Christie’s is pleased to announce complete details of its upcoming Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on 4 May 2011. Fifty-seven exceptional works representing the best and brightest in this collecting category comprise the sale, including paintings and sculpture by the great masters Claude Monet, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Pablo Picasso, and Giorgio de Chirico, among others. The sale is expected to achieve in excess of US$ 160 million.
Conor Jordan, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s New York, noted: “Color is the driving theme among our most-anticipated offerings this season – from the fiery oranges and reds of Vlaminck’s glorious landscape, to the cool blues and greens of Monet’s view of poplar trees curving along the river. Our recent London sales of Impressionist and Modern Art in February demonstrated that collector demand for top-quality works offered fresh to the market continues to reach new heights. We are pleased to present this exceptional line-up of important Impressionist and Modern art this season, including a number of significant works that are being released from private collections for the first time in generations.”
Among the most visually-arresting paintings in the sale is Paysage de banlieue (pictured page one), a true fauvist masterpiece by the celebrated French landscape painter Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958). Admired as the “wildest of the Fauves” (or “wild beasts” as they were dubbed by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles), Vlaminck was among the leaders of the movement dedicated to revolutionizing 20th century art through the use of pure, unmodulated color and expressive brushwork. Paysage de banlieue, painted in 1905, shows Vlaminck working at the height of his creative powers, with his classical training in form and composition melding seamlessly with his innovative approach to color and paint handling.
Last exhibited publicly in 1996 as part of a museum exhibition devoted to the Fauve movement, Paysage de banlieue was the top-selling work at Christie's New York Evening Sale in May 1994. Estimated at US$ 18-25 million, this remarkable view of Vlaminck’s small Parisian suburb of Chatou is returning to the market after nearly 20 years in prominent private collections and is poised to become one of the top-selling paintings at auction this season.
Picasso’s Homage to Delacroix – Les femmes d’Alger, version L
Among the top lots of the sale is Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, version L (estimate: US$ 20-30 million), one of the largest works within the artist’s groundbreaking series of 15 paintings created in 1955 in homage to the masterpiece of the same name by the 19th century master Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Picasso’s fascination with Delacroix was long-standing; he was haunted by the orientalist painter’s portrayal of three women set against the backdrop of an Algerian harem. When asked what he felt about Delacroix, Picasso’s lover Françoise Gilot recalled that Picasso’s eyes narrowed and he said, “That bastard. He’s really good.”
For Version L, Picasso zeroed in on the hookah-smoking woman at the far right in Delacroix’s original scene and recasts her in cubist style, with an economy of line and a near monochromatic color palette. Seated face-front and square to the viewer, her monumental, idol-like presence nearly fills the canvas from edge to edge.
Version L, along with the rest of the series, was originally owned by the legendary American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz. The couple purchased the entire group of 15 paintings in 1956 for $212,500 – a staggering sum that reportedly shocked even Picasso at the time. To offset the cost, the Ganzes promptly sold 10 of the paintings on to Picasso’s New York dealers Paul Rosenberg and Eleanore and Daniel Saidenberg. Les femmes d’Alger, Version L was purchased from Rosenberg in 1959 by a distinguished American collector, and has remained in the family’s collection since. The upcoming sale marks the first public exhibition of this exceptional work in more than 50 years.
Additional highlights of sale include:
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Les peupliers, oil on canvas, painted in 1891
Monet’s Les Peupliers is one of the most celebrated of the pioneering artist’s great series of works from his years in Giverny. Painted en plein air during the summer of 1891, the work is the largest of the artist’s paintings devoted to a picturesque arrangement of poplar trees, known as the “tree of liberty” in his native France. The painting is offered from an important private collection and remains in pristine condition, in its original unvarnished and unlined state.
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Iris mauves, oil on canvas, painted in 1914-1917
At six and a half feet tall, Monet's Iris mauves is among the largest and most ambitious works the artist ever created. It was painted between 1914 and 1917 in preparation for his Grandes décorations series, an ensemble of 22 mural-sized canvases totaling more than 90 meters in length that Monet completed just months before his death in 1926. Rendered in rich indigos and greens, Monet's irises appear to vibrate with energy as they reach toward a cloud-flecked spring sky. This superb work is offered from a private Swiss collection and was previously owned by the prominent New York art collectors John and Frances Loeb.
MODERN PAINTING HIGHLIGHTS
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
La fenêtre ouverte, oil over pencil on canvas, painted in Collioure, 1911
This glorious portrayal of Matisse’s room in Collioure and the view beyond belongs to a landmark series of interiors painted in 1911. Matisse and his early Modernist peers had just begun to explore a new way of painting in which color itself becomes form. The open window was a preferred motif for Matisse as it gave him both a framing device and a source of light for his interiors. Here, the window stands open to allow the dazzling light of a new day to set the room ablaze with jewel tones of rose, lavender and green. The work so inspired the colorist painter Pierre Bonnard that he acquired it shortly after its execution and kept it in his personal collection for the rest of his life.
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
Le petit dejeuner, oil on canvas, painted in 1936
Inspired by Matisse's brave explorations of form and color, Bonnard in his later years embarked on his own exploration of the interior scene and adopted Henri Matisse's window motif for his own, adding even bolder and more creative experimentations with color and pattern. Previously featured in museum retrospectives of the artist’s work at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others, this radiant 1936 painting has been in the private collection of the late arts patron Evelyn Annenberg Jaffe Hall since it was acquired more than sixty years ago.
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Les enfants et les jouets, oil on board, painted in spring 1901
This extraordinary work was painted in the spring of 1901 when Picasso was only 19 years old and in his first flush of commercial success. It is the second major oil from this early period in Picasso’s career to reach the auction block this year. In February, Christie’s London fetched US$ 7.8 million (£4.9 million) for the artist’s Sur l'impériale traversant la Seine, a 1901 view of Paris. Both paintings are among an important group of works Picasso created in a flurry of creative inspiration as he adjusted to life in Paris and prepared for his first major exhibition at the gallery of the influential Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard.
MODERN SCULPTURE HIGHLIGHTS
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Homme au mouton, steel cut-out with black crayon, 1961
Executed in Cannes; unique
This unique sheet metal sculpture demonstrates the innovative spirit that continued to inform Picasso’s work, even in his later years. Here, he revisits one of the most beloved and universally admired of his sculptures in bronze, the Homme au mouton, a seven-foot figure of a man holding a sheep, which he modeled in 1943 during the darkest period of the wartime occupation of Paris. Instead of plaster or clay, Picasso produced this new version by cutting and folding a simple paper maquette, which he then gave to professional metal-workers to re-create in sheet metal. The result is an engaging three-dimensional sculpture that is at once both modern and archaic in its sensibilities, and profoundly Mediterranean in inspiration.
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Nu couché III, bronze with dark brown patina
Conceived in Nice, 1929 and cast in 1930
From the same distinguished American collection that includes Picasso's Les femmes D'Alger, Version L, Christie's is pleased to offer Henri Matisse's Nu couché III, an important bronze from the artist's series of recumbent odalisques. Modeled in 1929 and cast the following year, Nu couché III is the artist's third and final expression of a theme that occupied him for over two decades. As with his monumental series Nu de dos (Backs), Matisse's reclining nude moves gradually from the roughly modeled figure of Nu couché I to the more abstracted, flowing form of Nu couché III (seen at left). For Matisse, this ongoing dialogue between the sculpture and painting energized his works and allowed him to continually evolve as an artist.
GIORGIO DE CHIRICO (1888-1978)
Ettore e Andromaca, tempera on canvas
Painted in 1923
Since its first dedicated auction of Surrealist art in 2001, Christie’s has seen growing demand for works in this genre, and recently realized a record total of $37 million for the category at its London auction in February. This May, Christie’s Evening Sale will present de Chirico’s Ettore e Andromaca, the most important 1920s-era painting by the artist to have appeared at auction in recent memory. It was originally owned by the art critic Giorgio Castelfranco, an avid collector and supporter of de Chirico’s work, and has been maintained in a private family collection for over four decades.
JEAN (HANS) ARP (1886-1966)
Oil on cut-out board, executed in 1925; unique
The upcoming sale features two masterpiece works by Arp that brilliantly convey his unique brand of anthropomorphic Surrealism. His 1925 painted work Homme-moustaches belongs to the remarkable series of painted reliefs that introduced a simplified iconography of figures, faces and simple objects. These humorous, thoroughly modern images often focus obsessively on one body part – in this case, the large looming arches of man’s moustache. Earlier in the sale, Christie’s will present Arp’s Torse, a magnificent white marble sculpture of a female torso (estimate: $400,000-600,000). Setting aside caricature for sensuous beauty, Arp created this unique abstraction of the female form as one of his first works in three dimensions.
The complete e-catalogue for the Evening Sale is now available online at