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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Sotheby’s Russian Art Exhibition in Moscow

Sotheby’s has announced that it will exhibit highlights from its forthcoming June Sales in London of Russian Art and Impressionist & Modern Art at The State Historical Museum on Red Square in Moscow from Wednesday, May 19 to Friday, May 21, 2010. The exhibition will feature 15 important and rare paintings by some of Russia’s greatest artists, including Yuri Annenkov, Alexander Yakovlev, Ivan Shishkin and Marie Vassilieff, 32 exceptional Fabergé objects, and five outstanding works of Impressionist & Modern art by leading names such as André Derain, Chaïm Soutine, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard.

Commenting on the exhibition, Mark Poltimore, Chairman Sotheby’s CIS, said: “Sotheby’s London auctions in June of Russian Art and Impressionist & Modern Art will bring to the market some truly remarkable works and we are delighted to be in Moscow exhibiting a selection of these exceptional pieces. Highlighting the preview will be Portrait of Zinovii Grzhebin by Yuri Annenkov, which is undoubtedly one of the most important works by the artist ever to appear on the international scene, and Arbres à Collioure by the great fauve artist André Derain, which is among the most striking works by the artist ever to come to the market. These paintings are just a taster of the many rare and important works that will be on view during the exhibition, which has been generously supported by Credit Suisse and Beluga Vodka to whom we are very grateful and extend our thanks.”

Russian Art Sales Series in London, June, 2010
Discussing the June sales of Russian Art, Jo Vickery, Senior Director and Head of the Russian Art Department in London, commented: “In selecting works for sale this series, good provenance has played an extremely important role in the process – a large proportion of the works come from families who either have familial links, personal connections or anecdotal associations with the artist who painted the work for sale. In assembling these auctions we have also focused on the early-20th century period, which is particularly popular today with Russian collectors, and important Fabergé objects – an area of the market that is currently enjoying unprecedented growth. Many of the works presented for sale, particularly in the Russian Art Evening Sale, are on the market for the first time and several are even new discoveries.”

Sotheby’s forthcoming Russian Art Sales series in London will take place on Monday, June 7, 2010 and Wednesday, June 9, 2010, and will include important 19th and 20th century paintings, works of art, Fabergé, icons and contemporary Russian art. Highlighting the Russian paintings will be Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin’s (1832-1898) oil on canvas The Dark Wood, dated 1876, which depicts a thick deciduous forest and a woodland stream running off into its depths. The painting, which measures 108 by 167.9cm, is a perfect demonstration of the artist’s talent: his handling of a complex composition; the variety of colour in the expanse of green; the expressive use of light; his extensive knowledge of the different types of trees, grasses and flowers, and their skilful depiction; as well as his ability to tell the story of the life of the wood as a living organism. By the time Shishkin came to paint this masterpiece, he had already graduated with a gold medal from the Imperial Academy of the Arts and returned from a tour of Europe, during which he had worked in Germany and Switzerland. A number of canvases by Shishkin share the title Dark Wood, but it seems likely that this painting was the version shown at the Fifth Exhibition of the Wanderers, which opened at the Imperial Academy of the Sciences on March 12, 1876. It is estimated at £1-1.5 million / $1,540,000 – 2,310,000.

Titi And Naranghe, Daughters Of Chief Eki Bondo by Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev (1887-1938), comes from a private French collection and was originally owned by Georges-Marie Haardt, Director General of the car manufacturer Citroën. The piece forms part of the body of work which Yakovlev produced in his role as chief artist of the Croisière Noire, André Citroën’s motorized expedition across the African continent, which took place from October 1924 to June 1925. In April 1925, Yakovlev and Haardt visited the village of Chief Eki Bondo in Niangara (located in Haut-Zaire in the modern Democratic Republic of Congo) and Yakovlev sketched the chief’s extended family. The work was executed by the artist in 1926 and is estimated at £700,000-900,000 / $1,080,000-1,390,000.

From a private French collection, Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov’s (1889-1974) oil on canvas Portrait of Zinovii Grzhebin, dated 1919, is a striking example of the artist’s distinctive style and is undoubtedly one of the most important works by Annenkov ever to appear on the international market. Painter, draughtsman and designer for both stage and screen, the artist belonged to an extraordinary generation of the Russian avant-garde. It is his portraits of key figures of the post-revolutionary period that contribute most significantly to his artistic legacy (among others his sitters include Lenin, Akhmatova, Blok and the photographer Miron Sherling). The Futurist requirement to convey energy and movement is an important component in Annenkov’s portraits and his allusion to the profession of his subject – Zinovii Grzhebin (1877—1929) – in the painting is characteristic. Grzhebin was an eminent editor who played a vital role in the intellectual life of Russia in the early-20th century. An eclectic personality, he understood the importance of his role in society and exasperated by the State’s efforts to regulate his activities, eventually moved to Berlin and then to Paris. Contemporaries of Annenkov’s saw the artist as a chronicler of the era, and in his portrait of this publisher, Annenkov truly fulfils his vocation. The painting is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000 / $1,240,000-1,850,000.

Marie Vassilieff’s (1884–1957) oil on canvas The Clown displays the artist’s profound appreciation of the repertoire of Braque, Léger and Picasso: the dislocated, superimposed forms, fragmentation of the clown’s clothes and face, alternation of light and dark with grey and ochre and Vassilieff’s use of repeating sculptural planes transforms this work into a veritable Cubist manifesto. Vassilieff emigrated to France in 1907, where she studied under Henri Matisse and attended classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1908 she founded the Académie russe, (renamed Académie Vassilieff the following year, and today the Musée de Montparnasse). For years, before and during World War I, she operated what was in effect a private club that acted as a cheap canteen for artists, including Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Pablo Picasso. By 1913, it was so widely-known that Fernand Léger gave two lectures there on Modern art. Although her principal teacher was Matisse, it was to Picasso that Vassilieff was indebted for her understanding of Cubism. In her treatment of colour, Vassilieff demonstrates her appreciation of the palettes both of her Russian peers and the Cubists. This rare and accomplished work, which patently draws upon the carnival and circus themes that inspired her contemporaries and exemplifies Vassilieff’s unique ability to convey an emotionally charged and multi-sensory experience, is estimated at £400,000-600,000 / $620,000-925,000.

Among the Russian Works of Art highlights to be exhibited is a rare Fabergé two colour enamel, silvergilt and seed pearl triptych clock and frame, workmaster Johan Victor Aarne, St Petersburg, 1899-1903, and is estimated at £400,000-600,000 / $620,000-925,000. Enamelled in mauve and Aarne’s signature colour apple green, the object is an especially fine example of Fabergé’s timepieces, combining luxury and function. It appears on the international market for the first time in decades.

A further Fabergé highlight is a ewelled and enamelled gold and hardstone flower study, St Petersburg, circa 1900, which was given by Queen Alexandra to her friend, Lady Iveagh. Fabergé flowers are among the most treasured objects produced by the firm’s workmasters and only approximately 80 flowers are thought to have been made. Queen Alexandra, having been introduced to them by her sister, Empress Maria Feodorovna, was one of the greatest collectors. In original Fabergé wood case, with note inscribed in ink: ‘Present from Queen Alexandra to 1st Lady Iveagh’, this object is estimated at £200,000-250,000/$308,000-

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, London, June 2010
Helena Newman, Vice-Chairman, Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department Worldwide, said: “There is a deep-rooted tradition of connoisseurship and collecting in Russia and it is a great pleasure, therefore, to be able to present some of the key works from our forthcoming London sale to such a discerning audience. Some of the greatest early collections of modern art, including works by Matisse, Picasso and Derain, were in Russia. We are glad to be showing major works by these same artists in Moscow now.”

Five key works from Sotheby’s forthcoming evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art, to be held in London on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 will also be exhibited in Moscow. Among them is Arbres à Collioure, one of the finest and most striking works by the great Fauve artist André Derain ever to come to auction (est: £9–14 million / US$14-21 million). Executed in 1905 in the coastal town of Collioure in the South of France, this painting not only marks the pinnacle of Derain’s Fauve style, it also represents a milestone in the development of 20th-century art. Discovered, together with a substantial group of other works, in a Paris bank vault in 1979, the painting was once part of the extraordinary holding of the legendary art dealer Ambroise Vollard – a man who was at the heart of the avant-garde artistic developments that were happening in Paris in the early 20th century. A further auction, to be held at Sotheby’s in Paris on June 29th, will be dedicated to other works discovered in the vault, and are now to be sold by Vollard’s legal beneficiaries.

Other highlights from the London sale include Le Valet de Chambre – a powerful and expressive portrait of a young man by Chaïm Soutine. Painted circa 1927-28, this is an iconic image of a young boy in a uniform, one of the main subjects of Soutine’s art. Once part of the celebrated collection of Californian collector Armand Hammer, it now comes to auction with an estimate of £7-9 million.

These works will be complemented by a monumental (130 by 89cm), boldly painted work by Pablo Picasso: Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil, of 1964 (est: £4-6 million). Depicting Jacqueline Roque, his last love and muse, whom he married in 1961, the picture returns to the charged theme of a woman seated in an armchair, which had fascinated Picasso throughout his career.

Also exhibited will be an alluring drawing by Henri Matisse. Depicting his nude model reclining in a twisted pose, her head turned towards the viewer, this beautiful charcoal drawing (est: £1.5-2.5 million) is a study for Matisse’s famous painting ‘Nu rose’, now in the Baltimore Museum of Art. It represents an early stage in the development of the painting, in which the artist’s sculptural preoccupations of the 1920s are more evident than in the final, more stylized composition.

Image: Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov’s (1889-1974) oil on canvas Portrait of Zinovii Grzhebin, dated 1919. Estimate: £800,000-1,200,000 / $1,240,000-1,850,000. Photo: Sotheby’s