Christie’s London Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale 21 June

Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale will take place on Tuesday 21 June 2011 and will offer 92 lots with a pre-sale estimate of £115 million to £164 million*. Representing artistic movements from throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, and including works by many of the most celebrated artists of the time, the auction is highlighted by the estate of the late Ernst Beyeler, who is regarded as one of the greatest art dealers, collectors and curators of the 20th century. A further highlight is Jeune fille endormie by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) an intimate portrait of the artist’s lover Marie-Thérèse Walter dated 1936, which was was given to the University of Sydney by an anonymous donor in 2010 on condition that it would be sold and that the University would dedicate the proceeds to scientific research.

Leading the auction is the estate of Ernst Beyeler, the late Swiss legendary art dealer which includes artworks from the private home where he lived with his wife Hildy, as well as significant paintings and sculptures from the Galerie Beyeler. Highlights include Nymphéas, a great late painting by Claude Monet executed between 1914 and 1917 (illustrated right). Executed on a grand scale (59 x 78¾ in.; 150 x 200 cm.), this magnificent work is a precursor to the post-war abstractions of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and Sam Francis. It is expected to realize £17 million.

No major Beyeler exhibition was complete without a great Picasso, and so it is fitting that the auction will include the artist’s Buste de Françoise, a 1946 great colorist portrait of his lover Françoise Gilot, represented as the ‘femme fleur’ (estimate: £7 million to £10 million). Other masterpieces include Paul Gauguin’s Le Vallon, Tahiti of 1892 (estimate: £5.5 million to £8.5 million), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Miss May Belfort of 1895 (estimate: £1.8 million to £2.4 million), Pierre-August Renoir’s La source (Nu allongé) of 1902 (estimate: £4 million to £6 million), and Fernand Léger’s Le Drapeau of 1919 (estimate: £2.8 million to £4 million).

A smaller group of post-war and contemporary art masterpieces are also featured in the Beyeler estate. These include an impressive and extremely elegant Mobile executed by Alexander Calder in 1965 (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000), a 1965 seminal work by Mark Tobey entitled White and Rose (estimate: £70,000-100,000) and other important works by Kiefer, Tinguely, Baselitz and Vieira da Silva.

Another leading highlight of the auction is Jeune fille endormie, 1935, by Pablo Picasso (illustrated left). An intimate portrait of the artist’s lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, the subject many of Picasso’s most celebrated pictures, it is expected to realize £9 million to £12 million. Having resided in just two private collections since it was painted, Jeune fille endormie was given to the University of Sydney in 2010 by an anonymous donor on condition that it would be sold and that the University would dedicate the proceeds to scientific research. Jeune fille endormie was executed in 1935 and is a striking example from this celebrated series of portraits. Executed in bold, expressionist colours and brush strokes, it was originally acquired by Walter P Chrysler Jr soon after it was painted, and then changed hands just once before it was donated to Sydney University in 2010. It was shown at the celebrated Picasso retrospective at MoMA, New York, in 1939, which toured to Chicago, St Louis and Boston in 1940. It was then included in an exhibition of works from the Chrysler Collection in 1941, and has since been hidden from view in a private collection.

The auction will also offer a rarely-seen portrait of Dora Maar who became Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse at the expense of Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Painted in 1939 shortly after the outbreak of the 2nd World War, it has been unseen since it was exhibited at Galerie Beyeler in 1967 and is offered at auction having been acquired by the family of the vendor circa 1968. The painting originally belonged to Picasso’s dealer, Paul Rosenberg, but was confiscated in 1940 and was later to be sent to Germany. It was spared by the interception of the French Resistance in a famous event immortalized, albeit in fictional form, in the 1964 movie The Train, starring Burt Lancaster. Having been returned to Rosenberg, it was acquired by the Pittsburgh steel magnate George David Thompson, a much celebrated collector of 20th century art. In 1966 Ernst Beyeler purchased this work at the auction of the Thompson estate: a further proof of the taste and the commercial acumen of the Swiss dealer. It is expected to realize £4 million to £8 million.

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