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Impressionist and Modern Art, Part 2


May 12, 1999

New York by Albert Gleizes

Lot 322, "New York," by Albert Gleizes,

gouache on paper, 1915, 15 by 12 3/8 inches


By Carter B. Horsley

This is the final of three important Impressionist and Modern Art auctions this spring at Sotheby's. The first two were the two previous nights and although this is only a "day" sale" it has plenty of good things despite press reports that quality pickings were slim this season.

Indeed, a few of the offerings are fabulous such as the great "New York," shown above, Lot 322, a gouache on paper by Albert Gleizes (1881-1953). This wonderful icon is estimated at only $60,000 to $80,000, a bargain compared to most other beautiful Cubist-style works of the period. It sold for $68,500 (including the buyer's premium as do all sales prices in this article).

Another excellent work, shown below, is Lot 334, "Les Footballeurs," by André Lhote, a very impressive work from about 1918 that is estimated at only $50,000 to $60,000. Lhote exhibited at some of the early and important Cubist exhibitions along with Roger de la Fresnaye, Robert Delaunay and Jacques Villon, who all consist of the often overlooked but very strong "second tier" of Cubist masters after Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques and Juan Gris. It sold for $79,500.


Les Footballers by André Lhote

Lot 324,"Les Footballeurs," by André Lhote,

oil on canvas, 23 1/2 by 32 inches

These works are museum quality as is the powerful bronze sculpture with silver patina, Lot 395, "Il Grande Trovatore," by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978). The piece, shown below, is numbered 3 in an edition of 9 and is stunning, far better than his famous and influential paintings. It is only estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 and should go considerably higher. It sold for $48,875.


Il Grande Trovatore by de Chirico

Lot 395, "Il Grande Trovatore," by Giorgio de Chirico,

1973, bronze with silver patina, 29 5/8 inches high

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this auction is Lot 413, the sensational work by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), shown below. This large oil on carved board is better than any Mark Rothko and it is hard to understand why its consignors, actress Julie Andrews and her husband, Blake Edwards, the director, could possibly part with it, although one's estimate of their aesthetic sensitivity soars when one considers that this graced their home. It is estimated at only $100,000 to $150,000. It is a knockout that puts most of the New York School to shame. It sold for $189,500.


Carnac with Green by Ben Nicholson

Lot 413, "1971 (Carnac With Green)," by Ben Nicholson,

1971, oil on carved board, 66 7/8 by 46 3/8 inches

There are two other fine but smaller Nicholsons in related styles, Lots 361 and 413, estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 and $50,000 to $70,000, respectively. The estimates are relatively correct in relation to each other, but low for the works, whose sculptural and tactile qualities are marvelous. They sold for $79,500 and $46,000, respectively.

There are many other great buys in this large auction.

Lot 204 is a 4 by 5 inch oil on canvas laid down on panel by Pierre-August Renoir (1841-1919) that is like a jewel charcoal drawing by Georges Seurat transformed into color. It depicts a few people under parasols on a beach and is only estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. Given the fact that Renoir painted so many horrible tiny paintings, this delightful sketch reminds us that though inconsistent Renoir could be great. It sold for $48,875.

Lot 207, a floral still life by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) is lovely, as are all of this artist's work and while it is not a supreme example it was good enough to be owned previously by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Sam Salz and Jacques Seligman among others, which should help it exceed its high estimate of $300,000. It failed to sell.

A large and lovely but atypical beach scene by Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), Lot 217, would grace the living room of any penthouse and its low estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 reflects the hesitancy of many new collectors to stray from the formulaic traditions of "name" artists. It sold for $200,500. A more typical Boudin is Lot 221, a good and large harbor scene that is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 that has more of the artist's fine cloud work and delicate drawing although not all the early Impressionist charm of his great small beach scenes. It sold for $211,500.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was greatly loved and admired by his contemporary Impressionist paintings but many of his works have a heaviness that has not put in the highest firmament of collector desirability. Lot 228, "Setting Sun," however, is a super painting that is quite startling for its bold reddish hues in the sky and its expressionistic brushwork. The small oil was painted in 1872 and is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, a fair value for this very interesting and strong work. It sold for $244,500.

Another surprising Pissarro is Lot 235, a small but very strong scene of some peasants and cows that is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000, probably because its subject matter is more familiar for aficionados of the artist.

Both these lots upgrade our appreciation of Pissarro, but Lot 237, a landscape pastel, alters it considerably as it is an unusual composition and very poetic. It is estimated fairly at $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for $145,000.

There is a pleasant small oil by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Lot 280, that is estimated at $200,000 to $250,000 and a much larger and much more striking landscape by him, Lot 288, that is a synthesis of Cezanne and Richard Diebenkorn, if that were possible, and is only estimated at $180,000 to $220,000. Lot 280 sold for $277,500 and Lot 288 failed to sell.

There are several strong Valtats, especially Lot 307 that is modestly estimated at $75,000 to $100,000 and a very nice portrait of a blond girl by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Lot 305, that is estimated at $350,000 to $450,000 and is strong but not as charming as Lot 310, a delightful painting by Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) of a woman and two rabbits that has the same estimate. Lot 307, the Valtat, sold for $79,500. Lot 305, the Bonnard, sold for $310,400. Lot 310, the van Dongen, sold for $288,500.

Chaim Soutine is represented by a turbulent storm scene that is very impressive, Lot 311, which carries an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000 and will probably go higher. It was withdrawn.

Georges Roualt (1871-1958) is a major artist whose popularity has unfortunately receded considerably from the 1950's. Lot 314 is a large, dark picture of a woman in a white hat that Rembrandt would be very fascinated with and is only estimated at $300,000 to $400,000. It failed to sell.

Other fine lots include an awesome, as always, drawing by Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Lot 340, which sold just under its low estimate for $299,500; a great small watercolor by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Lot 346, which sold just over its low estimate for $211,500; and a very interesting Kandinsky that is the catalogue cover illustration, Lot 348, which sold within its estimate for $189,500.

There were also two strong paintings by the great and undervalued Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), Lots 357 and 358, which were both estimated at $70,000 to $90,000 and sold for $112,500 and $151,000, respectively; Lot 376, a charming Paul Klee (1879-1940), which is one of several works consigned from the collection of Frances Gershwin Godowsky, the sister of composer George Gershwin, and is the illustration on the catalogue's back cover, and which sold for just over its low estimate for $415,000; and a joyful painting of a mask by André Masson (1896-1987), Lot 377, also from the Godowsky collection, which sold for $25,875, more than twice its high estimate.

There are also a few nice Legers, Dalis and Chagalls. The smallest Chagall, Lot 459, a Crucifixion scene, is a great explosion of red and is more like Roualt than Chagall. It is only estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 and is much better than the typical and much larger Chagalls. It failed to sell.

Jacques Lipchitz, the sculptor, is represented by a fine handsome gouache on board that is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 and sold for $60,250.

Among the surprises at the auction were Lot 201, a very poetic pastel landscape by Edgar Degas that has been estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and sold for $74,000; a seascape with sail boats oil by Claude Monet, Lot 206, which had been estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 and sold for $431,500; a group of sculptures by Honoré Daumier that went substantially higher than their high estimates; a small oil painting of Venice by Eugène Boudin, Lot 214, that soared over its high estimate of $400,000 to sell for $745,000; and Lot 216, a lovely bronze statue with gold patina by Camille Claudel (1864-1943) sold for $222,500 and had had a high estimate of $150,000.

Just more than 75 percent of the 297 lots offered sold for a total of $24,094,250.

See The City Review article on the Nov. 8, 1999 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the afternoon auction Nov. 9, 1999 of Impressionist and Twentieth Century Works on Paper at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Christie's Nov. 9, 1999 evening auction of Twentieth Century Art

See The City Review article on the Nov. 10, 1999 day auction of Twentieth Century Art at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Christie's May 12, 1999 auction of Impressionist & Nineteenth Century Art

See The City Review article on the Christie's May 12, 1999 auction of the 20th Century painting, drawings and sculpture collection and Maurice and Margo Cohen

See The City Review article on the Sotheby's May 11, 1999 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art Part 1

See The City Review article on the Sotheby's May 10, 1999 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art from the collection of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

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