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Impressionist and Modern Art

Christie's New York

7 P.M., May 1, 2012

Sale 2554

Brooke Lampley with Cézanne watercolor

Brooke Lampley, the head of the Impressionist & Modern Art Department at Christie's, in front of Lot 5, "Joueur de cartes," by Paul Cézanne, watercolor on laid paper, 18 1/4 by 12 inches, 1892-6

By Carter B. Horsley

The May 1, 2012 Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction at Christie's New York has 32 lots, the smallest number in recent years but one that was welcomed by many observers exhausted by recent lengthy auctions.

If the auction is "tight," it is also filled with many very fine works including Lot 5, "Joueur de cartes," by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906).  It is one of seven watercolor studies for the artist's very famous series known as "The Card Players."  There are five versions of the oil painting and the auction's catalogue remarks that the series has "long been recognized as being among the most important and very finest works he ever created," adding  that "they have furthermore been counted among the greatest art works in the Western canon."

Nancy Ireson and Barnaby Wright, the curators of the Cézanne's Card Players exhibition organized by The Courtauld Gallery, London, in 2010, speak securely for the modern consensus when they state:

"The group has a distintcive place within Cézanne's oeuvre.  The Card Player paintings are his only significant engagement with what would conventionally be called a genre subject  His considerable involvement in this theme, combined with the fact that two of the canvases are among the largest he ever painted, suggest that he considered the project to be a major artistic statement.  In this regard, the Card Players are compared to his Bathers series from the same decade....This series has often been celebrated as being at the pinnacle of his achievements....Just as importantly, the paintings have long played a role in shaping Cezanne's posthumous reputation....Less than two decades after the painter's death, the works had become iconic."

Of the five oil paintings, only one remains in private hands, the catalogue noted, adding that "Seven drawings and watercolors are known to exist - three of them are in private ollections.  Among these works on paper is thepresent Jouer de cartes, whose offering in this sale catalogue is the next noteworthy chapter in what has became a remarkable and propitious sequence of Cézanne Card Players events that have taken place since the opening of the Courtauld Gallery exhibition in Octoer 2010.  This impressive watercolor, a key work among the studies, has been in the collection of the same family for seventy years, and has not been seen in a public exhibition since 1953."

At the auction's press preview, Brooke Lampley, the head of the Impressionist & Modern Art Department at Christie's siad that the watercolor is "truly outstanding" with its vivid colors and amazing condition."  It measures 18 1/4 by 12 inches and was executed between 1892 and1896.  It has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000. It sold for $19,122,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
 It is property of the Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald Collection that got it by descent from Mr. and Mrs. Ernst Eichenwald of Berlin and New York.

The sale was successful with 28 of the 31 offered lots selling for $117,086,00.  The pre-sale high estimate was about $135 million.  One lot was withdrawn, 22, a large bronze head of Diego, the brother of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti.  It had an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  At the news conference after the auction, Ms. Lampley said that Christie's was "thrilled with the results."

Lot 6 is another Cézanne from the same collection.  It is entitled "L'amour en Platre" and is an oil on canvas that measures 22 1/2 by 9 3/4 inches and was painted in 1894-5.  It has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $1,538,500. It is a study for a painting in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and is featured in no fewer than five oils, five watercolors and eleven drawings by Cézanne.  The plump statuette is still preserved in his last studio in Les Lauves.
L'arete rouge transperce les plumes bleues de l'oiseau au pale bec" by Miró

Lot 16, "L'arete rouge transperce les plumes bleues de l'oiseau au pale bec," by Joan Miró, oil on canvas, 18 by 14 3/4 inches, 1951

One of the auction's finest works is Lot 16, "L'arete rouge transperce les plumes bleues de l'oiseau au pale bec (The red fishbone pierces the blue feathers of the bird with a pale beak)," by Joan Miró (1893-1983).  An oil on canvas, it measures 18 by 14 3/4 inches and was painted in 1951.  It once belonged to Mark Goodson.  The catalogue notes that Miró was quite taken with titles and provides the following quotation by the artist:

"When I give it a title, it becomes even more alive  I find my titles in the process of working, as one thing leads to another on my canvas  When I have found the title, I live in its atmosphere.  The title then becomes completely real for me, in the same way that a model, a reclining woman, for example can become real for another painter.  For me, the title is a very precise reality."

The catalogue entry notes that for Mir
ó the title was a musical poem: "the artist's language recalls the synaesthetic. scented Symbolist verse of Verlaine, Laforgue, Mallarme and Rimbaud, tinged moreover with a suggestion of violence...that one may associate with the convulsive imagery of surrealist poetry."  

Miró has suffused this otherworldly environment with an exquisite  rosy pink aura, againsgt which he flashes of primary and binery color  - yellow, red and green - radiate with heightened intensity," the entry continued.

It has an estimate of $4,500,000 to $6,500,000. It sold for $4,338,500. The very thin pink outline around the central black subject is especially effective and Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of Christie's Department of Impressionist and Modern Art, said in an interview that it was painted first and the black was pushed to the edges.

"Les Pivoines" by Matisse

Lot 13, "Les Pivoines," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 inches, 1907

The cover illustration of the auction's catalogue is Lot 13, "Les Pivoines," by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), an ravishing oil on canvas that measures 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 inches and was painted in 1907.  

It has a modest estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $19,122,500 to a European private collector.

"Le Repos (Mrie-Therese Walter)" by Picasso

Lot 3, "Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter)," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 10 1/4 by 18 1/4 inches, 1932

The most beautiful painting in the auction is Lot 3, "Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter)," by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), an oil on canvas from 1932 that measures 10 1/4 by 18 1/4 inches.  It was sold at Christie's November 6, 2002 for $3,089,500 when it had an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.  This time it has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000 and is the backcover illustration of the catalogue.  It sold for $9,882,500 to an American private collector.

The catalogue notes that "Of all of these outstanding portraits, Le Repos, with its innovative landscape composition is among the most intimate.  A fluid and deeply personal work, the simple lines and fields of color translate the great tranquility of her sleep.  Marie-Thérèse was not merely a model but a true inspiration and the portraits Picasso painted of her during the spring of 1932 are visual declarations of his love  The splendor of these paintings was most recently heralded again in the acclaimed Gagosian Gallery exhibition Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L'Amour Fou, which focused on the relationship between the two lovers and the incredible string of works elicited by their raptuours affair....It is exclusively a lover's view, seen with a lover's proximity.  The face fills the composition, creating an intense impression of the intimacy between artist and sitter: it reads as a pillow-side view of Marie-Thérèse with her features so near and all context absent other than a portion of the surface where her head rests."

"Femme dans l'atelier" by Picasso

Lot 20, "Femme dans l'atelier," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 28 1/4 by 36 1/4 inches, 1956

Another simple and lyrical Picasso is Lot 20, "Femme dans l'atelier," an oil on canvas that measures 28 1/4 by 36 1/4 inches.  It was painted in 1956. It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.  It sold for $4,114,500 to an American dealer.  The woman depicted is the artist's lover, Jacqueline Roque, looking a painting of La Californie, a villa they shared overlooking Cannes and the Mediterranean.  

"Mousquetaire et nu assis" by Picasso

Lot 23, "Mousequetaire et nu assis," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 by 31 3/4 inches, 1967

Lot 23 is a lively "Mousequetaire et nu assis" by Picasso.  A 1967 oil on canvas, it measures 39 1/4 by 31 3/4 inches.  It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $8,000,000.  It sold for $4,226,500 to an American dealer.  The catalogue entry includes a quotation from D. Hart's 2000 exhibition catalogue of "Picasso Mousequeteros: the Late Works, 1962-1972" at the Gagosian Gallery in New York: "Behind the screen of droping swords, avidly smoked pipes, tipily riased glasses, fondled nudes, and other sublimations of impotency - drinking, smoking, making music, and canoodling - they represent a fictional universe Picasso developed to exppore his credo: Life not Death, Peace not War.'"

"Deux Nus Couché" by Picasso

Lot 17, "Deux nus couché," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 76 3/4 by 51 1/4 inches, 1968

Lot 17 is a very large oil on canvas of two nudes by Pablo Picasso.  Painted in 1968, it measures 76 3/4 by 51 1/4 inches.  It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $8,818,500 to a foreign dealer.

Head of a man by Modigliani

Lot 29, "Portrait du peintre Rouveyre," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas 25 1/4 by 16 1/4 inches, 1915

Lot 29 is a very strong and fine portrait of André Rouveyre, a painter, by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).  An oil on canvas, it measures 25 1/4 by 16 1/4 inches and was painted in 1915.  The sitter was "well-known in Modigliani's circle as a fierce parodist of upper crust social manners, in both satirical writings and witty caricatures," according to the catalogue, and he was also painted by Matisse.with whom he exhanged some twelve hundred letters.  The catalogue notes that the first owner of the painter was Paul Guillaume, a tireless promoter of African and Oceanic art in Paris, as well as one of the most prominent dealers in modern art duing the first World War.  The painting has a very modest estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000, reflecting the fact that the market prefers his portraits of women. according to Mr. Jordan. It sold for $2,770,500.

"Les demoiselles de Giverny" by Monet

Lot 11, "Les Demoiselles de Giverny," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 by 39 1/4 inches, 1894

In 1894, Claude Monet (1840-1926) decided to return to painting the haystacks near his property in Giverny, France.  A series of such paintings he did in 1890 had met with great success and in 1894 he did three more.  This large oil, which measures 25 1/2 by 39 1/4 inches, was titled "Les Demoiselles de Giverny," and Mr. Jordan remarked that the artist felt the haystacks were "dancing."  The lot has an estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It sold for $9.602,500 to an American collector.

Brooke Lampey of Christie's with large head by Giacometti
Brooke Lampley of Christie's disussing "Buste de Diego" by Alberto Giacometti at press preview

Lot 22, "Buste de Diego," by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) is an impressive, 24-inch high bronze portrait of the artist's brother, Diego.  It was conceived in 1957 and cast the next year and is number 6/6.  It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  The lot was withdrawn at the consignor's request.

Henry Moore sculpture

Lot 32, "Two Piece Sculpture," by Henry Moore, polished bronze, 37 inches long, 1966, numbered 3/9

Lot 32 is a superb polished bronze sculpture in two parts by Henry Moore (1898-1986).  It is 37 inches long and was created in 1966.  It has a modest estimate of $700,000 to $900,000.  It sold for $772,500.  This work is number 3 of an edition of 9 and one of the other casts is in the Tate Gallery in London.

Two women by Gauguin

Lot 29, "Petites Bretonnes devant la mer (II)," by Paul Gauguin, pastel on board, 29 1/8 by 20 inches, 1889

Lot 29 is a very nice pastel of two small Breton girls by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).  It measures 29 1/8 by 20 inches and was executed in 1889.  It has a conservative estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  It sold for $2,770,500.

   Detail of Gauguin painting
Detail of Lot 29 showing two words  separated by a line in center of pastel

A more vibrant and larger oil painting depicting the same girls in similar poses is in the collection of the National Museum of Western Art, Matsukata Collection, in Tokyo.

Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen

Jussi Pylkkanen

The auction was conducted by Jussi Pylkkanen, the president of Christie's in Europe, who elicited bids with patience and grace.   On several lots in the middle of the auction, Mr. Pylkkanen refused to take bid increments of just $100,000 when the bids were already in the seven figures, although toward the very end he relented and permitted a couple of such minor increments on lesser lots.  His firmness in refusing the "half bids" was praiseworthy as they unnecessarily prolong the bidding process and everyone in the auction room knows the bidding increment formulas.

Ms. Lampley said that Christopher Burge, the honorary chairman, Americas, of Christie's and its long-time, famous auctioneer will be back in the rostrum next week at the Contemporary Art evening auction.


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