Picasso, Modigliani and other heavy weights in London’s Impressionist and Modern Sale – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE 2: Scroll down for updates about the Christie’s sale.
UPDATE 1: Sotheby’s 40-lot Impressionist and Modern sale posted some strong results, particularly for the Schieles unloaded by the Leopold Museum. The oddball Monet waterlilies (below) sold well below estimate, a thoroughly pedestrian Gaugin landscape completely tanked, while a Degas pastel from the early 1880’s, estimated at £2.5-3.5 million, provoked fevered bidding before selling for a hammer price of £6.9 million (£7,769,250 with the buyer’s premium). The buyer of the Schiele (below) also dropped another £700,000 (£825,250 with the buyer’s premium) for a Morandi still life; and one bidder picked up lots 8, 9 & 10, sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (according to Artinfo’s Judd Tully it was London dealer Alan Hobart of Pyms Gallery in Mayfair). Two works that should have been casualties – portraits by Renoir and Matisse – ended up selling at hammer prices below estimate. The sale continued with 21 lots of Surrealist work.
ORIGINAL POST: A large scale image of the physically fit and frequently tormented Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s “golden muse”, is the lead work at Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art Tuesday, February 5, 2013. It’s a formidable painting with an estimate to match (and a slightly lugubrious video). There’s also an entertaining catalogue entry that must have left the writer hyper-ventilating:
His muse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naïvety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for the girl brought about a wealth of images that have been acclaimed as the most erotic and emotionally uplifting compositions of his long career. Picasso’s unleashed passion is nowhere more apparent than in the depictions of his muse seated or asleep, the embodiment of tranquillity and physical acquiescence.
Here are the rest of the top five lots (by estimate), starting with a peculiar Monet waterlilies:
Another large scale work is this Miro completed shortly before the end of World War II, one from a group of canvases exhibited by his New York dealer Pierre Matisse and the only one still in private hands. According to the lot notes:
Matisse was keen to demonstrate to the American public the lively state of painting in Europe in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and probably deemed this group of large oils to be among the most energetic and life-affirming works coming from Europe.
From the Leopold Museum in Vienna comes this Egon Schiele double portrait (along with two others – according to Judd Tully: The museum has been selling select works by the artist to settle restitution claims involving Schiele’s storied “Portrait of Wally.”). And from Sotheby’s comes this hyperbolic catalogue entry (and shaky camera pseudo documentary):
Few works by Egon Schiele are as psychologically penetrating, autobiographically revealing or as exquisitely executed as Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung mit Wally). The subject of self-portraiture enthralled the artist, and by the time the present work was created Schiele was engaged in producing what is now arguably the most celebrated stream of self-imagery of the 20th century. The most potent of these works conflated his key artistic concerns with personal crises, expressed in highly innovative compositional arrangements and strikingly bold execution. In this transfixing double portrait, Schiele expresses the emotional turmoil involved in the ending of his relationship with his lover Walpurga (Wally) Neuzil.
The final of the top five is also a large scale work – a late double portrait by Max Beckmann. The painting was done in New York in 1949, two years after he had moved to the States and a year before his death. The catalogue entry does include this intriguing recollection:
In 1948 he delivered a lecture to the students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston which was attended by the young Ellsworth Kelly, who recalled that: ‘It was not long before his death, and he looked tired but was still jovial. At that time he was the most important painter that I had come in contact with. It was a very significant event of my life. […] Every time I see a Beckmann, I’m impressed by the content of his work, his structure, colour, and especially his brushwork. Even though my work is not Expressionist, Beckmann’s visual force has informed my painting and my admiration for his art only grows with time.’
UPDATE: Lot 20 (below), a late Kandinsky, one of the top five works by estimate, was withdrawn, whereas the early Kandinsky, lot 26 (below) made a hammer price of £6 million, though it could have sold for as low as £4 million. Lot 11 (below), an 1881 work by Berthe Morisot soared passed its £1.5-2.5 million estimate to hammer for £6.2 million (a new auction record for the artist tweets the Wall Street Journal‘s Kelly Crow) – the same bidder purchased lot 18 (below) Picasso’s “Incredible Hulk,” and lot 23 (below) the Aristide Maillol spending more than $24.6 million. Complete results from the sale.
ORIGINAL POST: Meanwhile, over at Christie’s, a portrait of another tormented lover leads Christie’s evening sale on February 6, 2013. This time, it’s Amedeo Modigliani’s common-law wife Jeanne Hébuterne. The catalogue notes predictably enough include exhortations about the painting’s greatness:
Modigliani used portraiture, especially of those in his immediate circle, as a means to explore an idealised aspect of humanity, an image of internal as well as external likeness. This is clearly the case in Jeanne Hébuterne au chapeau: while the hat and dress that Jeanne are wearing hint at the fashion of the day, the overall effect is one of timelessness. Jeanne has served as the Muse for an insightful and lyrical exploration of the human spirit, created using an incredibly subtle blending of colours that radiate a sense of health.
There is, however, a wonderful photo of the sitter (who appears to be part giraffe) taken the same year as the painting was executed.
Next up are two works by Wassily Kandinsky, one from 1909 and the other from 1942, two years before his death. The first picture reflects the influence of the French Fauves:
Of the latter painting, the lot notes offer this interesting insight:
Painted in January 1942, it is one of the very last large-scale works on canvas that the artist produced during the culminatory period of his art in Paris during the Second World War. Due to poverty and shortages caused by the war, and the Nazi Occupation of the city in 1940, Kandinsky was unable to procure canvas at this time. Between the summer of 1942 and his death in December 1944, he was compelled to work only on small-scale paintings made on cardboard. Balancement is one of only a very few large-scale works from this wartime period that Kandinsky chose to make on his rapidly diminishing supply of canvas, and one of only a very few works on canvas from this time to still remain in private hands.
Except for a few works, I’m not a fan of Renior’s oeuvre – and this insipid painting is not one of those exceptions. The catalogue tells us that, “L’ombrelle relates to a sequence of exuberantly painted canvases depicting women in garden settings that Renoir executed in the years immediately following the very first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.”
And of this Picasso nude, the sale catalogue says: “Painted on 14 February 1960 – Valentine’s Day – Nu accroupi shows a woman sitting with crossed legs against a verdant backdrop; she appears to be a modernised representation of that much-loved subject, the bather.”
I think it’s a different subject … the Incredible Hulk.