The three lots leading this June’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale all share the same subject matter – a female figure.

The two oil paintings by Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani are both based on the artists’ companions: Picasso’s Femme assise is from a seminal group of Cubist paintings depicting his first important companion and muse Fernande Olivier, while Modigliani’s portrait depicts Jeanne Hébuterne – the last love of his life during the three years preceding his death. While both paintings take their creators’ personal relationships as their starting point, the approach is remarkably different. Jeanne Hébuterne (au foulard), painted in 1919, shortly before both the artist’s and the sitter’s untimely death in January of the following year, is a wonderfully elegant and poignant portrait. It is infused with a powerful sense of personality, and combines Modigliani’s unique mannerism and stylisation with a tender insight into the personality and psychology of his lover.


Picasso’s portrait, on the other hand, comes from the summer of 1909, a pivotal period in which he developed his Cubist style. Picasso and Fernande spent several months in the remote Catalonian village of Horta de Ebro in the artist’s native Spain and during the course of the summer Picasso was fully invested in the formal experimentations that paved the way to Analytical Cubism. Despite Fernande’s reputation in Parisian artistic circles as La belle Fernande, Picasso was far less interested in either the physical beauty or the psychology of his sitter, focusing instead on his own pictorial investigations.


Senior International Specialist of Impressionist & Modern Art, Philip Hook, explains ''Picasso and Modigliani worked in the same milieu of bohemian Paris, and women were incredibly important to them, emotionally, physically and artistically. With Modigliani who lived life tempestuously, it was a more passionate engagement; it involved colour, it involved the heart rather than the head. And he produced images which are tremendously evocative; the art of the past certainly, but also recast in a way that is totally modern.''


Unlike the two oils, Rodin’s sculptural rendering of Eve originated from an official commission for a monumental door to grace the entrance to the new museum of decorative arts in Paris. Many of the sculptures planned for this project – including Eve –ultimately evolved as separate works. Originally envisaged as part of a decorative scheme, Rodin modelled his figure of Eve alongside that of Adam, and the image was based on a professional sitter, a young Italian model generally identified as one of the Abbruzzesi sisters. While Rodin did not base the work on a personal relationship, his rendering of the image of Eve is nevertheless invested with a powerful psychological dimension, capturing the essence of eternal femininity.

All three works will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale on 21 June.

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