By Carter B. Horsley
Although the "Part Two" day sales
might seem to be relegated to "second-tier" artists
or works of lesser quality than the "important," "major,"
evening sales, they often contain many gems that serious collectors
should not overlook as this auction amply demonstrates.
As usual, of course, any auction with about
310 lots has its share of fluff, but there are some truly wonderful
works for those who can endure the wait. Among the highlights
are a fine watercolor by Emil Nolde (1867-1956), a great collage
by Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), a couple of very interesting paintings
by Marino Marini (1901-1980), a fabulous Berthe Morisot, (1841-1895),
a surprising Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), and good examples by Fernand
Léger (1881-1955), Paul Klee (1879-1940), Albert Gleizes
(1881-1953), Francis Picabia (1879-1953) and Maurice de Vlaminck
Nolde is the great German Expressionist whose
best works are his small floral watercolors of which Lot 234,
"Orientalischer Mohn (Oriental Poppies)," a 13 ¼-by-18
½-inch watercolor, shown above, that was executed in the
early 1930s and has a conservative estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
It sold for $170,750 including the buyer's premium as do all
sales results mentioned in this article. This lot is the catalogues
cover illustration, and no serious collection of 20th Century
art should be without a Nolde, whose great floral works rarely
come on the market. Lot 231, "Sudseereise in China (South
China Sea)," is a very strong watercolor and brush and ink,
8 ¼ by 11 ¾ inches, of several sailboats that was
executed in 1913 and has a conservative estimate of $14,000 to
$18,000. It sold for $46,750.
Schwitters is one of the most sophisticated
artists of the early decades of the 20th Century and his small
collages were extremely influential. Lot 93, shown above, is one
of the best because it works very well aesthetically. Entitled
"Konstruktiondes Raumes (Construction of Space)," it
is a 7 ½-by-6-inch collage mounted on a card and dated
1921. It has a very conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It sold for $104,250. Another small, nice collage by Schwitters
if Lot 237, "Blue Ivory," which has an estimate of $30,000
to $40,000. It sold for $58,250.
Marini is best known for his large and bulky
sculptures of a horse and rider whose sameness erodes much of
their charm. This auction has two works by him that demonstrate
that his talents were much greater than one might suspect from
looking only at his sculptures. Lot 92, "Il Cavaliere,"
is a 17 ¾-by-13-inch tempera and pen and ink on paper that
is highly arresting and animated. The artist, who chose to give
the large horse only three legs, has used a variety of drawing
styles in this work to great and colorful effect. It has a conservative
estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It failed to sell. Lot
317, shown below, is the same subject but is treated in a much
different manner. Entitled "Cavallo e Cavaliere," it
is a 64 1/8-by-39 3/8-inch oil on paper laid down on canvas that
was executed in 1950 and its white highlights are explosively
exciting, hinting at traces of structure, anatomy and action.
This magnificent painting has a very conservative estimate of
$180,000 to $250,000. It sold for $192,750.
A few artists like Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso
and Henri Matisse are well known for both their sculpture and
painting but they are rare exceptions. It is often interesting
to compare an artists work in different media. Henry Moores
drawings, for example, have a more consistent level of high quality
than his sculptures, which is not to denigrate his great accomplishments
as a sculptor. Lot 287, "Leaf Figure, No. 2," is a 9
½-inch high bronze sculpture that is extremely interesting
and rather reminiscent of some early Near Eastern works and a
strong example of Moores vivid imagination and experimentation
with different styles. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
It failed to sell. Giorgio de Chiricos sculptures
are much more impressive than his paintings for which he is much
better known. Frederick MacMonnies is one of the great American
sculptors, but his paintings are marvelous and rare. Edward Steichen
is famed as a great photographer, but his tonalist paintings are
Léger is a modern master known primarily
for his painting, but Lot 215, shown below, demonstrates that
he had a great talent for plasticity and perhaps should have ventured
into more sculpture. This work is a precursor to some of the colorful
and fine sculptures that Frank Stella would create a generation
or so later and has some of the humor of Dubuffet and Niki Saint-Phalle.
Entitled "Margueritte," this glazed ceramic, executed
in 1952, is 24 ½ by 13 inches and has a very conservative
estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $87,000.
While many collectors like to get "classic"
examples of a particular artists style, such "formula"
works often are not as interesting or compelling as the artists
experiments with other styles. The fame of Raoul Dufy, for example,
rests on his fluid illustrations in bright colors that would become
the prototype for much computer art work done with programs like
Adobe Illustrator. Lot 203, shown below, then, is a giant surprise
as it is an immensely strong work in a Cubist-related style that
would appear to have offered the artist vast opportunities for
further exploration, and it makes one bemoan his subsequent commercialization.
Entitled "LAtelier de la Sequier," this 32 ¼-by-25
½-inch oil on canvas was painted around 1909 and is a remarkably
strong and dynamic composition that has a conservative estimate
of $120,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell. Another Dufy,
Lot 205, "Paysage Au Puits," a 20 7/8-by-25 5/8-inch
oil on canvas, is also somewhat surprising as it is a lush landscape
that stylistically is very much influenced by Cézanne.
"Like his contemporary Maurice de Vlaminck, Dufy was profoundly
influenced by the major Cézanne exhibitions held in 1907
painting with Braque at LEstaque in 1908, Dufy moved away
from the bright tonality of his earlier Fauvist work and moved
toward an abstracted set of forms similar to that used by Braque,
in pursuit of what Dufy believed to be the lessons taught by Cézanne,"
the catalogue noted. Both these lots suggest that a major retrospective
of Dufy is in order.It sold for $170,750 and had had a low
estimate of $200,000.
Maurice de Vlaminck was an uneven artist whose
dark, green and black landscapes that have proliferated on the
auction market for decades belie his talent that is best seen
in his early experiments with bright Fauve colors and in Lot 199,
which is as good a Cézanne landscape as they come. Entitled
"Chatou," this powerful 23 ½-by-28 ¾ inch
oil on canvas, shown below, was also painted in around 1909 and
has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It passed.
Similarly, Francis Picabia is an artist who
went through many stylistic changes but is best known for his
incredibly dynamic early Cubist-related works that were dark in
palette and mood but very powerful. Lot 164, therefore, is a bucket
of fresh water in the face as it is a very fine Pontillist work
by him that compares very well with similar works by Henri Edmond
Cross (1856-1910), such as Lot 133, "San Giorgio Maggiore
(Venise)," that has an estimated of $300,000 to $400,000
and was painted in 1903-4. It sold for $500,750 and had been
bought in at Sotheby's in its Fall 1999 sale when it had had an
estimate of $500,000 to $700,000 (see The
City Review article that has an illustration of it). Picabias
work, entitled "Le Port de Saint-Tropez, Effet de Soleil,"
is a beautiful "Divisionist" work that has an estimate
of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $511,750. This 1909
work, shown below, is an oil on canvas that is 35 ½ by
47 ¾ inches and would be a gorgeous pendant with the Cross
Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt are the two
famous woman Impressionists. Lot 122, shown at the top of this
article, is a sensational painting by Morisot that is a great
example of an artist recognizing that a sketch can often be more
exciting than a "properly" finished work. Some observers
might argue that such sketches represent the finest inspirations
of both artists and also of William Merritt Chase, the American
Impressionist. This Morisot, shown at the top of this article,
entitled "LEnfant au Tablier Rouge," is an oil
on canvas, 23 5/8 by 19 5/8 inches, and was painted in 1886. It
depicts her daughter, Julie Manet, and the catalogue maintains
it was "probably executed in the dining room of their house
in the Rue de Villejust" in Paris. It has a very conservative
estimate of $250,000 to $300,000. It sold for $280,750.
Paul Klee is one of the few artists whose work
is consistently wonderful. Lot 241, shown above, "Schlussbild
Einer Tragikomodie (Final Scene of a Tragicomedy)," is a
9 7/8-by-13 ¾-inch oil transfer and watercolor on gesso-prepared
paper, mounted on the artists board with reddish brown border.
It has a very impressive provenance: it was formerly in the collection
of Katherine Drier, Philip C. Johnson, Andy Warhol and Heinz Berggruen,
among others. Dated 1923, it has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
It sold for $335,750. The catalogue has an interesting
quotation from Andrew Kagan who has described Klees works
of this type as "operatic paintings" because "they
depend so literally on Klees great passion for and understanding
of opera and on the way in which the often slight libretti of
opera are borne up by great music." "In the operatic
compromise between low and high taste, between silliness and sublimity,
Klee saw a chance for his wiry, delicate line and the curious
images it yielded. Often these images were drawn directly from
the iconography of opera, especially comic opera, and figures
such as harlequins, acrobats, hanswurst clowns, singers,
and dancers frequently appear on Klees tiny, imaginary stages,"
the Kagan quote continued. The catalogue also provides the following
remarks about this work by Sabine Reward, the author of a 1988
book on the artist: All thats left at the end of Klees
Tragikomodie (tragicomedy) are four spidery figures taking
their bow. Their odd shapes distantly evoke the robotlike puppets
in Triadie Ballet (1922) conceived by Klees Bauhaus
colleague, Oskar Schlemmer. The only spot of color in this watercolor
that has the look of waterstained old parchment is the dark red
arrow pointing to the stage below whose various levels and depth
Klee indicated with just a few black lines." This work exudes
a great tactility; it has an archaeological air that conjures
ancient cave drawings. As always with Klee, the drawing conveys
If the above lot is sparsely drawn, Lot 240
is the complete opposite, a densely, crowded work of minute detail,
entitled "Structural II," that is a 10 1/8-by-8 5/8-inch
gouache on paper mounted on artists board. Executed in 1924,
it has an estimate of $250,00 to $350,000. It sold for $291,750.
"Since joining the Bauhaus in 1921," the catalogue stated,
"Klee had become increasingly concerned with linear and planar
structure in his compositions, and a firm, logical schemata is
apparent in all the works of these years. However, the present
work demonstrates how Klees preoccupation with geometry
never cramped his imagination, his delight in narrative or his
humor. In Structural II Klee successfully brought the separate
elements of drawing and color into a playful architecture of interpenetrating
blocks, without losing the graphic character and power of the
composition." This almost child-like doodle is highly sophisticated
and despite its small size conveys a sense of infinite, but interesting
congestion and texture. The catalogue provides the following quotation
from Werner Schmalenbachs 1986 book on the artist: "With
architecture one usually associates the static, stable and constructional.
Klees architecture is alive, not static; unstable, not stable;
and intuitive, not constructional. What holds good for construction
and geometry in his work also applies to perspective: it is but
one possibility among many." Although the work has a muted,
darker palette than much of his oeuvre, its delicate white, yellow
and pink highlights and blue and red "instances" give
it a very subtle, emerging environment of warmth and neighborliness.
It would be interesting to see a major exhibition that would pair
large works by Picasso of all his periods with Klees small
jewels and to see which artist would emerge as the most imaginative
and powerful. One suspects that Klee would not be overwhelmed
and that the combined inventiveness of these masters would energize
and rejuvenate all viewers.
Another good but less complex architectural
composition by Klee is Lot 221, "Architektur In Rot Und Grun
(Architecture in Red and Green)," a 5 7/8-by-10 ½-inch
watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil on paper with green paper
border on the top and bottom. It is one of several lots that were
gifts to The Jewish Museum from the estate of Jerome L. Green
that are being sold to benefit the museum. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $236,750.
Albert Gleizes is a "second-tier"
Cubist artist who produced many superb paintings. Lot 214, "Composition,"
is a very interesting Cubist study dated 1943 that is a 45 5/8-by-61
½-inch oil on burlap. The swirling forms, painted in a
muted palette, are contained compositionally in two rows of dashes
that visually frame the work whose texture is almost akin to a
tapestry. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold
for $69,750. In dramatic contrast, Lot 212A, "Vierge
a Lenfant," is a 10 ¼-by-6 ½-inch gouache
on paper that is insistently bright and a wonderful treatment
of the Virgin and Child. Instead of the traditional gold and rich
reds of Renaissance versions, Gleizes has used a cool palette
of blues and grays and whites and stretched the halo motif to
encompass both figures who are clearly discernible in this very
interesting geometric and Cubist influenced work that has a very
conservative estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $22,600.
Gleizess Cubist work is well represented in this auction
by Lot 207, "Les Bateaux de Peche ou Les Pecheurs,"
a 15 3/8-by-10 5/8-inch gouache on paper, dated 1913. The catalogue
notes that "this work is a study for an oil painting from
the same date which Apollinaire called the glory of the Salon
dAutomme of 1913-14. The very handsome and strong work has
a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $87,000.
Other highlights of this auction include Lot
84, "Baigneuse Assisse," a powerful Cubist bronze sculpture
by Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973), 32 7/8 inches high, that was
executed in 1917 and was formerly in the collection of the Frederick
and Marcia Weisman family and has been widely exhibited. It has
a conservative estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for
$621,750. Lot 87, "Alfios 2," is a good oil on carved
board, 13 3/8 by 21 5/8 inches, by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) that
has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold
Lot 238, "Composition," is a wonderful
study in geometrics by Laslo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). The 12 1/8-by-16-inch
watercolor, collage and pencil on gray paper was executed in 1921
and has a conservative estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold
The auction also has some nice works by Albert