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The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
19th & 20th Century Art

Christie's New York

7 PM, May 8, 2018

Sale 16718

Picasso 15
Lot 15, "Fillette a la corbeille fleurie," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 60 7/8 by 26 inches, 1905

By Carter B. Horsley

Christie's New York began a week-long series May 7, 2018 of auctions of properties from the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller.  Mr. Rockefeller, who died in 2017 at the age of 101, was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller and for many years had been the chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank.

The first auction was 44 Impressionist paintings.

The star work of this auction is Lot 15, "Fillette a la corbeille fleurie," a Blue Period Picasso oil on canvas from 1905, that could well have inspired Balthus to depict what Wikipedia has described as "erotically charged images of pubescent girls." The painting measures 60 7/8 by 26 inches.


This painting was included in two exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: "Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective," in 1980 and "Masterpieces from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Manet to Picasso," in 1994.

The catalogue entry provided the following commentary:


"The fall of 1905 marked the turning point in the careers of both the supreme artists of the 20th century. Henri Matisse, then in his mid-thirties, in the wake of the Fauves’ sensational debut at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, first achieved fame and finally met with a long-awaited and well-deserved improvement in his fortunes. At around the same time, Pablo Picasso, a dozen years younger, experienced the beginnings of his own success and enjoyed a welcome amelioration of his personal circumstances. Picasso arrived at this decisive moment in his own distinctive way, almost entirely, unlike Matisse, away from the gaze of the public eye.

"During the early months of 1905, having put his “Blue” paintings behind him, Picasso was well into his Rose period; he nonetheless remained a typically penniless bohemian artist, one of many unknowns in Montmartre, who could not be sure when or how his next meal might materialize, and inwardly felt isolated and lonely despite an extensive circle of friends who shared his plight.

"By the end of the year, however, Picasso had found a new love, Fernande Olivier, who moved in with him and became the first in a line of women who had a discernibly significant impact on his daily life and art. He moreover fell in with two perceptive and dedicated collectors - Gertrude and Leo Stein, sister and brother - whose acquisition of three Rose paintings in the fall of 1905, the second of which was Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, helped jumpstart his career and finally relieved him of the material stresses and wants that had long beset him. The Steins had also begun to collect Matisse.

"During this momentous year, Picasso painted a series of important works in his Rose manner, marking the peak of this period. Among these paintings, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie is an especially 'charming thing, a lovely thing, a perplexing thing...' as Gertrude Stein described Picasso’s early work....Accompanying this picture are stories that have contributed to its esteemed and celebrated status down through the decades, commencing from the time Picasso painted the canvas and extending through the tenures of the two famous families that have owned it - first the Steins, and thereafter Peggy and David Rockefeller.


"The years of the Blue period had been unrelentingly hard on Picasso. The young artist lived the abject poverty, the lingering hunger, and the desperate sense of crushing alienation that he painted in his indigo dreams of gaunt, emaciated, indigent souls who barely subsisted at the margins of society. He never doubted, however, his talent and skills, and pursued his ambitions in a white heat, always firm in the belief that the right and timely opportunity would somehow present itself. He had already tasted success in his debut exhibition in Paris, a quickly painted showing of colorful and salably eclectic works at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in the summer of 1901 - it was an amazing accomplishment for an artist not yet twenty years old. “It pleased a lot of people,” Picasso recalled many years afterward....

"Following three abortive attempts to gain a foothold in Paris between late 1900 and early 1903, Picasso finally established himself in the capital during the spring of 1904, taking a studio at 13, rue Ravignan, on the top floor of a dilapidated artist’s building that his friend the poet Max Jacob had dubbed the 'Bateau-Lavoir' ('Laundry-Barge'; Picasso annotated 'Rue Ravignan' on the reverse of Fillette à la corbeille fleurie). He was making new friends in Paris outside his accustomed circle of Catalan transplants, especially the poets Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, and André Salmon, the Symbolist Jean Moréas, as well as the precocious playwright Alfred Jarry, forming relationships that led to a broadening of his intellectual interests and served to deepen his engagement with the cosmopolitan French culture in which he had chosen to live and work.  Picasso placed a telling sign on his studio door: "Au rendez-vous des poètes." 

"The artist’s favorite entertainment - virtually the only one he could then afford - was the Cirque Médrano, permanently quartered in its own building at the foot of Montmartre, only a short walk from the Bateau-Lavoir. Previously known as the Cirque Fernando, the Médrano and its performers had earlier inspired Degas, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, and later would provide subjects for Van Dongen, Chagall, and Léger. Gertrude Stein wrote that Picasso and his friends 'all met once or twice a week at the Cirque Médrano and there they felt very flattered because they could be intimate with the clowns, the jugglers, the horses and their riders. Picasso was little by little more and more French and this started the rose or harlequin period.....

"Having conclusively passed through his dark, 'blue' night of the soul, Picasso celebrated his 24th birthday in October 1904. During his earlier sojourns in Paris, the young man had rarely been without a girlfriend, occasional or steady; during the summer of 1904 he appears to have had a tender relationship with a young woman named Madeleine, about whom little is known. In August Picasso met Fernande Olivier, although it was not until the following spring that they began living together. This deeply romantic attachment fostered a more stable emotional environment that proved conducive to Picasso’s work. A newfound delight in physicality and sensual joy began to supplant the young man’s once grinding preoccupation with alienation and despair. 

"The presence of harlequins, saltimbanques, and their kin dominated Picasso’s output during the first phase of the Rose period, sometimes referred to as his 'Circus period,' which lasted through the spring of 1905. In the early summer of that year, tagging along with a Dutch friend on holiday, Picasso spent six weeks in northern Holland drawing and painting the countryside and its inhabitants. 'Picasso rediscovered in Holland his enjoyment of looking at and painting female bodies,' Pierre Daix wrote....


"A new interest in classicism was everywhere in the air during 1905, to which Picasso, following his Dutch trip, had become especially receptive. 'His interest in Classical art,' Elizabeth Cowling has pointed out, 'enabled him to see three Dutch country girls as the Three Graces and predisposed Fernande to be the mistress and muse of the moment because she reminded him of a solidly planted Venus, a Raphaelesque Madonna and an Ingresque odalisque... In 1905 classicism was in the ascendant among the Parisian intelligentsia and during the course of the year Picasso became not just a bit-part but a leading player in this movement....”

"Amid rooms containing the most recent work by living artists, the Salon d’Automne typically featured retrospective exhibitions of earlier and departed masters. The 1904 Salon celebrated the work of Puvis de Chavannes, the paragon of allegorical classicism, who died in 1898. In 1905, while the new paintings of Matisse and his friends, quickly dubbed 'fauve', shocked Paris, retrospectives of Ingres and Manet were on view in nearby rooms. Maurice Denis declared Ingres to be 'our newest master; we have only recently discovered him....' Picasso, whose primary interest was the figure, was among those many painters smitten with Ingres, and drawn to the voluptuous nudes in Le bain turc....


"During the fall of 1905 Picasso completed his largest and most impressive Rose masterpiece, Les Bateleurs...., as well as a related subject, Acrobate à la boule....An exquisite stillness, the profound silence of vast spaces, evoked a mysterious and elusive timelessness in his paintings, all hallmarks of the classical mindset that now prevailed in French painting....

"Picasso painted Fillette à la corbeille fleurie following his return to Paris from Holland, probably during the early autumn of 1905. The dealer Clovis Sagot purchased this painting from Picasso not long after it was completed. Sagot had once worked as a baker and a clown, and learned the art business from his older brother Edmond, a well-known print dealer. He opened his Galerie du Vingtième Siècle a few doors down from Ambroise Vollard’s building on the Rue Laffitte. Sagot was shrewd, tight-fisted, and occasionally got lucky, all at the expense of the artists whose work he handled.


“'Sagot, [Picasso] said, was a past master at assessing the exact degree of an artist’s desperation and squeezing maximum benefit from it,' Richardson has written. “After his return from Holland in the late summer of 1905, when he was more penniless than usual, Picasso asked Sagot to come and look at his work. The dealer picked out three things, the Girl with a Basket of Flowers and two of the Dutch gouaches, and offered seven hundred francs for them. Picasso refused this offer but a few days later concluded that he had better accept. No luck. Sagot had reduced his offer to five hundred francs. Outraged, Picasso turned this down. By the time he realized he had to give in or starve, the offer had shrunk to three hundred francs [in the end Sagot paid Picasso 75 francs for Fillette à la corbeille fleurie]... Sagot was one of the main reasons for Picasso’s lifelong distrust of dealers....' 

"The dealer advertised Picasso’s flower seller as La fleur de pavé on the cover Le Courrier Français, in the edition published on 2 November 1905. La fleur de pavé ('The Flower of the Cobblestones' [or 'The Street']) is perhaps the most apt title for this painting; it metaphorically identifies the girl with the flowers that she sells, suggesting her fragile existence as a waif struggling to survive on the mean streets of Montmartre. This early title for the painting also points to the girl’s true livelihood, as it would have been clearly understood at that time - the flowers were a come-on, she was actually a prostitute. We know the model’s identity, if only her first name - as Richardson reported - ‘Linda la Bouquetière,’ a teenage flower seller from the Place du Tertre, who sold her body as well as her roses outside the Moulin Rouge....” Jean-Paul Crespelle, the source of Richardson’s information, noted that Linda 'occasionally posed for the local artists. Van Dongen, Picasso, and Modigliani all painted her portrait. Max Jacob took an interest in the girl, whose mother, he felt, was leading her astray; he dreamt of enrolling her in the Children of Mary [a Catholic youth organization]...”


"Young girls figure prominently in other Rose period paintings, and were usually - as was Linda - inspired by or based directly on local models. Richardson has pointed out that the small girl in Les Bateleurswas probably the daughter of the concierge at the Bateau-Lavoir....

“'Linda la Bouquetière,' as Richardson has pointed out, is “the female equivalent of ‘p’tit Louis’,” the handsome lad who modeled for Garçon à la pipe..., in which he wears a garland of roses and is seated between two lavish floral decorations. 'P’tit Louis' was an 'evil angel,' as Picasso later described him, one of the 'local types, actors, ladies, gentlemen, delinquents' who frequented the studios in the Bateau-Lavoir....Such was life on the streets that 'p’tit Louis' died sadly young. We do not know what became of Linda, but the long-term odds of evading a similar fate were not in her favor.

"The classical treatment of both Linda and young Louis is a veneer that Picasso applied to provide an aura of innocence and purity, outwardly masking but nonetheless inferring the harsh reality of their demi-mondaine lives. This is a more complex, equivocal conception of the world than the young artist had painted during his Blue period. The degree to which Linda and others of her kind - those 'sultry looking gamins,' as Richardson described them - project a burgeoning adolescent sexual awareness lends these pictures their hauntingly mysterious but disquieting, suggestively erotic edge....


"Now well into the classical phase of his Rose period subjects, Picasso was creating a strongly original and personal synthesis of diverse but interrelated pictorial influences. 'With his mind filled with memories of the antiquities of the Louvre,' Cowling has noted, 'he was acutely sensitive to the ‘primitive’ and ‘archaic’ echoes in Ingres’s personal interpretation of Classical sculpture. It came easily to him to see Ingres in terms of Egyptian art, Egyptian art in terms of Ingres, and in absorbing and blending elements from both he enrolled himself within the newly defined tradition of primitivist classicism'.... Picasso would continue to pursue this tendency in his depiction of the figure during the subsequent Iberian period, culminating in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon....When he revealed the latter painting to interested artists and friends during the summer and fall of 1907, he received comments on the 'Egyptian' appearance of the nude women.


“'It was about this time' - Gertrude Stein wrote, as told in the voice of her lifelong companion, Alice B. Toklas - 'that Gertrude Stein’s brother happened one day to find the picture gallery of Sagot, and ex-circus clown who had a picture shop further up on the rue Laffitte… Sagot sent him to a little furniture store where there were some paintings being shown by Picasso. Gertrude Stein’s brother was interested and wanted to buy one and asked the price but the price asked was almost as expensive as a Cézanne. He went back to Sagot and told him. Sagot laughed. He said, that is alright, come back in a few days and I will have a big one. In a few days he did have a big one and it was very cheap. When Gertrude Stein and Picasso tell about those days they are not always in agreement as to what happened but I think in this case they agree the price asked was a hundred and fifty francs. The picture was the now well-known painting of a nude girl with a basket of red flowers."

The lot has an estimate on request.  It sold for $115 million, a record for a Rose Period Picasso.  That price included the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The sale total was $646,133,594 and all lots were sold.  The pre-sale high estimate had been $490 million. 

The much anticipated sale required that visitors to its exhibitions have reservations.


Matisse Odalisque  8

Lot 8, "Odalisque couchée aux magnolias," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 23 3/4 by 31 7/8 inches, 1923

Lot 8 was an "Odalisque couchee aus magnolias" by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a 1923 oil on canvas that measures 23 3/4 by 31 7/8 inches.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"Henri Matisse was the modernist heir par excellence to the Orientalist tradition in French art that Ingres and Delacroix established during the 19th century. Among the many lovely, sensual nudes that Matisse painted in Nice during the 1920s, Odalisque couchée aux magnolias may well mark the superlative classical moment in the artist’s treatment of this theme. This painting stands out in its consummate synthesis of the essential pictorial qualities that Matisse was exploring at this time and sought to instill in his art. The variety of visual delights, deriving from the attractive model, her costume and ambient décor, the balance and poise of the composition, the subtlety and resonance of the color harmonies all have been most impressively conceived and integrated.

"The artist’s evocation of a languorous, dreamy mood is irresistibly absorbing, all the more effective for the manner in which he has imparted to the odalisque and her environment a solid, palpable, and vital presence. Matisse rarely cared to draw attention to the finesse of his brushwork, but he appears to have been especially pleased to showcase the skill of his painterly touch in Odalisque couchée aux magnolias - the effects he educed are a joy in themselves. His overall conception is symphonic, clearly and delectably orchestrated. All parts contribute seamlessly, effortlessly, to a concerted summation, suffused throughout with the wondrous aura of a glowing inner light.

"There are other odalisques from this period whose partial or full nudity is more conspicuous and suggestive, but none in which the girl’s pose is as alluring as seen here, yet in the delicate and tasteful manner of which Matisse had become a master. 'What might have been explicit eroticism in the image,' Alfred H. Barr, Jr. wrote of Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, “seems diffused into a luxurious, generalized sensuality, intimate yet objective....” Even the model’s expression has been carefully and individually characterized, as if also to appeal warmly and directly to the viewer. While indulging in feelings of self-contentment and engaged in reverie, the odalisque casts her gaze toward the artist, whose off-picture role as painter/observer is happily transferred to the viewer, allowing the latter, initially a fascinated voyeur, to enter this scene.

"Matisse would have given much of the credit to the young woman who served as his model, his favorite during this period, whom he most often employed - Henriette Darricarrère. She worked with the artist from 1920 to 1927. 'During her seven years of modeling, Henriette excelled at role-playing and had a theatrical presence that fueled the evolution of Matisse's art,' Jack Cowart has written. 'She adopted the subject roles easily and could express the moods and atmosphere of Matisse's settings without losing her own presence or her own strong appearance. Her distinctive physical features - a sculpturesque body and a finely detailed face with a beautiful profile - are evident in many of the artist's paintings, sculptures, and works on paper....” Hilary Spurling called Henriette 'a living sculpture. The finely modeled planes of her torso and limbs caught the light like [Matisse's] clay figures… Her body articulated itself like a cat’s into compact rounded volumes - breast, belly, haunch, hip, calf, knee....”


"Odalisque couchée aux magnolias was painted in Nice during 1923; Matisse sent it to the Salon d’Automne in November. The artist spent the first six months of the year in Nice, before returning to his family residence in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, for the summer. The magnolia blossoms that lend their name to this painting were apparently pinned to the screen behind the odalisque, suggesting that Matisse painted the canvas during the late spring or early summer. His dealers Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune purchased the painting on 17 December 1923, the day following the closing of the Salon, reserving it for his personal collection....


"On the last day of 1917, a mutual friend arranged for Matisse to visit Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Although Renoir had been suffering from crippling arthritis for many years, he still painted every day except Sunday. Matisse admired the old painter’s fortitude and unshakable dedication to his art. Matisse brought some of his recent paintings for the master’s critique on a second visit in January 1918. They became good friends; Matisse returned twice again later in the year, and called on Renoir frequently during early 1919 when the old painter lay ailing and near death. Matisse would never forget Renoir’s words: “The pain passes, Matisse, but the beauty remains....”

"Renoir’s example as both man and artist inspired Matisse to move away from the somber austerity and the 'radical invention' of his wartime Paris production. 'Renoir gave him the impetus to make new contact with his own sensuality,' Jack Flam wrote....Contact with Renoir’s late work set the stage for the emergence of the Orientalist odalisque in Matisse's painting of the 1920s. Renoir’s example also encouraged Matisse to think of color in terms of light, the all-pervasive, limpid luminosity that reflected off the Mediterranean. The late nudes of Renoir revealed to Matisse how it was possible to infuse volume with light, and to express this effect with warm color, without recourse to shadow and other conventional methods of modeling the figure. Matisse loosened up his brushwork to work in a breezier, more improvised manner.


“'From 1904 to 1916 Matisse elaborated an architectonics of color, whereas from 1917 to 1930 he moves to an architectonics of light,' Dominique Fourcade observed. 'In the end, all of Matisse's research during these first years in Nice arrives at a new unity of the surface: human beings and objects are not treated differently than floors or walls on the painting's surface...He resolves the subject-background distinction in terms of space, and resolves the problem of space in terms of light. Each parcel of the painting's surface is a site of color...and each site of color becomes a source of light that, combined with all other sources of light, creates a wholeness of light and space...'

"Complementing his evolving conception of light and space, Matisse began to actively pursue in Odalisque couchée aux magnolias a more sculptural approach in his painting, to meet 'a new need for concentration and construction,' as Isabelle Monod-Fontaine described his effort....


"In his deliberate push toward 'concentration and construction,' Matisse strove to create in Odalisque couchée aux magnolias a figure that projects a more substantial physical presence than in any other picture he had done in Nice prior to this time. The contours are firmer; there is, moreover, the sense of greater depth and architectural solidity within the entirety of the composition. Matisse has here dispensed with the translucent paint film and airy facture that had been typical of his early Renoir-inspired Nice figure paintings, even those done earlier in 1923. Here he applied his paint more thickly, unstinting on finish, lending greater weight to the elements in his composition.

"The example Matisse had taken from Renoir was at this stage working in conjunction with further consideration of Cézanne. As John Elderfield has stated,'“It was only to be expected, perhaps, that he should turn to Cézanne as he returned to sculptural form.... Matisse had always fallen back on Cézanne for insight and instruction. “If you only knew the moral strength, the encouragement that his remarkable example gave me all my life!” Matisse declared. “In moments of doubt, when I was still searching for myself, frightened sometimes by my discoveries, I thought: ‘If Cézanne is right, I am right.’ Because I knew that Cézanne made no mistakes. There are, you see, constructional laws in the work of Cézanne which are useful to a painter. He had, among his greatest virtues, the merit of wanting the tones to be forces...'

"Indeed, the Cézannian stimulus may be observed in Odalisque couchée aux magnolias most outwardly in the cool, deep blue and green tonality of the interior setting, which perfectly sets off the warm flesh tones of the model and the still-life of fruit in the foreground corner. Renoir’s light had been soft, golden, as if appearing to emanate from within, possessing the ability to open up form. Cézanne’s light, on the other hand, was hard, crystalline and external, essential properties for the purpose of defining form. Matisse was in effect mingling the benefits of both approaches when he painted Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, forging his own treatment of the figure in space, evoking the softness of flesh and fabric within a convincingly solid and supportive spatial environment....

"Matisse's 1931 retrospective exhibition at the Galleries Georges Petit in Paris concentrated heavily on his production in Nice during the previous decade.  Odalisque couchee aux magnolias featured in this exhibition, and likely caught the attention of Picasso, who, as John Richardson has noted, "returned more than once to study his rival's work....Picasso was preparing for his own retrospetive in the same rooms the following year, for which he wanted to produce a crowning group of paintings that would rival or even surpass what people had seen in the Matisse show.  Picasso went on to paint during the spring of 1932 a dazzling sequence of erotically charged masterpieces, each showing his young mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.  So strong at the Matissian elements in these paintings by Picasso,' Jack Flam has written, 'at times he almost seems to be trying to steal Matisse's artistic identity....Perhaps the image of Odalisque couchee aux magnolias flashed through Picasso's mind as he painting Marie-Therese as a reclining odalisque in the now famous Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932, also in blue and lavender tones, in front of a curtain, with a bowl of fruit in the lower left corner, the dreamy girl's arms raised above her head, a plant appearing to sprout from her side.  Picasso could have afforded Matisse in 1932 no more telling tribute, even if veiled and couched in a competitive spirit, at a time when the two painters were more arch-rivals than friends. Matisse’s odalisques again became an inspiration for Picasso in his Femmes d’Alger series of 1954-1955, which constitutes a dual homage to both Delacroix and Matisse, the latter more lately having become Picasso's good friend and sole acknowledged peer, who passed away in November 1954."


The lot has an estimate on request. It sold for $80,750,000, a record for the artist.



"Landscape by Matisse 20

Lot 20, "Paysage de Collioure," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 18 1/2 by 21 5/8 inches, 1906-7

A more far vibrant painting by Matisse is Lot 20, "Paysayge de Collioure," a 1907 oil on canvas that measures 18 1/2 by 21 5/8 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Henri Matisse painted this vigorously brushed canvas outdoors, sur le motif, likely in a single session, working quickly and spontaneously to capture the blazing light of the Mediterranean sun. From the welcome shade of a cypress tree, whose boughs overhang the upper edge of the composition, the artist gazed downhill toward the distant fishing commune of Collioure, located near the border with Catalunya. Two years previously, Matisse and André Derain had turned this ancient, primitive place into a fiery crucible of modern art, forging a new and radical kind of painting in pure colors, on canvases that stunned the public when first shown at the 1905 Salon d’Automne.

"Dismayed and perplexed, the critic Louis Vauxcelles dubbed their efforts 'fauve,', as if in the primal fury of their inspiration these two artists, together with some like-minded comrades, had painted like wild beasts. Matisse disliked the term, but by 1907, when he showed this Paysage de Collioure at the Salon d’Automne, this characterization had stuck and gained common currency. 'The Fauves!' - Vauxcelles again declared in his latest review - 'M. Matisse, chief fauve, M. Derain, sub-chief fauve,' then naming several followers and apparent fellow travelers....Matisse, then in his late thirties, had become famous, even notorious, as the pre-eminent painter in Paris, who stood at the cutting edge of a new avant-garde.

"In May 1906, following a two-week stay in Algeria, his first experience of North Africa, Matisse returned to Collioure as his base of operations, remaining in the Pyrenées-Orientales - apart from a couple of trips back to Paris, and a month in Italy with Leo and Gertrude Stein during the summer of 1907 - until he moved back to the capital in early September 1907. From the outset of his second sojourn in Collioure, Matisse was already evolving in new directions. The expressive potential of color remained his primary interest; he had begun working, moreover, toward a formal re-organization of the pictorial surface, in conjunction with a changing emphasis in his choice of subjects.

"Painting the land- and seascape in the dazzling light of the South had been Matisse’s driving passion during the initial season in Collioure. The figure became the artist’s priority during his subsequent stay. Matisse had once again taken up sculpture; Aristide Maillol, who lived in Banyuls-sur-Mer, a few stops distant on the coastal railway, provided technical and critical advice. In Matisse’s new paintings, the nude, singly or in groups, became the central element in pastoral, idyllic settings, often in the context of a classical, allegorical theme. He followed Le bonheur de vivre, painted in Paris during the autumn and winter, 1905-1906, with the two versions of Le Luxe and the study for La Musique, which date from the spring and summer of 1907.

"The present Paysage de Collioure has been ascribed to 1906 or 1907, that is, within the span of Matisse’s second sojourn in his southern retreat, having been painted among a series of related landscapes during the summer, early fall, or winter of 1906, or certainly by the spring of 1907. The later date appears less likely, however, as Matisse had begun at that time to experiment with a more thinly painted, abstractly stylized representation of the landscape, which culminated in the Gelman Collection's Vue de Collioure, dating from that summer, or perhaps completed after his return to Paris in September 1907.


"While the large figure compositions took precedence in the studio, Matisse was reluctant to forego the exhilaration he typically enjoyed while working outdoors, taking in that overwhelming effusion of light, while also absorbing the smells of earth, flora, sea, and sky, feeling the frisson of being connected, in the most direct way possible, to the here and now of his surroundings. This practice allowed Matisse, as Jack Flam stated, to 'express the pantheistic vitality that he felt in nature....' The artist’s visit to Algeria in May 1906 had been momentous and unforgettable, having opened wide all his senses. Painting in this manner afforded the artist his most authentic contact with the primacy of his sensations - the very essence of being fauve.

"The landscape around Collioure, though by now familiar territory for Matisse, was still riveting in its primitive, elemental aspect. The site from which Matisse chose to view the town in the present painting was one he favored in other plein air canvases of 1906-1907 - he set up his easel on the Roca-Alta d’Ambeille overlooking the town, finding shelter from the sun among the trees in le bois d’Ernest Py. The nearest houses lay just beyond the transecting diagonal of the coastal railway tracks. As the focal point in this composition, Matisse sighted on the landmark clock tower, once a lighthouse, that adjoins the portside Église Notre-Dame-des-Anges, highlighted against the dark blue of the Mediterranean.

"This scene lent itself to the full range of hues on Matisse’s palette, from the sun-scorched earth tones of red, ochre, and yellow, to varied shades of cool and darker greens in the foliage, heightened in places with blue and white tints, interspersed with patches of blanched violet. Matisse was careful to denote the pale cerulean tone of blue along the horizon with the sea, in contrast to the darker cobalt expanse of the upper sky. Unlike the Impressionists, both first generation and Neo-, who had banished black from their paint boxes, Matisse made good use of this color that absorbs all light, for picking out scattered linear features in the landscape, and as a darkening agent with other hues.

"Characteristic of Fauve facture are the slivers and patches of canvas that Matisse left untouched and bare, as passage between adjacent tones. The variety of marks throughout the composition, from the smallest spots to the larger patchwork of colors, were applied, blended, and scrubbed directly on the canvas. Matisse, in effect, drew this painting with his brush - color and line were united as form. Unlike the larger figure compositions of this period, worked and 'layered' during multiple sessions, the composition of this quintessentially Fauve canvas proceeded quickly; the result was rough, but on its own terms whole, harmonious, and complete - the picture would neither require, nor admit, retouching in any way....

"In pursuing a freer and looser handling of his colors, Matisse discarded the Neo-Impressionist conception and practice he had derived from Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross, which laid the groundwork for his Fauve summer of 1905. The small blocks of pink paint at the upper left edge are a peripheral vestige of Neo-Impressionist divisionism. The influence of Signac and Cross had encouraged Matisse to analyze and employ color both as a means and an end in itself. Once freed from the technical discipline of Neo-Impressionism, Matisse was able to bend color to his own will and personal need for expression - 'I simply try to put down colors which render my sensation.'

"Vauxcelles and other critics viewed Fauvism as sheer anarchy in art, making out the professorial Matisse as if he were some mad terrorist on the loose in the Parisian art world. During 1906-1907, Matisse was actually seeking to foster, as he wrote, “a truer, more essential character” in his art, 'to obtain greater stability...' The present Paysage de Collioure, its Fauve credentials notwithstanding, reflects this tendency as well. The resolution of these issues, Matisse realized, lie in the work of Paul Cézanne. He never met the master of Aix, but had been aware and appreciative of the latter’s work since the late 1890s, well before many of his colleagues. He studied Cézanne’s paintings whenever they appeared in the progressive salons, and at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery, where he purchased a middle-period Trois baigneuses in 1899...


"Cézanne’s influence on Matisse’s Paysage de Collioure is most outwardly apparent in the framing foliage in the upper part of the composition, a classical device that Cézanne often employed in his mature landscapes. More significantly, however, Matisse took from Cézanne lessons that guided the fundamental organization of space in this picture, deployed in planes of land, sea, and sky. In the locale of Collioure itself, three discernible bands represent the foreground, the middle ground up to the railway, and beyond that, the distance to the tower and the high horizon line where sea meets sky. The downhill illusion of this deep space is vertical and flat, as prescribed in modernist practice. Unlike Cézanne, however, whose more solidly constructed, naturalistic treatment of pictorial motifs is unfailingly legible, Matisse’s approach to composition takes on a more abstract, patterned quality, in which no one element stands out among the many others; all are subsumed within the larger whole....

"Matisse chose to exhibit this Paysage de Collioure, together with another landscape study, among his seven entries to the 1907 Salon d’Automne. Both paintings...were possibly a year or more old, whereas his major contributions to the October exhibition were painted only a few months previously, and represented his most recent ideas on subject, form, and style: La Musique (esquisse) and the first version of Le Luxe. Matisse perhaps intended to contrast his latest work with examples showing their Fauve origins, tracing the line of his development since the revolutionary summer of 1905. The occasion of the Cézanne memorial tribute, comprising 56 paintings, likely inspired Matisse to include examples of his own work that would honor the late master of Aix. Matisse sought to demonstrate that Fauvism had stemmed as much from the constructive post-Impressionism of Cézanne - a painter newly recognized to have been a guiding pioneer in the modernist adventure - as it had proceeded from the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat, Signac and Cross.


"Michael and Sarah Stein, brother and sister-in-law to Leo and Gertrude, likely purchased Paysage de Collioure during the 1907 Salon d'Automne; the painting is visible in a photograph of their dining room taken in late 1907 or early 1908.  They also acquired Le Luxe I.  Sarah became one of ten students when Matisse opened his Paris academy in January 1908.  The ususual German listing in the provenance occured when Paysage de Collioure was stranded in a Berlin exhibition at the beginning of the First World War; the dealer Franz Gurlitt confiscated the painting and fictiously 'sold' it to himself when America declared war on Germany in 1917.  The German painting Hans Purrmann, who studied at the Academie Matisse and was a close friend of Sarah Stein, later assisted in restoring the painting to its rightful owners.


Alfred H. Barr, Jr., director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, notified the Rockefellers in 1962 that Paysage à Collioure was available for sale at Eugene V. Thaw’s The New Gallery. The collectors acquired the painting, and began a lasting relationship with Mr. Thaw.


The work has been widely published and exhibited.


It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $9,000,000.  It sold for $6,500,000.



Monet lillies

Lot 10, "Nyphéas en fleur," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 63 by 70 7/8 inches, 1914-1917

Lot 10 is a large oil on canvas "Nympheas en fleur" by Claude Monet (1840-1926) that was painted in 1917 and measures 63 by 70 7/8 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:


"During the last two decades of his career, Monet devoted himself single-mindedly to painting the celebrated water-lily pond that he had designed and cultivated at his home in rural Giverny. In one extraordinary canvas after another, he captured the constantly shifting relationships among water, reflections, atmosphere, and light that transformed the pond’s surface with each passing moment. While these now-iconic paintings affirmed Monet’s long-held belief in the primacy of vision and experience, they did so in a pictorial language that was utterly novel and transformative even by the standards of the new century. The earlier paintings in the series - more delicate, ethereal, and restrained - met with immediate acclaim when Monet exhibited them in 1909. The Nymphéas canvases from 1914 onward, in contrast, were bigger, bolder, and much more personal - the very antithesis of the 'call to order' that gripped the avant-garde during and after the First World War. They emerged as authoritative and visionary only two decades after Monet’s death, as American Abstract Expressionism triumphed on the international art scene.

"The culmination of the water-lily series and the most ambitious undertaking of Monet’s career was the Grandes décorations, an ensemble of 22 mural-sized canvases that the artist completed just months before his death and donated to the French state. Although he had considered a decorative program of this sort as early as 1897, he did not actually embark on it until 1914, long after the lily pond at Giverny had become almost the exclusive subject of his art. The present Nymphéas - measuring more than five feet on a side - dates to his inaugural phase of work on this project, in which he tested out new pictorial ideas and visual effects for the Grandes décorations on a scale that he had never before attempted. At once exploratory and definitive, this brilliantly colored and vigorously brushed painting is one of some sixty magnificently varied canvases that Monet painted in a burst of untrammeled creativity between 1914 and 1917, as Europe plunged ever more deeply into the chaos of war.


The story of Monet’s water garden begins in 1883, when the artist and his family settled at Giverny, a tiny rural hamlet some forty miles northwest of Paris at the confluence of the Seine and the Epte. Monet found a large house to rent there on two acres of land; when the property came up for sale in 1890, he bought it at the asking price, 'certain of never finding a better situation or more beautiful countryside,' as he wrote to Durand-Ruel....A dedicated gardener all his life, Monet’s first priority upon purchasing the estate was to replace the vegetable plots in front of the house with flower beds. Three years later, he acquired an adjacent piece of land beside the river Ru and successfully applied to the local government for permission divert the tributary and dig a pond.

"Although Monet created the water garden in part to fulfill his passion for horticulture, he also intended it as a source of artistic inspiration. In his petition to the authorities, Monet specified that the pond would serve 'for the pleasure of the eyes and also for the purpose of having subjects to paint'....The artist did not begin work on his Nymphéas series immediately, however. 'It took me some time to understand my water lilies,' he recalled. 'A landscape takes more than a day to get under your skin. And then all at once, I had the revelation - how wonderful my pond was - and reached for my palette. I’ve hardly had any other subject since that moment....”

"Eschewing traditional perspective, he lowered his gaze to the surface of the pond, yielding a dazzling and radically destabilized vision of shifting, disintegrating forms; the world beyond the plane of the water exists only as the most ephemeral reflections. 'The water-flowers themselves are far from being the whole scene,' Monet explained. 'Really, they are just the accompaniment. The essence of the motif is the mirror of water, whose appearance alters at every moment. So many factors, undetectable to the uninitiated eye, transform the coloring and distort the planes....'

"When these pictures were exhibited in May 1909, critics marveled at how novel and nearly abstract they appeared, even by comparison with Picasso and Braque’s latest Cubist experiments. 'His vision increasingly is simplifying itself, limiting itself to the minimum of tangible realities in order to amplify, to magnify the impression of the imponderable,' the critic Jean Morgan exulted....


"Monet could not have hoped for a better response. Yet following the close of the exhibition, there followed a period of nearly five years in which the artist - exhausted from the intense work leading up to the show, and then suffering from a sequence of personal tragedies - barely picked up his brushes. His wife Alice and his elder son Jean both took ill and died during this time, and Monet learned that he had a cataract in one eye that threatened his vision. Less grave but still distressing, flooding of the Seine and Epte caused substantial damage to his cherished gardens....

"It was not until spring 1914 that Monet finally emerged from his despair. 'I have thrown myself back into work,' he wrote to Durand-Ruel in June, 'and when I do that, I do it seriously, so much so that I am getting up at four a.m. and am grinding away all day long....'

"Monet was 73 years old by this time, well beyond the life expectancy for men of his generation. The mere fact that he resumed work on the Nymphéas series with such vigor is extraordinary. Rather than simply retreading his previous success, moreover, he set himself a wholly new challenge. 'It was not just his personal travails that drove him back to the studio, but a burning desire to do something that would move beyond his early Nymphéas,' Paul Tucker has proposed. 'In the first decade of the century, their beauty and inventiveness might have been an apt summation of his life’s efforts and an appropriate affirmation of Impressionism’s relevance in the face of serious challenges from Fauvism and Cubism. But the second decade called for something more formidable, because everyone knew that a cataclysmic conflict was imminent in Europe....'

"The sixty-some Nymphéas that Monet created over the next three years, between 1914 and 1917, look vastly different from his earlier paintings of the lily-pond. First and foremost is the sheer size of the new compositions - two to four times larger than the ones that he had exhibited at Durand-Ruel in 1909. These were the largest paintings that Monet had produced in nearly forty years, since the cycle of four decorative murals that he painted for the Hoschedé country estate at Montgeron in 1876. Photographs indicate that the artist had these great canvases carted to the edge of the lily pond, where he would paint on them in the shade of his white garden umbrella, using new brushes and an oversized palette that he had procured specifically for this project.

A radical change in handling accompanied this shift in scale. In contrast to the relatively restrained brushwork of the earlier Nymphéas, Monet painted the new canvases with loose, expressive strokes of pigment, intentionally sacrificing conventional finish to create an impression of unrestrained vigor and urgency. In the present painting, aggressive vertical striations represent the reflection of a weeping willow on the opposite bank of the pond, providing a bold counterpoint to the horizontal drift of the lily pads. The lily pads that cluster at the upper right seem to reach out in vain for their scattered mates along the left edge of the canvas, the dense skeins of reflected foliage effectively blocking the way. The diminishing scale of the lilies suggests recession into depth, while the cascading eddies of foliage insistently assert the flatness of the canvas.

"The wartime compositions also tend to be much more daring in their color schemes and compositions. Here, the lily pads are rendered in brilliant shades of blue and violet, suggestive of a twilit sky, which contrast with the shadowy green depths of the reflected willows. At the bottom right, the willow fronds give way and the pond seems to breathe free, mirroring the deep blue tones of the sky above. The lily pads take flight above this reflection of the open air, lifting toward the top edge of the canvas, the blossoms themselves like bursts of white light. 'Monet often made these paintings sites of contention, pitting order against balance, and forcing forms and reflections into spaces that might otherwise be lulling and seductive,' Tucker has written. 'That those tensions inform many of these pictures makes perfect sense, as Monet was painfully aware that his new language was the urgent product of a new historical moment, one fraught with unprecedented anxiety....'

"The sheer beauty of Monet’s aquatic paradise also served the artist as a balm during traumatic times. 'I mix and use a great deal of color,' he told one of the Bernheim-Jeune brothers. 'It occupies me enough so that I don’t have to think too much about this terrible, hideous war....' By January 1915, he was feeling confident enough in his new Nymphéas to invite Raymond Koechlin, the former head of the Société des Amis du Louvre and a formidable figure in Parisian art circles, to see them at Giverny. That summer, he began construction on a huge studio specifically designed to accommodate the Grandes décorations. He occupied the building in late October and began work on the actual murals at that time. By November 1917, he considered the panels sufficiently advanced that he permitted Durand-Ruel to come to Giverny and photograph them in progress.

"The present canvas and the other large Nymphéas from 1914-1917, with their range of brilliantly executed, experimental effects, provided Monet with ongoing inspiration throughout the process of painting the 22 murals. He did not exhibit any of these compositions during his lifetime and he sold only one, preferring instead to keep them close at hand in his studio as he worked; they remained with Monet’s family, largely unknown, for roughly more than a quarter-century after his death in December 1926 and the installation of the Grandes décorations at the Orangerie the next year. It was only after the Second World War that contemporary audiences, schooled in Abstract Expressionism, came to recognize the greatly daring poetry of these huge, valedictory paintings....

"The most influential, highly publicized purchase of a late Nymphéas came in 1955, when Alfred H. Barr, Jr. acquired one directly from Michel Monet for The Museum of Modern Art in New York....A few months later, the Parisian dealer Katia Granoff selected a cache of late works from Monet’s studio at Giverny, some thirty of which she exhibited at her gallery in 1956. On Barr’s recommendation, Peggy and David Rockefeller visited Granoff and purchased the present painting. 'One, which was almost certainly painted in the late afternoon and in which the water is a dark purple and the lilies stand out a glowing white, we bought immediately,' David Rockefeller recalled. They added a second Nymphéas to their collection a few weeks later and a third in 1961....“All three hang in the stairwell at Hudson Pines, where we enjoy them every time we go up or down the stairs....'"


The lot was estimated to sell for around $50 million.  It sold for $84,687,500, surpassing the artist's previous auction record of $81,447,504 set at Christie's New York November 16, 2016. 


Riverscape by Monet

Lot 11, "La Seine a Lavacourt," by Monet, oil on canvas, 23 5/8 by 32 1/8 inches, 1879

Lot 11, "La Seine a Lavacourt," is a much stronger composition.  An oil on canvas, it measures 23 5/8 by 32 1/8 inches and it was painted in 1879.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"It was high summer in 1879 when Monet painted this seductive panorama of the Seine near his home at Vétheuil, the bright sky filled with cottony banks of cumulus, the tranquil landscape gently stirred by a passing breeze. To find this alluring motif, Monet had only to walk out the front door of his house and cross the road to his garden, which extended down to the river’s edge several hundred yards away; he set up his easel at the garden gate, close to the spot where he moored his studio boat. From there, he looked west across the Seine - nearly three hundred meters wide at this point and studded with tree-covered islets - to the village of Lavacourt on the opposite bank.

"The artist had moved to Vétheuil, a rural enclave about sixty kilometers northwest of Paris, in August of the previous year, at the age of 37. He had several good reasons for re-locating from bustling suburban Argenteuil, where he had lived and worked since the Franco-Prussian War. Cost of living was paramount. His income in 1879 was just half of what it had been earlier in the decade, yet his commitments were far greater - his wife Camille and two sons of his own to support, plus Alice Hoschedé and her six children, who moved in with them at Vétheuil while her husband, an erstwhile Impressionist collector, tended to his bankrupt textile business in Paris. Monet was also seeking a more peaceful environment for Camille, who had fallen seriously ill after the birth of Michel in March 1878. Finally, the appeal of Argenteuil had begun to wither for the artist, as the encroachments of modernity - new factories, increased rail service, a burgeoning tourist industry - disrupted its country calm.

"Compared to Argenteuil, Vétheuil was a sleepy agrarian hamlet, far from the Parisian sprawl -  'a ravishing spot from which I should be able to extract some things that aren’t bad,' Monet wrote shortly after his arrival. The population numbered only six hundred inhabitants, less than one-tenth that of Argenteuil; there was minimal industry and neither a train station nor a bridge across the Seine. The village was even shielded from the commercial barge traffic that plied the river, which stayed to the Lavacourt side of the narrow islands that here divide the waterway in two.


"The three years that Monet spent in these idyllic environs would prove to be a decisive moment of artistic reassessment for him. At Vétheuil, he entirely abandoned the scenes of modern life and leisure that had dominated his work at Argenteuil and began to focus instead on capturing fugitive aspects of nature, employing a nascent serial technique that laid the groundwork for his most important later production.

"The view across the Seine toward Lavacourt, as seen in the present painting, was one of the first landscape subjects to capture Monet’s attention upon his arrival at Vétheuil in August 1878. He painted this splendid vista twice during the late summer or early fall of that year, before the trees began to turn (Wildenstein, nos. 475-476). He returned to the same spot - reassuringly close to home and hence to Camille, whose condition had turned increasingly dire - repeatedly the next summer, completing five variations on the same motif....

"In each of these canvases, Monet varied his position slightly and tackled different effects of light and weather. The present painting shows the widest view of Lavacourt in the group, with jostling, red-roofed houses extending almost the entire length of the horizon. In the remaining compositions, Monet shifted his angle of vision slightly to the south, looking upstream. The Seine now bends into depth beyond a stand of poplar trees near the center of the scene, and the gently sloping ridge of Saint-Martin-la-Garenne is visible at the left. Monet explored this vista in dense fog (Wildenstein, no. 476), under overcast skies (no. 538), and in the rosy glow of sunset (no. 540). In the present painting, morning light streams into the scene from behind the artist, dancing across the gently rippling river and illuminating the façades of the houses; the brilliant blue of the sky and the slight rustle of the breeze promise a perfect summer day. The waters of the river fill the entire foreground of the canvas, with only few patches of reeds to suggest the marshy spot on the bank where Monet stood.

"The natural beauties of this scene must have been a balm for the artist during an exceptionally painful period in his life. By the time he painted the present canvas, he was barely one step ahead of his many creditors; in a desperate letter to Georges de Bellio in August 1879, he pleaded with the collector to select some paintings from his studio in Paris (on which Caillebotte paid the rent). Camille, meanwhile, suffered terribly throughout the summer and died on 5 September at the age of 32. Monet’s grief was intense, and made more complicated by the presence of Alice Hoschedé, who would become his second wife. Landscape painting provided him with his principal solace...."


The lot has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It lot sold for $15,837,500.


Cityscape by Monet 26

Lot 26, "Exterieur de la gare Saint-Lazare, effet de soleil," by Monet, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 by 31 3/8 inches, 1877

Lot 26 is an impressive and fine urban scene by Monet that is entitled "Exterieur de la gare Saint-Lazare, effet de soleil."  An oil on canvas, it measures 24 1/8 by 31 3/8 inches.  It was painted in 1877.

When the Third Impressionist Exhibition opened, 7 of the 30 works by Monet were views of this train station in Paris.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Produced in an intensely concentrated burst of creative energy, Monet's investigations of this quintessentially modern milieu represent his first major commitment to pursuing a single subject through a long sequence of variations.  A unifying feature of all twelve views is the thick clouds of steam and smoke - the underlying force of industrial power - that prevade the scene, causing forms to emerge and dissolve in ephermal, unpredicatable ways....legend has it that Monet persuaded the station master to keep the trains idling in the depot or the switchyard after they completed their runs.

"Peggy and David Rockefeller purchased Extérieur de la gare Saint-Lazare, effet de soleil from the dealer Sam Salz in 1958, along with the Matisse Odalisque. Both paintings had been in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh Block, whom David Rockefeller had known from his days as a trustee of the University of Chicago. 'The prices they were asking seemed high,' he later recounted, 'but we thought that they were both such outstandingly beautiful paintings that we bought them without much hesitation. We have been increasingly glad that we did so, as they are two of the pictures we enjoy most particularly.'"


The lot has an estimate on request.  It sold for $32,937,500.

Girl by Monet  30

Lot 30, "Camille assise sur la plage a Trouville," oil on canvas by Monet, 18 1/8 by 15 inches, 1870-1

Lot 30 is a lovely and charming small oil on canvas by Monet of Camille, his new wife, beneath a parasol on the beach at Trouville in 1870.  The work measures 18 1/8 by 15 inches. 

It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $12, 125,000.



Beach by Gauguin 6

Lot 6, "La Vague," by Paul Gauguin, oil on canvas, 23 3/8 by 28 5/8 inches, 1888

One of the auction's most dramatic compositions is Lot 6, "La Vague," an oil on canvas by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).  It was painted in 1888 and measures 23 3/8 by 28 5/8 inches.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"Gauguin painted La Vague during his second extended sojourn in Brittany, as he availed himself of the inexpensive hospitality at Marie-Jeanne Gloanec’s pension in Pont-Aven, from late January into October 1888. The artist befriended Captain Yves-Marie Jacob, the head customs official in the town, who directed him to interesting sites along the coast. About eight miles to the southeast, in the small fishing commune of Le Pouldu, Gauguin discovered from a high, steep bluff, where the Portguerrec creek descends to the sea, this motif of massive, black lichen-covered rocks thrusting up through the North Atlantic surf. From a vantage point the artist could access only during low tide, he likely made a sketch or two, for the painting he would soon begin upon his return to Mme Gloanec’s inn....

“I like living in Brittany; here I find a savage, primitive quality,” Gauguin wrote to his painter friend Claude-Emile Schuffenecker in February 1888. “When my wooden shoes echo on the granite ground, I hear the dull, muted, powerful sound I am looking for in painting....”  After a slow start, Gauguin completed during the first seven months of his stay some three dozen landscapes, figure paintings, and still-lifes. These works display only hints, however, of the stylistic advances Gauguin had made during his recent stay in Martinique. He seemed hesitant to experiment, reverting instead to the Impressionist manner of his earlier work.

"The catalyst for change came in the arrival of Emile Bernard, then barely twenty, who had been painting along the northern coast of Brittany and travelled to Pont-Aven at the beginning of August while on holiday with his mother and sister. Van Gogh had recommended Bernard to Gauguin; the two artists immediately hit it off. As they exchanged ideas, both men realized they were similarly seeking a new kind of expression in modern painting....
 


"Gauguin was determined to take a decisive turn in his art - he would henceforth pursue a deeply subjective, anti-naturalist, primitivist, and visionary track, in a conception he and Bernard called synthétiste....

"In keeping with these ideas, Gauguin took liberties with the marine motif he had seen in Le Pouldu. Wayne Andersen located and photographed the site.... The third rock at upper left is a fiction the artist invented to extend the diagonal effect of the two actual formations. Most astonishing of all is that Gauguin painted the ordinary sand-colored beach a brilliant, utterly unnatural hue of vermilion. His increasingly idiosyncratic sense of color stemmed in part from the brilliant kiln-fired glazes that he applied to his ceramic heads and figures, in which the presence of red appears to animate the artist’s creation of flesh from clay. Gauguin’s vermilion in La Vague evokes the warmly pulsing life-blood in the generative body of maternal earth.

"The red beach relates to yet another extraordinary color effect that Gauguin imposed upon this scene. For the auction of his paintings at Drouot, Paris, in February 1891, to raise funds for his imminent departure to the South Seas, Gauguin titled the present painting La Vague (arc-en-ciel). No rainbow, of course, is visible in this picture. Detectable, however, in the surging, foamy surf, is a prismatic phenomenon, in which the water appears to separate the reflected sunlight into its component chromatic wavelengths - pale violet, blue, green, and yellow - which, completed by the vermilion strand, yields a curving, rainbow-like effect along the upper edge and right-hand side of the painting.... 

"An abiding fascination with Japanese prints surely intensified Gauguin’s affinity for the elemental power and poetic mystery he sensed in the Portguerrec rocks. He likely took the title for his canvas from Hokusai’s color woodcut The Great Wave of Kanagawa, already famous as the emblematic image for the flood-tide of japonisme that had swept through the ranks of vanguard Paris painters, and into mainstream decorative arts as well....

"As he had observed in Japanese practice, Gauguin often composed landscapes from elevated and other unusual vantage points, allowing him to dispense with a stabilizing horizon (in contrast to Monet in his Belle-Île Rochers series, 1886), and render the motif close-up, within an unaccustomed, restricted pictorial scope. Instead of gazing into the typically broad expanse of the landscape format, the viewer in La Vague experiences a vertiginous plunge into vertical depth, the psychological effect of which is like peering into the inner recesses of one’s own emotional self....

"La Vague was painted between two other notable works that bear witness to Gauguin’s recent stylistic metamorphosis and share his newfound passion for vermilion. In August 1888, the artist presented to his hostess Nature morte, fête Gloanec....The powerful, ground-breaking masterwork of Gauguin’s second stay in Pont-Aven is La vision du sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), the first symbolist painting, which Gauguin began in mid-August and completed the following month....Space in these works has become radically artificial, flat, and horizonless. The picture plane is tilted steeply toward the viewer, which verticalizes the composition of pictorial elements. The use of red in these pictures neither corresponds to, nor is derived from any observed natural phenomenon. This color is instead intended to project a visionary, revelatory state of awareness and understanding, in which a convulsive, volcanic force from within transfigures material nature into a transcendent, spiritual state.

"The symbolist transformation did indeed break over Gauguin like a great wave, transporting him like a castaway to an unfamiliar shore. In two letters to Schuffenecker written a week apart in October 1888, upon the completion of La vision du sermon, the artist stated, 'I wished to force myself into doing something other than what I know how to do. I believe this is a change which has not yet borne fruit, but will one day do so…Clearly the path of symbolism is full of dangers, and I have not yet ventured more than the tip of my toe in that direction: but symbolism is fundamental to my nature, and one should always follow one’s temperament...For most I shall be an enigma, but for a few I shall be a poet and sooner or later what is good wins recognition...'

"When La Vague appeared in a Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York sale in 1966, 'Peggy went to look at it in the auction rooms and was very much taken with it,' David Rockefeller recalled. They already owned Gauguin’s famous portrait of Meyer de Haan, painted a year later in Le Pouldu...'Her judgment was confirmed by John Rewald. This was certainly another case where I do not believe I would have bought left to myself, although I have come to appreciate it enormously and am very glad Peggy spotted it.'”

The lot has an estimate on request and expected to sell for about $18,000,000.  It sold for $35,187,500.

Flowers by Gauguin  14

Lot 14, "Fleurs dans une vase," by Gauguin, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 by 28 7/8 inches, 1886

Another fine Gauguin is Lot 14, "Fleurs dans une vase," an oil on canvas that measures 23 7/8 by 28 7/8 inches.  It was painted in 1886.  It has a modest estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.  It sold for $19,437,500.

Derain 41

Lot 41, "Paysage en Provence, Martiques," by Andre Derain, oil on canvas, 36 3/8 by 28 7/8 inches, 1908

Lot 41 is a superb landscape by Andre Derain entitled "Paysage en Provence, Martiques"  An oil on canvas, it measues 36 3/8 by 28 7/8 inches and was painted in 1908.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"Derain first experienced the southern climes of his country when he spent the summer of 1905 with Matisse in Collioure, a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border. This inspired partnership resulted in the emergence of Fauvism, the first transformative thrust of the avant-garde in the young 20th century, which Matisse and Derain revealed to the art world at the 1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris. The salle des Fauves was a sensational, momentous event, and a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, a year later the two painters were already pressing forward and evolving in new directions, working independently, but still in close contact. Matisse returned to Collioure. Derain again journeyed south during the summers of 1906-1908, painting in L’Estaque in 1906, returning there at the end of the year, and in Cassis during 1907. He worked in Martigues, father west along the coast, near the Rhône delta, between May and late November 1908.

“'Fauvism was our ordeal by fire,' Derain later reminisced. 'Colors became charges of dynamite. They were expected to discharge light. It was a fine idea, in its freshness, that everything could be raised above the real. It was serious, too. With our flat tones, we even preserved a concern for mass, giving for example a spot of sand a heaviness it did not possess, in order to bring out the fluidity of water, the lightness of the sky… The great merit of this method was to free the picture from all imitative and conventional contact.

“'What was wrong in our attitude was a kind of fear of imitating life,' Derain continued, 'which made us approach things from too far off and led us to hasty judgments…Thus it became necessary for us to return to more cautious attitudes, to lay in a store of resources from the outset, to secure patiently for each painting a long development.


"When Derain returned to the Midi in the summer of 1908, having chosen Martigues as his base, he was certainly flush with enthusiasm from having visited the Cézanne commemorative galleries in the 1907 Salon d’Automne. Derain shared this excitement with Picasso and Braque, the leading figures among the new circle of artist friends to which he had gravitated since the beginning of 1908.

"In this Paysage en Provence, Martigues, Derain continued to employ those 'flat tones' of Fauve practice. Back in Collioure during the summer of 1905, Derain and Matisse together viewed the Tahitian Gauguin paintings that Daniel de Monfreid had stored for safekeeping in his home nearby. The example of these works led Derain, more quickly than Matisse, to supplant the broken divisionist facture they had been using in their work, derived from Matisse’s interest in the Neo-Impressionist color theory of Signac and Cross, and to deploy instead broader masses of brilliant color in the Gauguinesque manner.

"Stacked vertically, flat zones of color serve as the constructive elements in the present Paysage en Provence. Larger forms dominate the foreground, while more compact blocks of color describe receding distance. The arboreal framing of the scene is a Cézannian device, learned from the old masters; Cézanne had declared as his purpose to remake the 17th century classical vision of Poussin according to nature.

"Derain’s aim during this period, as he wrote to Vlaminck in March 1906 when discussing the Impressionist art of Monet, was to find 'in nature something different - something which is fixed, eternal, and complex....'Despite his closeness to Picasso and Braque, Derain never sought a resolution for these concerns in Cubism, and experimented only tangentially with cubist elements in his landscapes during 1910. By the beginning of the First World War Derain instead settled into an idealized naturalism, tinged with naïf elements, which anticipated the classicism that would emerge by the end of the decade and become a significant trend in painting following the end of the war."



The lot has a very modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $2,492,500.


Bopnnard 36  Jussi

Lot 36, "Interieure (Appartement de Bonnard a Paris)," by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 by 44 7/8 inches, 1914, left; Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen taking bids on the lot, right

Lot 36 is a large and excellent "Interior of Pierre Bonnard's Apartment in Paris" by Bonnard(1867-1947).  An oil on canvas, it measures 49 5/8 by 44 7/8 inches and was painted in 1914. It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $6,612,500.

"True to his word, Bonnard drew his most profound and enduring creative inspiration from the rooms in which he lived, transforming these familiar and well-trodden spaces into painted images redolent with an atmosphere of gentle reverie and subtle mystery - of existence fleetingly registered on the threshold between reality and dreams. In the present 
Intérieur, Bonnard has depicted his lifelong partner Marthe at the dining room table, her figure sunken in shadow and cropped by the door frame, her face entirely hidden and her red-striped dress echoing the pattern of the tablecloth. Although the couple’s pet dachshund gazes toward her, acutely aware of her presence, she registers to the viewer within the warp and weft of the composition only after a slight, almost imperceptible delay. The chief protagonist of the painting instead is the brilliant sun that streams into the room from the glass door at right and momentarily illuminates the bouquet of flowers, which in turn burst forth like tiny fireworks against the bright red wallpaper ground."

The lot has an estimate on request.  It sold for $6,612,500.

Renoir

Lot  22, "Gabrielle au mirroir," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas, 31 5/8 by 25 1/2 inches, circa 1910

Lot 22 is a very fine oil on canvas of "Gabrielle au Mirroir," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).  It measures 31 5/8 by 25 1/2 inches and was painted circa 1910.  It has an estimate of  $7,000,000 to $10,000,000.  It sold for $13,812,500.


Seguin 5

Lot 5, "Les delices de la vie," by Armand Sequin, oil on canvas laid down on board, circa 1903

Lot 5 is a colorful four-part screen of oil on canvas laid down on board by Armand Seguin (1869-1903) entitled "Les delices de la vie."  It was painted circa 1903.  It has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.  It sold for $7,737,500, an auction record for the artist whose previous record was $314,897 set in 2007 at Christie's in Paris.

Juan Gris

Lot 2, "La table de musician," by Juan Gris, oil, gouache, colored wax crayons, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, 31 1/4 by 23 3/4 inches, 1914

Lot 2 is a fine still life by Juan Gris (1887-1927) entitled "La table de musician."   An oil, gouache, colored wax crayons, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, it measures 31 1/4 by by 23 3/4 inches.  It was painted in 1914.  It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $31,812,500.

About half-way through the sale, there were at least 15 empty seats.


Harry Macklowe  Don Marron     Gasgosian

Harry Macklowe, Donald Marron and Larry Gagosian attending the auction


   Xie Cohen

Xin Li-Cohen, deputy chairman, Asia, Christie's, was an active bidder


See The City Review article on the Spring 2017 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's New York
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See The City Review article on the Spring 2016 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's New York
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