Works on Paper by Degas, Matisse, Van Gogh, Léger and More

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Highly personal and often extraordinarily illuminating in uncovering an artist’s process, works on paper sometimes show the hand of a master in a different light. Terrific examples abound in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening and Day Sales including works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas. Exhibitions are now on view in Sotheby’s newly-reimagined galleries in New York.

Works on Paper by Degas, Matisse, Van Gogh, Léger and More

  • Edgar Degas, Deux Danseuses, circa 1891. Estimate $3,000,000–5,000,000.
    Degas’ pastels offer a chance to see his draftsmanship at its finest; with his use of cross-hatching, shading, and smudging, the energy and attention he dedicated to each work is palpable. Degas continued to experiment and evolve his technique by working with several materials. The dancer motif began to take shape in several forms such as sculpting in wax, painting in oil, but above all, working with pastel.
  • Vincent van Gogh, Evening Landscape with Two Peasants, 1890. Estimate $3,000,000–5,000,000.
    While van Gogh’s letters are filled with discussion of canvases, colors, pigments and the like, a large portion of his artistic output during this time was works on paper. These ranged from small, quick sketches he would do in his notebook or in the margins of a letter to his brother (to fully explain a composition), to highly finished works done either just before or just after a canvas of the same subject matter. There was a third type of drawing—one which he saved for his largest sheets of paper and was a unique composition in its own right. These works were not a means to an end but rather fully worked sheets whose compositions were the final product for van Gogh.
  • Joan Miró, Femmes, Oiseau, Étoiles, 1942. Estimate $120,000–180,000.
    Writing of Miró’s production in 1942 and 1943, which consisted almost exclusively of works on paper, Jacques Dupin notes: “They are explorations undertaken with no preconceived idea – effervescent creations in which the artist perfected a vast repertory of forms, signs, and formulas, bringing into play all the materials and instruments compatible with paper. These works permit us to follow the alchemist at work, for errors and oversights are found side by side with the most unexpected triumphs and happy spontaneous discoveries."
  • Fernand Léger, Étude Pour "Les Constructeurs," 1952. Estimate $300,000–400,000.
    Léger’s series of gouaches and oils on the theme of construction workers is one of his best-known projects of the 1940s and early 1950s. The present study is taken from the upper section of the large-scale Les Constructeurs (1951) in the collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
  • Pablo Picasso, Deux Nus, 1920. Estimate $2,000,000–3,000,000.
    Picasso’s Neoclassical period has long been viewed as one the most surprising shifts in his artistic production. After the radical Demoiselles d’Avignon and the complete breakdown of form in Analytic and then Synthetic Cubism, this retaking of legible form after World War I owed as much to changes in Picasso’s personal life and travels as it did the rappelle à l’ordre or “return to order." Deux nus from 1920, a lush pastel of two female nudes, comes from this period of the re-taking of human form, though a subversive element against total definition is, as always in Picasso’s best and most enigmatic works, at play.
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Bar-Maid, 1898. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Portraiture played an important role in Toulouse-Lautrec’s oeuvre, and he approached his sitters with a keen psychological acuity. Freed from the necessity of seeking portrait commissions due to his family’s wealth, the artist rarely flattered or yielded too greatly to convention in his portraits. He also felt free to cross class boundaries, choosing between artists and performers, or the working class and his own social circle of friends and family members. His interest in the complex nature of each sitter’s personality naturally led him toward the habit of executing multiple renderings of favored models.
  • Henry Moore, Shelter Drawing, 1941. Estimate $350,000–500,000.
    Executed in 1940 and 1941, Moore’s series of Shelter Drawings rank among the most poignant works created in Britain during World War II. The siege-like nature of the war, and the German bombing raids in particular, meant that the effects of the war were acutely felt by the general populace, away from battlefields. Much of the most successful art produced during this period dealt with the effect of the conflict on ordinary Britons; the present Shelter Drawing is not only a moving example of such art but also a powerful document of this turbulent era.
  • Edgar Degas, Danseuses à la barre, circa 1883-85. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    Far from traditional portraits or voyeuristic studies, Degas' dancers are in a canon of their own. Generally depicted away from the stage during informal moments, the dancers are often portrayed in contorted postures or from an unexpected vantage point. Degas firmly objected the classification as "the painter of dancing girls", explaining that his chief interest lay in rendering the dancer's movements rather than the women themselves, irregardless of whether they were elegantly poised or precariously balanced.
  • Gino Severini, Joueur de guitare dans un cabaret parisien, 1913. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Gino Severini moved to Paris in November 1906, and by 1908 had firmly established himself as the French outpost of the Italian Futurist movement. Declaring war on the past, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and other proponents were among those who celebrated the energy and activity of modern technology and industry in their work. Central to this was their understanding of action as dynamic movement. Initially realized through the depiction of cars, trains and airplanes, this concept came to further encompass the idea of the movement – or dynamism – within an object.
  • Egon Schiele, Stehender Akt (Standing Female Nude), 1913. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    Executed in 1913, the present work is a striking example of Egon Schiele's nudes, which characterize the early Expressionist period of his career and display his bold experimentation and innovation. Schiele explored the human figure in depth, creating highly charged compositions by depicting his subjects in variously contorted postures and exaggerating their physical features. Stehender Akt (Standing Female Nude) demonstrates the artist's skill as a draftsman and his obsession with the sensuous quality of the human form. Delineated in sharp contours of black pencil, the figure appears caught off guard by the viewer's gaze, her left arm shielding her breasts in a protective posture and her lack of facial features projecting a sense of anonymity.
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