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Impressionist and Modern Art


10AM, May 8, 2003

Sale 1230

"Regatta" By Feininger

Lot 101, "Regatta," by Lyonel Feininger,

By Carter B. Horsley

This day say of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's, May 8, 2003 is highlighted by many fine small works by such artists as Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), Yves Tanguy (1900-1955), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and excellent works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Emile-Othon Friesz (1879-1949), and Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Feininger is best known for his highly abstract, cool and delicate compositions of marine and urban scenes. Lot 101, "Regatta" is unusual for its orange palette. It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. A watercolor, pen and India ink on paper, it measures 7 1/2 by 11 inches and was executed in 1946. It sold for $23,900 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

"Beleuchtete Hauser II" by Feininger

Lot 122, "Beleuchtete Häuser II ," by Lyonel Feininger, watercolor, pen and india ink on paper, 9 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches, 1923

Another excellent Feininger is Lot 122, "Beleuchtete Hauser II," a watercolor pen and India ink on paper that measures 9 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches. Executed in 1923, it has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $20,315.

"Sien Nursing Baby" by van Gogh

Lot 112, "Sien Nursing Baby," by Vincent van Gogh, gouache, watercolor and black chalk, 19 by 12 inches, 1882

Lot 112 is a very lovely gouache, watercolor and black chalk drawing on paper laid down on paper by Vincent van Gogh. Entitled, "Sien Nursing Baby," it measures 19 by 12 inches. Executed in 1882, it has an estimate of $220,000 to $280,000. It sold for $365,900.

The catalogue entry for this lot identifies the sitter as Clasina Maria Hoornik, called "Sien," and notes that in a letter van Gogh described her as "not handsome, but her figure is very graceful and has some charm for me," adding that the artist "was attracted to her, feelings which were no doubt partly motivated by his evangelical compassion for her condition: Sien was a prostitute and the unwed mother of a five-year-oild daughter....They began living together...."

Untitled by Tanguy

Lot 128, "Untitled," by Yves Tanguy, gouache and pencil on paper, 4 7/8 by 10 3/4 inches, 1944

Lot 128 is a fine gouache and pencil on paper by Yves Tanguy. Executed in 1944, it measures 4 7/8 by 10 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $77,675.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot:

"The motifs that Tanguy depicts in his compositions are indescribable, protozoan inhabitants of a vast interior landscape of the imagination. Rendered in meticulous detail, these objects seem real, yet we know them to be non-existent. They bridge the line between the abstract and the figurative. Their convincingly modeled volumes cast dark shadows across the landscape, even while they appear translucent and incorporeal. They generally fill the foreground, where they may even obey, in a strictly local context, the laws of perspective. However, as the eye wanders into the distance, space dissolves and there is only a vague indication of where the horizon actually lies. In true Surrealist fashion, the forms of these compositions seem at once familiar and yet are utterly unfathomable.

Tanguy shared with the great 15th century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch a taste for strange and inexplicable symbol-laden imagery, alchemical references, crowds of jostling figures, as well a careful precision in their rendering. A slow and meticulous craftsman, Tanguy loved objects that were beautifully made, and he imparted to the elements in his paintings the same care and convincing presence that a realist painter gives to a still life or landscape. These "inscapes" of the mind seem balanced on the brink between order and chaos. 'The element of surprise in the creation of a work of art is, to me, the most important factor - surprise to the artist himself as well as to others,' Tanguy stated. 'I work very irregularly and by crises. Should I seek the reasons for my painting, I would feel that it would be a self-imprisonment.'

The auction has two fine works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Lots 139 and 147.

"Yvette Guilbert" by Toulouse-Lautrec

Lot 139, "Yvette Guilbert," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, partially painted and glazed ceramic, 20 1/4 by 11 1/8 inches, 1895

Lot 139 is a lovely partially painted and glazed ceramic by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of Yvette Guilbert. It was executed in 1895 and measures 20 1/4 by 11 1/8 inches. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. The catalogue notes that Guilbert commissioned the plaque for the top of a small tea table. It sold for $130,700.

"Académie d'homme nu: buste" by Toulouse-Lautrec

Lot 147, "Académie d'homme nu: buste," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, oil on canvas, 31 3/4 by 25 3/4 inches, circa 1883

The finest work in this auction is Lot 147, "Academie d'homme nu: buste," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. An oil on canvas that measures 31 3/4 by 25 3/4 inches, it was executed circa 1883.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on this very strong work:

"In the spring of 1881 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, at that time not yet seventeen years old, left his family estate in Céleyran and arrived in Paris to prepare for his chosen career as a painter. Lautrec entered the atelier of René Princeteau, a sporting artist who was friendly with his father and had known the young man when he was a student at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris in 1872. Despite sharing his teacher's fondness for animal and hunting subjects, Lautrec realized his need for a broader range of instruction. In April 1882 he joined the studio of Léon Bonnat, and remained there until September, when Bonnat closed it down. Lautrec and many of Bonnat's students then transferred to the studio of Fernand Cormon, who specialized in an unusual genre, painting scenes based on archeological findings from prehistory and early antiquity. Cormon, working in the less formal milieu of Montmartre, was progressive in other respects, and encouraged his students to sketch out-of-doors in addition to rendering the requisite academic subjects in the studio. Lautrec remained in Cormon's atelier until the spring of 1887, and during this time initiated friendships with fellow students such as Louis Anquetin and Vincent van Gogh that would be meaningful to him later on. Relatively few of the academic studies that Lautrec painted in Bonnat's and Cormon's studios have survived, while he often kept and prized the pictures he did at home while on vacation. The present painting is an académie, and as such it is vastly superior to other surviving studies. It is a signed, finished work and it displays a remarkably precise and sympathetic characterization of the sitter, in contrast to the more anonymous and sketchy treatment of the studio models seen in other académies. The sitter bears a strong resemblance to a young man who appears in two other paintings of this period. In 1881 the artist painted a portrait of his childhood friend Etienne Devisme (also spelled Devismes) seated in the Lautrec's family garden at Céleyran....Both young men were about the same age, having met in August 1878 when Lautrec was fourteen and convalescing from a broken leg, an accident that would eventually result in his stunted growth. Devisme was a hunchback, and a direct descendant of the 18th century painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Perhaps for the reason that they both suffered from physical disabilities, the two teenagers became close friends. Lautrec wrote to Devisme in late 1879, after he had broken his other leg, requiring an especially painful operation, 'Oh, if you were here just five little minutes a day, I'd feel as if I could face my future sufferings with serenity'....Their letters...reveal an intensely close relationship, and perhaps Lautrec's most important friendship with a peer during his youth....Lautrec had a strong attachment to this painting. He kept it in his collection, and it was in his estate after his death. Moreover, he included a rendering of it in La rousse au caraco blanc (1888...,The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Here Lautrec posed his model Carmen Gaudin in his studio, surrounded by his paintings and other studio paraphernalia. This académie appears propped on the floor against a chair at lower right, so that the male figure appears to look up at Mlle Gaudin."

The lot has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $186,700.

"Jeune paysanne à sa toilette" by Pissarro

Lot 140, "Jeune paysanne à sa toilette," by Camille Pissarro, gouache on linen, 13 1/8 by 9 7/8 inches, 1888

Lot 140 is a very beautiful gouache on linen by Camille Pissarro. The 1888 work measures 13 1/8 by 9 7/8 inches and is entitled "Jeune paysanne à sa toilette." It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It was once owned by Arthur B. Davies, the American painter. It sold for $399,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In the 1880s, figure painting formed the basis for some of Pissarro's most important work. Unlike his works of the previous decade in which the background and figures shared equal emphasis, Pissarro now focused on the figure enlarging it within the composition. During this period, Pissarro portrayed his models as they went about their daily rituals: knitting, chatting, or, in the case of the model in Jeune paysanne à sa toilette, arranging her hair. Since coming into contact with the younger artists Paul Signac and Georges Seurat in 1885, Pissarro had been struggling to find a painterly means to record his perceptions and to 'replace his instinctive approach to nature by a rigorous observation of the laws of colors and contrasts'...His experiments with pointillism and divisionism did not entirely satisfy him and, in a letter to his son Lucien dated 6 September 1888 Pissarro wrote, 'I think continually of some way of painting without the dot. I hope to achieve this but I have not been able to solve the problem of dividing the pure tone without harshness...How can one combine the purity and simplicity of the dot with the fullness, suppleness, liberty, spontaneity and freshness of sensation postulated by our impressionist art? This is the question which preoccupies me, for the dot is meager, lacking in body, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple...I am constantly pondering this question, I shall go to the Louvre to look at certain painters who are interesting from this point of view.' In place of the dot Pissarro began using small commas of color, sometimes pure from the tube or with a small amount of white added, to create a lively and luminous surface. He introduced an intermediate element between two tints that he called 'passage'. This technique had only recently been perfected when Pissarro painted Jeune paysanne à sa toilette in 1888. In the gouache one can see the technique displayed in the painterly handling of the predominant cool tones of blue and green which are accented with warm tones. While Durand-Ruel expressed concerns over the salability of Pissarro's new work, Théo van Gogh was more encouraging. As the manager of the Boulevard Montmartre branch of Boussod et Valadon he agreed to take some of Pissarro's pictures, including Jeune paysanne à sa toilette which was exhibited in Pissarro's one-man show there in February 1890. At one time, this gouache belonged to Lola and Siegfried Kramarsky, whose collection also included van Gogh's celebrated Portrait of Dr. Gachet (sold Christie's, New York, 15 May 1990 for $82.5 million, the record price for a work of art sold at auction)."

"Table dressée" by Vuillard

Lot 144, "Table Dressée," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on canvas, 6 3/4 by 9 1/2 inches, circa 1902

The auction has two fine works by Edouard Vuillard, Lots 144 and 179. The former is entitled "Table Dressée," a 6 3/4-by-9 1/2-inch oil on canvas that was executed circa 1902 and has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $59,750.

"Le Banc, Square Vintimille" by Vuillard

Lot 179, "Le banc, Square Vintimille," by Edouard Vuillard, peinture à la colle on paper laid down on canvas, 25 5/8 by 21 1/4 inches, 1917-8

Lot 179, "Le banc, Square Vintimille," is a fine peinture à la colle on paper laid down on canvas by Vuillard. It measures 25 5/8 by 21 1/4 inches and was executed in 1917-8. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $433,100.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"It may appear ironic that Vuillard would chose to live in a decidely middle class neighborhood at a time when his circle of friends and his patrons were no longer Bohemians of limited means as they had been in the 1890s, but instead were well-to-do members of the leisured upper class. However, Vuillard enjoyed the livelier streets and more varied architecture of the Batignolles neighborhood and was fond of observing people of varied backgrounds who frequented the park. In the present painting, a young mother or nanny sits on the bench with one young child beside her, as two others play on the ground in front of her. In contrast to the colored outfits of the children, the woman (as well as several other adults seated on the long bench in the background) wears the drab everyday clothing of the lower middle class. These are the types of people Vuillard grew up among and who worked for his mother in her small corset-making business. The artist would never completely sever the emotional ties to his humble, hard-working family background. The present painting was executed in peinture à la colle, a technique in which ground pigments are mixed with glue that is kept heated in small pots, drying matte and slightly lighter in tone once it is applied to the support and cools. Vuillard had learned the technique while painting theater sets and decorative panels in the 1890s, and from around 1907 he began to use it extensively and in preference to oils when painting on paper, board and canvas in smaller easel formats. The technique permits quick reworking and overpainting, and may be applied quite thickly in layers, creating a lively, encrusted surface of subtle half tones."

"L'Estaque" by Friesz

Lot 167, "L'Estaque," by Emile-Othon Friesz, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 by 25 1/2 inches, 1907

One of the auction's highlights is Lot 167, "L'Estaque," by Emile-Othon Friesz, a 21 1/2-by-25 1/2-inch oil on canvas. Executed in 1907, it has a modest estimate of $220,000 to $280,000. It sold for $388,300.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Emile-Othon Friesz, Raoul Dufy and Georges Braque all grew up in Le Havre, France's major port on the English Channel coast, and studied in the city's Ecole des Beaux-Arts. At different times, each young artist travelled to Paris on grants from the Le Havre city government. The men all knew each other and for a while Dufy and Friesz shared a studio. Friesz had shown Impressionist-style works in a 1904 group show at Berthe Weill's gallery alongside other artists who would emerge in the following year as leaders of the Fauve movement. And, of the three Le Havre artists, only Friesz showed paintings in the landmark 1905 Third Salon d'Automne, in a room not far from the famous Salle 7 in which Charles Camoin, André Derain, Henri Manguin, Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminck had hung together their radical color-drenched paintings. The exhibition created a storm of controversy in the press, and the critic Louis Vauxcelles bestowed upon Matisse and his circle the sobriquet Les fauves. Friesz was not yet associated with the group, but he, Braque and Dufy were excited by what they had seen in Salle 7. Friesz and Braque travelled to Antwerp in August through September of 1906 and painted their first Fauve canvases there. Friesz showed some of these recent paintings at the Fourth Salon d'Automne, where they were hung in Salle 3 with paintings by Matisse and the Fauves. During the winter of 1906 Friesz and Braque traveled to L'Estaque, an industrial port near Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast. Cézanne, who had died the previous summer, had worked there, although the influence of his work would not be felt until a year-and-a-half later, following a grand memorial retrospective in the 1907 Salon d'Automne. Derain was also in L'Estaque, and noted that many of the artists associated with the Salon des Indépendants were now working in the area. He saw Braque and Friesz, and reported that they 'are very happy. Their idea [about painting] is youthful and seems new to them.'....While Derain painted inland scenes at L'Estaque, Braque and Friesz painted numerous views of the harbor and beaches. Both Friesz and Braque had to interrupt their work to participate in the Paris Salons and to organize group exhibitions of recent painting for the Cercle de l'Arte Moderne in Le Havre. They returned to the Midi in the late spring of 1907. They spent June in L'Estaque, where Friesz painted the present work. In July they were in nearby Cassis, and in August they arrived in La Ciotat, where Friesz painted views of a nearby cove known as Le Bec de l'Aigle....Although stylistically the landscapes of both artists were relatively similar at the outset of this trip, Friesz developed a distinctly personal approach which can be seen in the present painting and subsequent views. "'In these paintings Friesz's liberation of color was thorough. Using a vivid palette dominated by orange and an ochre-infused green, he abandoned all sense of naturalism in favor of an expressive gestural style characterized by sweeping curvilinear brushwork and layers of pigment. Braque painted these coves too, but his images were much more nature-bound than Friesz's strongly abstract motifs....' The pictures that Friesz and Braque painted that summer in the Midi represent the climax of their engagement with Fauvism. Their aim was expression through color; the powerful influence of Gauguin was at its height. Upon their return to Paris in September 1907 for the Fifth Salon d'Automne, both artists, as indeed many others among the young painters of the Société des Indépendants, were stunned at the achievement of Cézanne, as seen in his memorial retrospective exhibition at the Salon. Braque probably saw Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon around this time and from then onwards an interest in form took precedence over color."

Lot 185, "Renée, harmonie verte," by Henri Matisse, is a 16--by-12 7/8-inch oil on canvasboard that was painted in Nice in 1923. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Matisse spent his first winter in Nice in 1917-1918. He returned there annually, extending his stays for larger portions of the year in the city's congenial Mediterranean climate. At first he stayed at the modest Hôtel Beau-Rivage, and later at the more upscale Hôtel Méditerranée et de la Côte d'Azur on the promenade des Anglais overlooking the sea. In September 1921, he rented an apartment on the third floor, at 1, place Charles-Félix, looking west where he could see out across the city and follow the horizon to Cap d'Antibes and Cannes in the distance. His well-known model for many of the odalisque fantasies that he painted in these quarters during the years 1920-1927 was Henriette Darricarrère, a young woman whom he first spotted posing as a ballerina in a photography studio. Matisse occasionally used other models as well, and may have engaged a woman we only know as Renée for this purpose in the present painting. It is not a formal portrait - the model wears a black housecoat partially opened to reveal her white chemise - and it is possible that Matisse painted this casual study between regular modeling sessions to familiarize himself with her. The artist had decorated the apartment with colorful patterned cloths to create the opulent orientalist backgrounds that he required for his odalisque pictures. Here, however, he opts for an unadorned monochrome background tonality that he may have devised solely for the purpose of experimenting with his colors. He creates a harmony, as the title of the painting states, between Renée's black coat and hair, and the color of viridian, a rich and glowing emerald green pigment that he long favored in his paintings. The austere simplicity of this composition recalls portraits done in the late 'teens, such as Femme au turban (1917; coll. Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection), where he also employed a viridian background. The chair proves to be a useful accessory in lending the composition a sense of structure and depth, counterbalancing the softer folds of the sitter's clothing and the relaxed placement of her hands."

"L'homme" by Masson

Lot 215, "L'homme," by Andre Masson, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 by 26 inches, 1924

Lot 215, "L'homme," by Andre Masson, is a 39 1/2-by-26-inch oil on canvas. Executed in 1924, it has an estimate of $120,000 to $160,000. It sold for $444,300.

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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