By Carter B. Horsley
This is the final of three
important Impressionist and Modern Art auctions this spring at
Sotheby's. The first two were the two previous nights and although
this is only a "day" sale" it has plenty of good
things despite press reports that quality pickings were slim this
Indeed, a few of the offerings
are fabulous such as the great "New York," shown above,
Lot 322, a gouache on paper by Albert Gleizes (1881-1953). This
wonderful icon is estimated at only $60,000 to $80,000, a bargain
compared to most other beautiful Cubist-style works of the period.
It sold for $68,500 (including the buyer's premium as do all
sales prices in this article).
Another excellent work, shown
below, is Lot 334, "Les Footballeurs," by André
Lhote, a very impressive work from about 1918 that is estimated
at only $50,000 to $60,000. Lhote exhibited at some of the early
and important Cubist exhibitions along with Roger de la Fresnaye,
Robert Delaunay and Jacques Villon, who all consist of the often
overlooked but very strong "second tier" of Cubist masters
after Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques and Juan Gris. It sold
These works are museum quality as is the powerful
bronze sculpture with silver patina, Lot 395, "Il Grande
Trovatore," by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978). The piece,
shown below, is numbered 3 in an edition of 9 and is stunning,
far better than his famous and influential paintings. It is only
estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 and should go considerably higher.
It sold for $48,875.
Perhaps the biggest surprise
of this auction is Lot 413, the sensational work by Ben Nicholson
(1894-1982), shown below. This large oil on carved board is better
than any Mark Rothko and it is hard to understand why its consignors,
actress Julie Andrews and her husband, Blake Edwards, the director,
could possibly part with it, although one's estimate of their
aesthetic sensitivity soars when one considers that this graced
their home. It is estimated at only $100,000 to $150,000. It is
a knockout that puts most of the New York School to shame. It
sold for $189,500.
There are two other fine but
smaller Nicholsons in related styles, Lots 361 and 413, estimated
at $60,000 to $80,000 and $50,000 to $70,000, respectively. The
estimates are relatively correct in relation to each other, but
low for the works, whose sculptural and tactile qualities are
marvelous. They sold for $79,500 and $46,000, respectively.
There are many other great
buys in this large auction.
Lot 204 is a 4 by 5 inch oil
on canvas laid down on panel by Pierre-August Renoir (1841-1919)
that is like a jewel charcoal drawing by Georges Seurat transformed
into color. It depicts a few people under parasols on a beach
and is only estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. Given the fact that
Renoir painted so many horrible tiny paintings, this delightful
sketch reminds us that though inconsistent Renoir could be great.
It sold for $48,875.
Lot 207, a floral still life
by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) is lovely, as are all of this
artist's work and while it is not a supreme example it was good
enough to be owned previously by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Sam
Salz and Jacques Seligman among others, which should help it exceed
its high estimate of $300,000. It failed to sell.
A large and lovely but atypical
beach scene by Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), Lot 217, would grace
the living room of any penthouse and its low estimate of $70,000
to $90,000 reflects the hesitancy of many new collectors to stray
from the formulaic traditions of "name" artists. It
sold for $200,500. A more typical Boudin is Lot 221, a good
and large harbor scene that is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000
that has more of the artist's fine cloud work and delicate drawing
although not all the early Impressionist charm of his great small
beach scenes. It sold for $211,500.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
was greatly loved and admired by his contemporary Impressionist
paintings but many of his works have a heaviness that has not
put in the highest firmament of collector desirability. Lot 228,
"Setting Sun," however, is a super painting that is
quite startling for its bold reddish hues in the sky and its expressionistic
brushwork. The small oil was painted in 1872 and is estimated
at $200,000 to $300,000, a fair value for this very interesting
and strong work. It sold for $244,500.
Another surprising Pissarro
is Lot 235, a small but very strong scene of some peasants and
cows that is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000, probably because
its subject matter is more familiar for aficionados of the artist.
Both these lots upgrade our
appreciation of Pissarro, but Lot 237, a landscape pastel, alters
it considerably as it is an unusual composition and very poetic.
It is estimated fairly at $80,000 to $100,000. It sold for
There is a pleasant small oil
by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Lot 280, that is estimated at
$200,000 to $250,000 and a much larger and much more striking
landscape by him, Lot 288, that is a synthesis of Cezanne and
Richard Diebenkorn, if that were possible, and is only estimated
at $180,000 to $220,000. Lot 280 sold for $277,500 and Lot
288 failed to sell.
There are several strong Valtats,
especially Lot 307 that is modestly estimated at $75,000 to $100,000
and a very nice portrait of a blond girl by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947),
Lot 305, that is estimated at $350,000 to $450,000 and is strong
but not as charming as Lot 310, a delightful painting by Kees
van Dongen (1877-1968) of a woman and two rabbits that has the
same estimate. Lot 307, the Valtat, sold for $79,500. Lot 305,
the Bonnard, sold for $310,400. Lot 310, the van Dongen, sold
Chaim Soutine is represented
by a turbulent storm scene that is very impressive, Lot 311, which
carries an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000 and will probably
go higher. It was withdrawn.
Georges Roualt (1871-1958)
is a major artist whose popularity has unfortunately receded considerably
from the 1950's. Lot 314 is a large, dark picture of a woman in
a white hat that Rembrandt would be very fascinated with and is
only estimated at $300,000 to $400,000. It failed to sell.
Other fine lots include an
awesome, as always, drawing by Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Lot 340,
which sold just under its low estimate for $299,500; a great
small watercolor by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Lot 346, which
sold just over its low estimate for $211,500; and a very interesting
Kandinsky that is the catalogue cover illustration, Lot 348, which
sold within its estimate for $189,500.
There were also two strong
paintings by the great and undervalued Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957),
Lots 357 and 358, which were both estimated at $70,000 to $90,000
and sold for $112,500 and $151,000, respectively; Lot 376,
a charming Paul Klee (1879-1940), which is one of several works
consigned from the collection of Frances Gershwin Godowsky, the
sister of composer George Gershwin, and is the illustration on
the catalogue's back cover, and which sold for just
over its low estimate for $415,000; and a joyful painting
of a mask by André Masson (1896-1987), Lot 377, also from
the Godowsky collection, which sold for $25,875, more than
twice its high estimate.
There are also a few nice Legers,
Dalis and Chagalls. The smallest Chagall, Lot 459, a Crucifixion
scene, is a great explosion of red and is more like Roualt than
Chagall. It is only estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 and is much
better than the typical and much larger Chagalls. It failed
Jacques Lipchitz, the sculptor,
is represented by a fine handsome gouache on board that is estimated
at $40,000 to $60,000 and sold for $60,250.
Among the surprises at the
auction were Lot 201, a very poetic pastel landscape by Edgar
Degas that has been estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and sold for
$74,000; a seascape with sail boats oil by Claude Monet, Lot 206,
which had been estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 and sold for
$431,500; a group of sculptures by Honoré Daumier that
went substantially higher than their high estimates; a small oil
painting of Venice by Eugène Boudin, Lot 214, that soared
over its high estimate of $400,000 to sell for $745,000; and Lot
216, a lovely bronze statue with gold patina by Camille Claudel
(1864-1943) sold for $222,500 and had had a high estimate of $150,000.
Just more than 75 percent
of the 297 lots offered sold for a total of $24,094,250.