Matisse, Léger, Monet, Magritte, Chagall and More Impressionist & Modern Art Masterworks

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Exciting works by provocative Surrealist René Magritte, an iconic Matisse subject, an emotionally-charged Chagall and much more highlight the upcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening and Day sales in New York. Click ahead for an early look at some of the premier works from the sales before they go on view from 2–11 November. – Josefina Wollak

Matisse, Léger, Monet, Magritte, Chagall and More Impressionist & Modern Art Masterworks

  • Claude Monet, Bouquet de glaïeuls, lis et marguerites. Estimate $7,000,000–10,000,000
    As a founding member of the Impressionist movement Monet studied the effects of light and shadow, which can be keenly observed in his floral still lifes. The present work is among a group of approximately fifteen floral still-lifes Monet painted between 1878 and 1880. Here, the outlines of the flowers are softened and the background and tabletop are given texture through his application of diverse brushstrokes and tonal variety. Monet famously was known for depicting nature and was quoted saying "I perhaps owe it to flowers for having become a painter" (P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 178).
  • Claude Monet, La Falaise d’Amont. Estimate $3,000,000–4,500,000
    Monet’s desire to depict marine scenes led to a three month sojourn to Etretat, a popular resort beach town with a picturesque beach side town. During his stay at Etretat Monet painted the cliffs from various angles and in different atmospheric conditions. In La Falaise d’Amont, Monet chose to exclude the town and focus on the well-known cliff line. The scene is at once dramatic and soft. The stark line of the cliff with the ocean eating away at it is softened by the colors and haze like effect.
  • Fernand Léger, Composition. Estimate $800,000–1,200,000
    Leger’s work evolved through the decades; at times his work can be described as cubist, figurative, populist and even abstract. Throughout his ever changing production he was influenced by a wide range of artists and styles which he observed and processed eventually creating his own, very distinct approach that is easily recognizable. Composition expresses his characteristic style which he achieved after assimilating the various movements which includes the repeated use of primary colors, bold forms and graphic patterns. The primary colors used in this painting were meant to represent his anxiety with modern life and the surge of technology.
  • Marc Chagall, Les Fruits enchantés. Estimate $1,800,000–2,500,000
    Over a long and productive career, Chagall maintained a figurative painting style imbued with Cubist and fauvist influences. Born in Russia, Chagall later moved to Paris and the USA. This work was produced during his years in the United States during World War II. From the very beginning Chagall liked to employ unusual colors and whimsical designs although his palette became more somber and dark after the sudden death of his wife Bella at age 52. Painting was deeply emotional for Chagall and he channeled his despair at his wife’s death into his works by paying her tribute in the form of long tapered candles, bouquets of flowers, baskets of fruit and canvases deeply saturated with passionate reds as can be seen in this painting.
  • Henri Matisse, Nu au peignoir. Estimate $4,000,000–6,000,000
    Matisse frequently returned throughout his life’s work to the subject of a lounging nude model, with the present work being exemplary of his focus on the supple curves of the female form. Increasingly, however, Matisse moved towards depicting his model clothed in decorative costumes – striped Persian gowns, elaborate dresses, embroidered blouses. The series grew to become a group of paintings showing the model in different variations of similar or different poses and composition. The present work encapsulates this new direction of his art, with its sharp tonal color contrasts and confident, linear clarity.
  • James Ensor, Les Ballerines (La Danse). Estimate $700,000–1,000,000
    Educated in the traditional manner, James Ensor quickly deviated from the conventional path and developed a new style. He was a key figure in the Belgian avant-garde movement of the 19th century whose style was meant to express his perception of modern life. His work is cynical and mocking, reflecting the stresses of life. He did not use one-point perspective to organize his work; rather he painted patches of color throughout the canvas as can be seen in this work. The effect of the colored patches leaves the canvas crowded which demonstrates Ensor’s unease with modern times.
  • René Magritte, Le Principe du plaisir. Estimate $15,000,000–20,000,000
    Le Principe du plaisir (The Pleasure principle), painted in 1937, exemplifies Magritte’s most common and important themes such as a visual and cerebral paradox, an alteration of the familiar, and the tension between the visible and the hidden. The painting is a portrait of Edward James, an English heir to an American railroad fortune turned eccentric poet and influential patron of Surrealist art. The work demonstrates Magritte’s interest with what is hidden in our visual reality. Magritte relates that, “Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” (quoted in D. Sylvester, Magritte: The Silence of the World, 1992, New York, p. 24).
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Mer à Bordighera. Estimate $1,200,000–1,800,000
    Renoir first visited the town of Bordighera, an Italian fishing village on the Mediterranean coast with Monet in 1883. Renoir was particularly stricken with the colors he witnessed which can be seen in his strong color palette in this painting. Renoir returned to the area four years later as he had thought the town so beautiful. Renoir wrote a letter to Paul Bérard, "What lovely landscapes, with distant horizons and the most beautiful colors. The delicacies of hue are extraordinary, alas, our poor palette can't match up to it" (quoted in J. House, Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 239).
  • Max Ernst, La Parisienne. Estimate $600,000–800,000.
    Max Ernst was diverse and adaptable artist. He was a sculptor, painter and poet and played a key role in both Dadaism and Surrealism. He participated in the war which left him with a deep feeling that the world was an irrational place; a concept which he explored in depth in his works. La Parisienne is deeply introspective and delves into the unconscious world. Ernst was one of the first artist’s to imbue his artwork with the dream theories of Sigmund Freud. The head in this sculpture appears as a vessel of speech with a large opening for the mouth and a small amount of space left for the brain. Ernst appears to be criticizing the unthinking society.
  • Pablo Picasso, Le Peintre et son modèle. Estimate $1,400,000–1,800,000
    Le Peintre et son modèle is a study of the relationship between the painter and the model and further, it represents Picasso’s view of the relationship between men and women. The painter and model became a subject which Picasso re-visited multiple times in the later years of his career. Throughout his many years painting he had depicted models so often that his interest now shifted and he chose to focus on the act of painting itself. Interestingly, throughout Le Peintre et son modèle series Picasso always depicted the model on the right and himself on the left hand side of the painting.
  • René Magritte, L'Incendie. Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000
    L'Incendie is a fantastic example of Magritte’s take on surrealism. Magritte’s whimsical ideas are present here in this painting of trees depicted in Magritte’s characteristic twist. As shown in this work his style is often illustrative and very clear and yet leaves the viewer with a vaguely unsettling impression. Magritte was fond of raising questions and leaving them unanswered. Are we viewing trees or leaves; is it day or night? The ambiguous tree leaves first appeared in 1935 in La Géante and continued to make appearances in his later works. Not even nature is safe from Magritte’s mutation of objects and meaning.
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