An Evening of Record-Breaking Masterpieces in London

Launch Slideshow

Sotheby’s Evening Sales of Impressionist and Modern Art and Actual Size totalled a combined £148,877,000/ $187,719,009, with three works selling for over £20 million for the first time in any London auction. The evening was led by two record-breaking masterpieces by Wassily Kandinsky; his 1909 Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus sold for £21 million/ $26.4 million, and was followed by the abstract masterpiece Bild mit weissen Linien – which after a prolonged battle achieved £33 million/ $41.6 million. Joining these exceptional paintings in the New Bond Street saleroom was a rare canvas from Joan Miró's Constellations series, Femme et oiseaux, which drove the bidding to £24.5 million/ $31 million. The inaugural Actual Size auction saw an enthusiastic exchange on the phones and in the room for Picasso's intimate drawing Buste de femme couchée, which sold for £2.4 million/ $3 million. Click ahead to see highlights from both sales, which together totalled £148.8 million/ $187.7 million.

An Evening of Record-Breaking Masterpieces in London

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Bild mit weissen Linien (Painting with White Lines), 1913. Sold for £33,008,750 / $41,620,733.
    Produced in 1913, Bild mit weissen Linien represents an important period in Kandinsky's career during which he perfected his own lyrical form of abstraction. During this period, Kandinsky took his cue from the language of musical composition – and determined that every colour corresponded with a particular emotion or 'sound'.

  • Joan Miró, Femme et oiseaux, 1940. Sold for £24,571,250 / $30,981,889.
    Femme et oiseaux is the eighth composition in Miro's Constellations – a series comprising twenty-three paintings that he produced in under two years, from January 1940 to September 1941. The painting is a mesmerising example of the Miró's celebrated lyricism and freedom of expression: the ground has been brushed, scraped, polished, moistened and rubbed, creating the gradated pockets of light and dark that convey the celestial boundlessness in which the objects float.

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (Murnau – Landscape with Green House), 1909. Sold for £20,971,250 / $26,442,649.
    A blazing celebration of colour, Kandinsky's Expressionist painting Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus, painted in 1909, is a major early work which captures the moment of transition in the artist's career when he is on the cusp of moving from figuration to abstraction.

  • Alberto Giacometti, Grande figure, 1947. Sold for £17,933,750 / $22,612,665.
    The striking Grande figure, 1947, is cast in bronze with gold patina and stands at 130cm tall. After Giacometti's return to Paris from his native Switzerland in 1945, he developed what would come to be seen as the eponymous themes of his work: the walking man, the bust, and the standing woman.

  • Théo van Rysselberghe, L'Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir or Voiliers sur l'Escaut, 1892. Sold for £8,483,750 / $10,697,160.
    Visually dazzling, L'Escaut en amont d'Anvers, le soir exhibits the artist's complete mastery of the pointilliste technique, and is one his acknowledged masterpieces. Painted in 1892 was executed at the height of van Ryssleberghe's artistic powers, and it is further enhanced by the artist's original painted frame.

  • Pablo Picasso, Femme accroupie, 1954. Sold for £7,358,750 / $9,278,648.
    Vividly coloured and conceived on an impressive scale, Femme accroupie is a majestic image of the final love of the artist's life, Jacqueline Roque. The palette recalls the brilliant primary tones Picasso used during the 1930s – a time often referred to as his 'golden period' – whilst the boldly geometric composition alludes to the ground-breaking developments of his Cubist work.

  • Fernand Léger, Nature morte au profil, 1922. Sold for £3,758,750 / $4,739,408.
    The elegant composition is poised upon a complex arrangement of everyday objects on a table top, depicted in a highly stylised manner in delightful colour combinations. Léger was an outspoken communicator of his artistic principles; he explains his essential aesthetic as: "I apply the law of contrasts... I organize the opposition of contrasting values, lines, and curves. I oppose curves to straight lines, flat surfaces to moulded forms, pure local colours to nuances of grey."

  • Alberto Giacometti, Femme debout sans bras, 1956. Sold for £2,168,750 / $2,734,577.
    Femme debout sans bras is an elegant example of one of the most important motifs of Giacometti's art – the standing female figure. Throughout the 1940s and up until his death in 1966, Giacometti created several variations on the theme of a lone nude woman, her long, lean body anchored with heavy block feet to a base and frozen in time.

  • Paul Klee, Salon Tunisien (Verkehr auf dem Boulevart Tunis) Salon Tunisien (Traffic on the Boulevard Tunis). Sold for £2,048,750 / $2,583,269.
    Inspired by one of the most momentous journeys of the Klee's life, Salon Tunisien was executed in 1918, a few years after he had travelled to Tunisia. The brilliant, exotic colour of Tunis, its bustling streets and dazzling light had a transformative effect on Klee, and marked the beginning of a new direction in modern art.

  • René Magritte, La recherche de l'absolu. Sold for £1,928,750 / $2,431,961.
    The iconography of the present work originates in Magritte's famous hybrid tree-leaf image, which first appeared in the 1935 oil titled La géante, and that would recur in his paintings and gouaches over the next several decades in different contexts.

  • Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Still life of flowers in a Berkemeijer glass beaker. Sold for £2,971,250 / $3,746,449.
    Ambrosius Bosschaert was one of the very first artists to specialise in still-life painting. In his finest works such as this he rendered his subject with a meticulous naturalism leading to the suggestion that it might have been commissioned by a botanist. The smooth surface of the copper lends this work a rich enamel-like finish which combines with the extraordinary detailing of the flowers and insects to lend this small panel a richness which transcends its scale.

  • Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme couchée, 1970. Sold for £2,408,750 / $3,037,193.
    Painted in 1970, Buste de femme couchée illustrates Picasso's ongoing exploration of the female form. Picasso met Jacqueline Roque in 1952 at the pottery studio in Vallauris, when he was still living with Françoise Gilot. In the present work, Picasso shows Jacqueline reclining, with her supine figure and the latent sensuality of the image recalling his celebrated 1930s portraits of Marie-Thérèse. 


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