Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale showcases an exciting selection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper from the masters of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art.
Opening the sale are 26 lots from The European Avant-Garde: A Private Family Collection. With works from artists including Fernand Léger, Jacques Lipchitz and Alexej von Jawlensky, this collection captures the artistic fervour in Europe in the early 20th century.
Further highlights of the sale include magnificent Impressionist works by artists including Théo van Rysselberghe and Henri Le Sidaner, a wonderful selection of German Expressionist art and modern masterpieces from artists such as Rudolf Bauer and Bernard Buffet.
New Worlds – German and Austrian Art (1900– 1962)
The start of the 20th century in Germany and Austria marked a period of immense artistic experimentation and change. As manifested by the members of the School of Vienna, the Brücke, and Blaue Reiter movements, a new sense of emotional sincerity was sought. Expanding medium to a new and expressive quality, the artist’s developed their own way to explore and study the world around them, and at times the nightmarish inner realm.
The present selection of works emphasises the broad reach and advance of German and Austrian art in the first half of the 20th century, and speaks to the rich development of Expressionism and the formal and creative acumen of each artist in their own right.
Hannah Höch was a key proponent of German Dada, best known for work her political collage and photomontage of the Weimar period. Höch's involvement with the Berlin Dadaists began in earnest in 1917. Höch, the only woman among the Berlin Dada group, was singled out for her self-sufficiency. The innovative and modern artist consistently addressed themes of the ‘New Woman’. She rejected the German government, but often focused her criticism more narrowly on gender issues. The present work, Fliegend in Raum, a mature and playful watercolour from 1943, was personally chosen by Höch to be included in the final exhibition of her lifetime in 1978.
Rudolf Bauer’s pioneering experiments in Futurism, Cubism and Constructivism captured the attention of Herwarth Walden, who had founded the renowned Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. Around 1915, Bauer was invited to join Der Sturm circle and it was most likely here that Bauer first experienced the work of Wassily Kandinsky who would have a lasting impact on Bauer’s development as an artist.
From 1905, Emil Nolde spent the winter months in Berlin. Nolde garnered rich and lively inspiration from the energy of Berlin nightlife. This was paired with his fascination for cultural objects in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin, where he sketched his so-called ethnographic still lifes. The influences and impressions amassed in Berlin together with those garnered during his travels in Europe and his exotic travels to the South Pacific in 1913, culminated in a richly varied and dynamic body of works including Schauspielerin, Zigeunertänzerin and Bildnis einer Südseeinsulanerin (en face)
Inspired by the Brücke movement, whilst not directly aligning himself with it, Karl Hofer’s interest in non-representational colours is central to his creative gravitas. In 1934, one year before he painted Sybille he was dismissed from his teaching post at the Kunstschule in Berlin-Charlottenburg and in 1937, his works were removed from German museums, with several selected to be exhibited in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich. The present work offers a powerful and invaluable insight into the artist’s output and perseverance during a time when so much was lost.
Emil Nolde was particularly attached to the northern German landscapes and seascapes. They assumed an almost philosophical quality for the artist in his search for what he referred to as ‘das Heimische’ (the Native Regional) in art. . Drawn to the northerly landscape of water meadows and seemingly endless skylines, the artist constructed his home at Seebüll to follow the course of nature and the path of the sun. The immense views from Seebüll, the tumultuous weather patterns and the artist’s meticulously cultivated floral garden became a primary source of inspiration.
Between 1903-1905 Emil Nolde rented a fisherman’s house on the island of Alsen. It was not until 1903, when Nolde moved to Alsen, that he began to develop his characteristic, expressionistic vigour which is evident in his, Piazza S. Domenico II, Taormina, painted in Sicily in 1905. Nolde would continuously return to the area until 1916 and it was during a sojourn in Alsen in 1906 that Nolde met the painters of the Brücke, a group he was invited to join later that same year.
Celebrated for his emotionally intense and psychologically charged portraiture, Oskar Kokoschka’s work points to the anxieties and desires lurking beneath elegant and decorous exteriors. The highly eccentric artist was a key figure in the development of the Expressionist school of painting. In 1916, following the end of a dramatic love affair with Gustav Mahler’s widow Alma, whom the present work Studie zur Frau in blau (Study for the Woman in Blue) is inspired by, Kokoschka left Vienna for Dresden.
Kandinsky’s trip to Murnau in 1908 had a profound effect on his artistic development. The picturesque scenery of the countryside around the village and lake gave his paintings an energy that had not been present in his earlier work. In Murnau, Kandinsky maintained friendships with other artists such as Alexej von Jawlensky. Jawlensky introduced Kandinsky to the local tradition of glass painting, an art form that was to have a great impact on Kandinsky's art. Lot 395, Madonna und Kind (Madonna and Child), is a study for such a glass painting.
In the early 1920s, Alexej von Jawlensky settled in Wiesbaden where he began to work on his seminal series of Abstract (or Constructivist) heads. In each composition, slightly modified in structure, Jawlensky finely applies the paint to achieve subtle nuances of tone whilst maintaining a strong expression of colour.
In his studio in Vienna, Egon Schiele created powerfully expressive nudes using taut, sinuous lines. Their awkward poses and blatant sexuality challenged the city's bourgeois complacency. An anomaly within the broader history of modernism, like his compatriots Oskar Kokoschka and Richard Gerstl, Schiele is loosely associated with German Expressionist. Undenaiably influenced by the work of Gustav Klimt, no group aesthetic influenced Schiele’s development as an artist.
At the Moritzburg lakes, which he began visiting in 1909, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner discovered a world of peace and harmony, where bodies could move freely in nature, away from the constraints of modern bourgeois life. These ideas informed his later œuvre including the present work Stehender Weiblicher Akt Mit Seitlichem-Rechts-Profil from circa 1919.
In 1919, the Dada group was also formed in Cologne, by Max Ernst, Johannes Theodor Baargeld and Jean (Hans) Arp. Max Ernst’s early works blend cubist-futurist and expressionist elements. From early on, Ernst experimented with different styles, media and imagery within his work and this creative flair and experimentative and varied approach extends into his later output.
The Blaue Reiter was formed in Munich in 1911. Led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc they were focused on the spirituality of creation in an attempt to offset the materialism and corruption prevalent in the world in which they lived. Amongst others, Alexej von Jawlensky and Alfred Kubin were also members of the Blaue Reiter, sharing the group’s endeavour to transcend art to a spiritual plane. In 1912, Jean (Hans) Arp briefly spent time in Munich where he also exhibited with the Blaue Reiter group, in the same year Emil Nolde also showed works in the second exhibition mounted by the artists of the Blaue Reiter.
Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus was grounded in the notion of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk in which all differing arts would be combined. The manifesto, published in 1919, was adorned with a woodcut of fragmented soaring gothic Cathedral by Lyonel Feininger. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture and design more generally. The school existed in three German cities – Weimar, from 1919 to 1925; Dessau, from 1925 to 1932; and Berlin, from 1932 to 1933, before it was closed down by the government in 1933.
The successor group of the Blaue Reiter, the Blaue Vier was formed in 1924 in Weimar by Russian artists Alexey von Jawlensky, and Wassily Kandinsky, the Swiss artist Paul Klee, and the American-born artist Lyonel Feininger. At the time of the group’s formation, Kandinsky, Klee, and Feininger were all teaching at the Weimar Bauhaus.
Whilst Austrian artist Alfred Kubin’s work cannot be understood within the context of Viennese Modernism, but rather that of Munich, the artist’s work is grounded in Symbolism as was the case among many of the Expressionists in Vienna. The angst, death and destruction, and dream-worlds with which Kubin concerned himself were rooted in the artist’s reading of Arthur Schopenhauer. A natural draughtsman, Kubin’s strongest work, dating from the first and second decades of the twentieth century such as Seltsame Fahrt (Strange Journey), KasuarkopfI (Head of a Cassowary) and Villenviertel (Villa quarter) draw the viewer into the artist’s personal realm of the fantastic.