Christie’s to Auction Collection Featuring Works by Renoir, Raffaeli, and Cassatt

As a highlight of the upcoming Spring auction season, Christie’s New York will present Property from the Collection of Raymond and Miriam Klein, a selection of exceptional fine art from the couple’s spectacular residence in historic Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Works from the collection will be featured in a series of major sales this Spring, including Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening and Day sales on May 4 and 5, and Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture on May 20.

Conor Jordan, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s New York, comments: “Visiting the Klein’s Rittenhouse Square residence was not unlike stepping into wonderfully-appointed small museum. The Kleins chose their artwork with care, passion and the true collector’s desire to acquire the best of the best. Over the years, they shared this magnificent collection with an ever-broadening circle of friends and fellow philanthropists who they so generously hosted at numerous fundraisers and society events in their home.”

Among the numerous charities and institutions the Kleins were involved with is Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Together, they founded the Raymond and Miriam Klein Community Center in Tel Giborim, Israel and the Raymond and Miriam Klein Jewish Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia. Miriam Klein passed away in July 2009 at the age of 93; her husband Raymond Klein died in 1995.

The Collection
The centerpiece of the Klein collection and a lead highlight of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on May 4 is Femme nue couchée, painted in 1903 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (estimate: $7-9 million). Measuring over five feet in length, the sumptuous portrait of a reclining nude is the first in a small series of reclining nudes Renoir worked on in the period from 1902-1907. The other two examples are now in the permanent collections of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Devotees of the artist’s work will instantly recognize the voluptuous young woman portrayed in the painting as Gabrielle Renard, the best-known of the models who appeared in Renoir’s later works. Here she is pictured virtually life-sized, with minimal intervening space in the foreground between the viewer and the tufted divan on which she reclines. Renoir’s tremendous mastery of the oil medium is apparent in the subtle tones and translucent layering of tints that evoke a youthful, healthy sheen to her form.

Also to be featured in the May 4 Evening Sale is Les buveurs d’absinthe (The Absinthe Drinkers), 1881 (estimate: $400,000-600,000), an early Impressionist masterwork by Jean-Francois Raffaelli (1850-1924) that is widely regarded as one of the artist’s most important and accomplished paintings. First exhibited alongside the works of his fellow Impressionists at the sixth group exhibition in 1881, the painting caused a stir for its stark, realistic depiction of two dejected-looking men from the fringes of polite society – a far cry from the more light-hearted pictorial motifs of his compatriots. The painting’s widespread adulation from critics earned Raffaelli instant fame as a renegade of the Impressionist movement, but also contributed to the growing rift within the group that led to its eventual dissolution in 1886.

Another collection highlight, Mary Cassatt’s Mother and Child (estimate: $1.5-2.5 million), will be featured as a highlight of Christie’s Important American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture sale on May 20. A superb example of Cassatt’s mastery of the pastel medium, Mother and Child warmly conveys the maternal bond between a young mother and the nursing child that she cradles protectively in her lap. The work is reflective of the artist’s mature style, when her emphasis began to shift from the public to the private domains of women’s lives. Works from this era, Mother and Child included, were met with great acclaim from critics and dealers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Additional highlights from the Impressionist and Modern Art Day sale on May 5 include a number of significant paintings and sculptures, including Maurice Utrillo’s Le Lapin agile, painted circa 1914 (estimate: $150,000-250,000), Maurice Vlaminck’s Hotel du Centre (estimate: $50,000-70,000) and Reuven Rubin’s Harvest Time (Landscape with Fruit Pickers), executed in 1968 (estimate: $30,000-40,000). A sculptural highlight of the sale is a bronze bust of man, Untitled (Buste de homme), that is jointly credited to Renoir and his assistant Richard Guino (estimate: $25,000-35,000). The striking figure, finished in a black patina, was among the final works conceived in the years before Renoir’s death in 1918.