4 inches high and was
cast in 1958 as number 5 in an edition of six. It has an estimate
of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $602,500.
Lot 4 is an exquisite bronze
sculpture of "Undine (Nadja)" by Isamu Noguchi, the
greastest sculptor of the 20th Century. Conceived in 1926 and
cast in 1927, it is 76 3/4 inches high. Ity has a conservative
estimate of $600,000 to $900,000. It sold for $4,226,500, a
world auction record for the artist. The catalogue has a photograph
of the sculptor standing by the plaster cast now lost for this
work."This unique bronze has been largely unknown for nearly
a century and sheds new light on the young sculptor's talents
in the months before beginning his apprenticeship with Brancusi
at the end of the 1920s. Undine was probably modeled after a Russian
dancer named Nadja Nikolaiova.
The auction includes several
impressive animal bronzes by Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916) from
the S. Joel Schur Collection. Most were conceived circa 1909-1910.