Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Online Sale brings together an exciting array of paintings, works on paper and sculptures from the masters of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art.
Highlights include Magic Realism and Beyond: Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, a vibrant group of works from artists such as Georg Grosz, Otto Dix and Franz Radziwill that reflects the dynamic creative forces in Germany in the early 20th century.
This collection is sold alongside a strong German and Austrian selection with artists including Emil Nolde, Lyonel Feininger and Alfred Kubin, paintings from the leading figures of Modern art such as Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Bernard Buffet, as well as works by Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí and Man Ray.
German & Austrian Art
The beginning of the 20th century marked a period of immense artistic experimentation and change in Germany and Austria. As manifested by the members of the School of Vienna, the Bauhaus, and the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movements, a different sense of emotional sincerity was sought. Expanding medium to a new and expressive quality, the artists developed their own and distinctive ways to explore and study both 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 the artists in their own right.
Huldigung (Homage), 1947
With his works removed from all German museums and prohibited from painting by the Nazi regime, Nolde retreated to his home in Seebüll, Northern Germany. There he worked in secret on a series he called “Ungemalte Bilder” (Unpainted Pictures). Huldigung (Homage) was based on a work from this series and was painted shortly after the war, when Nolde was once again able to produce larger paintings in oils, whilst also continuing to seek the compulsive intensity of colour and the portrayal of dynamic interpersonal relationships that preoccupied his wartime idiom.
Wassermühle am Gebirgsbach, Thüringen (Watermill on a mountain stream, Thuringia), 1894
Lesser Ury was born in Prussia to a German Jewish family in 1861. Following the death of his father in 1872, the family relocated to Berlin where Ury lived until he enrolled at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf in 1879. During the 1890s Ury travelled frequently to Thuringia, capturing the dense forests and pastoral idyll in soft and rich pastels.
Fabelwesen (Mythical Creatures), 1905
Whilst Alfred Kubin’s work cannot be understood within the context of his native Viennese Modernism, but rather that of Munich, the artist’s work is grounded in Symbolism, as was the case amongst many of the Expressionists in Vienna. The angst, death and destruction, as well as 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, draws the viewer into the artist’s personal realm of the fantastic.
Gespräch über einen Paragraphen (Conversation about a Paragraph), 1929
Franz Radziwill was introduced to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement by fellow artist Otto Dix, increasingly becoming associated with the ‘magic realism’ strain of the movement. This term, coined by artist and critic Franz Roh in 1925, described the new fantastical and unsettling realism produced by artists during the uncertain period of Germany’s Weimar Republic (1919-33). Gespräch über einen Paragraphen (Conversation about a Paragraph), painted in 1929, refers to the debate around paragraph 218 of the Weimar Republic’s German Constitution. This ongoing debate had resonance for Radziwill – the work remained with the artist in his studio, and some 30 years later he added the leaf to the female figure, the hat on the left figure and the floating angel as a symbol of the human soul.
Tree in the park (Weimar), 1913
The Blaue Reiter was formed in Munich in 1911. Led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, these artists were focused on the spirituality of creation to offset the prevalent materialism and corruption they witnessed. Executed in 1913 in the blue pencil typical of the Der Blau Reiter period, this work is a study of a tree in a park in Weimar. It is a fine example of the artist’s early experiments with Cubism which Feininger first encountered on a trip to Paris to exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants in 1911, a movement which greatly informed his artistic development.
Zwei Mädchen auf Blauem Sofa (Two girls on a blue sofa), 1923
Georg Tappert, alongside other artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) such as George Groz and Otto Dix, sought to capture the stark reality of the turbulent world around him. Painted in 1923, Zwei Mädchen auf Blauem Sofa (Two girls on a blue sofa), shines a sober light on the lives of the licentious urban denizens in 1920s Berlin.
Scene I – Mord (Scene I - Murder), 1922
Dix was a key figure in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, together with fellow artists George Grosz, Georg Tappert and Max Beckmann. The movement took its name from the exhibition Neue Sachlichkeit, held in Mannheim in 1923. Disillusioned and traumatized from the horrors of WWI, these artists portrayed the world around them in acerbic realism, responding to the zeitgeist of the German post war period as the country reacted to the social unrest of the Weimer Republic with a fascination for death, violence and sexuality.
Stillleben mit Papagei (Still Life with Parrot), 1928
Appointed as a professor of the Akademie in Düsseldorf in 1926, Heinrich Campendonk was one of many modernist painters labelled ‘degenerate artists’ by the Nazi regime. During the 1920s, Campendonk’s style was informed by his work in stained glass, a practice that would continue to occupy much of his later career. In Stillleben mit Papagei (Still Life with Parrot), we see the artist’s distinctive mastery of composition and tessellating structures, as well as his interest in depictions of animals, which inspired by his friend Franz Marc, form a significant part of his visual idiom.
Born in Suttgart in 1889, Willi Baumeister’s artistic vocabulary was closely aligned with the Parisian art scene. Inspired by Goethe's concept of elementary plant forms in Goyescas, Baumeister incorporates the texture of André Masson’s automatic sand paintings with reductive and floating elements that are in turn connected with the work of Joan Miró and the background paintings of Fernand Léger in his own rich and painterly visual lexicon.
The vision of ‘Magic Realism’ was first articulated by art historian Franz Roh in 1925. Artists who embraced this new creative idiom shied away from the art of the Expressionist era, using unsettling imagery and acerbic satire to capture the shifting reality of the world around them.
Including a selection of works celebrated in the recent Tate Modern exhibition Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33, Magic Realism and Beyond: Property from a Distinguished Private Collection encompasses the artistic fervour in Germany, from the last days of the German Empire to the fall of the Weimar Republic.