New York City.- Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 3 May 2011 in New York will offer an impressive range of paintings and sculpture from across the period. A spectacular group of 10 paintings by Pablo Picasso will be led by “Femmes lisant (Deux personnages)”, a striking portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter from 1934 (est. $25/35 million*). Impressionist, Expressionist and Surrealist paintings and sculpture will feature works by iconic artists including Paul Gauguin, Alexej von Jawlensky, Claude Monet and René Magritte, among many others.
Works from both the Evening and Day Sales will be on view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 29 April, alongside highlights from the Contemporary Art Evening Auction. The May sale will offer an impressive group of ten paintings by Pablo Picasso that span the artist’s long career. The canvases date from 1901 to 1970, offering a truly encyclopedic tour of his life, work and the women who inspired him: Blue Period, Neo-Classical, Surrealist and late works are all represented, as are depictions of Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Jacqueline, and his daughter Paloma. Since the turn of the 21st century, Picasso has come to dominate the fine art market unequivocally, and his works have been the top lot of 5 of the past 7 seasons.
The auction will be led by Picasso’s “Femmes lisant (Deux personnages)” from 1934, a striking portrayal of Marie-Thérèse Walter–the artist’s beloved mistress during the 1930s–reading with her sister (est. $25/35 million). These legendary pictures are renowned as Picasso’s most euphoric, sexually-charged and inspired compositions, and they rank among the most instantly recognizable works of 20th century art. “Femmes lisant” is among the most monumental of these pictures, created when Marie-Thérèse was firmly at the center of Picasso’s artistic universe. The work was last on the market in 1981, when it was acquired by the current owner. “Couple à la Guitare” from 1970 is a monumental and poignant depiction of lovers, a dominant subject during the artist’s final years (est. $10/15 million). Painted when Picasso was 88, the male figure serenades his lover as his limbs intertwine with hers, underscoring the physical melding of the two bodies into one unified form. As is often the case in Picasso’s late work, the female figure is a reference to his wife Jacqueline, and the male figure to the artist himself. Picasso’s “Femme” from 1930 (est. $3/5 million) is among the most powerful images from a small series known as the “Bone” pictures, inspired by 16th century anatomical drawings. The painting is one of the most loaded compositions of Picasso’s Surrealist production: a terrifyingly fantastic evocation of his wife, Olga. By sharp contrast, “Fillette aux nattes et au chapeau vert” from 1956 is an intimate and tender portrait of Picasso’s daughter, Paloma, painted when she was seven years old and the artist was 74 (est. $3.5/5 million). Unlike his depictions of his son Paulo from the 1920s or daughter Maya from the 1930s, Picasso’s many aintings and drawings of Paloma and her older brother, Claude, from the 1950s reveal the easy familiarity he shared with his two youngest children.
The auction will be highlighted by works from four of the most iconic names in Impressionist art: Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro. Painted in 1877, Monet’s “La Seine à Argenteuil” depicts the promenade looking downstream from the bank of the river Seine (est. $6/8 million). Monet moved to Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris, in 1871, and lived there for the following six years. The present painting is unusual among those that Monet created during his time there, depicting a bath house on the promenade and a lavish flower garden. Manet’s handsome “Portrait de Monsieur Brun” dates from the height of the artist’s prodigious career (est. $4/6 million). The work is one of two renderings of Manet’s aristocratic friend, and has remained in Brun’s family since it was painted in 1880.
The Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale will feature a strong group of important sculptures, at a time when the market has demonstrated an exceptional demand for masterpieces in this medium. The works will be led by “Jeune tahitienne”, an exquisite sculpture carved during Paul Gauguin’s first trip to Tahiti between 1890 and 1893 (est. $10/15 million). As the only fullyworked bust portrait that Gauguin is known to have created, it is unique within the artist’s oeuvre and numbers among his finest sculptures in private hands. As in the artist’s greatest paintings, this serene young woman captures the mystery, allure and exoticism of the South Pacific. The history of “Jeune tahitienne” is equally exquisite: months after returning to Paris in 1894, Gauguin presented this sculpture to Jeanne Fournier, the 10-year-old daughter of critic and collector Jean Dolent, having promised to bring her a gift from the tropics. In 1961, Fournier entrusted its sale to Father Celas Rzewuski, a member of the Dominican Order, who in turn consigned it to Sotheby’s in London, where it was purchased by the present owner.
The sculpture on offer is also highlighted by works from Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Jean Arp and Rembrandt Bugatti. Two models related to Rodin’s monumental “Gates of Hell” and cast within the artist’s lifetime include “Eve”, one of the most memorable renderings of the Creation story (est. $3/5 million), and “Le Penseur” (est. $1.5/2 million). “Le Penseur (The Thinker)” was originally intended to represent Dante and crown the “Gates of Hell”, but soon took on an independent life, ultimately becoming perhaps the most celebrated sculpture of all time. Conceived in 1956 at the height of Alberto Giacometti’s international acclaim, “Femme debout” is related to the series of the artist’s “Femmes de Venise” that made their debut at the Venice Biennale the following year (est. $2/3 million). After his success at the Biennale, Giacometti continued to develop the theme of standing female figure, which became one of the most important motifs of his art. “Diego, tête sur socle cubique” is an iconic rendering of Giacometti’s younger brother Diego, the artist’s most important model (est. $900,000/1.2 million).
Pulsating with vibrant color and rich, painterly detail, the extraordinary “Frau mit grünem Fächer (Woman with a green fan)” exemplifies Alexej von Jawlensky’s talents as a key figure in the Expressionist movement (est. $8/12 million). The composition dates from 1912, at the height of the artist’s involvement with the Blaue Reiter group, and is a distillation of the stylistic concerns that preoccupied the German avant-garde during the early 20th century. The model for Frau mit grünem Fächer was the artist’s wife Helene, although Jawlensky preferred to render his portraits anonymous so that he could objectively express the emotive impact of color. The work is on offer from an important private collection, where it has hung since the 1970s, and remains in exquisite condition.
Following the success of Salvador Dalí’s “Portrait de Paul Éluard”, which set a record for any Surrealist work at auction when it sold for $21.7 million at Sotheby’s London in February of this year, the New York sale will offer works by top Surrealist artists. The group is led by René Magritte’s “Quand l’heure sonnera”, which dates from the height of the Surrealist movement in the 1930s and belongs to the artist’s iconic series of works that challenge the viewer’s understanding of the world through the pairing of two distinct elements–in this case, a female plaster torso and a hot air balloon (est. $5/7.5 million). Additional highlights include Paul Delvaux’s spectacular “Les Cariatides” from 1946, which ranks among the most celebrated and widely-known compositions of his career (est. $3/5 million), as well as Salvador Dalí’s extraordinary portrait “Helena Rubinstein” (est. $1/1.5 million). The riveting depiction of the legendary cosmetics industrialist is among the artist’s most accomplished portraits.