From Van Dongen to Picabia: Impressionist & Modern Art Highlights

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On March 24, following our inaugural sale dedicated to works on paper, Sotheby's Paris will present an outstanding array of paintings and sculpture by leading artists of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Highlights include a superb Van Dongen portrait of his most devoted patron’s wife, a vibrant and architectural still life by Fernand Léger, and magnificent sculptures from Auguste Rodin and Rembrandt Bugatti. Click ahead to discover more about these and other key lots from the sale.

Art Impressionniste et Moderne
Paris | 24 March

From Van Dongen to Picabia: Impressionist & Modern Art Highlights

  • Kees van Dongen, Femme au chapeau (Portrait de Madame Charles Malpel), 1907-8. Estimate €1,500,000–2,000,000.
    Madame Malpel modelled for several of Van Dongen's compositions in the years from 1907 to 1909. Her husband Charles was a lawyer, part-time vintner and one of Van Dongen's most fervent supporters at the beginning of his career. He said of the artist that no other painter was able to claim
    "a more attractive personality, a more complete science, a more appealing and more disturbing art, an understanding that is, at any rate, more exact, larger and more poetic of the present moment in all its beauty."

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Fernand Léger, Les deux Couteaux, 1949. Estimate €500,000–700,000.
    In 1945 Fernand Leger came back to France following five years of exile in the United States during the war. This return to his native country corresponded with a period of intense creativity for the painter, and Les deux Couteaux , painted in 1949, perfectly illustrates a new conception of the still life that Leger initiated at the time. Breaking with his works inspired by Purism or the pre-war series of 'Objects in Space', the bright colours of this still life, inherited from the American period, are emblematic of Leger's artistic interests during this period.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Rembrandt Bugatti, Gazelles apprivoisées, face à face, 1905.
    Estimate €200,000–300,000.
    Created using a lost-wax casting reminiscent of the great workshops of the Renaissance, and endowed with an exceptional patina, this charming 1905 group by Rembrandt Bugatti perfectly demonstrates the opinions of Parisian critics of the time, who were unanimous in their praise for the skill of the artist, who is rightfully considered to be "a narrator of animal psychologies". 

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Wifredo Lam, Judío (Indio con el búho), 1925.
    Estimate €180,000–250,000.
    With the arrival of General Machado in Cuba in 1925, Wifredo Lam lost his funding and was thrown into a period of great financial difficulty. Touched by the severity of his situation, his friend Fernando Rodriguez Muñoz's mother invited him to spend the summer in their family's home in Cuenca. During this time, Lam began work on a series of four works for the Muñoz family: Judio (the present painting), Sol, Mujeres and El cuerno de la abundancia. Painted in large format and shimmering colours, using salvaged canvas he found in the village, these works reveal the undeniable influence of artists such as Anglada Camarasa but also the budding Art Deco movement. The present work also shows inspiration from oriental tales and the Ballets Russes. These four paintings testify to the close friendship between Lam and Rodriguez Muñoz and have remained in the latter's family ever since.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Henri Jean Guillaume Martin, Vue de Saint-Cirq Lapopie, circa 1920. Estimate €180,000–250,000.
    The Vue de Saint-Cirq Lapopie is a particularly accomplished example of the views of this village painted by the artist between 1912, the year in which he bought his house in the villiage, and the end of the 1930s. Martin was undoubtedly attracted by the same features that seduced André Breton when he discovered the village in 1950, which are marvellously crystallised in this composition. The beautiful medieval village perched on a cliff inspired the painter many times, giving rise to some of his most emblematic paintings, with the village seen from different angles and in different lights.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Auguste Rodin, Éternel Printemps, conceived in 1884.
    Estimate €150,000–200,000.
    Eternel Printemps has the power and the universal impact that defines masterpieces. In the manner of The Kiss, which can be thought of as a pair for this work, the group was made during an intense period of work on Rodins monunmental project, La Porte de l'Enfer. Unlike The Kiss where the woman embraces her lover, Eternel Printemps is dominated by the wide movement of the male figure, echoed by the ascending curve of the female figure in perfect sensuality. Beyond all detailed passion, Eternel Printemps transcends feeling in the freedom with which Rodin mastered his medium.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Georges Braque, L'Aquarium, 1944. Estimate €120,000–180,000.
    When war broke out, Georges Braque sought refuge in Varengville-sur-Mer, which had become an important colony of artists during the 1930s, and where Braque had the North American architect Paul Nelson build him a studio. During the war fish were one of the artist's recurring motifs and, echoing him anxieties, were predominantly black in the early years of the war, characterized by a thoughtful austerity. However, towards the end of the conflict, the colours became more joyful, the brushwork lighter, the backgrounds more translucent, as is the case in the present painting from 1944.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Felix Vallotton, Venise, L'Ancienne Douane et le Grand Canal, circa 1902. Estimate €100,000–150,000.
    Painted between 17 and 20 December 1902, Venise, L'Ancienne Douane et le Grand Canal , followed Vallotton's discovery of the city in 1890. Viewed from the steps of the basilica Santa Maria Della Salute, the work is adorned with a subtle neoclassicism. In the upper half of the work, there are tender chromatic tones similar to the admirable depictions of the Grand Tour by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. In the lower half, in addition to the audacious framing, the graphic motifs of the marble pavement create a powerful structuring element reminiscent of the strength of Vallotton's own beautiful etchings.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Raoul Dufy, Le Carnaval à Nice, 1927. Estimate €100,000–150,000.
    In his 1975 book, La Vie devant soi, Romain Gary wrote: "Nice is an oasis on the edge of the sea, with forests of mimosas and palm trees and there are Russian and English princes who fight with flowers. There are clowns who dance in the streets and confetti falling from the sky which forget no one." Fifty years earlier Raoul Dufy's painting of the city described a similar vision of vibrancy and excitement.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francis Picabia, Les deux masques, 1938. Estimate €100,000–150,000.
    After his Transparences, which reflected the confused feelings of that particular period, Picabia committed himself to the Dimensionism movement. Intrigued by the new concepts of space-time derived from Einstein's theories, Dimensionism aspired to the advent of an absolutely new art: an art where the four dimensions of space incorporate the frame of the painting.

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