Christie’s to Auction Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper

. October 31, 2009

Christie’s New York is pleased to present an exceptional line-up of offerings from the leading masters of the Impressionist and Modern periods in its upcoming Works on Paper and Day sales on November 4. Offering a combined 234 works in total, this season features an expanded selection of works on paper from a number of superb private collections, including the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse, the Estate of Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr., and the Collection of Mr. And Mrs. Montgomery Fisher, among others. The combined sales are expected to achieve in excess of $20 million.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), “Compotier de fruits·, signed ‘Renoir.’ (lower right), Oil on canvas, 12¾ x 14½ in. (32.4 x 36.8 cm.) Painted circa 1890. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2009

Works on Paper Sale
Leading the morning sale of Works on Paper is “Der neue Mensch”, 1921 (estimate: $300,000-500,000) by George Grosz (1883-1959), an important work from a remarkable but short-lived series that the artist referred to as “my new pictures”. Layered within these works is Grosz’ response to the social and political upheaval of the post-World War I years in the fledgling Weimar Republic when, as a member of the communist party, he attempted to formulate a new expression for his utopian ideals. His “New Man” of the painting’s title is a robotic figure engaged in the design of a piston-driven, engine-like machine of the future – a pictorial concept that echoes the machine paintings of his contemporaries, including Fernand Léger and Francis Picabia. For Grosz, this series of idealized and nearly abstract paintings from 1920-22 were unique in his oeuvre, and remain exceedingly rare on the international auction market.

Also highlighting the morning’s sale is a select group of works on paper by Henri Matisse, Balthus, Victor Brauner and Yves Tanguy from the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse, grandson of Henri Matisse (1869-1954). The works come from an extraordinary collection Pierre-Noël Matisse inherited from his father, the prominent art dealer Pierre Matisse, and his mother Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp, who later married the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. Among the exceptional drawings by Henri Matisse in the group is “Odalisque etendue II” of 1927, an outstanding example of the artist’s skill in draughtmanship (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Here, Matisse employs a combination of pure, unadorned line and cross-hatching to portray his model in sumptuous style, lounging against a striped cushion and Turkish rug in a room ornamented with patterned wallhangings.

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) remains one of the most sought-after artists for collectors of works on paper. This season, Christie’s is pleased to offer two works by Schiele from the distinguished Serge and Vally Sabarsky Collection, “Sitzender Akt mit roten Strümpfen” from 1910 (estimate: $250,000-350,000) and “Liegender männlicher Akt” from 1911 (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Rounding out the selection of Modern highlights is “Air, fer et eau, étude”, a lyrical work by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) that encapsulates the energy and innovative spirit of a rapidly modernizing Paris in the 1930s (estimate: $200,000-300,000); and “Hommage à Alphonse Allais” by René Magritte (1898-1967), a humorous play on the proverbial notion of a “fish out of water” that the artist created in tribute to the French writer and humorist Allais (estimate: $300,000-500,000).

Day Sale
Leading the Day Sale is “L’amore del mondo” by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), one of the great paintings in a series of metaphysical works by the artist (estimate: $500,000-700,000). Painted in 1960, it is a re-working of an earlier painting entitled “Le mauvais génie d’un roi” that is now in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The two paintings are identical save for the addition of a half-hidden mannequin at the left of “L’amore del mondo”, a faceless figure de Chirico referred to as “the troubadour”. This figural motif would later become an important hallmark of de Chirico’s compositions. Here, the troubador inhabits a tilted plane of buildings, spheres and cylindrical objects with unknown meaning – an arrangement that suggests an alternate reality informed by the artist’s subconscious mind.

Among the Impressionist highlights of the Day sale is a selection of eight paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) including a sketch or esquisse for Renoir’s J”ugement de Paris” (estimate: $400,000-600,000) and a lush still life from circa 1890 entitled “Compotier de fruits” (estimate: $250,000-350,000). From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery Fisher comes a trio of intimate Renoir paintings not seen on the market for over 25 years: “Femme en blouse blanche” of 1907 (estimate: $200,000-300,000), “Portrait de Georges Rivière” painted in Cagnes in 1909 (estimate: $100,000-150,000), and “Pommes”, a vibrant, closely-cropped still life painted in 1919 (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Rounding out the selection of Modern highlights is “Berglandschaft mit Häusern” by Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941), also from the Serge and Vally Sabarsky Collection. Painted in 1912, this luminous depiction of a Bavarian village encapsulates Jawlensky’s bold technique of using intense swathes of pure color to create a compelling visual environment that hovers halfway between figuration and abstraction (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Elsewhere in the sale is “Sous la lampe” by Juan Gris (1887-1927), a glowing lamp-lit still life painted in 1925 during a period of intense productivity that pre-dated the artist’s final tragic illness and death in 1927 at age forty (estimate: $300,000-500,000).

Sculpture Highlights
Christie’s is pleased to present over 30 individual sculptural works in the Day sale, led by the haunting late-period bronze “Tête et oiseau” by Joan Miró (1893-1983) which synthesizes the best elements of his long career as a visual artist, from the playful risk-taking style of the Surrealist 1930s to the monumental works of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Constructed of found objects assembled into a bird like form that stands four and a half feet high, “Tête et oiseau” (estimate: $500,000-700,000) was conceived in 1981 and cast before the artist’s death in 1983.

Similarly, Matisse’s “Vénus accroupie ou Michel-Ange” (estimate: $70,000-100,000), is a lifetime cast, conceived in 1918-1919 and cast three years before the artist’s death. The sculpture boasts a pristine provenance, having descended directly through the Matisse family to the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse. Elsewhere in the sale is “Makutu” by Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), a trademark “pierced” bronze sculpture that both emphasizes and challenges the underlying solidity of the medium (estimate: $200,000-300,000). The curious title of the work is derived from Maori, the native language of New Zealand, the inspiration for several titles of Hepworth’s later sculptures. Here, Makutu is translated to mean “spell” or incantation.

Category: Auction News

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