Put together primarily in the 1970s and ‘80s, this collection today represents one of the finest assemblages of post-Impressionist and Modern Art in private hands. The Triumph of Color: Important Works from a Private European Collection will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art auctions this November in New York.
The collection is defined by three superb masterworks by Wassily Kandinsky and rare works by the key protagonists of Fauvism and German Expressionism. Several of the paintings were loaned to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London for over fifteen years, where they provided a unique display of works from the Fauve movement, the Expressionists and the route to Abstraction in the early-20th century.
Infused with an intensity of color and expression, this collection of works provides a rare and exciting opportunity to acquire several exceptional examples of early-20th Century Art. It is unprecedented for three major paintings by Kandinsky, each from a key moment in the artist’s creativity, to appear at auction together, and complemented by stunning examples by the Fauves and the German Expressionists, the collection encapsulates the triumph of color in art at the start of the 20th century.
The three major paintings by Wassily Kandinsky chart the artist’s development across four decades from the earliest successes to his greatest achievements. The group is led by one of the last 1913 oil paintings left in private hands, Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht, a unique composition from this prime year of Kandinsky’s career, during which he reached the summit of his path to Abstraction (estimate $22–35 million). An early abstract masterpiece, Improvisation auf Mahagoni was painted at the end of the artist’s Murnau period (estimate $15–20 million). A stunning composition from the artist’s Paris period, painted in 1939, Le rond rouge is an exceptional large-format oil on canvas dating from the exhilarating years he spent in France (estimate $18–25 million).
The core of the collection has always been works by the Fauves, including three outstanding canvases by Maurice de Vlaminck. Paysage au bois mort (estimate $12–18 million), Pêcheur à Chatou (estimate $9–14 million) and Nu couché (estimate $2–3 million) represent the full spectrum of Vlaminck’s greatest achievements. Executed in 1905 and 1906 at the height of the Fauve movement, the three works boast remarkable, thickly-painted surfaces and vivid palettes.
Further highlights include exceptional works by some of the key artists of the German Expressionist movement, including Alexej von Jawlensky, Max Pechstein, August Macke and Heinrich Campendonk.
Sotheby’s will offer 33 works in total from the collection across our Evening and Day Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York on 12 & 13 November, together estimated to sell for in excess of $90 million. Highlights are now on view in our London galleries as part of our Frieze week exhibitions, and will travel to Hong Kong this fall, before returning to New York for the full viewing of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art auctions beginning 2 November.
Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht (On the Theme of the Last Judgement) is a unique composition executed at the end of 1913, probably the most important year in the artist’s career (estimate $22–35 million). Kandinsky completed 31 works in 1913, of those works, one of which is presumed destroyed, 27 are in major museum collections. Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht is therefore one of only 3 remaining in private hands. It is in excellent condition, with the original translucent areas of paint rich in saturated color.
An exceptional large format oil on canvas from Kandinsky’s Paris period, Le rond rouge boasts a bold, bright palette and a geometric composition that gives the work a strikingly modern appearance (estimate $18–25 million). In the artist’s final years in Paris he developed a new and compelling style of abstraction - in recent years this period has undergone a critical and commercial re-evaluation, with the best works achieving some of Kandinsky’s highest auction results.
Improvisation auf Mahagoni (Improvisation on Mahogany) is one of the largest and most impressive oils by Kandinsky from 1910 left in private hands, painted at the end of the artist’s Murnau period when he realized his full potential through the use of bold colors and dynamic brushwork, combined with a growing confidence in using abstract motifs to create a highly original style (estimate $15–20 million). Improvisation auf Mahagoni is one of a small number of early works to remain in the artist’s possession, and subsequently descended to his wife Nina.
An impressively-sized and exuberantly-painted work from Maurice de Vlaminck’s celebrated Fauve period, Paysage au bois mort is a remarkably well-preserved canvas from 1906 that has an extraordinarily richly textured paint surface (estimate $12–18 million). Few works of this importance by Vlaminck have appeared at auction since, and the November auction therefore marks a rare offering.
The collection boasts another striking work from Vlaminck’s Fauve period: Pêcheur à Chatou, a depiction of the river Seine that was a major source of inspiration for the artist (estimate $9–14 million). The view rendered in the present work shows the arches and piers of the bridge that crossed the river at Chatou.
This selection of works to be offered in the Evening Sale also includes paintings and sculpture by Modern masters, such as the important still life of Irises by Picasso, painted in 1901 at the outset of his extraordinary career and Alexander Archipenko’s innovative Cubist sculpture conceived in Paris in 1912.