The $157-Million Modigliani, and More Top Impressionist & Modern Prices in 2018

London & New York | 2018
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2018 was a momentous year for Impressionist & Modern Art which achieved the highest price ever for a work of art at Sotheby’s. Memorable works by René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and many others drove remarkable prices. Take a look back with us at some of the year’s most spectacular results.

The $157-Million Modigliani, and More Top Impressionist & Modern Prices in 2018

  • Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917. Sold for $157,159,000.
    Achieving a remarkable $157.2 million, the highest price ever achieved for a work of art at Sotheby’s, Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché is the largest painting Modigliani every painted, and the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas. The sitter looks confidently back over her right shoulder, the slope of her profile echoing the negative space along the edges of her torso. Combined with the figures’ richly modulated flesh tones and dark-hued background, Nu couché, delivers a uniquely modern vision of the greatest subject in Western Art. What Modigliani captured was essential in that it captures the being or the essence of the nude.
  • Pablo Picasso, Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter), 1937. Sold for $62,537,338.
    Picasso’s portraits of women – his muses – represent the most consistently innovative and expressive body of work in twentieth century art. From the cubist portraits of Fernande Olivier or neo-classical depictions of Olga Khokhlova, to the acclaimed 1930s paintings of Marie-Thérèse and the final great works depicting Jacqueline Roque, the women of Picasso’s life are the fulcrum of his creative genius. The formal experimentation and emotional intensity that characterise his most celebrated portraits of women are embodied in Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) .
  • Pablo Picasso, Le Repos, 1932. Sold for $36,920,500.
    Le Repos is a stunning and intimate depiction of Picasso’s "golden muse," Marie-Thérèse Walter, and is among the most iconic images of his oeuvre. Picasso's sensual paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse reign supreme as the emblems of love, sex and desire in twentieth-century art. It was in a series of paintings executed in 1932 that the artist introduced the young woman as an extraordinary new presence in both his life and his art. The present work depicts the serene model asleep, her head in Grecian profile, resting on her forearm and interlaced fingers and is one in a series of defining paintings of this period.
  • Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant), 1932. Sold for $34,291,228.
    Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) is a portrait of Picasso’s ‘golden muse’, Marie-Thérèse Walter, dating from the pivotal year of 1932 when he announced her as an extraordinary presence in his life and art. The paintings of 1932 have long been celebrated within Picasso’s œuvre. They document a crucial year for the artist, marking the fullest blossoming of his love for Marie-Thérèse as well as a series of important artistic and professional developments. A work such as Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) adds a new voice to this story, articulating a further nuance of Picasso’s relationship with his muse and providing a touching glimpse of one of art history’s most legendary romances.
  • René Magritte, Le Principe du plaisir, 1937. Sold for $26,830,500.
    Le Principe du plaisir (The Pleasure Principle) , painted in 1937, showcases several enduring and recognizable themes from Magritte’s oeuvre: visual and cerebral paradox, an uncanny 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. Le Principe du plaisir exemplifies Magritte’s interest with what is hidden in our visual reality.
  • Egon Schiele, Dämmernde Stadt (Die kleine Stadt II), 1913. Sold for $24,572,500.
    Dämmernde Stadt (Die kleine Stadt II) is one of the preeminent Schiele townscapes still in private hands. Conceived on an impressive scale and illustrating Schiele’s visionary approach to subject and form, these townscapes are now principally found in leading museum collections across the globe. The visionary scope of Schiele’s large-scale townscapes is undeniable. Painted between 1913 and 1917 they reveal the artist at the height of his power, experimenting with composition and form and clarifying his own distinctive artistic vision. Dämmernde Stadt was first acquired by Hubert Jung, a Viennese architect who purchased the work through Gustav Klimt. In 1928, Elsa Koditschek acquired this canvas at the Hagenbund, the nexus for contemporary art in Vienna until its dissolution in 1938 after the Nazis assumed power in Austria. The Nazis' ascent forced Elsa Koditschek into hiding, her home confiscated by an S.S. officer's family and her most prized possession, Egon Schiele's Dämmernde Stadt, sold by her former tenant.
  • Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation auf Mahagoni, 1910. Sold for $24,233,800.
    Improvisation auf Mahagoni (Improvisation on Mahogany) of 1910 is a powerful and eloquent expression of Wassily Kandinsky's journey toward abstraction. The composition achieves an exquisite balance between color and form, displaying a joyous assembly of purple, blue, red and yellow tones applied in sweeping shapes and staccato brushstrokes. This ground-breaking work represents Kandinsky’s achievement of a nearly entirely abstract idiom which he conceived in 1909-10 alongside the completion of his text On the Spiritual in Art.
  • Pablo Picasso, Le Matador, 1970. Sold for $22,946,711.
    Painted on 23rd October 1970, the present oil is the last matador work in a series Picasso started in late September of that year, and is a culmination of a life-long obsession with the theme. Unlike his other depictions of the matador from this period (fig. 3), in which the figure is depicted against a plain, monochrome background, the present work is unique for combining the image of the matador with that of the arena. Combining the complexity of the theme, loaded with personal and art historical references, with the freedom and spontaneity of execution, Le Matador belongs to an important series of late paintings.
  • Wassily Kandinsky, Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht, 1913. Sold for $22,879,000.
    Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht (On the Theme of the Last Judgment) exemplifies the transformative capability of color emphasized in Wassily Kandinsky’s 1911 manifesto, and is one of the earliest examples of entirely non-objective art. The work exemplifies Kandinsky’s quest of abstraction and achieves and balance between color and form to display a joyous assembly of primary colors applied in fluid brushstrokes and sweeping forms.
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das Soldatenbad, 1915. Sold for $21,975,800.
    Painted in 1915, immediately following Kirchner’s release from military service, Das Soldatenbad is one of the greatest painted representations of the psychological realities of war. Executed in his fully developed Expressionist pictorial style, Das Soldatenbad daringly explores the anxieties occasioned by modernization in the early twentieth century, while continuing to develop his preoccupation with the human body held since his earliest days as a member of Die Brücke. As one of the few depictions Kirchner made to document his experience during his brief time as an artilleryman Das Soldatenbad has been widely exhibited and included in numerous publications to discuss this crucial episode. Following his breakdown which directly resulted from this experience, Kirchner never fully recovered. His life was overshadowed by mental crisis, feelings of isolation, despair and poor health. Retreating to the mountains of Switzerland, Kirchner would eventually commit suicide in 1938, as the specter of yet another world war loomed over Europe.
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