Impressionist Masters and Powerful Portraits Light up the London Sales

Impressionist Masters and Powerful Portraits Light up the London Sales

T he combined Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction featuring The Now, presented in partnership with UK Sotheby’s International Realty, included a tightly curated selection of contemporary paintings from the auction stars of the future, and placed these exciting names alongside titans of art history such as Claude Monet, Paul Signac and Joan Miró. With a keen focus on mid-career artists, the sale illuminated the evolving landscape of the market. From groundbreaking works that challenge tradition, to innovative expressions of modernity, the sale offered a glimpse into the diverse and dynamic currents shaping the art world today.

On the Rise

The Now sequence saw artists such as Emma Webster, Victor Man and Jadé Fadojutimi continuing to gather momentum amongst collectors. Fadojutimi’s A Sheltered Overthought, which sold for £508,000, employed the use of pearlescent paint to reinforce its luminosity, a particularly poignant example as we consider the legacy of Impressionism in 2024. Webster’s Dove Hollow brings the pastoral scene thoroughly up-to-date, transporting her viewer through spatial manipulation of the picture plane, and experimentation with the conventions of landscape painting through VR Technology. In her auction debut, a new record was set for the artist with the work achieving £152,400.

Untitled by Etel Adnan made a new record for the artist, rising well above the pre-sale estimate at £444,500. The “chromatically resplendent and compositionally dynamic” work is characteristic of Adnan’s technique of applying blocks of colour to the surface of the canvas using a palette knife, a true masterclass in abstraction.

The Power of Portraits

In a further show of strength for women artists and predating the contemporary cohort by more than sixty years, Françoise Gilot’s arresting Portrait de Geneviève avec un collier de colombes, painted in 1944, sold for more than three times its high estimate, soaring to £723,900. With a career previously overshadowed by her relationship with Pablo Picasso, with whom she shared two children, Gilot here demonstrates her absolute command of the medium, revealing an artist at the height of her creative powers.

The sale also presented other intimate portraits by Picasso, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach, whose richly textured Head of E.O.W. II set a new record for a work of this subject. This portrait of his most prolific sitter, Estella Olive West, is infused with the rhythm and energy of Auerbach's trademark impasto technique, in which the work seems to come to life in front of the viewer.

Bacon’s deeply personal Study of George Dyer provided a moment of quiet reflection in the galleries preceding the sale. A subject that Bacon returned to on more than forty occasions, this emotionally charged portrait of Dyer was created in 1970 during a period of increased turmoil between the pair, with the complexities of their relationship showed here in dramatic visual form. It is one of only two known depictions of Dyer in this single fourteen- by twelve-inch format, and sold for £6.82 million.

Impressionist & Modern Masters

Joan Miró’s Sans titre (Soirée snob chez la princesse), from 1946, heralds the progression of the artist’s celebrated Constellations series. The use of his signature motifs; stars and biomorphic forms reflect his fascination with the natural world, and his eagerness to push the boundaries of composition and colour.

This spirited canvas inspired fierce bidding and finally sold for £5,570,144. Elsewhere, Paul Signac's radiant Saint-Tropez. Le rayon vert showed his pioneering development of Pointillist colour theory in his attempt to record light and colour through paint, capturing the atmosphere of this enigmatic stretch of coast.

The star lot of the night was Pablo Picasso's Homme à la pipe, which was held in the same private collection for nearly fifty years, and after a lengthy battle between bidders on the phone and in the saleroom, topped out at £13.8 million.

Other highlights of the night include Claude Monet’s delicate play on light and form, Arbres au bord de l'eau, printemps à Giverny that made £7,748,300, Pierre-August Renoir's Fleurs dans un vase (sold with the original vase from the composition), that found a new buyer at £2.5 million, and three works by Jean Dubuffet from the collection of Mary & George Bloch, including Le Guilleret, which sold for £2,226,000.

Highlights from Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction featuring The Now

The evening saw three new records set, all for women artists, and welcomed fresh to market works and artists making their auction debut. The sale made a total of £99,731,294/$126,578,958 and The London Sales continue on 7 March with the Modern & Contemporary Day Auction, beginning at 10.30am GMT.

Contemporary Art Auction Results

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