say of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's, May 8, 2003
is highlighted by many fine small works by such artists as Lyonel
Feininger (1871-1956), Yves
Tanguy (1900-1955), Vincent
Van Gogh (1853-1890) and excellent works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Camille Pissarro
(1830-1903), Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940),
Emile-Othon Friesz (1879-1949), and Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
is best known for his highly abstract, cool and delicate compositions
of marine and urban scenes. Lot 101, "Regatta" is unusual
for its orange palette. It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
A watercolor, pen and India ink on paper, it measures 7 1/2 by
11 inches and was executed in 1946. It sold for $23,900 including
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
Another excellent Feininger
is Lot 122, "Beleuchtete Hauser II," a watercolor pen
and India ink on paper that measures 9 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches. Executed
in 1923, it has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It
sold for $20,315.
is a very lovely gouache, watercolor and black chalk drawing on
paper laid down on paper by Vincent van Gogh. Entitled, "Sien
Nursing Baby," it measures 19 by 12 inches. Executed in 1882,
it has an estimate of $220,000 to $280,000. It sold for $365,900.
entry for this lot identifies the sitter as Clasina Maria Hoornik,
called "Sien," and notes that in a letter van Gogh described
her as "not handsome, but her figure is very graceful and
has some charm for me," adding that the artist "was
attracted to her, feelings which were no doubt partly motivated
by his evangelical compassion for her condition: Sien was a prostitute
and the unwed mother of a five-year-oild daughter....They began
Lot 128 is a fine gouache
and pencil on paper by Yves Tanguy. Executed in 1944, it measures
4 7/8 by 10 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $77,675.
The catalogue provides the
following commentary on this lot:
"The motifs that Tanguy
depicts in his compositions are indescribable, protozoan inhabitants
of a vast interior landscape of the imagination. Rendered in meticulous
detail, these objects seem real, yet we know them to be non-existent.
They bridge the line between the abstract and the figurative.
Their convincingly modeled volumes cast dark shadows across the
landscape, even while they appear translucent and incorporeal.
They generally fill the foreground, where they may even obey,
in a strictly local context, the laws of perspective. However,
as the eye wanders into the distance, space dissolves and there
is only a vague indication of where the horizon actually lies.
In true Surrealist fashion, the forms of these compositions seem
at once familiar and yet are utterly unfathomable.
Tanguy shared with the great
15th century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch a taste for strange
and inexplicable symbol-laden imagery, alchemical references,
crowds of jostling figures, as well a careful precision in their
rendering. A slow and meticulous craftsman, Tanguy loved objects
that were beautifully made, and he imparted to the elements in
his paintings the same care and convincing presence that a realist
painter gives to a still life or landscape. These "inscapes"
of the mind seem balanced on the brink between order and chaos.
'The element of surprise in the creation of a work of art is,
to me, the most important factor - surprise to the artist himself
as well as to others,' Tanguy stated. 'I work very irregularly
and by crises. Should I seek the reasons for my painting, I would
feel that it would be a self-imprisonment.'
The auction has two fine
works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Lots 139 and 147.
Lot 139 is a lovely partially
painted and glazed ceramic by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of Yvette
Guilbert. It was executed in 1895 and measures 20 1/4 by 11 1/8
inches. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. The catalogue
notes that Guilbert commissioned the plaque for the top of a small
tea table. It sold for $130,700.
The finest work in this
auction is Lot 147, "Academie d'homme nu: buste," by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. An oil on canvas that measures 31 3/4
by 25 3/4 inches, it was executed circa 1883.
The catalogue provides the
following commentary on this very strong work:
"In the spring of 1881 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, at that
time not yet seventeen years old, left his family estate in Céleyran
and arrived in Paris to prepare for his chosen career as a painter.
Lautrec entered the atelier of René Princeteau, a sporting
artist who was friendly with his father and had known the young
man when he was a student at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris
in 1872. Despite sharing his teacher's fondness for animal and
hunting subjects, Lautrec realized his need for a broader range
of instruction. In April 1882 he joined the studio of Léon
Bonnat, and remained there until September, when Bonnat closed
it down. Lautrec and many of Bonnat's students then transferred
to the studio of Fernand Cormon, who specialized in an unusual
genre, painting scenes based on archeological findings from prehistory
and early antiquity. Cormon, working in the less formal milieu
of Montmartre, was progressive in other respects, and encouraged
his students to sketch out-of-doors in addition to rendering the
requisite academic subjects in the studio. Lautrec remained in
Cormon's atelier until the spring of 1887, and during this time
initiated friendships with fellow students such as Louis Anquetin
and Vincent van Gogh that would be meaningful to him later on.
Relatively few of the academic studies that Lautrec painted in
Bonnat's and Cormon's studios have survived, while he often kept
and prized the pictures he did at home while on vacation. The
present painting is catalogued...as an académie, and as
such it is vastly superior to other surviving studies. It is a
signed, finished work and it displays a remarkably precise and
sympathetic characterization of the sitter, in contrast to the
more anonymous and sketchy treatment of the studio models seen
in other académies. The sitter bears a strong resemblance
to a young man who appears in two other paintings of this period.
In 1881 the artist painted a portrait of his childhood friend
Etienne Devisme (also spelled Devismes) seated in the Lautrec's
family garden at Céleyran....Both young men were about
the same age, having met in August 1878 when Lautrec was fourteen
and convalescing from a broken leg, an accident that would eventually
result in his stunted growth. Devisme was a hunchback, and a direct
descendant of the 18th century painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Perhaps for the reason that they both suffered from physical disabilities,
the two teenagers became close friends. Lautrec wrote to Devisme
in late 1879, after he had broken his other leg, requiring an
especially painful operation, 'Oh, if you were here just five
little minutes a day, I'd feel as if I could face my future sufferings
with serenity'....Their letters...reveal an intensely close relationship,
and perhaps Lautrec's most important friendship with a peer during
his youth....Lautrec had a strong attachment to this painting.
He kept it in his collection, and it was in his estate after his
death. Moreover, he included a rendering of it in La rousse
au caraco blanc (1888...,The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
Here Lautrec posed his model Carmen Gaudin in his studio, surrounded
by his paintings and other studio paraphernalia. This académie
appears propped on the floor against a chair at lower right, so
that the male figure appears to look up at Mlle Gaudin."
The lot has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $186,700.
is a very beautiful gouache on linen by Camille Pissarro. The
1888 work measures 13 1/8 by 9 7/8 inches and is entitled "Jeune
paysanne à sa toilette." It has an estimate of $350,000
to $450,000. It was once owned by Arthur B. Davies, the American
painter. It sold for $399,500.
provides the following commentary:
the 1880s, figure painting formed the basis for some of Pissarro's
most important work. Unlike his works of the previous decade in
which the background and figures shared equal emphasis, Pissarro
now focused on the figure enlarging it within the composition.
During this period, Pissarro portrayed his models as they went
about their daily rituals: knitting, chatting, or, in the case
of the model in Jeune paysanne à sa toilette, arranging
her hair. Since coming into contact with the younger artists Paul
Signac and Georges Seurat in 1885, Pissarro had been struggling
to find a painterly means to record his perceptions and to 'replace
his instinctive approach to nature by a rigorous observation of
the laws of colors and contrasts'...His experiments with pointillism
and divisionism did not entirely satisfy him and, in a letter
to his son Lucien dated 6 September 1888 Pissarro wrote, 'I think
continually of some way of painting without the dot. I hope to
achieve this but I have not been able to solve the problem of
dividing the pure tone without harshness...How can one combine
the purity and simplicity of the dot with the fullness, suppleness,
liberty, spontaneity and freshness of sensation postulated by
our impressionist art? This is the question which preoccupies
me, for the dot is meager, lacking in body, diaphanous, more monotonous
than simple...I am constantly pondering this question, I shall
go to the Louvre to look at certain painters who are interesting
from this point of view.' In place of the dot Pissarro began using
small commas of color, sometimes pure from the tube or with a
small amount of white added, to create a lively and luminous surface.
He introduced an intermediate element between two tints that he
called 'passage'. This technique had only recently been perfected
when Pissarro painted Jeune paysanne à sa toilette
in 1888. In the gouache one can see the technique displayed in
the painterly handling of the predominant cool tones of blue and
green which are accented with warm tones. While Durand-Ruel expressed
concerns over the salability of Pissarro's new work, Théo
van Gogh was more encouraging. As the manager of the Boulevard
Montmartre branch of Boussod et Valadon he agreed to take some
of Pissarro's pictures, including Jeune paysanne à sa
toilette which was exhibited in Pissarro's one-man show there
in February 1890. At one time, this gouache belonged to Lola and
Siegfried Kramarsky, whose collection also included van Gogh's
celebrated Portrait of Dr. Gachet (sold Christie's, New York,
15 May 1990 for $82.5 million, the record price for a work of
art sold at auction)."
The auction has two fine
works by Edouard Vuillard, Lots 144 and 179. The former is entitled
"Table Dressée," a 6 3/4-by-9 1/2-inch oil on
canvas that was executed circa 1902 and has a modest estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $59,750.
Lot 179, "Le banc,
Square Vintimille," is a fine peinture à la colle
on paper laid down on canvas by Vuillard. It measures 25 5/8 by
21 1/4 inches and was executed in 1917-8. It has an estimate of
$250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $433,100.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"It may appear ironic
that Vuillard would chose to live in a decidely middle class neighborhood
at a time when his circle of friends and his patrons were no longer
Bohemians of limited means as they had been in the 1890s, but
instead were well-to-do members of the leisured upper class. However,
Vuillard enjoyed the livelier streets and more varied architecture
of the Batignolles neighborhood and was fond of observing people
of varied backgrounds who frequented the park. In the present
painting, a young mother or nanny sits on the bench with one young
child beside her, as two others play on the ground in front of
her. In contrast to the colored outfits of the children, the woman
(as well as several other adults seated on the long bench in the
background) wears the drab everyday clothing of the lower middle
class. These are the types of people Vuillard grew up among and
who worked for his mother in her small corset-making business.
The artist would never completely sever the emotional ties to
his humble, hard-working family background. The present painting
was executed in peinture à la colle, a technique in which
ground pigments are mixed with glue that is kept heated in small
pots, drying matte and slightly lighter in tone once it is applied
to the support and cools. Vuillard had learned the technique while
painting theater sets and decorative panels in the 1890s, and
from around 1907 he began to use it extensively and in preference
to oils when painting on paper, board and canvas in smaller easel
formats. The technique permits quick reworking and overpainting,
and may be applied quite thickly in layers, creating a lively,
encrusted surface of subtle half tones."
One of the auction's highlights
is Lot 167, "L'Estaque," by Emile-Othon Friesz, a 21
1/2-by-25 1/2-inch oil on canvas. Executed in 1907, it has a modest
estimate of $220,000 to $280,000. It sold for $388,300.
The catalogue provides the
Raoul Dufy and Georges Braque all grew up in Le Havre, France's
major port on the English Channel coast, and studied in the city's
Ecole des Beaux-Arts. At different times, each young artist travelled
to Paris on grants from the Le Havre city government. The men
all knew each other and for a while Dufy and Friesz shared a studio.
Friesz had shown Impressionist-style works in a 1904 group show
at Berthe Weill's gallery alongside other artists who would emerge
in the following year as leaders of the Fauve movement. And, of
the three Le Havre artists, only Friesz showed paintings in the
landmark 1905 Third Salon d'Automne, in a room not far from the
famous Salle 7 in which Charles Camoin, André Derain, Henri
Manguin, Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminck
had hung together their radical color-drenched paintings. The
exhibition created a storm of controversy in the press, and the
critic Louis Vauxcelles bestowed upon Matisse and his circle the
sobriquet Les fauves. Friesz was not yet associated with the group,
but he, Braque and Dufy were excited by what they had seen in
Salle 7. Friesz and Braque travelled to Antwerp in August through
September of 1906 and painted their first Fauve canvases there.
Friesz showed some of these recent paintings at the Fourth Salon
d'Automne, where they were hung in Salle 3 with paintings by Matisse
and the Fauves. During the winter of 1906 Friesz and Braque traveled
to L'Estaque, an industrial port near Marseilles on the Mediterranean
coast. Cézanne, who had died the previous summer, had worked
there, although the influence of his work would not be felt until
a year-and-a-half later, following a grand memorial retrospective
in the 1907 Salon d'Automne. Derain was also in L'Estaque, and
noted that many of the artists associated with the Salon des Indépendants
were now working in the area. He saw Braque and Friesz, and reported
that they 'are very happy. Their idea [about painting] is youthful
and seems new to them.'....While Derain painted inland scenes
at L'Estaque, Braque and Friesz painted numerous views of the
harbor and beaches. Both Friesz and Braque had to interrupt their
work to participate in the Paris Salons and to organize group
exhibitions of recent painting for the Cercle de l'Arte Moderne
in Le Havre. They returned to the Midi in the late spring of 1907.
They spent June in L'Estaque, where Friesz painted the present
work. In July they were in nearby Cassis, and in August they arrived
in La Ciotat, where Friesz painted views of a nearby cove known
as Le Bec de l'Aigle....Although stylistically the landscapes
of both artists were relatively similar at the outset of this
trip, Friesz developed a distinctly personal approach which can
be seen in the present painting and subsequent views. "'In
these paintings Friesz's liberation of color was thorough. Using
a vivid palette dominated by orange and an ochre-infused green,
he abandoned all sense of naturalism in favor of an expressive
gestural style characterized by sweeping curvilinear brushwork
and layers of pigment. Braque painted these coves too, but his
images were much more nature-bound than Friesz's strongly abstract
motifs....' The pictures that Friesz and Braque painted that summer
in the Midi represent the climax of their engagement with Fauvism.
Their aim was expression through color; the powerful influence
of Gauguin was at its height. Upon their return to Paris in September
1907 for the Fifth Salon d'Automne, both artists, as indeed many
others among the young painters of the Société des
Indépendants, were stunned at the achievement of Cézanne,
as seen in his memorial retrospective exhibition at the Salon.
Braque probably saw Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
around this time and from then onwards an interest in form took
precedence over color."
Lot 185, "Renée,
harmonie verte," by Henri Matisse, is a 16--by-12 7/8-inch
oil on canvasboard that was painted in Nice in 1923. It has an
estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.
"Matisse spent his
first winter in Nice in 1917-1918. He returned there annually,
extending his stays for larger portions of the year in the city's
congenial Mediterranean climate. At first he stayed at the modest
Hôtel Beau-Rivage, and later at the more upscale Hôtel
Méditerranée et de la Côte d'Azur on the promenade
des Anglais overlooking the sea. In September 1921, he rented
an apartment on the third floor, at 1, place Charles-Félix,
looking west where he could see out across the city and follow
the horizon to Cap d'Antibes and Cannes in the distance. His well-known
model for many of the odalisque fantasies that he painted in these
quarters during the years 1920-1927 was Henriette Darricarrère,
a young woman whom he first spotted posing as a ballerina in a
photography studio. Matisse occasionally used other models as
well, and may have engaged a woman we only know as Renée
for this purpose in the present painting. It is not a formal portrait
- the model wears a black housecoat partially opened to reveal
her white chemise - and it is possible that Matisse painted this
casual study between regular modeling sessions to familiarize
himself with her. The artist had decorated the apartment with
colorful patterned cloths to create the opulent orientalist backgrounds
that he required for his odalisque pictures. Here, however, he
opts for an unadorned monochrome background tonality that he may
have devised solely for the purpose of experimenting with his
colors. He creates a harmony, as the title of the painting states,
between Renée's black coat and hair, and the color of viridian,
a rich and glowing emerald green pigment that he long favored
in his paintings. The austere simplicity of this composition recalls
portraits done in the late 'teens, such as Femme au turban (1917;
coll. Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection), where he
also employed a viridian background. The chair proves to be a
useful accessory in lending the composition a sense of structure
and depth, counterbalancing the softer folds of the sitter's clothing
and the relaxed placement of her hands."
Lot 215, "L'homme,"
by Andre Masson, is a 39 1/2-by-26-inch oil on canvas. Executed
in 1924, it has an estimate of $120,000 to $160,000. It sold