Evening Sale: 4 February │ Day Sale: 5 February
Three works recently restituted to the heirs of Gaston Lévy are among the highlights of Sotheby’s Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist art Evening Sale. The jewel of the group is a Pointillist masterpiece by Camille Pissarro. Painted with enormous thought and dedication over a period of six months, Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu (1888) depicts a young woman and child building a fire on a cold winter’s morning, with dramatic brushstrokes bringing to life the movement of smoke in the wind. It will make its auction debut with an estimate of £8,000,000 – 12,000,000. This will be offered alongside Paul Signac’s luminous view of the Corne d’Or, matin (1907), bathed in an ethereal morning light, which carries an estimate of £5,000,000 – 7,000,000.
The third of the works – Signac’s Quai de Clichy. Temps gris (est. £600,000 – 800,000) – had been stored in the Lévy’s country home, the Château des Bouffards, but later found its way into the collection of the dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, whose illicit hoard was discovered by the authorities in 2012.
Lévy was one of the most notable patrons and art collectors living in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, and his collection was dispersed under the Nazi occupation. The Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu and Corne d’Or, matin were lost to the ‘Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg’ (an organisation dedicated to looted cultural property) in October 1940, and after the war were repatriated to the French state. They have now been restituted by the French Government to Lévy’s heirs, having been on display in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Please see dedicated press release for further details.
The sale will mark the auction debut of two magnificent paintings by Fernand Léger from the collection of Roger Dutilleul. One of the first significant collectors of the twentieth-century European avant-garde, Dutilleul’s motto was ‘there is no such thing as abstract or figurative, there is just good painting’. He had a passionate love of Cubism, adorning the walls of his apartment with more than a hundred Cubist works, and played an essential role in supporting some of the most daring artists in Paris, including Léger, Picasso, Braque, Modigliani and Miró.
Le Buste (1925) depicts a full, classical profile in a monochrome palette, whilst Nature Morte (1923) brims with life with a bright palette and domestic setting. Estimated at £1,300,000 – 1,600,000 and £2,200,000 – 2,800,000 respectively, both works defy the boundaries of traditional genres.
The Day Sale will offer a further work by Fernand Léger, Gif-sur-Yvette (1954), juxtaposing a floral still life with the architecture of an industrial townscape (est. £300,000 – 500,000).
A powerful example of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Expressionist style, Akt vor dem Spiegel (Nude at the Mirror) was begun in Berlin in 1915. Appearing at auction for the first time, with an estimate of £3,000,000 – 5,000,000, the work was a Christmas gift to his physician and major patron Dr Frédéric Bauer in 1937.
With its bold colouration and avant-garde approach to a time-honoured subject, the composition embodies the importance of freedom of expression to the Die Brücke group. Kirchner’s primary concern during this key period in his career was the representation of the human form in its most primitive or uninhibited state, an aesthetic goal strongly represented by Akt von dem Spiegel.
Joan Miró’s Groupe de personnages (1938) is populated by a parade of figures that are among some of the most vividly imagined of the artist’s entire œuvre. The deftly articulated lines that delineate the figures reflect the confidence of the mature artist and Miró orchestrates the drama of these characters through passages of vivid colour. One of the early owners of the present work was Noel Evelyn, Lady Norton (née Hughes) - better known to her friends as ‘Peter’ - who was a pioneering figure in the British art world in the 1930s. Helped by Roland Penrose, she founded the London Gallery with her cousin Rita Strettell in 1936. Estimated at £3,000,000-5,000,000, this work has been in the same private collection since 1989, and was recently exhibited in the major Miró retrospective held at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2018.
The sale also offers a whimsical and witty composition by the artist, Personnages et oiseau devant le soleil (1952). The virtuosic work was given by the artist to Jean Célestin, an assistant who monitored the proofs of all Miró’s lithographs at the Mourlot printing studio. It remained in Célestin’s family until it was sold at auction in 1996 and will now be offered with an estimate of £1,500,000 – 2,000,000.
Franz Marc’s Zwei blaue Esel (Pferd und Esel) (1912) (est. £1,000,000 – 1,500,000) explores the key subject of the artist’s career – the animal world. In 1910, attracted by the tranquillity of its surroundings, Marc moved to a small town on the foothills of the Bavarian Alps and it was here that Marc’s wonderfully colourful artistic menagerie came to dominate his œuvre. It was acquired by the Zurich-based collector Dr Franz Stadler the year it was created and has remained in the same family to this day, on loan to the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester for over twenty years.
The Day Sale offers further examples of great German art, including Emil Nolde’s Marshy Landscape under High Skies with Hof Seebüll (circa 1930-35). Nolde was one of the greatest colourists of the 20th century and this atmospheric watercolour on absorbent Japanese paper captures the overwhelming power of nature through the landscape of his home. Having remained in the same private collection since its execution, it will now make its auction debut at £120,000 – 180,000.
Jean Metzinger’s Le cycliste (1912) is one of the artist’s most ambitious works, an amalgamation of Cubism and Futurism that brilliantly captures speed and dynamism. The bicycle stands as the perfect symbol of modern daily life, both as a new means of transport for the masses as well as a spectator sport. The dashing moustache identifies the cyclist as celebrated prize-winner Octave Lapize, best known for winning the 1910 Tour de France, in the throes of a victory lap at the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris. This is one of three oil paintings of this subject from this year, another of which is now in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
The first owner of this work was Irish American lawyer John Quinn, Brancusi’s most important patron, who lent over 70 works to the 1913 Armory Show. It is now appearing on the market for the first time, with an estimate of £1,500,000 – 2,000,000, since it sold at the auction of Quinn’s estate in New York in February 1927.
A masterwork of Magical Realism by Dutch painter Pyke Koch, Florentine Garden (1938) is an evocative depiction of the celebrated Renaissance revival gardens of Villa La Pietra in Florence. Koch was chosen to represent the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale in 1938, where this work was exhibited.
Koch spent hours meticulously studying Italian Quattrocento masters such as Piero della Francesca, who inspired him in his pursuit of technical perfection. Last acquired in 1989, this work has never previously appeared at auction, and marks the artist’s Evening Sale debut with an estimate of £200,000-300,000.
A fellow exponent of Magical Realism, Carel Willink will be represented in the Day Sale with The Eternal Cry (1964), offered on the market for the first time having been acquired from the artist circa 1978. Along with Koch, Willink was devoted to figurative painting, using near-photographic style and meticulous and intentional juxtaposition to depict mysterious and enchanting scenes. This painting was inspired by the artist’s trip to Italy, where he visited the sixteenth-century Bomarzo Gardens commissioned by Pier Francesco Orsini (est. £70,000-100,000).
In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, a plethora of emancipated and revolutionary women joined the Surrealist movement in Paris, London, New York and Mexico. Their works are characterised by a self-awareness and intuition that was unmatched by their male contemporaries, resulting in an important and diverse contribution to the Surrealist imagination.
Journal of a Conjuror (1955) is among a handful of works that Kay Sage made in the year immediately following the death of her husband, the painter Yves Tanguy. His absence is felt in every brushstroke, invoking a depth of emotion that is testament to their love. In this monochromatic work, the scaffolding – one of her trademark motifs – becomes a cage, and the draped material, a shroud. The eloquent work will be offered with an estimate of £120,000 –180,000, for the first time since it was last sold at auction in 1990.
The Day Sale will feature two works by Dorothea Tanning, Naufrage en bleu (circa 1957) (illustrated right) and Oraculaire (1964), estimated at £15,000 – 20,000 and £8,000 – 12,000 respectively. The first large-scale exhibition on the artist’s audacious seven-decade career for twenty-five years took place at Tate Modern last year.
Comprising three drawings and a painting, this exceptional group of fresh-to-the-market works by Vincent van Gogh has not been exhibited since 1995. Inspired by the artists of the Barbizon school, Van Gogh sought out rural subject matter that placed the plight of the working class at the heart of his work. Two of these works date from his time in the Hague in 1882 and the others were executed in the provincial town of Nuenen in 1885.
Immersing himself in the community, he observed in great detail the peasants and their daily life, whilst developing his exceptional artistic talent.
Leading the Day Sale is Claude Monet’s spectacular view of Waterloo Bridge (circa 1899), from the iconic series that Monet completed following his visits to London at the turn of the century. The fog and ghostly silhouettes of the Houses of Parliament signal the beginning of the artist’s shift towards abstraction, forming the transition between the Haystacks of the 1890s and the later Nymphéas. The overwhelming majority of Monet’s depictions of Waterloo Bridge are now in public collections around the world. This work comes from the collection of fashion tycoons Bernard and Josephine Chaus and will now be offered at auction for the first time since they acquired it 1990, carrying an estimate of £400,000 – 600,000.
Tête à Tête avec Picasso: Unique Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
The Day Sale will also present a personal group of works on paper and unique ceramics from the collection Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter, Marina. Spanning the entirety of his career – from lively sketches to fantastical clay creations – the works delve into the artist’s enduring fascination with portraiture and his inimitable way of capturing the essence and personality of every visage.
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*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.
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