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Impressionist and Modern Art

Sotheby's New York

7 P.M., November 2

Sale 8789

David Norman and Matisse sculpture

David C. Norman, co-chair of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Department, discussing the dynamics of Lot 29, "Nude De Dos, bronze, by Henri Matisse, 74 inches high, conceived 1908-9 and cast in 1959

By Carter B. Horsley

The November 2, 2011 Impressionist and Modern Art auction at Sotheby's New York is highlighted by a bronze sculpture of a nude back by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a large landscape by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), numerous paintings by Max Ernst (1891-1976), strong works by André Derain (1880-1954), Wassily Kandinsky (1864-1944), and Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), an excellent painting by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and good works by Camille Pisarro (1831-1903), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Georges Braque (1882-1963), Joan Miró (1893-1983), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and Paul Delvaux (1897-1994).

The Matisse sculpture has been on loan from the Burnett Foundation to the Kimbell Museum of Art in Fort Worth and is part of a four-piece set that the foundation had acquired in 1982 from Norton Simon.  Sotheby's announced earlier this year that it would offer all four Matisse sculptures from the foundation individually in the next three consecutive Impressionist & Modern Art auctions.   The catalogue refers to the set as Matisse's crowning achievement in sculpture and Lot 29 has an estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000.  At the press preview for the auction, David C. Norman, the co-chair of the department waxed ecstatically over the merits of the sculpture as can be seen in the above photograph so much so that one might have thought the statue would ask him for "the last dance."

The 74-inch-high sculpture was conceived in Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1908-9 and cast in 1959.

Other copies of the set are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Galerie Beyeler in Basel, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, the Tate Gallery in Lodon the Kunsthaus in Zurich, the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

At the auction, it was announced, however, that the lot had been withdrawn because it had been sold privately the day before, and Simon Shaw, the co-head of the department, told reporters after the auction that he could not reveal any further details of the transaction.

Carol Vogel of The New York Times did not have her usual excellent review of the Christie's auction in the first editions of The New York Times but it appeared on-line the next day.  Later in the day, she posted another article about the Matisse sculptures and wrote that her sources told her that Sotheby's had withdrawn the sculpture because it had sold the entire set of four the day before and she indicated that while Sotheby's had been offered the set for about $200 million recent in a private sale she understood that the sale was for about $120 million.

Given the poor showing the night before at Christie's auction, the announcement that the Matisse sculpture had been withdrawn was greeted with considerable shock in the auction room as many people thought it was an indication that the market was in trouble.

At the end of the auction, however, the audience burst into a nice round of applause as Sotheby's had fare much better than Christie's and sold 81.4 percent of its 70 offered lots for $199,804,500, nicely within its pre-auction estimates of $167.56 million to $229.87 million.  At the press conference after the auction, Mr. Norman said that Christie's auction had been "definitely sobering" and Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer remarked that "the market is rallying" and Mr. Shaw said that "the art market is alive and kicking."

Simon Shaw with Klimt

Simon Shaw, co-head of the department, discussing Lot 7, "Litzberg an Attersee," by Gustav Klimt

Lot 7, "Litzberg am Attersee," is a large and fine landscape by Gustav Klimt entitled "Litzberg am Attersee."  An oil on canvas, it measures 43 1/4 inches square and was painted circa 1914-5.  It had been seized from Amalie Redlichof Vienna by the Gestapo after the Anshluss in 1938 and was kept in museums in Salzburg until it was restituted to the heir of Amalie Redlich this year.  It has an estimate of request that was "in excess of $25 million."  It sold for $40,402,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.


Lot 17, "Le  Pont d'Argenteuil, et La Seine," by Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas 25 3/4 by 32 1/4 inches, circa 1883

Lot 17, "La Pont d'Argenteuil et la Seine," is an oil on canvas by Gustave Caillebotte. It measures 25 3/4 by 32 1/4 inches and was executed circa 1883. It has been widely exhibited and has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. The painting sold for $8,482,500 in the fall of 2008 at Christie's New York when it had an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It sold at this auction for $18,002,500.

The 2008 catalogue entry notes that "The landscapes that Manet, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, and Caillebotte painted at Argenteuil during the 1870s and 1880s have been widely hailed as a high point of Impressionism. Paul Tucker has identified these artists' views of Argenteuil as 'some of the most novel canvases of their careers' and has asserted, 'Their paintings constitute one of the most remarkable bodies of work in the history of art, making Argenteuil synonymous with Impressionism and a touchstone for the development of Western visual culture....Caillebotte first visited Argenteuil in 1878, the same year that Monet moved away from the town after seven extremely fruitful years in residence there. In 1881, following his mother's death and the sale of the family estate in Yerres, Caillebotte and his brother Martial purchased a house directly across the river from Argenteuil in the quieter, more rustic town of Petit Gennevilliers. For the final decade of his career, this stretch of the Seine would be the focus of Caillebotte's artistic activities. Depicting the highway bridge that connects Argenteuil and Petit Gennevilliers, the present canvas is among Caillebotte's boldest and most inventive canvases from this period. Anne Distel has written, 'With its surprising yet subtle composition and its intense color scheme, this painting is incontestably one of the most successful works executed by Caillebotte on the banks of the Seine....' Caillebotte's interest in Argenteuil was most likely inspired both by his passion for sailing and by the example of his close friend Monet. The Seine is deeper and broader at Argenteuil and Petit Gennevilliers than anywhere else in the environs of Paris, offering optimal conditions for boating. The most elegant yacht club in the capital, the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, had its moorings at Argenteuil, and the town was even chosen as the site for the sailing competition during the Exposition Universelle of 1867. Caillebotte competed in his first regatta in 1879 and quickly became a devotee of the fashionable new sport. In 1882, he began to design his own sailboats, which became well-known for their impressive record of victories, and he even financed his own boat construction yard at Petit Gennevilliers starting in 1886. Although Monet did not share Caillebotte's interest in sailing, he too may initially have been drawn to Argenteuil for its spectacular stretch of the Seine. Between 1871 and 1878, Monet painted no fewer than a hundred views of Argenteuil, including a scene of a regatta that formed part of Caillebotte's own collection....The motifs that Caillebotte chose to paint at Argenteuil, such as the highway bridge and the boat basin, were ones that Monet too had explored, yet Caillebotte personalized this pictorial repertory with more dramatic vantage points and consistently bolder color than that of his celebrated predecessor. The highway bridge was one of two bridges that spanned the Seine between Argenteuil and Petit Gennevilliers, a distance of approximately two hundred meters. The other was the railway bridge, a few hundred meters to the north. The railway bridge is visible in the background of the present painting on the right and also forms the subject of another canvas that Caillebotte painted around the same time....The two bridges were dramatically different in both materials and design. Originally built in 1830-1831, the highway bridge was made from wood and cut stone, with a traditional elevation based on a series of seven graceful, rounded arches springing from carved pilings. Prior to the arrival of the railroad at Argenteuil, the highway bridge provided the only way over the Seine and hence represented the town's principal link to Paris. Serving pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles, it remained in Caillebotte's day one of the area's most noted landmarks, evoking for contemporary viewers the picturesque Argenteuil of yesteryear. The railway bridge, in contrast, was a marvel of modern engineering, embodying everything new and progressive about the town. Constructed in 1863 from poured concrete and pre-fabricated iron, it had a stripped-down, industrial design, with four pairs of slender, cylindrical supports and a straight, unadorned trestle. As a pair, the two bridges (both destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 and re-erected shortly thereafter) provided a potent visual analogue for the contrasts of modern life: industry and nature, work and pleasure, town and country, new and old. The way in which Caillebotte chose to paint the highway bridge, however, was anything but traditional. Indeed, Tucker has described the composition as exemplifying Caillebotte's 'typical imagination and distinctly modernist flair....' Rather than depicting the entire structure from a distance, Caillebotte drew in close to the bridge, concentrating on a single span, which slices across the canvas at a slight angle. To paint the scene, he stood on the Petit Gennevilliers bank, looking toward the houses and factories of Argenteuil. Most likely, he set up his easel on a floating dock near the highway bridge that served as the headquarters of the local boat-keeper; this structure forms the central motif of a canvas that Caillebotte painted in 1886-1887, this time standing on the bridge itself and looking down over the boat basin....In the present painting, Caillebotte has adopted a low, angled vantage point, elevating the bridge so high on the picture plane that its underside is fully exposed. The five steel ribs that form the underpinnings of the span leap across the width of the picture, with the far rib silhouetted against the sky. The horizontal thrust of the bridge is cunningly echoed in the pattern of dark and light bands creating a shadow which plays across the surface of the water. Tucker lauds the masterful impasto explaining: 'Everything in the picture is subject to the flickering light that Caillebotte so sensitively renders with his broken brushwork and lively palette, just as everything is vulnerable to the possibilities of transformation, whether through the powers of modern art or those of modern life....' Even the bottom edge of the roadbed overhanging the nearest arch is visible for inspection. This dramatic perspective, moreover, is not the only striking feature of the composition; equally inventive is the unexpected cropping. Caillebotte has depicted only the left-hand pier of the span, cropping out its pendant on the right. As a result, the five steel arches appear to leap into a void....The audacity of Caillebotte's view of the highway bridge at Argenteuil is evident by comparison with earlier renderings of the structure. Monet and Sisley had both painted the bridge as early as 1872, depicting it from a distance, with its straight roadbed and rhythmic arcade closing off a panorama of the boat basin....Renoir opted for a similarly picturesque composition when he painted the bridge in 1882, adding a screen of trees in the foreground....In 1874, Monet painted a series of six views of the structure, drawing closer than he had two years earlier. Two of these show the bridge thrusting into the scene on a steep diagonal..., while the remaining examples focus on a single span, which stretches across the width of the canvas....In no version, however, does Monet approach the novelty of the present composition, with its dramatically angled vantage point, radical cropping, and close-up view of the bridge's girding. Indeed, the closest precedent for these innovations comes from Caillebotte's own oeuvre: namely, the two views that he made in 1876-1877 of the Pont de l'Europe in Paris, the first showing a deep, plunging view along one of the bridge's six spans (Berhaut, no. 49; Musée du Petit Palais, Geneva) and the other painted from the center of the structure, its massive iron trellises parallel to the picture plane....Not until the early twentieth century, in paintings such as Robert Delaunay's Tour Eiffel series of 1909-1912 and Joseph Stella's Brooklyn Bridge paintings of 1919-1922..., would a structural latticework again take such obvious center stage."

Landscape by Derain

Lot 51, "Paysage aux Environs de Chatou," by André Derain, oil on board laid down on cradled panel, 22 1/8 by 28 1/8 inches, 1904-5

Lot 51 is a strong Fauve landscape of the neighborhood around Chatou, France by André Derain (1880-1954). An oil on board laid down on cradled panel, it measures 22 1/8 by 28 1/8 inches and was painted circa 1904-5. When it was offered at Sotheby's in the spring of 2007 it had a conservative estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 and sold for $2,168,000.  At this auction, it has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It passed at $3,300,000.  The 2007 catalogue noted that "although the present work is among the best of Derain's proto-Fauve works, it has escaped attention because it hung discretely in an American private collection for most of the 20th Century."

Beach scene by Munch

Lot 20, "Morgen Pa Promenade des Anglais," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 by 41 3/4 inches, 1891

Lot 20 is a very pleasant beach scene by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) that is an oil on canvas that measures 25 12 by 41 3/4 inches.  It was painted in 1891.  It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $1,986,500.


Lot 47, "Weisser Klang (White Sound)," by Wassily Kandinsky, oil on board laid down on cradled panel, 27 5/8 inches square, 1908

Lot 47, "Weisser Kland (White Sound)," is a stunning painting by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). An oil on board mounted on cradled panel, it was executed in 1908 and measures 27 1/2 inches square. It was at one time in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Lachman of New York. It had an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000 when it was offered at Sotheby's New York in the spring of 2007 and when it sold for $5,416,000.  At this auction, it has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for $8,930,500.  Kandinsky was very interested in music and the Jugendstil poetry of Stefan George, a German Symobolist, who focused the imagery of his poems on the sound of words rather than their meaning and emphasized the visual harmony of their design of the page. The catalogue suggests that the reclining figure in the painting may be the "dreamer" in George's poem "Weisser Gesang (White Song)."

Castle by Monet

Lot 9, "Antibes, Le Fort," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 by 32 1/8 inches, 1888

One of the works consigned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is Lot 9, "Antibes, Le Fort," by Claude Monet (1840-1926).  An oil on canvas, it measures 25 5/8 by 32 1/8 inches and was painted in 1888.  It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.  It sold for $9,266,500.

Riverscene by Monet

Lot 68, "Bords de La Seine en Automne," by Monet, oil on canvas 21 5/8 by 29 inches, 1876

Lot 68 is a river scene by Claude Monet that is an oil on canvas that measures 21 5/8 by 29 inches and was painted in 1876.  It is entitled "Bords de La Seine en Automne" and has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $1,650,500.


Lot 14, "Chemin Creux dans une Pente Boisée," by Paul Gauguin, oil on canvas, 23 1/4 by 18 1/8 inches, 1884

One of the works consigned to this auction by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is Lot 14, "Chemin Creux une Pente Boisée," by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).  An oil on canvas, it measures 23 1/4 by 18 1/8 inches and was painted in 1884.  It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $1,426,500.

Landscape by Sisley

Lot 10, "Saint-Hammès, Le Matin," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 by 29 inches, 1881

Another work consigned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is Lot 10, "Saint-Hammès, Le Matin," by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899).  An oil on canvas, it measures 19 3/4 by 29 inches and was painted in 1881.  It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $2,826,500.

Townscape by Vuillard

Lot 48, "Le Square," by Edouard Vuillard, glue-based distemper on canvas, 39 3/8 by 30 3/4 inches, 1917-8

Lot 48 is a large and very fine cityscape by Edouard Vuilllard (1868-1940) entitled "Le Square."  A glue-based distemper on canvas, it measures 39 3/8 by 30 3/4 inches and was painted in 1917-8.  It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It was passed at $1,700,000.

Nude by Cezanne

Lot 16, "Baigneuse Debout, S'éssuyant Les Cheveux," by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 11 3/4 by 5 1/4 inches, circa 1869

Lot 16 is a very pleasant nude by Paul Cézanne that were once in the collection of Auguste Pellerin (1852-1929), one of the most important early patrons of Impressionist and Post-Impressionists artists. It measures 11 3/8-by-5 1/8-inch oil on canvas, and is entitled "Baigneuse debout, s'essuyant les cheveux." This small female nude, which was possibly painted as early as 1869, is quite lovely and presages much of his later famous brushwork and it is estimated a bit conservatively at $700,000 to $900,000 when it was offered at Christie's New York in the fall of 1999 when it sold for only $662,500.  At this auction, it has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It sold for $818,500.

Still life by Braque

Lot 40, "Fruits, Verre et Boutelille," by Georges Braque, oil on board laid down on cradled panel, 21 1/4 by 22 3/8 inches, 1924

Lot 40 is an excellent still life by Georges Braque.  An oil on board laid down on cradled panel, it measures 21 1/4 by 22 3/8 inches and was painted in 1924.  It has a modest estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $1,650,500.

Miro and Picasso

David C. Norman in gallery next to Lot 58, "Vol d'Oiseaux Entourant Le Jaune d'un Eclair," by Joan Miró, oil on masonite, 39 3/8 by 25  3/8 inches, 1973",  left; and Lot 35, "L'Aubade," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 51 1/4 by 76 3/4 inches, 1967, right

Lot 58 is a very strong oil on masonite by Joan Miró from 1973.  Entitled "Vol d'Oiseaux Entourant Le Jauned'un Eclair," it measures 39 3/8 by 25 38 inches.  It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.  It passed at $1,200,000.

Lot 35 is a large oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso, entitled "L'Aubade."  It measures 51 14 by 76 3/4 inches and was created in 1967.  It has an estimate of $18,000,000 to $25,000,000.  It sold for $23,042,500.

Blue and yellow by Ernst

Lot 21, "La Mare aux Grenouilles," by Max Ernst, oil on canvas, 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 inches, 1956

The auction has numerous works by Max Ernst (1891-1976) such as Lot 21, "La Mare aux Grenouilles," an oil on canvas that measures 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 inches.  The 1956 work has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.  It sold for $872,500.

Blue by Ernst

Lot 23, "Les Princes Dorment Mal," by Max Ernst, oil on canvas, 45 5/8 by 35 inches, 1957

Another fine Ernst is Lot 23, "Les Princes Dorment Mal," an oil on canvas that measures 45 5/8 by 35 inches.  The 1957 work has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $2,434,500.

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