Chagall, Ernst, O'Keeffe and More Highlight Impressionist & Modern Art

Launch Slideshow

From a dazzling masterpiece by Marc Chagall to a passionate work by Pablo Picasso, the Impressionist & Modern Art sales in New York show the full breadth of artistic achievement in the Modern period. Works will be on exhibition through 14 November before being offered at auction on 14–15 November. Click ahead for a look at highlghts from the Evening and Day sales.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
14 November | New York

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale
15 November | New York

Chagall, Ernst, O'Keeffe and More Highlight Impressionist & Modern Art

  • Théo van Rysselberghe, Port De Cette, Les Tartanes, 1892. Estimate $6,000,000–8,000,000.
    Painted in 1892, Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was executed at the height of van Ryssleberghe’s artistic production and is one of his acknowledged masterpieces. The artist’s mastery of the pointilliste technique is fully evident in this visually dazzling work, and is further enhanced by his original painted frame. From the late 1880s to the end of the 1890s van Rysselberghe developed a distinct form of Neo-Impressionism, based on the style of the French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, yet with a distinct leaning toward the Symbolist sensibilities of the leading Belgian artists of the day. In 1893 Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was featured in the final exhibition of Les XX held in Brussels at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. This was the first show to introduce divisionism or pointillism to a northern European audience. 

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Vert et rouge, 1940. Estimate $3,000,000–4,000,000.
    Painted in Paris in 1940, Vert et rouge conveys the viewer into the realm of pure aesthetic expression. The exquisite arrangement of the composition's forms and colors represent Kandinsky’s final phase of development at a time when the Surrealists dominated the cultural topography and the city of Paris was a hotbed of creative rivalry. The serenity of Vert et rouge is typical of the late works: the tumultuous energy of the early abstractions completed in Bavaria, such as the monumental Komposition VII, has been replaced by a hypnotic grace. During the later years at the Bauhaus and later in Paris, the artist became interested in nature and organic growth, as had his friend Paul Klee, and like him he introduced anthropomorphic forms that had grown from ideas about zoology and embryology. Kandinsky clipped photographs and diagrams from scientific articles on deep-sea life. The artist’s late works, therefore, stepped outside of the more folkloric references that had previously featured his early work; the castle, rider and mountain have given way to deeper mysteries couched in nature’s fundamental elements.

  • Fernand Léger, Composition À La Pipe, 1928. Estimate $2,000,000–3,000,000.
    By the time he painted Composition à la pipe in 1928, Fernand Léger had begun to infuse his works with sinuous lines, organic shapes and a busier, more spontaneous composition. A decade of experimentation with the rigid geometries of Purism had given way to a more fluid, organic aesthetic. This signaled a decline in the “return to order” following World War I, in which artists favored a traditional style in reaction to the avant-garde excesses of the pre-war years. Featuring a mélange of objects including a pipe, ball and boldly outlined silhouette, Composition à la pipe perfectly illustrates Léger’s aesthetic transition towards the close of the decade.

  • Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior With Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, 1901. Estimate $2,500,000–3,500,000.
    Painted in 1901, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 is an elegant and introspective meditation from Vilhelm Hammershøi’s most accomplished period. Along with his most enigmatic paintings, the present work is distinguished by its refined palette of chromatic greys, spare compositional elements, and a mesmeric psychological complexity. Although the home is his own and the figure is his wife, Ida, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 dodges intimacy in favor of distance, reaching for universality over specificity.

  • Georgia O'keeffe, Yellow Sweet Peas. Estimate $2,500,000–3,500,000.
    Reflecting the formal vocabulary O’Keeffe developed as an avant-garde American modernist in the early decades of the 20th century as well as her reverence for the natural world, Yellow Sweet Peas masterfully exemplifies the deeply personal synthesis of realism and abstraction that defines her work.Yellow Sweet Peas with its sensual modulations of color, sensuous curves and folds is a meditation on form and design that reveals O’Keeffe’s mastery of the pastel medium. The work is a study of texture as O’Keeffe masterfully varies her application of the pigment, oscillating from dense, velvety opacity to lightly feathered strokes that reveal the paper support. As she renders the sweet pea monumental and centralized, O’Keeffe eschews traditional scale and pictorial organization, compressing the space and confronting the viewer with the blossom’s commanding color and form, and transforming this traditional still-life subject into an abstract pattern of organic shapes. 

  • Max Ernst, The Endless Night, 1940. Estimate $3,500,000–5,000,000.
    Painted in 1940, The Endless Night encapsulates the sense of foreboding which the Max Ernst felt after two internments by the Nazis as a German national during the fretful moments when he was preparing to escape to America. The masterpieces from this period are undoubtedly some of the strongest works of his career. In 1938, Ernst separated from André Breton and the Surrealists. Never satisfied with conventions or restrictive ultimatums, Ernst chose to develop his artistic concerns from an individual perspective. The works that he executed in the late 1930s and 1940s are revelatory in their power of expression and novelty of technique. Ernst completed The Endless Night at the creative height of this period, and the composition relies upon a novel sense of figuration. On a parallel with such masterpieces as Napoleon in the Wilderness from the collection of the The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Endless Night is a testament to the artist's visionary modernism.

  • Marc Chagall, Le Grand Cirque, 1956. Estimate $10,000,000–15,000,000.
    Ever since his childhood, when he had seen the acrobats in the streets of the Russian town of Vitebsk where he lived with his family, Chagall was fascinated by the theme of the circus, and often returned to this subject-matter in his oeuvre. The arrival of the circus signified the sudden invasion of the wondrous in to the rhythm of everyday life, the transformation of the humdrum into a form of art that left behind a lingering sensation of happiness and amazement. For Chagall, this had an allegorical connection with his own art and its performance, for he could never feel himself to be a painter alone but also a magician, actor and clown. Although Le Grand Cirque  is mostly populated by circus performers, these characters had many levels of significance for the artist. To him, they represented the many faces of man’s emotional character, both fun-loving and tragic. Chagall's entire universe is found here is a dazzling array of action and color.  

  • Yves Tanguy, Sans Titre, 1931. Estimate $320,000–380,000.
    Tanguy's career as a painter began in 1922 after the artist saw an early Surrealist work by Giorgio de Chirico at Paul Guillaume's gallery. The profound impact of de Chirico's landscapes compelled Tanguy to join the Surrealist group in 1925, collaborating with André Breton in La Révolution Surréaliste. Indeed, Tanguy's early works clearly allude to de Chirico's "Italian squares" of the same period and it was not until 1927 that Tanguy began painting the dream-like landscapes that would establish him as a major figure of the Surrealist movement. Sans Titre , painted in 1931, contains many of the distinctive qualities that characterize the artist's signature "mind-scapes:" the deep foreground, the plain and ambiguous horizon, the presence of objects floating in the silent air, and the primal forms that may refer to the prehistoric monoliths and dolmens of the Brittany landscape the artist knew during childhood. The haunting imagery of Tanguy's pictures stem from his experience growing up in Europe during World War I. Dilapidated buildings, piles of rubble and the bleak terrain of abandoned battlefields were common sites throughout northern France. 

  • Max Ernst, Amour Violent, 1925. Estimate $800,000–1,200,000.
    Amour violent is an elegy to love, poetry, pain and longing, all subjects that were dominant in Max Ernst’s work over the entire course of his career. Deeply involved in first the Dada and then Surrealist movements, Max Ernst revealed a subconscious that was influenced by both the natural and the fantastic. Painted in 1925, Amour violent belongs to one of the most creative periods in Ernst’s oeuvre, marked by a constant stream of technical experimentation and invention. Throughout the 1920s, the artist established his personal mythology and his visual universe of themes and images that were to become central to his entire output. Marked by variability within pigment application resulting in the discovery of grattage in 1925, Amour violent is quite possibly the finest and purest example of the technique in private hands.

  • Pablo Picasso, Modèle dans l’atelier, 1965. Estimate $1,200,000–1,800,000.
    The mid-1960s marked a period of great synthesis for Picasso as reflected in the theme of the artist and his model. It proved to be one of his most passionate and energetic projects, inspired by the final and arguably most passionate love of Picasso's life, Jacqueline Roque, whom he married in 1961. The artist explored this subject intensively in the spring of 1965, dividing the pictorial space equally between the painter and his model. As Picasso continued to return to this subject, the painter depicted in his compositions gradually occupied less of the canvas and ultimately was rendered through inferences or symbols. While we do not see Picasso himself in Modèle dans l’atelier , his presence can be interpreted as the blank canvas on the left, which awaits the touch of his brush. His extreme adoration for his subject is felt profoundly by the artist's own absense, celebrating the female figure completely. The pared down brushwork combined with the intense focus on Jacqueline's femininity leads to an almost religious rendering, casting Picasso's model and wife as his personal Madonna.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos & news.
Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.