London Auction of 19th Century European Paintings

Sotheby’s auction of 19th century European Paintings on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 will bring together some 184 works by artists from no fewer than 17 countries: among them the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary and Poland. Among the distinct categories of works to be offered will be a strong contingent of Spanish, Scandinavian, and Orientalist works, alongside some a significant number of recently restituted works, each with a fascinating story to tell.

Santiago RusiñolTextile magnate Julius Freund (1970-1941) and his wife were voracious collectors of German Romantic art. In 1933, they fled Berlin for Winterthur in Switzerland, taking much of their legendary collection with them. In 1939, however, they fled again – this time to Cumbria in England – leaving their collection behind. In 1942, their collection was dispersed in a forced sale, held at the Galerie Theodor Fischer in Lucerne. Two of the works offered in that sale have recently found their way back to the heirs of Julius Freund, and will now reemerge onto the market for the first time in 67 years. Karl Blechen’s Schlafender Faun (est: £25,000-35,000/€27,500-38,500) was acquired at the 1942 sale by the Deutshe Reich. After the fall of the Reich, the work was put on loan with the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, where it hung until earlier this year. Also by Blechen, M?ller im Tall (Mill in a Valley) (est: £12,000-18,000/€13,200-19,800) was at one point acquired by art enthusiast and Nazi official Hermann Göring. He gave the painting (illustrated above) to his F?hrer, ostensibly for the latter’s projected F?hrermuseum at Linz – but that project never came to fruition, and the painting was eventually recovered by the Allies from the Altaussee salt mines in Austria and sent to the Munich Central Collecting Point.

Also recently restituted is Umgest?rzter Teekessel by Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905). This rare and highly original work once belonged to art dealer Walter Westfeld. Westfeld perished in Auschwitz and the work, together with others from his collection was confiscated by the authorities in November 1938. The painting subsequently changed hands a number of times, and in 2004 was acquired – in good faith – by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Following a settlement between the heirs of Walter Westfeld and the Ministerium fur Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst, Baden-W?rttemberg, the painting now comes to sale with an estimate of £40,000-60,000.

Among the Symbolist works in the sale is a work that has very recently been restored to the heirs of Wilhelm (or Willy) Freund, son of the Viennese banker and art collector Dr Richard Freund (1892-1935). Medea an der Urne by German artist Anselm Feuerbach was “secured” by the Viennese municipal authorities on 10 December 1938. From then until earlier this year, the work hung in the Neue Galerie in der Stallburg (latterly the Belvedere) in Vienna. It now comes to auction with an estimate of £15,000-25,000.

Medea an der Urne is complemented in the sale by another major Symbolist work – Herkules bei Omphale (Hercules and Omphale) by Otto Greiner (1869-1916). One of the artist’s most accomplished works, Herkules bei Omphale is an exciting rediscovery, having been in a private collection since the early 1930s and not exhibited in public until now. It is estimated at £80,000-120,000.

Among the other categories of works to be offered in the sale is a strong contingent of Orientalist paintings. These include The Scholar, painted in 1890 by Ludwig Deutsch – one of the most revered Orientalists of the late 19th century. Deutsch devoted himself almost exclusively to Cairene subjects, masterfully capturing everyday life on the streets of Cairo with breath-taking virtuosity. His work The Scholar (est: £200,000-300,000, brilliantly demonstrates the artist’s keen eye for small gestures and individual expressions, bringing life and intimacy to what is otherwise a remarkably quiet and contemplative scene. Alfons Leopold Mielich (1863-1929) shared Deutsch’s fascination with Cairo. Rendered in characteristically rich colour and detail, his Carpet Merchant (est: £60,000-80,000) shows another, more busy, side of Cariene life. Mielich’s views of Cairo won him the admiration and patronage of Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who bought several of his paintings. In 1901, following international success, Mielich was sent by the Austrian Academy of Sciences on a mission to document western Arabia in pictures. Further Orientalist works in the sale include Adolf Schreyer’s The Charge¸ estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Among the Scandinavian works in the sale will be pieces by leading names such as Carl Larsson, Hélène Schjerfbeck, Odd Nerdrum and Johan Laurentz Jensen. These include Carl Larsson’s Spegelbild Med Brita (Mirror Image with Brita) – a deftly painted double portrait showing a relaxed, jocular Larsson with his fifth daughter Brita on his knee, sitting in the studio of the Larsson’s summer house at Sundborn (est: £400,000-600,000). Other Scandinavian works in the sale include Lunatics, by Odd Nerdrum – Norway’s foremost living figurative painter (est: £80,000-120,000); Little Gudrun by Finnish artist Hélène Schjerfbeck – whose prodigious talent, combined with her troubled life story, make for paintings, like this, full of tenderness and warmth (est £120,000-180,000); and Denmark’s Johan Laurentz Jensen, whose Exotic Blooms in a Grecian Urn with Fruit on a Marble Ledge has remained in the same private collection since the late 1970s, and comes to auction with an estimate of £40,000-60,000.

The Spanish section of this autumn’s sale brings together a choice selection of works by the leading exponents of the various movements that thrived at various points in the country towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Artists like Joaquín Sorolla, Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa, Santiago Rusiñol and Julio Romero de Torres, among others, travelled abroad and were influenced by the many artistic currents they came into contact and they developed their individual styles which were as rich as they were diverse in character.

Over the last decade, Sotheby’s has orchestrated the sale of all the most important works by Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) to have come to the market. November’s sale will include Barcas en la playa (Boats on the Shore) a luminous and breezy canvas that marries billowing sails and frolicking children – two of the most sought-after motifs in the oeuvre of Spain’s most critically acclaimed painter of the period. In the summer of 1909, painting on Valencia’s Malvarrosa beach, Sorolla was at once at the height of his powers and in his favourite place. He had full command of his painterly technique and was brimming with confidence following his first solo exhibition in New York, which brought him not only fame and fortune but the most desired commissions, such as the portrait of President Taft in The White House. This majestic and vibrant oil has remained in the same private collection since 1926 and now appears for the fist time at auction with an estimate of £800,000 – 1,200,000.

Among the works by Modernista movement founding member Santiago Rusiñol (1861 – 1931) in this sale is Soledad, which shows the artist’s fascination with the formal gardens of Spain. During his lifetime, Rusiñol travelled extensively throughout Spain and recorded the rich and enigmatic forms of the plants, borders, and arboretums he discovered in places such as Gerona, Barcelona, Valencia, Ibiza, Mallorca, Játiva, La Granja and Aranjuez. Painted at the Generalife gardens adjacent to the Alhambra in Granada, Soledad was one of the works in his critically-acclaimed exhibition Jardins d’Espagne in Paris in 1899. This canvas has been the same private collection since it was acquired in 1934 and is now up for auction with an estimate of £60,000 – 80,000 / €66,000 – 88,000.

Loge in the Concert-Hall by another Catalan Modernista artist, Hermenegildo Anglada-Camarasa (1871-1951), dates from his first extended stay in Paris, between 1897-1904, during which he developed and indulged his taste for the demi-mondaine lifestyle to be enjoyed in the city.. Though ostensibly society women, the shadowy, seductive presence of these female figures calls to mind the high-class courtesans who mingled with fashionable society. This elegant and provocative image of fin-de-siècle decadence from this highly desired period of the artist has been in a private French collection since 1909 and now comes fresh to the market at £120.000 – 180.000.

A strikingly different representation of women is Julio Romero de Torres’s La niña torera (The Torero Girl), an Andalusian beauty smouldering in a bullfighter’s outfit in the alley to the bull ring. Painted between 1928 and 1929, the detail of the costume shows the impact the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratis had on Córdoba’s best-known artist. Following half a century in a private collection it is offered with an estimate of £250,000 – 350,000. Other important artists of the period in the sale are Ignacio Zuloaga, Joven con Mantilla (Young Lady with Mantilla) (Est: £ 50,000 – 70,000); Darío de Regoyos, Rentería, las Peñas de Aya (Renteria and the Aya Mountains) (Est: £ 40,000 – 60,000); and José María Sert, with two panels –La Sardana and Els Castellers– each estimated at £60,000 – 80,000.

Image: Among the works by Modernista movement founding member Santiago Rusiñol (1861 – 1931) in this sale is Soledad. Photo: Sotheby’s

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