Remarkable Works on Paper: From Eugène Delacroix to Sam Szafran

Remarkable Works on Paper: From Eugène Delacroix to Sam Szafran

T his Summer, Sotheby’s Paris will hold the annual Oeuvres sur Papier sale on 6 June, entirely devoted to works on paper by some of the most important artist of the 20th Century. From rare and wonderful sheets by Eugène Delacroix and Victor Hugo, through to works by Pablo Picasso, Wifredo Lam or Sam Szafran, this selection of works takes viewers on a journey to the heart of the creative process of many modern masters.

This wonderful drawing by Pablo Picasso showcases his muse and lover Dora Maar dressed in an Andalusian-style attire. This portrait, dated 14 September 1936, was produced at the very beginning of the relationship between the painter and the photographer. The delicacy and tenderness emerging from this beautiful portrait reflects this growing passion. Dora Maar kept this drawing with her during the rest of her life, and it has not been on the market since it was acquired at her famous estate sale in Paris in 1998.

Executed in 1944 as Wilfredo Lam returned to Cuba, his homeland, this large work is particularly characteristic of a technique he develops at this period using subtle hints of color and contrasts with areas of the composition left in reserve. Filled with totemic animal figures recalling the Orishas from Cuban voodoo tradition, this magical drawing, characteristic of Lam’s art, allows the artist to create a singular poetic universe in which he combines his unique dream world with evocations of the surrounding tropical wilderness.

Paper became Miró's medium of choice in the last few decades of his life, allowing him unprecedented inventiveness and expressiveness. Joan Miró's Têtes are striking in their pure energy and spectacular presence, plunging us directly into the painter's poetic universe. The pictorial vocabulary and the scale of the work reflect the influence of the new generation of American post-war painters, such as Jackson Pollock, whose work Miró had discovered during his second trip to New York in 1959.

In this moving work dated created in 1927, and part of the famous series depicting memories from his home town of Vitebsk, Marc Chagall depicts his Russian grandmother. The grandmother image could also refer to the mythical figure of Baba Yaga which permeates Russian and Eastern European folklore.

In this large composition executed just after the war, in 1946, Pablo Picasso explored collage as a technique, offering a radical approach to portraiture via the paper medium. The faun is a recurring theme in Picasso's work, and remained one of his favourite subjects from the 1930s onwards, appearing in drawings, painting and ceramics throughout his career.

Dating from the extraordinary surge of creativity that Matisse experienced in the late 1940s, La lecture, belongs to a series of drawings executed in 1947 as variations on the subject of two girls, often mother and daughter, at a table in an interior with a flower vase and bouquet on the right. Matisse's works on paper demonstrate the process of an artist for whom composition and form played a central role.

This remarkable Conté crayon drawing is a study for Paul Signac's first Neo-Impressionist painting, Les Modistes. It is also one of the first works that the young self-taught artist drew using black Conté crayons. Having met Georges Seurat the previous year, Signac here creates a small masterpiece. He effortlessly masters the velvety texture of the Conté crayon and achieves the very subtle chiaroscuro that testifies to his creative proximity with his friend and mentor.

On the 28 January 1832, the date of the present drawing, Delacroix was staying in Tangier, and had just arrived in Morocco. This rare drawing is part of a sought-after series from the Moroccan voyage. This sheet stayed in Delacroix’s collection until his death, after which it was bought at the Vente Delacroix by the prestigious art historian and collector Alfred Sensier.

In this drawing coming from the Louis-Dreyfus Collection, Sam Szafran explores the theme of the artist’s studio through charcoal. "I need chaos" he said. That dramatic frustration coming from always having to find a precarious place to use as a studio nurtures this obsessional inspiration, which translated into countless variations on the theme. Szafran paid particluar attention to the spatial volumes, viewpoints and the light at different hours of the day and night.

We look forward to welcoming you in person in our galleries when we reopen.

Impressionist & Modern Art

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