insiders-guide-examining-paper-hero.jpg
Impressionist & Modern Art

An Insider’s Guide to Examining Works on Paper

1. Discover secrets behind the drawings.

Many artists used both sides of a sheet to create double-sided works. Henri Matisse utilized a two-sided format Nu sur le canapé (recto) and Nu au collier (verso): The rich patterning underscores the delicacy of Matisse’s line and enhances the luxurious comfort of his model. The sense of volume with which Matisse creates his nude models in Nu sur le canapé and Nu au collier is offset by a bold flattening of perspective in the decorative elements that fill the space on the verso. The stunningly sinuous line which extends from the figure's rib toward her right elbow on the verso exhibits the assured manner in which Matisse's approached his drawing practice. 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body1.jpg

HENRI MATISSE, NU SUR LE CANAPÉ (RECTO) AND NU AU COLLIER (VERSO), PEN AND INK ON PAPER, 1936, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $150,000–250,000.

2. Understand how artists perceived their mediums. 

For many artists, executing works on paper was considered a more personal experience than working with canvas. Degas’ Trois danseuses is a beautiful, intimate rendering of one of his favorite subjects: the quiet rehearsals of ballet dancers. The subject of the dance reigned supreme in Degas’ oeuvre, accounting for about three-quarters of his production during his late career. “The dancer is only a pretext for drawing,” Degas declared to George Moore (quoted in Richard Kendall, Degas: Beyond Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), The National Gallery, London, 1996 p. 134).  The artist’s obsession with drawing had become all-consuming. "The sheer labor of drawing had become a passion and a discipline for him,” Paul Valéry wrote, “the object of a mystique and an ethic all-sufficient in themselves, a supreme preoccupation which abolished all other matters, a source of endless problems in precision which released him from any other form of inquiry" (Paul Valery, Degas, Manet, Morisot, Princeton, 1960, p. 64). 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body2a.jpg

EDGAR DEGAS, TROIS DANSEUSES, CIRCA 1889, PASTEL, CHARCOAL AND CHALK ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE, 14 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $900,000–1,200,000.

3. Recognize the varied mediums with which artists executed their works on paper. 

Picasso was a master of fervent re-examination, and he would utilize several types of media to explore a given subject. The motif of the bullfight appears throughout Picasso’s oeuvre, represented both naturalistically and metaphorically.  

For La Corrida, executed in 1955, Picasso deftly applied red wax crayon with oscillating degrees of thickness and speed to demonstrate the chaos of a bullfight and the matador’s taunting with the emblematic capote, or dress cape. Picasso’s expert use of brush and ink to create a light grey that contrasts with the darkness of the figures underscores both motion and strength in this battle with the bull. This technique contrasts with the thickness of brush and ink Picasso applied in Taureau deant le picador. Here, the composition conveys the sense of theater that for Picasso remained the essence of the bullfight.

Le Picador is a superb example of Picasso's interdisciplinary explorations in nontraditional printmaking. Here he employs as a base his own linoleum cut, executed some five years prior and published by Galerie Louise Leiris in an edition of 50. In this example he extensively paints over the printed base, reimagining the scene as an entirely unique composition in a way rarely seen in Picasso's art, yet absolutely emblematic of this brilliant and insatiable artist who could not help himself but create and recreate. 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body3.jpg

(LEFT) PABLO PICASSO, LA CORRIDA, 1955, WAX CRAYON, BRUSH AND INK AND FELT-TIP PEN ON PAPER. ESTIMATE $150,000–250,000. (MIDDLE) PABLO PICASSO, TAUREA DEVANT LE PICADOR, BRUSH AND INK ON PAPER. ESTIMATE $250,000–350,000. (RIGHT) PABLO PICASSO, LE PICADOR, 1964, BRUSH AND INK OVER LINOLEUM CUT ON PAPER. ESTIMATE $150,000–250,000. IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017. 

4. Search for how intertwined other mediums are with the creation of works on paper.

Artists often used the paper medium as a means of preparation for other works, and with close examination one can observe the artistic process at play. Henry Moore was a prolific draftsman and would choose which sculptural projects to pursue from his preparatory sketches. These highly detailed studies stand as evidence of a precocious talent and reveal Moore’s working methods. The sculptures in Fourteen Ideas for Sculpture and Eighteen Ideas for Sculpture are highly developed, with wax crayon and watercolor applied for shading and added crosshatching to lend dimensionality. Throughout the sheets are some of Moore’s most recognizable and renowned sculptures, including iterations of the mother and child, a theme central to Moore’s art. As Moore explained, “Drawing is the expression and the explanation of the shape of a solid object...an attempt to understand the full three dimensionality of the human figure, to learn about the object one is drawing, and to present it on the flat surface of the paper” (Moore quoted in Alan G. Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore (exhibition catalogue), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1977, p. 12).

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body4.jpg

(LEFT) HENRY MOORE, FOURTEEN IDEAS FOR SCULPTURE, 1939, PENCIL, WAX CRAYON, WATERCOLOR AND PEN AND INK ON PAPER. ESTIMATE $70,000–100,000. (RIGHT) HENRY MOORE, EIGHTEEN IDEAS FOR SCULPTURE, 1939, PENCIL, WAX CRAYON, WATERCOLOR AND PEN AND INK ON PAPER. ESTIMATE $80,000–120,000. IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017.

5. Observe the artistic process at work. 

A combination of graceful, restrained lines and blended charcoal, Portrait de femme is a sensuous example of Matisse’s mature drawing style. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Matisse drew extensively, most frequently with charcoal and estompe, a cylindrically shaped drawing instrument used for charcoal, chalk and graphite, and a tool the artist favored so as to imbue his works with a masterful blend of smoky shadow and tremulous luminosity. The technique freed Matisse from the rigors of strict representation, creating a looser physicality that became an expression of feeling. He commented that for him drawing did “not depend on forms being copied exactly as they are in nature or on the patient assembling of exact details, but on the profound feeling of the artist before the objects that he has chosen, on which his attention is focused, and whose spirit he has penetrated” (quoted in Jack Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 179).

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body5.jpg

HENRI MATISSE, PORTRAIT DE FEMME, 1943, CHARCOAL AND ESTOMPE ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE, 14 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $500,000–700,000.

6. Learn about other renditions of similar subject matters that appear in different mediums. 

La Danse à la campagne is a meticulous pen and ink and crayon drawing of a dancing couple that directly relates to Renoir’s oil bearing the same name, now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Almost every detail found in the oil is faithfully reproduced, from the distant faces of other figures at center left to the shading of the leaves on the tree above the table and the spoon jutting up from the cup on the table. Renoir’s normal artistic process at this time did not call for sketches and studies, but this work was created several months after the oil was completed to assist in the preparation for an illustration published in La Vie moderne, which appeared on January 26, 1884.  

Leger’s dynamic Danseuse au tambourin exemplifies the aesthetic that dominated the artist’s production during the last year of his life, when musicians, dancers and acrobatic figures appeared animated in his works by swathes of bold color. The work belongs to a seminal series of works from the 1950s known as La Grande parade, and this female figure appears in reverse in the left side of the monumental composition La Grande parade, état définitif from 1954, now in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body6.jpg

(LEFT) PIERRE AUGUSTE-RENOIR, LA DANSE À LA CAMPAGNE, 1883, PEN AND INK AND CRAYON ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE, 14 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $800,000–1,200,000. (RIGHT) FERNAND LÉGER, DANSEUSE AU TAMBOURIN, 1954, GOUACHE, BRUSH AND INK AND PENCIL ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $400,000–600,000. 

7. Contextualize a work within an artist’s oeuvre. 

As Modigliani's conception of the female body turned toward a more abstract, idealized form in 1911, the figure of the caryatid allowed the artist to rethink of the female form in terms of a sculpted body, already once removed from an actual body. In Caryatide au chandeliers, the elegant lines of the caryatid reveal Modigliani's sophisticated simplification of the body to a series of fundamental lines and curves. This caryatid effortlessly carries her burden, although Modigliani energizes her posture with delicate hatches that surround the figure like an energy field. The gentle contours of the caryatid's face center the drawing with a sense of serenity.  

This work was executed during the first year of Modigliani’s affiliation with Paul Alexandre, one of the artist’s first patrons who amassed one of the most important collection of Modigliani’s drawings. 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body7a.jpg

AMEDEO MODIGLIANI, CARYATIDE AU CHANDELIERS, CIRCA 1911, PENCIL ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $400,000–600,000.

8. Delve into the provenance of the works. 

In 1962 Jean Stein visited Alberto Giacometti in his storied studio on the rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris where the sculptor made a series of eight known portrait sketches of Stein, each recorded variably as L’Americaine or Portrait de Jean Stein. Stein had met the artist eight years prior as a student in Paris and would go on to write about her experience in an article “At Giacometti’s Studio,” published in Show magazine’s January 1963 issue. An acclaimed writer who pioneered the oral history style of interviewing, Stein had an incredibly sharp mind and honed in on the most intimate depths of her subject’s psyche, a manner akin to Giacometti’s intense probing of his subjects to capture their essence. These two innovators of human portraiture and character study developed a friendship bound by their kindred spirits.

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body8.jpg

ALBERTO GIACOMETTI, JEAN STEIN (BUST), 1962, PENCIL ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE, 15 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $70,000–90,000.

9. Develop an eye for tonality. 

With its sculptural solidity and elegant form, Une main exemplifies Picasso’s Neo-classical period of the 1920s. Here, the artist built the three-dimensionality of the form through an abundance of rounded and deftly executed hatch marks consisting of increasingly darker shades of the same color, thereby also creating unity between the floating hand and its mysterious background. The sculptural quality of the work demonstrates the powerful impact of Picasso’s 1917 trip to Italy and his encounter with the crumbling masterpieces of Ancient Rome: "Picasso was thrilled by the majestic ruins and climbed endlessly over broken columns to stand staring at fragments of Roman statuary" (L. Massine quoted in Jean Clair, ed., Picasso, 1917-1924: The Italian Journey (exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 1998, pp. 79-80).

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body9.jpg

PABLO PICASSO, UNE MAiN, 1920, WATERCOLOR AND GOUACHE ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE, 14 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $500,000–700,000.

10. Explore how certain Impressionist & Modern artists’ works on paper transcend time, paving the way for future generations and the artists of today.

Egon Schiele’s nudes are distinguished for their hauntingly beautiful portrayals of the human form, with tense body language and overt eroticism endowed with expressionistic colors to convey the complex psyches of model and artist. Kniende Frau, like the vast majority of drawings Schiele created in 1912, depicts his model, muse and companion Walburga ‘Wally’ Neuzil. The use of raw-red to draw attention to Wally’s pale skin is a technique he often used to tease out a sense of inner emotion and turmoil, a reference to the latent sexual energy in most of his figures. Schiele’s powerful, wrought images of human frailty inspired artists like Lucien Freud, whose own un-idealized models were drawn from close friends and family, endowing the raw nakedness of human psychology with intimate, autobiographical content.

 

insiders-guide-examining-paper-body10.jpg

EGON SCHIELE, KNIENDE FRAU, 1912, GOUACHE, WATERCOLOR AND PENCIL ON PAPER, IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE, 14 NOVEMBER 2017. ESTIMATE $1,200,000–1,800,000.

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.

By continuing to use our Site, you consent to our use of cookies and to the practices described in our updated Privacy Policy.

Close