By Carter B. Horsley
The morning sale of Impressionist
and Modern Art Works on Paper at Christie's November 4, 2009 is
highlighted by many fine works including watercolors by Nolde,
Schmiddt-Rottluff, Joan Miro, and mixed-media works by Paul Klee,
Edouard Vuilliard, Egon Schiele, Frantisek Kupka, Kurt Schwitters,
Gino Severini, Robert Delaunay, and George Grosz.
Robert Delaunay (1885-1941)
was famous for his Cubist views of the Eiffel Tower and this lovely,
complex work includes the tower but is entitled "air, fer
and eau, etude." A gouache on pencil on paper laid down on
panel, it measures 19 5/8 by 33 5/8 inches and was executed in
1937. It has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It
sold for $374,500.
George Grosz (1883-1959 is
too often thought of a cartoonish satirist, but he was an intriguing
artist of considerable mystery. Lot 121, "Der neue Mensch,"
is one of his watercolors and pen and India ink over pencil on
paper that measures 20 by 13 ¾ inches that helped create
the "mystery" reputation. It was executed in 1921. The
catalogue notes that in 1920-1922 while he continued his satirical
output that would be published in Ecce Homo, he also created "a
remarkable series of pictures of an altogether different kind,
which were more visionary than illustrative in their purpose,"
the catalogue remarked. "He temporarily set aside the expressionistic
style, spiked with cubo-futurist elements and taking its provocatively
insouciant attitude from Dadism, which he had developed since
the end of the First World War, Instead he painted pictures that
embody an alternative but no less radical and uncompromising brand
of modernism, taking a form approach which reflects the mechanistic,
purist and constructivist trends which were coming to the fore
at that movement
..Grosz recasts the figure and its environment
in an idealized and nearly abstract conception which is unique
in his oeuvre, and to which he never returned to again. It is
one measure of the rarity of these works that, until none has
featured at international auction for a least a quarter century."
The lot has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for
A more conventional Grosz work
is Lot 126, "Rpublikanischer Bahnhof" of 1919. The catalogue
notes that "as a Communist and evolutionary sympathesizer
Grosz was often on the run from the authorities; in1919 he and
his publisher were tried and fined for criticizing the state."
The lot has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for
Lot 122, "Mittagsonne
im Haft," is a very strong watercolor by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
(1884-1976). It measures 19 ¾ by 27 ¼ inches and
was painted circa 1943. It has a very modest estimate of $30,000
to $40,000. It sold for $60,000.
Lot 123 is a very dramatic
and unusual watercolor on Japan paper by Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
who is best known for his luscious and bright floral watercolors.
This is a somber and threatening storm scene of grays and yellows
and a strong composition. It was painted in 1920. It has a modest
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $84,100.
A good companion piece for
the Nolde might be Lot 157, a somber work by Joan Miro of 1936.
Entitled "Figures," it is a gouache and brush and India
ink on paper that measures 16 ¼ by 12 3/4 inches. It has
an estimate of $280,000 to $320,000.
The overcast climate of the
Nolde and Miro carry over to Lot 120, a very fine gouache on paper
laid down by the artist on board and entitled "Structural
II." The 1924 work by Paul Klee (1879-1040) measures 10 1/8
by 8 ¼ inches and was once in the celebrated collection
of Burton and Emily Tremaine of Meriden, Conn. The catalogue remarks
on the artist's abstract renderings of curtains, gardens and castles
in this work. It has an estimate of $320,000 to $380,000. It
sold for 446,500.
Egon Schiele (1890-1918) began
a series in 1911 of painting vagrant children from the slums of
Vienna. This adolescent boy, Lot 164, is particularly affecting.
It is a gouache and watercolor over pencil on paper that measures
18 1/8 by 12 ½ inches. It has an estimate of $300,000 to
$400,000. It sold for $307,500.
The afternoon sale of Impressionist
& Modern Art at Christie's is highlighted by a splendid Cubist
oil and pencil on canvas by Albert Gleizes, (1881-1953), entitled
"New York," Lot 280. Executed in 1916, it measures 36
1/4 by 28 5/8 inches and was formerly in the collection of the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. It has an estimate of
$400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.
The afternoon sale also has
two good works by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), Joan Miro (1893-1983)
and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940).
Lot 268, "Piazza d'Italia,"
is a 15 7/8 by 19 ¾-inch oil on canvas by de Chirico that
was once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Luce of Ridgefield, Conn.
It is one of over a hundred variants. It has an estimate of $200,000
to $300,000. It sold for $314,500.
A much larger and considerably
more interesting de Chirico is Lot 303, "L'amore del mondo,"
an oil on canvas that was painted in 1960 and measures 28 1/4
by 23 ¾ inches. It is a reworking of a painting of 1914-5
now at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York with the exception
that in the later work the artist has inserted one of his troubadors
behind the board that divides the composition asymmetrically.
"L'amore del mondo" is one of the great paintings in
a series of 'metaphysical works where importance is given to the
reallocation of reality and whether the still life vocabulary
is usually fantastic and based on intuition. The lot has an estimate
of 450,000 to $700,000. It sold for $902,500.
Lot 297, "Tete et Oiseau,"
is a large bronze sculpture by Joan Miro that dates to 1983 and
is number 2/6. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
It failed to sell. The catalogue, which illustrates the lot
on its cover, remarks that "In Tete et Oiseau, the juxtaposition
of the coarse features of the bird with the smooth, grotesquely
misshapen and strangely phallic head deliberately induces sensations
of incongruity and shock
.This diversity of form arises from
the plastic suggestiveness of the found materials themselves,
their uncanny conjunctions and the wonderful humanity of the idiosyncratic
and deeply personal so distinctive of Miro's work. The poetry
of the late sculptures owes much to the tension between the happenstance
of the found objects and their perpetuation in cast bronze."
A smaller work, Lot 296, "Femmes,
oiseau II," by Miro is a oil and pencil over paper collage
on canvas that was executed in 1972 and measures 16 ¼ by
12 3/4 inches. The lot has an estimate of $180,000 to $220,000.
Lot 216 is a very muted but
lovely urban scene entitled "La Bouquetiere," that measures
13 by 21 ¼ inches and is a 1900 peinture a la colle on
canvas by Vuillard. It has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $50,000.
A much larger and more haunting
Vuillard is Lot 233 in which the son of daughter of Marguerite
Caetani de Bassiano, a wealthy American expatriate, look at the
viewer across a table in a lush garden. The artist was infatuated
with the lady but was distraught when she returned the painting
several months later saying that her new husband, the Prince of
Bassiano, disliked it. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
It failed to sell.
Works by James Ensor (1869-1949)
come to the market rarely and are usually embued with intense
religiosity as if he has shown a flashlight into the dark recesses
of a Boschian underworld. Lot 263 is a very nice scene of Calvary
with considerable light and a very dynamic composition. An oil
on canvas, it measures 23 3.8 by 29 2/8 inches. Executed in 1936,
it has and estate $180,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 162 is an excellent gouache
and watercolor over pencil by Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957). It
measures 7 7/8 by 12 1/8 inches and was drawn in 1927-8. It has
an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $43,750.