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Impressionist & Modern Art
Christie's New York

7 PM, May 13, 2019

Sale 15977

Van Gogh

Lot 15, "Arbres dans le jardin de l'asile," by Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas, 16 3/8 by 13 1/4 inches, 1889

By Carter B. Horsley

The evening auction of Impressionist & Modern Art May 13, 2019 at Christie's New York is a very good small Van Gogh, a great interior by Vuillard, a still life by Cezanne, a good Balthus, an impressive Bonnard, several Monets, a nice Matisse, and a couple of very fine Renoirs.

Lot 15 is a strong, small landscape by Vincent Van Gogh ( 1853-1890) from the collection of S. I. Newhouse, who acquired it in 2004 from the Gagosian Gallery and died in 2017.  Entitled "Arbres dans le jardin de l'asile,"  it was painted in 1889 and measures 16 3/8 by 13 1/4 inches.  It is the cover illustration of the catalogue.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

“I’ll tell you that we’re having some superb autumn days, and that I’m taking advantage of them,” Vincent van Gogh wrote from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence on 5 October 1889 to his brother Theo, a gallerist in Paris. “I have a few studies…” (Letters, no. 808). The artist painted Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile a week or two later, as the fiery colors of fall foliage approached peak brilliance.

"The garden in which Vincent was working had been familiar, cherished ground—if nothing like paradise, then a welcome sanctuary nonetheless—for the past five-and-a-half months. This painting displays a vital sense of immediacy and the artist’s total, intimate immersion within the landscape—one that we find as well in Henri Matisse's Paysage de Colliourse, étude pour Le Bonheur de vivre. Vincent appears to have painted the canvas au premier coup, in a single session at white heat. The developing synthesis of pictorial ideas that he had been incorporating into his work—since he first encountered “new painting” in Paris during 1886-1887—had become engrained and instinctual, entirely personal, and would become a potent method for future generations of artists to study, emulate, and apply in their own ways.
Heeding the sympathetic advice of Dr. Félix Rey, and with the kind Reverend Frédéric Salles at his side, Vincent departed Arles and arrived in Saint-Rémy, some fifteen miles distant, on 8 May 1889. With Theo’s agreement and support, the artist voluntarily signed the admissions register of the privately-run Hôpital de Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, placing himself in the care of Dr. Théophile Peyron and his staff. The artist remained there for just over a year, until his release on 20 May 1890.

"Advertised as a maison de santé—“a house of health”—the converted Augustinian monastery was in reality an asylum for the mentally ill. While tourists may today visit a recreation of the artist’s room and walk the grounds, the wing containing a modern, working psychiatric facility is strictly off-limits. Vincent feared the recurrence of the sudden, devastating mental trauma he had experienced on 23 December 1888 in Arles—following a bitter dispute with Paul Gauguin, his guest at the Yellow House, he suffered severe paroxysms of hallucinations, loud noises, and voices that drove him to mutilate his left ear, shearing off all but the lobe. A relapse, although less violent, on 7 February 1889 led Dr. Rey and Reverend Salles to urge Vincent to seek extended care in Saint-Rémy.

“I’ve been here almost a whole month,” Vincent wrote Theo on 31 May 1889. “Not one single time have I had the slightest desire to be elsewhere; just the will to work is becoming a tiny bit firmer… What a beautiful land and what beautiful blue and what a sun! And yet I’ve only seen the garden and what I can make out through the window” (Letters, no. 777).

"Dr. Peyron supervised the treatment of only around 40 patients, to whom his staff could be more attentive than in larger, state-managed institutions. Vincent had a bedroom to himself, the window opening each morning on the rising sun. Theo had stipulated that his brother be allowed to paint; the doctor granted the artist use of a second room, the gardens outside visible through its ground-floor window, as his studio. For the remainder of May Vincent painted within the hospital grounds, as Dr. Peyron assessed his condition. By 6 June he was allowed to paint outside the asylum walls, escorted by an attendant.

"Vincent’s willing confinement at Saint-Rémy was the penultimate phase in his singularly intense, compressed career as a painter, linking the Arles and Auvers periods. There he struggled to understand and to adapt to the fits of temporal lobe epilepsy, an inherited condition to which, at age 36, he had become increasingly prone, while relentlessly striving—on his own, inner-directed terms—for mastery in his chosen profession.

"The canvases Vincent had painted during the previous fifteen months in Arles had been the groundbreaking, true beginning of his maturity as a painter. The pictures he created in Saint-Rémy represent a further step—as dangerous as Vincent’s condition might have been, the storm and stress in his addled, manic mind connected more tellingly with the creative daemon of inner necessity to ratchet even higher the expressive tensions in his work, with magnificent results. On 18 June 1889 Vincent painted La nuit étoilée, the iconic “Starry Night” (Faille, no. 612). The firestorms that he experienced in his brain were splayed on the canvas as swirling, pulsating galaxies animating the night sky. From feeling and intuition, faculties pushed to their breaking point, Vincent conjured symbols of the infinite and eternal cosmos—he had attained a visionary dimension in his art.

"The enclosed gardens on the grounds of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole were unkempt and poorly maintained, more like—in their profuse vegetation—a vigorous, unruly state of nature. Here the artist observed the passage of the seasons over the course of a single year, from one spring to the next, bearing witness to the fundamental cycle of renewal, plentitude, and decay, leading to a rebirth once more, just as resident monks had contemplated in the distant past. The gardens were an ever-present haven that afforded Vincent comfort and reassurance, lying beneath his studio window or just a few steps from the main entrance to the men’s wing in which he lived.

“I’m quite absorbed in reading the Shakespeare that Theo sent me here,” Vincent wrote his sister Willemien on 2 July 1889. “At last I’ll have the calm necessary to do a little more difficult reading… Have you ever read King Lear? I think I shan’t urge you too much to read such dramatic books when I myself, returning from this reading, am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself” (Letters, no. 785). Willemien, too, eventually fell victim to mental illness, and entered an asylum in 1902.

"The network of winding walks and paths offered seemingly limitless perspectives on the variety of motifs at the painter’s disposal. Trees were both evergreen and deciduous; among the thicker trunks of elms and oaks were poplars, maples, and smaller trees bearing fruit, almonds, mulberries, and olives. Tall, twisting parasol pines and the sword-like tips of dark, flame-shaped cypresses dominated the arboreal skyline. Le sous-bois, the sprawling plant undergrowth at the feet of these trees—teeming natural worlds in microcosm—held special fascination for Vincent.

"On 15 July 1889 Vincent dispatched to Theo his first batch of Saint-Rémy canvases, from among the some thirty works he had already completed, including the well-known Irises (Faille, no. 608; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), together with the final eight pictures he had painted in Arles. The following day, on 16 July, disaster struck—Vincent experienced an “attack”, as he called such dreaded events. The artist was painting the entrance to one of the cavernous quarries near the asylum when he was struck down. In his frenzy, Vincent ingested dirt and swallowed contents from one of his paint tubes before the accompanying orderly could stop him. 
The quarry entrance, an opening into the underworld, might serve as an apt site and symbol for this event—for the next six weeks Vincent harrowed the hell of his innermost mind, his very being.

"No apparent warning signs preceded “this new crisis,” as Vincent later described the event to Theo in a letter dated 22 August 1889 (Letters, no. 797). Dr. Peyron surmised that Vincent’s escorted day-trip to Arles on 7 July, to collect the paintings that remained there, had awakened painful and confusing memories of the events that had taken place nearly eight months previously. The doctor had been concerned from the beginning of Vincent’s stay that the activity of painting alone might instigate an epileptic seizure. Now he had the artist confined to his room and denied him access to the studio. While recovering, Vincent hoped—through Theo—to persuade the doctor to relent.
“For many days I’ve been absolutely distraught,” Vincent wrote his brother, “as in Arles, just as much if not worse, and it’s to be presumed that these crises will recur in the future, it is ABOMINABLE… You can imagine that I’m very deeply distressed that the attacks have recurred when I was already beginning to hope that it wouldn’t recur. You’ll perhaps do well to write a line to Dr. Peyron to say that working on my paintings is quite necessary to me for my recovery. For these days, without anything to do and without being able to go into the room he had allocated me for doing my painting, are almost intolerable to me… I no longer see a possibility for courage or good hope, but anyway it wasn’t yesterday that we found out that this profession isn’t a happy one” (ibid.).

"In a letter written on or about 2 September, Vincent announced to Theo that he had “started working again a little—a thing I see from my window, a field of yellow stubble that is being ploughed” (Faille, no. 625; sold, Christie’s New York, 13 November 2017, lot 28A). In his next letter, written during the 5th and 6th, he took up the image of the ploughman to represent himself: “I’m ploughing on like a man possessed, more than ever I have a pent-up fury for work, and I think that this will contribute to curing me” (Letters, nos. 798 and 800)."

"Vincent's production during the fall of 1889 constitutes an astonishing run. Having finished the ploughman in the field, he put the final touches on two of the most impressive self-portraits of his entire career (Faille, nos. 626 and 627), as well as pictures of the attendant Trabuc and his wife (nos. 629 and 631). He soon began to work outdoors; in early October he painted his only view of the chapel of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, from a field near the perimeter of the garden grounds (Faille, no. 803; sold, Christie’s New York, 13 May 2018, lot 24A). On 3 October Vincent wrote to Émile Bernard in Paris that he been painting “a large canvas of a ravine,” a motif possessing “a beautiful melancholy; it’s enjoyable to work in really wild sites” (Faille, no. 662; Letters, no. 809).

"In early November Vincent began to work in the olive groves outside the asylum—accompanied, of course—and in early December he ventured down the road and into the town of Saint-Rémy, where he painted road-menders beneath the huge, gnarled platane trees that lined the main street (Faille, nos. 657 and 658). Throughout autumn, the gardens of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole continued to be an inspirational and consistently productive source of varied landscape subjects. The closer at hand Vincent chose his motifs—those which were familiar to him—the more presciently modernist were the results, and, indeed, the more assured and precisely articulated were his means of achieving them. “Ah, I could almost believe that I have a new period of clarity ahead of me” (to Theo, 5 and 6 September 1889; Letters, no. 800).

Van Gogh detail

Detail of Lot 15

"The fundamental idea underlying Vincent’s pictorial approach in the present painting is the conception of flatness inherent in japonisme, most tellingly prefigured in the Hiroshige landscape woodblock print that he copied as a painting in 1887 (Faille, no. 371). The three fir tree trunks that run from top to bottom in Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile likewise frame the composition, obviate the need for a foreground, and telescope receding distance into flat, rising, verticalized space. All this Vincent accomplished without the least hint of hesitation—eye, mind, and hand were one—in the speed of the artist’s brush, the urgent, rushing wave of his painterly effects, the absolute clarity and certainty in his structural choices.

"Vincent’s palette in this garden landscape consists of primary and secondary colors squeezed straight from the tube, some tinted with white to heighten their hues. Unlike in the ploughman painting of 2 September or the view of the Chapelle de Saint-Paul completed in early October, Vincent avoided here the use of mixed half-tones, the mauve and purplish, violet shades that he liked to employ when rendering soil or other earthen textures. Most noticeable here are the striations of pigment applied in emphatic, rhythmically repeated, directional brushstrokes, that describe the shape of the garden walk—in bright yellow sunlight and reddish ochre shadow—and like guidepost arrows actively lead the eye into the composition, sighting on the dark, slender cypress. The still leafy trees and firs appear to undulate in a trans-seasonal mistral wind. 
Vincent shipped his recent Saint-Rémy paintings to Theo in batches, seven in all, the first on 15 July, the day before his summer “attack”. Two shipments followed in September, two more in December, the sixth in early January, and the seventh, largest, and final group at the end of April 1890. The artist included Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile in the fourth batch, the most numerous he assembled during 1889, as one of the “autumn studies” he mentioned in Letter no. 824. Vincent dispatched this large package to Paris on 6 December 1889.

"The impact of Vincent’s work on subsequent painters first reached momentous proportions in the early years of the 20th century, breaking ground and seeding the furrows for the subjective, expressionist instinct that lay at the heart of much art to come. André Derain introduced Henri Matisse to Maurice de Vlaminck at the first major Van Gogh exhibition in Paris, at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1901; together they ignited their explosive charges of Fauve color at the 1905 Salon d’Automne. “One can’t live in a household that is too well kept.” Matisse remarked to Tériade in 1929. “One has to go off into the jungle to find simpler ways which won’t stifle the spirit. The influence of Gauguin and Van Gogh were felt then” (quoted in J. Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 84).

"The German art world took to Van Gogh with even greater interest and enthusiasm—as if with the passion of having recognized a kindred spirit. Paul Cassirer, the leading dealer of modern art in Berlin, developed a close, working relationship with Theo’s widow Johanna, née Bonger; from her holdings and in conjunction with Bernheim-Jeune he organized pioneering exhibitions of Vincent’s paintings in Germany during 1905 and 1908. The dealer included Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile in the show, comprising 27 pictures, seen in Berlin during March 1908, and among a total of 41 when—as re-organized by Cornelius M. van Gogh, the artist’s uncle—the exhibition traveled to Zürich in July. Other selections of pictures from Johanna’s collection were shown that summer in Munich and Dresden. The effect on young German painters was transformative, producing the “greatest impact an exhibition could have ever exerted,” Walter Feilchenfeldt has written, “on the development of modern art in Germany” (op. cit., 2013, p. 26)."

It has an estimate of request.

It sold for $40 million including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The auction total was $399,041,000.

Cezanne still life

Lot 16, "Bouilloire et fruits," by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 19 1/8 by 23 5/8 inches, 1888-1890

Another consignment from Mr. Newhouse is Lot 16, "Bouilloire et fruists," by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906).  An oil on canvas, it measures 19 1/8 by 23 5/8 inchyes and was painted in 1888-1890. 

The catalogue entry provided the following commentary by Dr. Richard Brettell:

“Toiles des luttes” or “canvases of struggle”—that is what Georges Seurat called his large paintings destined to be absolute masterpieces of “Scientific Impressionism.” For the older French painter Paul Cézanne, each canvas was a “toile de lutte-” not just the big ones. The few places in his letters in which he discusses his method, painting for him was fraught with indecision, doubt, and—well—struggle, and he was supremely aware that he rarely succeeded in wrestling a painting to any state of successful completion.

"One particularly relevant letter, written to the Belgian art critic Octave Maus on November 29 of 1889, makes his ambivalence to—and fear of failure in—his own paintings particularly clear: “I must tell you that the numerous studies [by which Cézanne means paintings] to which I have devoted myself produced only negative results, and, dreading criticism that is only too justified, I had resolved to work in silence, until the day when I could feel capable of defending theoretically the results of my endeavors.” Cézanne was 50 years old when he wrote those sentences.

"Every painting by Cézanne—no matter its mode or “subject”—was at war with itself—each stroke or group of adjacent strokes was placed in a particular spot on the canvas like a move in a chess match. For Cézanne, the adversary was the art of painting—or rather more precisely the individual painting on which he worked. Witness accounts of his painting habits—rare and unreliable as they are—tell us that he took long periods of time between strokes, much like grand masters in chess spend concentrated periods analyzing the last moves made by their adversary and deliberating the best counter move….For chess players, it is the number of moves and responses in advance of the particular move that determines the quality of the player—the higher the number, the better the player. “If s(he) does this, I will do that, and on and on until the match is won or lost.

"It is odd to think that a painting can be “won” or “lost,” but, for Cézanne, the struggle was on-going, and only in the final decade of his life did his successes outnumber his “incompletions.” This situation resulted in many paintings that seem to contemporary viewers to be “unfinished”—as if the last move resulted in a stalemate. And, perhaps in mute acknowledgement of this idea, Cézanne signed very few of his paintings and kept many of them for decades. No one, to my knowledge, has argued that he worked again on canvases abandoned years ago, largely because he probably didn’t. Indeed, the intensity of his working method made it difficult for him to refight old battles on the same field.

"The lucky institution or individual who eventually owns Boullloire et fruits (I will persist with the French) will be able to “watch,” or, perhaps better, decode Cézanne painting posthumously by going carefully over the painting and questioning certain marks or areas of spatial and compositional problems or visual inconsistencies. Why, for example, did he suppress what was clearly to have been a lemon or apple in the lower right corner of the table, but leaves enough visual clues so that any viewer knows that, at one time, he wanted the fruit? And, in another area, why did the lovingly paint the wooden handle of the pewter kettle without giving us any idea how it is attached—either at the top or the bottom—to the kettle itself?

"And, while we are at it, what of the kettle? Like many masters of still-life painting, Cézanne used a small number of “props” to compose the still-life itself before painting it. Many of these appear over and over in his oeuvre, probably not because he liked them, but because he knew them and could place them in arrangements with a certainty based on knowledge. Yet, in all of his still-life paintings, there is only one other with a “bouilloire,” and it was painted in a completely different manner in 1867. 
The Musée d’Orsay's, Nature morte avec bouilloire, remained with Cézanne until the mid-1890s, a few years after the present work was painted. Did he pull it out of a pile of canvases, reminding himself of the pewter kettle that he had so lovingly painted perhaps as much as 20 years before the present work was begun? Or, more likely, was the same kettle available as he sought to set up the still-life—a much more complex one than the 1867 canvas—that he sought to tackle sometime in the late 1880s, when he wrote the doubt-filled passage quoted above.

"The kettles are so similar that surely they are one and the same. But can we be sure? Cézanne painted the kettle in the earlier still-life with an almost dogged insistence on its physical character. The pewter is represented with gray paint into which he adds white and black to create a tonal range. The lid and its shiny metal top is carefully delineated as it’s the wooden handle (metal would be too hot to handle when the water came to a boil).

"By contrast the body of kettle in the present work is similarly composed of two seamed pewter parts, with a top so generically painted that we cannot compare it to the earlier one. So too the wooden handle, which, in the present work, is the color of pewter near the top and of wood near its base. There is no pewter connector to the top of the kettle as there is in the carefully painted earlier kettle. And what of color? While the earlier kettle is painted with what we take to be an accurate pewter-like gray, the later kettle is painted with strokes and touches of pink, lavender, pale blue, turquoise, white, ivory, dark gray, blue, brown, and red. Can it be “pewter?”

"The same can be said of the voluminous painted folds of the “white” table cloth carefully arranged almost as a fabric mountain range of peaks and folded valleys in virtually every color in the palette. It is worth examining this “monochrome” cloth by counting the colors that “represent” it in the present work. Just like the kettle, it is a chromatic symphony of green, yellow, red, blue, turquoise, lavender, orange, mauve, ivory, and on and on and on. With our chess game metaphor in the front of our mind, it is easy to image Cézanne adding a touch of Granny-Apple-Green to an apple and, for his next chromatic move, making sure that reds—pale or full-throated—played chromatic games with it. One touch leads to the next and the next and then to the chromatic “correction” that surprised even the artist.

"Without knowing anything about Cézanne’s life, we can experience the full drama of creation simply by looking carefully—and for prolonged periods in different light conditions—at the painting. And the “dance of color” tells us nothing about the comparable, but different dance of forms that make up a composition. Cézanne was a master of still-life painting, and the range of compositional strategies he used is unprecedented in the western still-life tradition.

"Generations of art history students seated in undergraduate courses are taught about the range of visual imbalances we can see in Cézanne still-life paintings. Apples are arrested as they seem to run off the table or roll down the slanted floor, and table tops tilt and almost careen vertiginously as if in a kind of formal roller derby that is anything but “still.” If, in French, “nature” is “dead” in this mode of painting, in English life is “stilled.” Cézanne does not need to add flowers or plants to create “life” in his “nature mort”—indeed the sense of movement and even restlessness is everywhere. And, by extension, his “life” is really never “still” except that his paintings themselves no longer move. The possibility of movement is in virtually every Cézanne “still-life.”

"Bouilloire et fruits is one of a type of still-life compositions in which there is only one stabilizing vertical element—the kettle—around which the various groupings of 1, 3, 4, and 5 fruits are set within valleys of “white” drapery. These dispersed compositions are countered in his production by another type of still-life in which the fruits are grouped in a circular bowl, dish, or basket, around which a few dispersed elements are arranged so that they escape the order of the circle. In painting the carefully piled apples or fruits, Cézanne was as interested in representing the spaces among the spherical orbs as the solid fruits themselves, and, when we look for the “outline” that so often caresses “solid” forms, we confront Cézanne’s lines that, often as not, float free of the forms they describe, just as his colors define the forms themselves without ever “touching” the imaginary outline.

"Yet in the present work, we see what we take to be large and small apples, two or three oranges, at least one pear, and one lemon, all of which are held in their areas by the folds of cloth. There is no bowl, plate, or basket to contain them, and they seem to defy any order other than Cézanne’s own pictorial order—similarly to Henri Matisse's Nature morte bleue. Thus, he gives himself the task of making the disorderly orderly, of creating a pictorial world in which the complexity of the actual world is at once celebrated and brought to form by carefully placed strokes of color—either patches or groups of painted lines. His “struggle” is against the very still-life he created for himself to paint, and the future owner of this work is in for years and years of rewarding looking.

"I raise the question of ownership, because it is always important for works of art. We sometime fetishize the provenance of a work of art in order to layer that work with the aura of important collectors. For this one, we need go no further than its first owner, Baron Denys Cochin. Cochin bought and sold the painting within Cézanne’s lifetime, making him one of perhaps a dozen non-artist collectors who owned works by the Master of Aix before his death in 1906, when his works were widely collected throughout the world. For our purposes, it is not who owned the work, but that it was sold by Cézanne or his son in the 1890s. This tells us that Cézanne worked on it as much as he wanted to and that its current state of “incompletion” was somehow sanctioned by the artist himself or, at the very least, accepted by its first owner.

"At present, we do not know whether the work was acquired directly from Cézanne—or, more likely, his son, who remained in Paris and acted as his father’s agent. This raises the tantalizing idea that the work was in fact painted in Paris and left there either in his studio or in the Paris apartments in which his wife or son lived. It is also possible, though in no way provable, that the work was included in the large and completely undocumented Cézanne exhibition at Vollard’s gallery in Paris in 1895. No list of the exhibition survives, and Cézanne painted so many paintings of the same motifs that, even if it did, we would have difficulty identifying without Vollard Inventory numbers. Apparently Vollard had access to so many pictures and there was such a pent-up desire for Parisians to see paintings by Cézanne, that he reinstalled the gallery at least three times to show as many works as possible. Thus, the most important exhibition of Cézanne’s lifetime is an art historical quagmire in which this painting may have been shown.

"Baron Cochin may have been a speculator rather than what we might call a “real” collector, but, before his death in 1922, he owned 31 paintings by Cézanne, more than most other French collectors (with the exception of the omnivorous Auguste Pellerin, to whom Cochin sold pictures—and from whom he bought others—by Cézanne). These 31 paintings are grouped online in the most important single source for a full understanding of the artist, the online catalogue raisonné called The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. They are now scattered throughout the world in public and private collections and, were they to be brought together, could constitute a small-scale retrospective of the artist at his finest.

"They include 13 landscapes from 1870 to the years before his death, four portraits (three of women and one an unusual late self-portrait based on a photograph), one genre scene (the Orsay’s great Cardplayers), two female and one male bather, two cityscapes, and, most importantly for our purposes, seven still-life paintings made between 1877 and the years before the painter’s death. These alone are worth of a small, thoughtful exhibition and can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, the Neue Pinakotek in Munich, The Beyeler Foundation outside Basel, and the Courtauld Gallery in London in addition to private collections. Two of these, Pichet de gres in the Beyeler Collection and Nature morte avec l’amour en platre in the Courtauld are as bold as any still-life painted by Cézanne.

"The present work is the only one among the seven that has significant areas of primed canvas visible and is, in certain ways, the boldest acquisition for Baron Cochin to have made. The Baron sold the picture to Durand-Ruel Gallery on the 11th of March 1902, four years before Cézanne’s death. There is evidence in the literature to suggest that Baron Cochin was actually an investor/speculator with Durand-Ruel, but, if he was, one or the other of them had an unfailing eye for Cézanne. From Cochin it went to Germany until after WWII when it was acquired by Justin Thannhauser, who sold it after ten years to another distinguished collector-couple, Drs. Harry and Ruth Bakwin, Vienna-form physicians who created one of the finest private collections of the post-war period in New York. The work was then acquired some 20 years ago by S.I. Newhouse, one of the most influential cultural figures and astute collector of the latter half of the 20th-century. Cézanne’s struggles to “incomplete” Bouilloire et fruits have been tracked in some detail here, and, because of them, he created a work of almost unparalleled energy for a “still-life.” Five generations of truly great collectors have recognized this energy. Now, we need a new one."

It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $59,295,000.  Mr. Newhouse bought it at auction in 1999 for $29.5 million.

Portait of Lunia by Modigliani

Lot 25, "Lunia Czechowska (à la robe noire)," by Amedeo Modigliani, oil on canvas, 36 3/8 by 23 5/8 inches, 1919

Lot 25 is "Lunia Czechowska (a la robe noire)," by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).  An oil on canvas, it measures 36 3/8 by 23 5/8 inches and was painted in 1919.

Drue Heinz

Catalogue has this photograph of Drue Heinz

 It was once owned by Chester Dale and comes to auction from Drue Heinz, who married H. L. Heinz, whose family was in the food business, in 1953. 

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"In the hours before dawn on 20 May 2010, Vjeran Tomic, a veteran Parisian cat burglar, stole five paintings from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM), masterworks by Braque, Léger, Matisse, Picasso, and Modigliani, valued at more than $125 million. First, he removed from its frame the Léger, the picture which the instigator of the heist, a small gallery owner, had coveted and expressly requested for himself. Tomic next took down Matisse’s fauve Pastorale, 1905. 
Then, as Jake Halpern has recounted in The New Yorker, “he noticed Modigliani’s ‘Woman with a Fan,’ a portrait of the artist’s muse and obsession, Lunia Czechowska. Tomic fixated on the image, which depicted Czechowska in a yellow dress, her eyes a cloudy white [Ceroni, no. 321]. ‘The woman in the picture was worthy of a living being, ready to dance a tango,’ he wrote to me. ‘It could have almost been reality.’ He stole the Modigliani, too.” Tomic went on to add the Braque and Picasso to his cache; he hesitated over a second Modigliani, Femme aux yeux bleus, but passed up the opportunity (“A Night at the Museum: France’s most daring art thief,” The New Yorker, 14 January 2019, p. 34).

"Tomic and two accomplices were apprehended, convicted, and are currently serving their prison terms. The five paintings, however, were never recovered, and are believed to have been well-hidden away or possibly destroyed. The perpetrator claimed to possess a special instinct for detecting and appreciating quality in art, and perhaps even his critical opinion may count when understanding the universal appeal of a great Modigliani painting, moreover the beguiling mystique inherent in certain portraits—especially one depicting Lunia Czechowska, who may well possess the most distinctive and memorably haunting visage among all the many women whom the artist painted. 
Lunia was 25 when she sat for the present portrait, which Joseph Lanthemann praised for its qualities “de noblesse, de beauté et de communion” (op. cit., 1970, p. 133). Her fine, delicate features bespeak a discerning intelligence, a rare sensitivity, and a compassionate nature. While we know that she and the artist loved each other, and they appeared to have been soulmates such as two people may experience only once in a lifetime, we can only speculate at the extent to which they may actually have been lovers, in the most complete, physical sense of such a relationship as well.

"The best-known female face in Modigliani’s oeuvre, from early 1917 to his death on 24 January 1920, is that of Jeanne Hébuterne, the artist’s companion and mother of his daughter, also named Jeanne. Hébuterne immortalized the legend of an impassioned and tragically fated amour bohème, when two days after the artist’s passing, pregnant with their second child, she leapt to her death from a fifth-floor window. Modigliani frequently painted two other women in his innermost circle, on whom he often relied during this period: Anna (“Hanka”) Zborowska, the common-law wife of the artist’s devoted dealer Léopold Zborowski, and Lunia Czechowska, married to a close friend of Léopold. All were Polish émigrés in Paris. Modigliani painted Léopold five times, and created ten portraits each of Hanka and Lunia, featuring in sum the two women on canvas nearly as often as he did his companion Jeanne during the same three-year period.

“Happiness is an angel with a serious face,” Modigliani wrote to Paul Alexandre, his earliest patron, on a postcard from Livorno, dated June 1913 (quoted in D. Krystof, Modigliani: The Poetry of Seeing, Cologne, 2006, p. 88). Lunia’s ethereal features perfectly suited the artist’s fascination with this type; her serious demeanor and youthfully lithe, feminine figure moreover lent themselves well to the primary influences the artist liked to incorporate and show off in his portraits. The plunging “V” of Lunia’s cylindrical neck and her blade-like décolleté, stark against the blackness of her robe in the present painting, allude to the hallmark swan-like neck and tilted head in the Mannerist practice of the 16th century Italian masters Parmigianino and Pontormo.

"The modernist fascination with African tribal art is manifest in Lunia’s ovoid facial features; the broad, high forehead, the subtle lift of her Slav cheekbones, the tiny, lozenge-shaped mouth contained with the narrowing curves of her jawline, down to the pointed tip of her chin, mirrors the serene, “classical” symmetry of Baulé masks from the Ivory Coast, believed to be the secular portraits of living persons. The eye slits in these masks appear as the blank eyes in Modigliani’s carved stone heads during 1907-1913, and again as the “cloudy white eyes”—which had intrigued the thief Tomic at MAM Paris—in many of the subsequent oil paintings. “This gives the paintings an aloofness,” Alan Wilkinson has written, “a kind of distancing from the model, that echoes the mysterious character of his sculptures” (Primitivism in 20th Century Art, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984, p. 423).

"Known in his day and admired among his circle of friends primarily as a portraitist, Modigliani prided himself on his skill as an acute observer of the variety and nuances in human character, especially among men, and in his paintings of women, his ability to evoke the serene, beatific beauty of l’éternel féminin. “To do any work, I must have a living person,” he explained to the painter Léopold Survage, “I must be able to see him opposite me” (quoted in J. Modigliani, Modigliani: Man and Myth, New York, 1958, p. 82). Modigliani was keen on capturing the essence of his sitter, not as a naturalistic likeness, but as an abstract, depersonalized representation stemming from his own pictorial synthesis of seeing and style.

"Lunia was born Ludwika Makowska in Prague in 1894. Her father was a Polish patriot who actively opposed the Russian and Austrian partition of the Polish homeland. In 1907, after serving two years of a fifteen-year prison sentence for his role in a workers’ strike in Warsaw, then under Czarist rule, Makowski moved his family to Krakow in the Austrian zone. Upon graduating from the gymnasium in 1913, Lunia followed her father’s wishes and moved to Paris. There she met Kazimierz Czechowski, another recent Polish émigré, also a patriot, with whom she fell in love; they married on 21 June 1915. Zborowski and Czechowski had known each other since childhood; when Léopold arrived in Paris in 1913 to study modern art at the Sorbonne, he moved in with his old friend. Anna (“Hanka”) Sierzpowska had been living in Paris with her sister since 1910. She met Léopold at the Café de la Rotonde on 2 August 1914, at the beginning of First World War. Although they never formally married, Hanka always referred to Léopold as her husband.

"The painter Moïse Kisling, also Polish-born, introduced Zborowski to Modigliani in 1916. The aspiring dealer first saw the Italian artist’s paintings later that year, in a group show at the Lyre et Palette, the Montparnasse atelier of the Swiss painter Émile Lejeune. Zborowski attended the event with Hanka, Lunia, and Kazimierz. In the recollections—“Les Souvenirs”—that Lunia wrote in 1953, which Ambrogio Ceroni published in his 1958 monograph Amedeo Modigliani, Peintre, she dated the event to June; the show actually opened in mid-November. Various discrepancies with known circumstances may be found in Lunia’s Souvenirs. When William Fifield interviewed her during the early 1970s for his biography of Modigliani, she complained that Ceroni “failed to reproduce” what she had told him. “We went to the exhibition,” she recounted for Fifield, “it was the Lyre et Palette, and Modigliani was present… He said he hadn’t time for Léopold, but seeing that we women were with him he returned and said we should perhaps meet in an hour. And we went to the Rotonde” (Modigliani: The Biography, New York, 1976, pp. 222 and 274).

"“He came and sat next to me,” Lunia wrote in Les Souvenirs. “I was struck by his distinctiveness, his luminosity, and the beauty of his eyes. He was at once very simple and very noble.” Modigliani began to sketch Lunia. “I was quite young and very shy”—she continued—“and I became frightened, when Modigliani asked, after several minutes, in the presence of my husband, to go out with me that very night. Because to Modigliani, I was alone. He felt so strongly towards me he would have liked me to abandon everything to follow him. Confused, I responded that I was not free. Poor dear friend, what seemed so natural to him seemed to me so strange! Zborowski came to my rescue, saying that plans for the evening had already been made, and he invited Modigliani to join us. He refused. Turning towards me, he asked, while offering the drawing he had made of me, to come pose the next day for a portrait” (“Les Souvenirs de Lunia Czechowska,” in A. Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, Peintre, Milan, 1958, pp. 20 and 21; all excerpts here translated by Lara Abouhamad).

"Based on Lunia’s June dating of the 1916 Lyre et Palette group exhibition, Ceroni ascribed that year to the first portrait that Modigliani painted of her, listing it as no. 73 in his 1958 catalogue. When it became clear that the show actually opened in mid-November, pushing back subsequent related events, Ceroni re-dated Modigliani’s first portrait of Lunia to 1917, and listed it as such in his final Modigliani catalogue (I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 169).

“He did my first portrait in a black dress (this painting is now in the Musée de Grenoble),” Lunia wrote in her memoir. “I knew from Zbo already that he liked to drink while he painted. Never will I be able to forget the first sitting session. After several hours passed, I was no longer scared of him. I can still see him in his dress shirt, all tousled, trying to fix my features on the canvas. From time to time, he would reach his hand towards the bottle of Vieux Marc. I would see the alcohol take its effect: he got excited, I didn’t exist anymore—he saw only his painting. He was so absorbed that he would speak to me in Italian. He painted with such violence that as he was leaning in closer to see the canvas, it fell over on his head. I was terrified; confused at having scared me, he looked at me tenderly, and started singing to me songs in Italian to make me forget the incident… We became really great friends from then on. He was a charming being, refined and delicate. I knew he loved me, but I felt for him just a profound friendship. We went out together a lot, vagabonding around Paris” (ibid., p. 21).

"Paul Guillaume had been acting as Modigliani’s dealer, but with hardly any sales to show for his efforts, and having grown impatient with the artist’s difficult behavior, the gallerist was amenable to passing him on to Zborowski—a dreamy novice who worked out of his home only, but was fired with an absolute passion for the painter’s work. Zborowski gave Modigliani a daily stipend of fifteen francs, and covered the costs of art supplies, the painter’s requisite wine and spirits as well. Having reserved a room in his and Hanka’s new apartment at 3, rue Joseph-Bara for use as a studio, he set Modigliani to work on a series of salable nudes. The artist completed twenty such canvases in all (Ceroni, nos. 184-203). Fifield stated that Lunia “almost certainly” posed for Le grand nu (no. 200; The Museum of Modern Art, New York), “though she would never admit it” (op. cit., 1976, p. 160).

"Modigliani painted four, fully clothed portraits of Lunia in 1917 (Ceroni, nos. 169-172). Despite all signs that she would remain faithful to her marriage with Kazimierz Czechowski, the artist persisted in seeking a romantic liaison with her. “I was always the mysterious woman to him”—Lunia told Fifield—“the Sphinx, Cleopatra, there were things he did not know” (ibid., p. 222). Modigliani must have felt especially encouraged in 1917, when in the wake of the February Revolution in Russia, which resulted in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, Czechowski decided to return to his homeland and agitate for independence. He joined Lenin’s Red Army following the October Bolshevik Revolution. He had entrusted Lunia to the care of Léopold and Hanka, who took her into their apartment. Modigliani saw her often, when he regularly arrived to paint during the afternoon. Czechowski did not live to see Poland freed from foreign hegemony. In 1918, while in a hospital recovering from wounds, his Russian comrades learned he was a Polish revolutionary—someone who would eventually turn against and fight them—and had him summarily shot. Lunia did not learn of her husband’s fate until 1921.
“Although she was a married woman,” Pierre Sichel wrote, “Lunia was impressionable, and her writings betray that she instantly fell in love with Modi, although she was always to insist that theirs was an exalted spiritual attachment, of the soul alone” (Modigliani, London, 1967, p. 327). The stress of a love thwarted by circumstance would have surely become unbearable for both Modigliani and Lunia, had not Jeanne Hébuterne, newly turned nineteen in April 1917, caught the artist’s eye, likely at the Académie Colarossi, where she was a student. Within a month they became lovers, and in July they moved from the artist’s tiny hovel of a hotel room which Zborowski had been paying for, and with the bounty from a few sales, into a relatively spacious two-room apartment (but without amenities) at 8, rue de la Grande Chaumière, next door to Jeanne’s art school.

“Hanka and I cleaned the studio and painted it light gray,” Lunia wrote in Les Souvenirs, although she misdated this development to the summer of 1919. “We installed a stove…. Since we did not have enough money for curtains, we color-washed the glass with blanc d’espagne. A sofa, a table and a few chairs, those were the furnishings. This kingdom was quite modest but it belonged to him…he could now cook and host his friends. I will never forget the day he took possession of his new domain; his joy was such that we were all deeply moved. He finally had his own little corner for himself, my poor dear friend” (op. cit., 1958, p. 33).

"In March 1918 the Germans began to bombard Paris with huge guns mounted on railway carriages sixty miles away. The following month, Zborowski, Hanka, Modigliani, Jeanne (who was two months pregnant), and her mother—together with Soutine, Foujita, and his wife Fernande Barrey—joined the exodus from the capital, and stayed first in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Lunia remained in the Zborowskis’ Paris apartment. Having no success with sales in Cagnes, Soutine and the Foujitas returned to Paris, while Léopold, Hanka, Modigliani, Jeanne, and her mother moved on to Nice, where the dealer hoped to find clients for his artist’s unusual but appealing style of portraiture. Jeanne and Modigliani’s daughter, named for her mother, was born 29 November 1918—the artist called her, in Italian, “Giovanna”.

"Modigliani returned, alone, to his Paris studio on 31 May 1919, while Jeanne, her mother, and the baby remained five weeks longer in Nice. After a hiatus of more than a year, Modigliani and Lunia resumed their close friendship. They would eat together in the tiny restaurant run by Rosalie Tobia, once a model for successful Salon painters, on the rue Campagne-Première. “After dinner, we would go for a walk in Le petit Luxembourg; it was very hot that summer. Sometimes we would go to the movies, other nights we would leisurely stroll the streets of Paris… He had so much to say that it was difficult to separate when we arrived home. He would speak of Italy, which he would never see again, of the child he wouldn’t see grow up, and he would never mention a word about his art” (ibid., pp. 28-29). Modigliani signed and inscribed a drawing “homage à Madame Chakoska,” depicting Lunia dining at a café table, possibly in Chez Rosalie (Patani, Disegni, no. 498).

“This peaceful period did not last long,” Lunia lamented (op. cit., p. 29), but afforded Modigliani sufficient time to commence work on the final group of six portraits he painted of her that summer (Ceroni, nos. 317-322). The dark, grayish tonality in the present portrait, à la robe noire, suggests that it was done in Modigliani’s Grande Chaumière studio, which Lunia had helped to paint two summers earlier. This painting possesses a nocturnal aspect—golden lamplight illumines Lunia’s flesh, but barely suffuses the wall behind her, dark in shadow. Lunia sits on the edge of a bed, its wooden back-frame rising behind her right side. This somber setting contrasts sharply with the two portraits in which Modigliani posed Lunia before an Empire mantelpiece, the wall papered in the vivid garnet red that Zborowski chose to decorate his apartment (Ceroni, nos. 321-322; the former stolen from MAM Paris).

"The present portrait is surely the most intimate of the ten pictures that Modigliani painted of Lunia. The artist depicted here an instant of absolute stillness, her passive visage in serene anticipation of some profoundly meaningful moment, an epiphany. One senses the heavy heat of the summer evening in the darkened room. Lunia has just slipped into her black robe, or may soon remove it. Her pale, translucent eyes observe the man with whom she shares this room, on whose bed she sits. Her wistful, self-absorbed expression tells everything, yet reveals nothing at all. Modigliani has seized the very essence of this elusive, enigmatic, angelically pure young woman. This is the “communion” that Lanthemann found so compelling, a moment of transfiguration, a mystery beyond words, yet so profoundly affecting in paint.

"Upon the return of Jeanne and little Giovanna, until a nanny could be found, Lunia stepped in to care for the seven-month-old infant in the Zborowskis’ apartment. If Modigliani was not drunk or acting loudly with friends, the landlady Mme Salomon would allow him in at night. “He would come and sit next to his child,” Lunia wrote, “looking at her with such intensity that he would end up falling asleep; and I would watch over the two of them. My poor dear friend, these were the only moments when he had his daughter to himself” (ibid., p. 29).

"One evening that summer, as Modigliani finished a painting session in the Zborowskis’ apartment and Lunia was waiting for the dealer to return home, “I lit a candle,” she recalled, “and proposed that he stay to have dinner with us. While I prepared our meal, he asked me to lift my head for a few seconds, and, in the candlelight, he sketched an admirable drawing, on which he inscribed: ‘La Vita è un Dono: dei pochi ai molti: di Coloro che Sanno e che hanno: a Coloro che non Sanno e che non hanno’” [Life is a gift, from the few to the many; from those who know and have, to those who do not know and do not have]” (ibid., pp. 30-32). This drawing reprises the pose in the present portrait, set instead in the Zborowski apartment, with Lunia clad in daytime attire (Patani, Disegni, no. 499).

"Lunia later began to go out with another man—Modigliani assumed she had fallen in love with him. “Modigliani loved [Jeanne],” Lunia wrote, “but he could not stand that I ‘belonged’ to another man, because he thought I no longer wanted to be with him… He made such negative comments to me that I ended up feeling guilty towards him. I would remain his spiritual friend, as was my destiny. I was young and probably romantic; I had to abstract my feelings, because another person needed me as well. I had no life experience and acted only on pure intuition. I forced myself not to love the man I had met” (ibid., p. 32).

"The war having ended months before, and Poland again an independent nation, there was still no word from nor about Kazimierz Czechowski. Tensions were running high between the Hébuterne family and Modigliani, of whom they disapproved. The artist had promised them in writing to marry Jeanne, who was again pregnant, but he failed to follow through. He seemed disaffected with his companion, unhappy that Jeanne appeared little interested in their child, whom she might visit only several times a week in a nursery. The artist had begun drinking more heavily to distract himself from—and thereby aggravating—the symptoms of his tubercular condition; the bacillus in his lungs, we now understand, had infected his brain and would soon lead to cerebral meningitis, which killed him. As Modigliani’s confidant, all these matters and concerns took their toll on Lunia as well.

“Autumn of 1919 was very sad,” Lunia recalled. “I had to leave Paris, as my health required me to leave for the South. My friends [the Zborowskis] were very insistent that Modigliani come with me and he also wanted to. But Jeanne Hébuterne was expecting a second child and the idea of leaving Paris saddened her. She had retained very bad memories from when Giovanna was born [in Nice]; and the idea of Modigliani leaving without her equally saddened her. I thus left alone, promising my friend that we would see each other again soon… I left in November… From time to time, I would send him flowers. I learned from Zbo that he was sick; then he made me believe that he had returned to Italy. No one was mentioning him. I had all sorts of premonitions and I was pained by his silence” (ibid., p. 33).

"Lunia returned to Paris in September 1920 and visited the Zborowskis. “I asked for news of Modigliani right away; they told me that he was in Livorno and that his poor health no longer allowed him to paint. All the friends I ran into repeated the same thing. I noticed that they avoided talking about him; I found this strange and accused them of forgetting him. I spent my first night in the room [in the Zborowski apartment] where Modigliani had created a number of his masterpieces. I had a strange dream: I was at Bourbon l’Archambault in autumn… There was no one around; I was alone with Modigliani, walking along the park’s fence. He held something in his hand that looked like a magazine; he opened it and told me: ‘You see, Lunia, here they are announcing my death; don’t you find it a bit brazen! Look, I am not dead, as you can see yourself.’ I then saw Jeanne Hébuterne approaching us from the end of the street. I said to him: ‘There’s Jeanne, let’s call her.’ He refrained me: ‘No, no, in a minute.’ But moved by seeing Jeanne looking for him, I called her—and then woke up” (ibid., pp. 33-34).

“I, who never took notice of my dreams, was very impressed”—Lunia continued—“so much so that I still remember it perfectly today, after all these years. It was very early, but I hurried to Hanka’s room to tell her about my dream. I asked her when she had her last news from Modigliani. She reassured me, and I didn’t insist. That afternoon, I visited a Swedish friend who knew of my connection with Modigliani, but who did not know about my friends’ silence. It was she who revealed to me the death of my friend, and Jeanne’s suicide. I was so rattled that I didn’t hold it against my friends who didn’t tell me immediately and who didn’t have the courage to say anything later. I then learned that Modigliani’s death had rendered Jeanne so hopeless that she jumped from the fifth floor. Neither her daughter, nor the child she was expecting, could give her the will to live” (ibid., p. 34).

"Lunia eventually remarried, and as Mme Czechowska-Choroszczo ran a small art gallery in Paris after the Second World War. She died in 1990, at age 96.

The lot has an estimate of $12.000,000 to $18,000,000.  It sold for $25,245,000.

Head by Modigliani

Lot 31, "Tete," by Amedeo Modigliani, limestone, 20 1/8 inches high, circa 1911-12

Lot 31 is a limestone sculpture of a head by Modigliani that is 20 1/8 inches and was created in 1911-12.  It was consigned by a private European collection.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on the lot by Robert Brown:

"Alongside Picasso, Brancusi and Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani is rightly recognized as one of the pioneering masters of modern sculpture. Modigliani differs from these artists however, in that his reputation is founded almost solely upon a unique series of works, all made in a brief and concentrated burst of creativity between 1911 and 1914. This series comprises of a sequence of around twenty-five carved stone heads (and two caryatid figures) that Modigliani created in Montparnasse in the years running up to the First World War. Tête,of 1911-1912, is a particularly haunting example and one of the finest of the very few works from this great series to remain in private hands.
A mesmeric, portrait-like visage exhibiting several of the defining characteristics of this famous series, Tête is a sculpture with a strong, meditative presence and an almost otherworldly sense of timelessness and calm. As the British artist Augustus John was to remark, after first encountering such works in Modigliani’s studio, in 1913, these stone heads ‘affected me deeply. For some days afterwards I found myself under the hallucination of meeting people in the street who might have posed for them; and that without myself resorting to the Indian Herb. Can “Modi” have discovered a new and secret aspect of “reality”?’

"Because Modigliani was later to be so acclaimed for his painting, it is sometimes overlooked that the artist saw himself primarily as a sculptor. Almost all accounts of Modigliani, by those who knew him, attest to this fact. His friend, the English painter Nina Hamnett, for example, wrote that, Modigliani ‘always regarded sculpture as his real métier, and it was probably only lack of money, the difficulty of obtaining material, and the amount of time required to complete a work in stone that made him return to painting during the last five years of his life.’ Even after his re-engagement with oil painting, as another friend, Manual Ortiz de Zarate noted, Modigliani’s ‘real longing was to work in stone, a longing that remained with him throughout his life.’ Sculpture was, therefore, as the dealer and art critic Adolphe Basler emphasized. Modigliani’s ‘only ideal and he put high hopes in it.’ Modigliani had longed to be a sculptor ever since his first discovery of Michelangelo in his youth. But, it was only after becoming close with Constantin Brancusi in Paris in 1909 that he began a practice of making his own carved sculptures, learning, under Brancusi’s direction, to carve, first into wood, and subsequently into stone. By 1911, Modigliani had abandoned painting almost entirely and from then on until around 1914, sculpture became almost his sole practice. Between 1911 and 1914, he produced very few paintings but a vast number of drawings and gouaches, all related to sculpture and sculptural projects, and almost all his known sculpture. Tête is one of the series of predominantly either limestone or sandstone heads that Modigliani carved repeatedly during this period. He intended these personages to be seen collectively as what he described as a ‘decorative ensemble’, and in 1912, seven of these works were presented in this manner as part of the Cubist room at the infamous Salon d’Automne held that year.

"As Modigliani scholar, Kenneth Wayne has pointed out, echoing Augustus John’s thoughts, Modigliani’s heads, ‘are not based on visual reality, but on a new reality that the sculptor has created’. Therefore, while ‘it may seem odd to us today that Modigliani should be grouped with the Cubists in this exhibition—and in later shows and reviews during his lifetime - this fact is noteworthy. It underscores the point that Cubism was understood more broadly at the time than it is today. Cubism was a term used to describe any art that was unnaturalistic and took liberties in depicting its subject. The strong resonance with African sculpture seen in Cubist paintings—such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907—and in Modigliani's sculpture and painting may be another reason that he was considered to be a Cubist at the time.’ Before the Salon d’Automne exhibition, Modigliani is thought to have first exhibited his stone heads, again as a collective group, at an impromptu exhibition that he organized with Brancusi’s help in the studio of Amadeo de Souza Cardoso in March 1911. Cardoso was one of many fellow sculptors then working, like Modigliani, at the Cité Falguière studios in Montparnasse. It was here, too, at the Cité Falguière, that Jacques Lipchitz was to first come across Modigliani’s stone heads. Lipchitz recalled seeing Modigliani ‘working outdoors’, in order to avoid his own small studio, which was too cramped and, (with all the limestone dust flying around), also too hazardous for the artist’s already fragile health. Around Modigliani, ‘a few heads in stone—maybe five—were standing on the cement floor of the court in front of the studio. He was adjusting them one to the other. I see him as if it were today, stooping over those heads, while he explained to me that he had conceived all of them as an ensemble. It seems to me that these heads were exhibited later the same year in the Salon d'Automne, arranged in stepwise fashion like tubes of an organ to produce the special music he wanted.’

"Around the same time, the English sculptor Jacob Epstein, then in Paris to work on the tomb of Oscar Wilde, also recalled a visit to Modigliani’s studio in the Cité Falguière. On this occasion, Modigliani had filled his small studio, Epstein noted, with ‘nine or ten long heads and one figure’ and ‘at night,’ he ‘would place candles on the top of each one and the effect was that of a primitive temple. A legend of the quarter said that Modigliani, when under the influence of hashish, embraced these sculptures.’

"At the basis of Modigliani’s sculptural vision was the articulation of an innate concept the artist had of a sublime, timeless and all-encompassing beauty. It was a quality that Modigliani had first divined in much of the Ancient Greek and Roman art he had first encountered as a student in Rome, Naples and Florence. And, it was this, ‘truth in beauty’, he had written as a young man, that was to lay the foundation for all his subsequent artistic endeavors. ‘I am trying to formulate with all possible lucidity the truths about art and life that I found scattered throughout Rome’s beauty. I shall try to reveal them and reconstruct their metaphysical structure—one might almost say architecture—and make thereof my truth in beauty, life and art.’

"After the artist’s premature death in 1920, Modigliani’s friend and patron, Paul Alexandre, while looking back on the artist’s career as a whole, argued that Modigliani was someone who had ‘sought all his life for a definite form’ but never, in the end, he believed, ‘achieved it’.(15) It is in this sense of Modigliani’s dedicated pursuit after the, almost certainly unattainable, ideal of realizing a pure and transcendent form of beauty, that Epstein’s recollections of the artist’s shrine-like studio, with its beatific ‘temple’ of female figures, reveals one of the key elements of Modigliani’s sculpture.

"Not only did Modigliani work strictly in series and conceive of his creations as, ultimately, a collective ensemble; he also seems to have recognized and revered them as if they were sacred totems. For him, his idealized figures were all component parts, (or building blocks, perhaps) of a vast and greater enterprise. Through his work in sculpture, Modigliani had, by all accounts, come to dream of creating, what he called a ‘Temple of Beauty’. The stone heads and the caryatids, (most of which he obsessively drafted and redrafted in drawings and gouaches rather than actually carved during this period), were intended to become, what Modigliani described as ‘columns of tenderness’ in this ‘Temple of Beauty’. Modigliani’s vision of this great, future ‘temple’, evidently conjured up by the artist as he lived and worked amongst his sculpture in his small Montparnasse studio, is thought, in concept at least, to have resembled Ivan Mestrovic’s Temple Dedicated to the Heroes of Kosovo. This was an elaborate monument comprising numerous stylized caryatids dedicated to the fourteenth century victory of the East Orthodox Serbian kingdom over Ottoman Turks that the Croatian artist Mestrovic had worked on in Montparnasse between 1907 and 1909. Individual caryatids for Mestrovic’s grandiose project had been exhibited at the 1909 Salon d’Automne and were later to cause a sensation when the collective ensemble was shown at the Espozione Internazionale of Rome in 1911.

"Modigliani’s dreams of creating his own ‘Temple of Beauty’ not only exemplify the scale of his ambition but also the fact that it was primarily through sculpture that the artist believed he could attain his ideal of a pure and transcendent form of beauty. It was also, as his friend and fellow Italian in Paris, Gino Severini, noted, the developments that Modigliani was to make in his sculpture towards this crystallization of a pure form, that were ultimately to inform and determine the path of his later painted portraits, with their thin, elongated necks and faces, elegant lines and hollowed-out, almond-shaped eyes.

"Thought to have been made some time between 1911 and 1912, Tête is a work that displays many of the unique and often idiosyncratic motifs common to the most fully resolved and finely rendered of Modigliani’s stone heads. The frontal, hieratic position of the figure’s head; the elongated face; curlicue, engraved hair; long, trapezoidal nose; smiling, v-shaped mouth; elongated ear-lobes and pointed chin are all distinguishing features, common to many of these pioneering works but not found altogether in any of them except here. In Tête, as in all of Modigliani’s sculptural heads, each of these individual features has been seamlessly amalgamated and refined into a startlingly unique configuration. The resultant effect of this is to conjure a personal and idiosyncratic sense of portraiture. Reflective of a myriad of different sources and influences all coming to bear upon the artist at this time, the origins of each of these surprisingly well-blended but disparate forms is also often quite specific.

"The protruding, triangular form of the smiling, upturned mouth of Tête, for example, can be seen to derive directly from archaic Greek Koré and Kouros figures that Modigliani would have seen as student in Florence and Rome. After his move to Paris, amongst the more significant but arguably less archaic influences that there came to direct Modigliani’s hand in the creation of his sculpture was also, of course, the profound impact of African art. Greatly admired, at this time, by artists like Picasso and Derain, for instance, the formal language of African sculpture encouraged a whole generation of young artists in the early 1900s to seek out and define new and alternative forms of realism. Modigliani, as Paul Alexandre remembered, was a frequent visitor at this time to the Ethnological museum at the Trocadéro, where, in addition to its African collection, he particularly admired the Khmer sculpture from Angkor Wat. Modigliani was also well-acquainted with the large collection of African masks owned by his friend and neighbor in Montparnasse, Frank Burty Haviland. He is known to have been especially influenced by the refined forms of Baule masks from the Ivory Coast, although, it should also be mentioned that the extremely elongated faces of some of his sculptural heads recall also the similar forms of Fang masks from Gabon.
Robert Goldwater has famously analyzed the impact of Baule masks on Modigliani in his 1967 book ‘Primitivism and Modern Art’. Modigliani followed the example of Baule masks, Goldwater wrote, ‘in the elongated oval of the head with narrow chin, the almond eyes, the sharply defined drawn-out rectilinear volume of the nose that, like the tiny lozenge shaped mouth, hardly interrupts the smoothly rounded curve of the cheeks and chin.’ Similarly, Goldwater observed, Modigliani’s repeated use of the ‘neck cylinder’ in these works is also African, even though, he noted, ‘its regional source is less easy to locate’ and that ‘these characteristics are more prominent and more isolated in some heads than in others’. In addition, as he was keen to point out, such African influence does not occur in these sculptures alone. Archaic Greek art can be seen to ‘play a role in the treatment of the hair, and perhaps even more in the handling of the stone surface which, though smooth, remains unpolished – very different from the high patinations of African wood.’ Such is certainly the case here in Tête, which, like other heads such as (Ceroni XII, XV and XXII, for example) display both the pinched, v-shaped smile of the Greek Koré and an archaic Greek or perhaps even Etruscan styling in the depiction of its curled hair. That Modigliani ‘singled out the Baule example to fuse with other archaic styles shows that he was being guided by a strong sense of personal creation’, Goldwater added. ‘Baule sculpture is the most refined and linear, the most aesthetic and the least daemonic of African work: it could be easily integrated with the other styles Modigliani assimilated, and with the graceful, sentimental direction of his own art, best seen in the paintings that follow the sculpture.’

"In addition, Alan G Wilkinson has suggested that Modigliani may have been particularly attracted to the Baule style because it represented ‘secular portraits of living persons’ and, as Lipchitz has pointed out, Modigliani was an artist who, in spite of his search for a pure ideal, could ‘never forget his interest in people.’ The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, with whom Modigliani was especially close during these years, not only remembered the ‘deserted alley’ in Montparnasse that resounded to ‘the knock of his mallet’ as he worked on one of his sculptures there, but also the artist’s intense fascination at this time for Egyptian art. Modigliani reportedly told her during a visit to the Louvre’s collection of Egyptian antiquities that ‘tout le reste’ was of little interest in comparison. Today, debates continue to rage between art historians and other admirers of Modigliani’s sculpture about the precise sources of the many varied influences—African, Cycladic, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Egyptian, Near-Eastern and Oriental—that all came to bear upon Modigliani’s sculpture during this dramatic period in Paris shortly before the war.

"What is certain, is that Modigliani’s distinctive sculptural vision was derived from no one, single source. It was a unique and elegant fusion of many influences, all of which Modigliani combined into a new style all of its own. This idealized style, especially noticeable in a work such as Tête, is one in which his figures are not only bestowed with the same, timeless sense of serenity and monumentality to be found in archaic Mediterranean sculpture and figures of the Buddha from Angkor or Gandhara. It is also one that despite its African-influenced simplicity, somehow maintains a unique and edgy sense of personal idiosyncracy. Although Modigliani may have untended these works to form an ensemble, each of these imposing, hieratic-looking stone-heads clearly also asserts itself as a unique and distinct individual.

"Paul Alexandre, explained this almost miraculous quality of Modigliani’s work well when he wrote that ‘Modigliani’s art is a re-creation’, but one which, ‘always stems from a direct view of nature. There is nothing, or virtually nothing, in his work that does not take as its point of departure an intense visual sensation. The resemblance is remarkable and immediate…His constant aim was to simplify while grasping essentials. Unlike most artists, he was interested in the inner being, and his portraits were real characters…All his life he was pursuing the same goal (as his drawings show). An idea that one might have thought dated from the end of his life can be seen in embryo in drawings executed ten years earlier. Modigliani personifies the pursuit of a single idea which has to attain a high degree of intensity in order to enter into the life of art. He never gave up the struggle to demonstrate this idea fully. In his drawings there is invention, simplification and purification of form. This was why African art appealed to him. Modigliani had reconstructed the lines of the human face his own way by fitting them into primitive patterns. He enjoyed any attempt to simplify line and was interested in it for his personal development.’

"Another highly evocative aspect of sculptures such as Tête is the way in which such works reveal Modigliani’s unique response to and manipulation of stone as a sculptural medium. Although Modigliani had begun his sculptural practice by carving works in wood (the majority of which are now lost), stone was always his desired medium. It was stone that essentially bestowed his work with its sense of monumentality, permanence and timelessness. And it was stone too that lent his figures their sacred, temple-like qualities of reverence and mystery. As a result, Modigliani was always insistent about working in stone, even though, given his often dire and impoverished circumstances, the material was difficult to obtain. Charles Douglas has recalled in this respect that Modigliani, ‘like other sculptors of the Butte’ was, however, highly resourceful. He had ‘not neglected when funds permitted, to make friends over a bottle with the masons working on the new buildings rapidly devouring the maquis,’ and ‘with their aid…[to] secure a supply of stone.’

"The particular type of stone that Modigliani was able to acquire in this way was usually a limestone, sometimes known as ‘Pierre de Paris’ because it derived from quarries in the Parisian suburbs.  This was the stone then being used to construct many of the new buildings going up all over Montparnasse. A comparatively soft but durable stone, ‘Pierre de Paris’ allowed Modigliani to create a variety of effects. Its fine grain could either be chiseled to coarse effect or sanded into a smooth surface. As Kenneth Wayne has indicated: ‘In his art, Modigliani was clearly trying to distance himself from the slick, smooth painting and sculpture of the nineteenth-century academics, which many people felt had become stiff and sterile because of many rules and restrictions. Modigliani liked to maintain traces of the artistic process in his art—brushstrokes and chisel marks—to create sensuality, tactility and allure.’

"Working in close contact with Brancusi, Modigliani was one of a new generation of artists at this time involved in the tradition of direct carving from the stone block without the intermediary of a model or maquette. It was a practice that emulated the rawness and immediacy of approach used in African and other so-called ‘primitive’ arts and was, in part, a reaction against the outmoded tradition in sculpture then typified for Modigliani’s generation by Rodin’s, lumpy, contorted, hand-modeled and emotion-packed bronze figures. As Jacques Lipchitz remembered, ‘Modigliani, like some others at the time, was very taken with the notion that sculpture was sick, that it had become very sick with Rodin and his influence. There was too much modeling in clay, too much ‘mud.’ The only way to save sculpture was to begin carving again, direct carving in stone. We had many very heated discussions about this, for I did not for one moment believe that sculpture was sick, nor did I believe that direct carving was by itself a solution to anything. But Modigliani could not be budged; he held firmly to his deep conviction. He had been seeing a good deal of Brancusi, who lived nearby, and he had come under his influence. When we talked of different kinds of stone – hard and soft – Modigliani said that the stone itself made very little difference, the important thing was to give the carved stone the feeling of hardness, and that came from within the sculptor himself: regardless of what stone they use some sculptors make their work look soft, but others use even the softest stones and give their sculptures hardness. Indeed, his own sculpture shows how he used this idea.’

"Stone was, therefore, the medium that provided Modigliani with the means to pursue a specific end. ‘What I am searching for,’ Modigliani is said to have told Paul Alexandre, ‘is neither the real nor the unreal, but the subconscious, the mystery of what is instinctive in the human race.’ Nowhere is this new, pure and idealized form of realism that Modigliani sought—and which he continued to strive after for the rest of his life—better realized than in his sculpture. Modigliani’s sculpture, and in particular, smooth-surfaced stone heads such as Tête, epitomize this perpetual search to refine and distill the human form into a beatific concentration of its essential qualities. Griselda Pollock has written of Modigliani’s work in this respect that, his ‘project echoes that of Matisse, where the distillation of movement, volume, and form into the sureness of a single line negotiates the tightrope between the decorative and the minimal...[Modigliani’s] patient repetitions and persistent search for a line [that] his hands and mind could internalize and confidently repeat, reveals that he was not working from the model, from life, from women’s bodies. He was working conceptually, from the museum of long and culturally diverse histories of art.’

"Paul Alexandre also observed that Modigliani would often throw a stone away if a sculpture was not working out as he wanted. This observation is revealing because it distinguishes Modigliani’s approach from that of many other ‘direct carvers’ of his generation. It suggests that Modigliani was no ‘truth to materials’ artist and did not, like other ‘carvers’ of the time, work with the material in an intuitive manner, attempting to find and release a figure believed to be already hidden inside the stone (à la Michelangelo). Rather, Modigliani was always chasing a preconceived ideal and seeking to impose this ineffable vision upon the stone. It was for this reason that soft, more durable and easier to work stones such as limestone and sandstone lent themselves so well to his art. And also perhaps why it was in the works made in this material, that Modigliani came closest to realizing his unreachable ideal.

‘Everything Dedo [Modigliani] did’, Max Jacob wrote, ‘tended towards purity in art. His insupportable pride, his black ingratitude, his haughtiness, did not exclude familiarity. Yet, all that was nothing but a need for crystalline purity, a trueness to himself in life as in art. He was cutting, but as fragile as glass, so to say. And that was very characteristic of the period, which talked of nothing but purity in art and strove for nothing else. Dedo was to the last degree a purist.’

The lot has an estimate of $30,000,000 to $40,000,000.  It sold for $34,325,000.  The record for a Modigliani sculpture is $70.7 million, set in 2014.


Lot 20, "Claude a deux ans," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 51 1/8 by 38 inches, 1949

Lot 20 is a good, large oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) of his son, "Claude a deux ans."  It measures 51 1/8 by 38 inches and was painted in 1949.  It was once owned by the Bellagio  Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas and then the Gagosian Gallery.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

“The baby—a boy—was born without difficulty on May 15, 1947,” Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s post-war lover and muse recalled of the birth of her first child. “Pablo wanted him to be named Pablo but since his first son had been named Paul—the French equivalent—I thought we should try something different. I remembered that Watteau’s teacher had been called Claude Gillot, and that he had done many paintings of harlequins, just as Pablo himself had, even before the Blue Period and long after, so we named the baby Claude” (Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 160). Painted on 9 June 1949, Claude à deux ans is an exuberant, color-filled and tender portrait of Picasso’s second son, Claude that dates from a rare moment of contented familial bliss in the life of the artist. Living with Gilot in Vallauris in the south of France and enjoying a period of renewed artistic creativity, the pair had just welcomed their second child, Paloma, in April of this year. Over the next few years, Picasso’s two young children would come to dominate every aspect of his art, unleashing a new youthful exuberance as the artist observed, with often wondrous fascination and adoration, the everyday lives of his young family. Frequently pictured with a variety of toys and often in the same blue and white checked shirt, Claude is here portrayed with a toy horse on wheels that appears almost as tall as him. One of two paintings of this subject that Picasso painted the same day,Claude à deux ans is defined by its facets of vibrant, imagined color, evoking the fantastical world of play in which Claude inhabited. Picasso kept this work in his collection for the rest of his life, a reflection of the importance it clearly held for the artist.

"The planes of vibrant color that characterize this large canvas serve as a reflection of the deep sense of contentment the artist was enjoying at this time. Picasso had met Gilot, the beautiful, classically-featured young artist in 1943, during the long, dark years of the Occupation of Paris. Immediately beguiled by her independence, fresh vitality and beauty, Picasso pursued her and the pair’s relationship began a year later, in 1944. She moved in with the artist in 1946; her image and presence revivifying and rejuvenating Picasso’s work after the somber years of war. Living in La Galloise, their home in Vallauris in the south of France, the couple were soon happily ensconced in a peaceful domestic idyll, set under the sun of the Mediterranean."

In Claude à deux ans, Picasso places the viewer directly within his young son’s world. We regard Claude from a low viewpoint, as if sitting on the ground, seeing the world through his own eyes. “[Picasso] entered into their play,” Roland Penrose recalled of the artist’s life with his children, “and made them happy with dolls fashioned from scrap pieces of wood decorated with a few lines in colored chalk; or taking pieces of cardboard he tore out shapes of men and animals and colored them, giving them such droll expressions that they became fairy-tale characters not only for Claude and Paloma but for adults as well” (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life & Work, London, 1958, p. 330). Unlike the paintings and drawings that Picasso had made of his first son, Paulo, in which the child is pictured in stiff costumes, or as a miniature adult, somber, posed and serious, his depictions of Claude and Paloma show the artist completely immersed in the magic of their world. Kirk Varnedoe has written, “Whether in recognition of a new age of permissive thinking about early childhood or out of a greater concern to absorb for himself some of the budding vitality of their youth, Picasso in the early 1950s doted on the childishness of Paloma and Claude; rather than imposing premature adulthood on them in his work, he often let their games, their toys, their own creations—as well as the mercurial intensity of their emotional life—inform his art” (K. Varnedoe, “Picasso’s Self-Portraits” in W. Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., New York, 1996-1997, p. 160).

"Picasso was particularly drawn to the toys that Claude and Picasso played with, capturing in his art a sense of the amazement that a child could find in the simplest things. The hobbyhorse had long featured in Picasso’s depictions of his children. Years prior to the present painting, Picasso had depicted his first son, Paulo both clutching a toy horse as well as riding one, and a few years later, Maya, his daughter with Marie-Thérèse Walter, is pictured in a sailor’s costume, clutching a doll in one hand and a figurine of a horse in the other. In the present work, Claude is accompanied by a hobby horse; indeed there are photographs of Claude with the rest of his family and a toy horse that date from a few years after the present work was painted. With its upturned mouth the horse—rendered in the same simplified, “Picassian” language that the artist used to portray his son—is transformed from an inanimate toy into a real animal, with Claude seemingly feeding his companion, happily immersed in a world of imagination and play.

"The toys and youthful ephemera which surrounded the artist and Gilot while their young children were growing up were not solely descriptive motifs that Picasso included in his portraits, but were for the artist, symbolic objects that embodied a youthfulness that he wished to harness for himself. “Even now, when Claude and Paloma have gone to spend their holidays with their father,” Gilot wrote in her biography of her time with Picasso, “Pablo has never let Claude return without taking at least one, sometimes more than one, article of clothing from his luggage. The first thing his father took was a new Tyrolean hat. After that there was a whole series of other hats… Another time it was a light-blue poplin raincoat… I finally became convinced that Pablo hoped by this method that some of Claude’s youth would enter into his own body. It was a metaphorical way of appropriating someone else’s substance, and in that way, I believe, he hoped to prolong his own life” (Gilot, op. cit., p. 232). Forever trying to defy the inexorable march of time, Picasso’s paintings of his children allowed him to inhabit a world of complete freedom and inhibition, something he wished to embody for himself and channel into the way he made his art. “When I was a child I could draw like Raphael,” he famously stated, “but it took me a lifetime to draw like a child” (quoted in H. Read in The Times, 26 October 1956).

The lot has an estimate of 
$7,000,000 to $10,000,000.  It sold for $8,674,000.

Renoir couple

Lot 38, "Le pecheur a la ligne," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 by 25 5/8 inches, 1874

Lot 38, "Le Pecheur a la ligne" is a wonderful oil on canvas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1842-1919).  It measures 21 1/4 by 25 5/8 inches and was painted in 1874. 

The catalogue entry contains the following commentary:

"Capturing in a single composition the reflections of light upon the water, the nuances in pose and gesture of the two figures, as well as the dappled sunshine across the verdant setting, Renoir has in the present work achieved a seamless integration of these separate aspects into a single whole. Each compositional component is depicted with the same handling, a wholly radical and entirely new approach to painting. This technique stood at the heart of Impressionism, as Renoir and his fellow artistic pioneers sought not to render nature with specific, stultifying detail, but to instead capture the overall sensation of the landscape, the fleeting changes of light and atmosphere. Myriad strokes of color—some staccato, sparkling upon the surface of the canvas, with others softly blended—dance across the surface of the canvas, which appears almost abstract in places, particularly in the foreground, where the stippled greens of the verdant riverbank merges with the glistening droplets of water that fall from the fishing rod. The woman’s dress is rendered in a symphony of broad white strokes interspersed with shimmers of blue shadow, all of which glisten amidst the tapestry of soft tones that surround her; while the trousers of her male companion seem almost to dissolve into the setting, painted with the same exuberant brushwork as the rest of the scene. Yet, Renoir never loses the lyrical delicacy that characterizes the greatest of his paintings. Amidst this luminous array of color, he has captured a number of nuanced details: the man’s boating hat and gleaming white shirt cuffs, as well as the dark shadows that define his jacket. "
It has a modest estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.  It sold for $8,787,500.

Renoir landscape

Lot 27, "La Seine a Argenteuil," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 by 25 3/4 inches, 1888

Lot 27 is a very good landscape oil on canvas by Renoir that is entitled "La Seine a Argenteuil."  It measures 21 1/2 by 25 3/4 inches and was painted in 1888.

The catalogue entry includes the following commentary:

"Reminiscent of Renoir’s 'high impressionist' phase of the mid 1870s, the rich and atmospheric colors of this composition are applied with vigorous brushstrokes, creating emphatic contrasts between warm and cool hues. The vibrant color scheme and patterns created by the fluid movements of the brush echo the manner of eighteenth-century French masters, such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jean-Antoine Watteau, whose style was greatly admired by Renoir. Painted in the late summer, the present canvas possesses an air of rural tranquility disturbed only by the wind; the free brushstrokes used to apply various shades of blue, white, bright orange and green accentuate the ripples expanding across the surface of the water. The bold color contrasts are noticeable above all in the glimmering reflections of the orange-red features of the sailing boats in the bright blue waters of the river Seine. The treatment of reflections remains approximate, as in Renoir’s earlier works, creating an effect of luminous sunlight and gentle ebb and flow of the current. The pastoral effect of the scene is further highlighted by Renoir omitting any reference to the thriving industry which had established itself in the areas surrounding Argenteuil and Petit Gennevilliers, keeping with his distaste for modern machinery and industrial activity."

It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.  It failed to sell.

Monet Venice

Lot 11, "Le Palais Dario," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 22 1/8 by 26 1/8 inches, 1908

Lot 11 is a  Venetian scene by Claude Monet (1840-1926) entitled "Le Palais Dario."  An oil on canvas, it measures 22 1/8 by 26 1/8 inches and was painted in 1908.  It is from the collection of Drue Heinz.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"Of the four versions that Monet painted of the Palais Dario, two can be found in public institutions, including The Art Institute of Chicago and The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. 

"In September 1908, when Monet and his wife Alice received an unexpected invitation to visit Venice, the 68-year-old artist had scarcely strayed from his home at Giverny since his London campaigns at the turn of the century. Utterly absorbed in his visionary Nymphéas series, Monet was reluctant at first to accept the invitation, which came from their friend Mary Young Hunter. Alice, though, was eager to travel, and the accommodations on offer—at the opulent Palazzo Barbaro, where Mrs. Hunter was then staying—were most tempting. The lagoon city, moreover, was an aesthetic Mecca—the place where colore had prevailed over disegno during the Renaissance, and a prime destination ever since for colorists seeking to experience the gloriously effulgent environment that had nurtured their venerated predecessors. In the end, the allure of Venice proved too strong for Monet to resist. He arrived there with Alice on 1 October and worked intensively for ten weeks, returning to Giverny in December with 37 canvases underway.

"The art historical legacy of La Serenissima weighed heavily on Monet during his first few days in the city. “Unrenderable,” he declared. “Too beautiful to be painted” (Monet quoted in, exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 49). By the second week of his stay, however, he had selected his motifs and picked up his palette. Rather than recording the changes in light on a given subject from morning to evening, as he had in London, he now opted to paint each site at a single moment in the day, eliminating time as a variable in order to isolate the kaleidoscopic effects of the famous Venetian haze. By 8:00 a.m., he set himself up on the island of San Giorgio to observe his first motif, the Doge’s Palace; mid-morning, he reversed his viewpoint and painted the church of San Giorgio. After lunch, he stayed close to his lodgings, looking across the Grand Canal toward the church of Santa Maria della Salute or—as here—a group of Renaissance palazzi on the south bank, their ornate, polychrome façades seeming to float mirage-like on the water.

"The present canvas is one of four paintings that Monet made of the Palazzo Dario, named for the patrician merchant family that lived there in the late 15th century and a favorite of later travelers to Venice—John Ruskin and Henry James, most notably—for its florid, marble-encrusted oculi (Wildenstein, nos. 1757-1760; The Art Institute of Chicago, and National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). Monet also painted two views each of the nearby Palazzo Contarini and Palazzo da Mula, for a total of eight canvases in this sub-series (nos. 1764-1767; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Kunstmuseum, Saint-Gall). While the remaining palazzo pictures all show signs of extensive re-working back in Monet’s studio at Giverny, the present version preserves all the freshness and vigor of the artist’s initial encounter with the motif, suggesting that it was completed on site in Venice, as the afternoon sun dipped low to the right of the scene (G. Seiberling, op. cit., 1981, pp. 210-211).

"Monet painted the Palazzo Dario head-on, setting up his easel directly across the Grand Canal near the Prefecture building, some two hundred meters east of the Palazzo Barbaro and only slightly farther from the Hôtel Britannia, where he and Alice moved in mid-October. From this vantage point, the view resolved into a nearly abstract formal configuration of two parallel, planar bands: the irregular stone mass of the palace above and its ever-shifting aqueous echo below. “Ignoring romantic clichés,” William Seitz has written, “Monet affixed the truncated façade to the top of his composition, square with the frame and exactly parallel to the canvas surface. Its rhythmic horizontal and vertical architectural divisions reinforce the sparkle of light and shadow on the lapping water” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1960, p. 43). The contrasting, curvilinear shape of a gondola moored at the main portal articulates the boundary between the façade and its reflection, and evokes a human presence within the hauntingly unpeopled vista.

"At Giverny, Monet had narrowed his vision to comprise only the tilted plane of the water garden, with nothing more firm to paint than the floating lily pads. Venice provided an invigorating alternative to this radically condensed repertoire, offering the artist an enriched dance of light over the solids and voids of the architecture as well as the surface of the water with its fractured reflections. Here, Monet treated the façade of the Palazzo Dario as a screen for the play of color, capturing the blue-tinged light that bounced off the canal and the jewel-like touches of violet and ochre that enlivened the loggias and decorative disks, while avoiding the detailed description that he bemoaned in traditional vedutiste renderings of Venice. “Monet had no interest in ‘imitating’ the glorious aspects of these rich façades,” Joachim Pissarro has written. “His goal was to rival them pictorially, to create an image in pigment that would be as rich as the façades were in stone. This was perhaps Monet’s ultimate challenge while in Venice” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 164).

"In thrall to his motifs and “always further into the enchantment of Venice,” as he wrote to Georges Clemenceau, Monet repeatedly pushed back his intended departure date (quoted in ibid., p. 52). On 7 December, their eventual last day in the city, he and Alice made plans to return the next year, but Alice’s deteriorating health precluded it; she died in May 1911, leaving Monet devastated. When he was again able to take up his brushes in October, his first goal was to ready the Venice paintings for exhibition—“souvenirs of such happy days passed with my dear Alice,” he told the Bernheim brothers, with whom he had contracted for the show (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 57). The present canvas is one of the few from the series that Monet did not release to the dealers, keeping it for himself instead as a timeless and deeply personal commemoration. “For Monet,” Pissarro has concluded, “Venice could not be the mirror of history, it could only be the mirror of his soul—or its closest equivalent, his palette of colors” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 179)."

The lot has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It sold for $6,858,000.

Monet Bridge 26

"Lot 36, "Le pont japonais," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 by 39 1/2 inches

Lot 36 is an almost abstract view of the Japanese bridge in the garden at Monet's home in Giverny.  An oil on canvas, it measures 28 3/4 by 39 1/2 inches.  It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000.  It sold for $12,760,000.


Lot 21, "Nu a la fenetre," by Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 by 21 1/2 inches, 1929

Lot 21 is a nice scene of a naked lady by a window by Henri Matisse (1869-1954).  The oil on canvas measures 25 3/4 by 21 1/2 inches and was painted in 1929.  It was once owned by Vladimir Horowiz and was acquired by Drue Heinz from M. Knoedler & Co., in 1961.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In 1926-1927, during his tenth working season at Nice, Matisse acquired two adjacent apartments that together comprised the entire top floor of 1, place Charles Félix, the neo-classical building in the heart of the old city where he had lived and worked, one story below, for the previous five years. After a lengthy period of renovations to combine the two flats, creating sufficient living space for his wife Amélie to join him on the Côte d’Azur, the sprawling residence was ready to occupy by mid-1928. Whereas Matisse’s studio in the third-floor apartment had been snug and heavily decorated, the new one was a veritable light chamber, with triple floor-length windows and a spacious balcony facing south over the Baie des Anges and white tiled walls that amplified the dazzling radiance.

"Matisse immediately felt the impact of this intense, saturating light, which had the visual effect of flattening form and compressing space. “You’ll see, there’s something new here,” he wrote to Amélie in July 1928. “I can feel it inside myself, like a release. I had pretty well come to the end of what I could do with construction based exclusively on the balancing of colored masses” (quoted in H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, New York, 2005, p. 295). During the ensuing months, Matisse swiftly clarified and consolidated his new aims. “The retina tires of the same means. It demands surprises,” he told the publisher Tériade in January 1929. “For myself, since it is always necessary to advance and to seek new possibilities, I nowadays want a certain formal perfection, and I work by concentrating my means to give my painting this quality” (quoted in J. Flam, Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 85).

"Matisse painted the present Nu à la fenêtre—also known as Nu nacré (Pearly Nude) for the iridescent quality of its light—in his new studio during the first part of 1929 and sold the canvas to Bernheim-Jeune that September. The painting was reproduced shortly thereafter in two important monographs, one by Florent Fels and the other by Roger Fry, which paid tribute to the artist on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday in December 1929; it was first exhibited publicly at the Kraushaar Galleries in New York the following fall. 

"The focal point of this luminous, high-keyed canvas is the nude model, the subject par excellence of Matisse’s exemplary Nice period. “The Odalisqueswere the bounty of a happy nostalgia, a lovely vivid dream, and the almost ecstatic, enchanted days and nights of the Moroccan climate,” the artist recounted. “I felt an irresistible need to express that ecstasy, that divine unconcern, in corresponding colored rhythms, rhythms of sunny and lavish figures and colors” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1986, p. 230). Here, Matisse depicted a sultry brunette named Loulou, one of several ballet dancers from the Compagnie de Paris who populated the artist’s private pictorial theater in 1928-1929. Clad only in a sheer, open peignoir and a gold necklace, Loulou stands in a classic, contrapposto pose. Her volumetric curves play provocatively against the flat, abstract geometry of the tiled studio wall, a proxy for the rectilinear grid of the canvas itself. 

"Although the model’s eyes are closed in languorous repose, a wicker armchair beside the window faces outward over the panoramic vista, connoting the act of viewing that underpins the artist’s relationship to the world. The window had been a key theme in Matisse’s work ever since his revolutionary Fauve summer at Collioure in 1905, when he rendered the brilliant light of a new day streaming into his hotel room through an open portal—a metaphor for the very advent of modernism, representing the passage to a momentously new manner of painting. “For Matisse the window was a constant, as important in its expression as the room itself,” Shirley Blum has noted. “Together they enabled the pictorial revolution taking place on his canvases” (Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View, New York, 2010, p. 16).

"In Nu à la fenêtre, Matisse exploited the window’s intrinsic duality—at once an opening and a barrier—to generate a tension between illusionistic depth and modernist flatness. Although the window grille recedes perspectivally at an oblique angle, Matisse has compressed the landscape vista against the fictive picture plane, linking the distant to the close at hand. Interior and exterior are rendered with the same sparkling white light and intensity of color, as a single, unified spatial realm. “The result is a productive ambiguity of ‘looking through’ and ‘looking at’,” Katharina Sykora has observed, “a continual back-and-forth between the pull into depth with its promise of a ‘genuine’ view and the visual threshold of inhibition that halts our gaze in the interior” (Henri Matisse: Figure Color Space, exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2005, p. 60).

"The paintings that Matisse created in early 1929 represent the culmination of his work at Nice during this transformative period. Following his return to the Côte d’Azur that fall after his usual summer stint in Paris, Matisse found himself at a crossroads, pondering the direction in which the accomplishments of the last decade might next lead him. During the ensuing four years, he scarcely worked at the easel, devoting himself instead to drawing and print-making, extensive travel, and his decorative murals for Dr. Albert Barnes. When he returned to painting in late 1933, the condensation of pictorial means that he had begun to explore in the “Loulou” interiors provided him with a springboard to renewed innovation, heralding the mounting abstraction of the next decade. 

“When you have worked a long time in the same milieu, it is useful at a given moment to stop and take a voyage,” he explained to Tériade, “which will let parts of the mind rest while other parts have free rein—especially those parts repressed by the will. This stopping permits a withdrawal and consequently an examination of the past. You begin again with more certainty” (quoted in J. Flam, op. cit., 1995, p. 88)."

It has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000.  It sold for $6,517,500.

Vuillard 22

Lot 22, "La table de toilette," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on canvas, 25 7/8 by 45 1/4 inches, 1895

Lot 22 is a magnificent interior scene by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) that is entitled "La Table de Toilette."  An oil on canvas, it measures 25 7/8 by 45 1/4 inches and was painted in 1895.  It is from the collection of Frederick A. and Sharon L. Klingsnstein.  Mr. Klingenstein was co-chairman and CEO of Wertheim & Company and was also chairman of the board of trustees of Mount Sinai Hospital.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"Of the five panels, including the present lot, commissioned by Thadée and Misia Natanson, three can be found in public institutions, including The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

“A muted symphony, where relationships never seen before harmonize and vibrate deeper and deeper as they are contemplated—melodious outbursts, postures skillfully linked, composed according the memory that moved him. It is a brilliant profusion of colorful harmonious splendors upon which a tender soul drapes itself” (Thadée Natanson quoted in G. Groom, exh. cat., op. cit., 1993, p. 76).

"So wrote Thadée Natanson, co-founder of the influential journal La Revue Blanche, about the suite of five decorative paintings—the present canvas among them—that he and his wife Misia commissioned from Vuillard in 1895 to adorn their apartment on the rue Saint-Florentin, the epicenter of Paris’s most advanced artistic and literary circle at this time. Depicting elegant young women reading, talking, embroidering, and arranging flowers within a luxuriantly appointed domestic interior, the five elaborately patterned panels—collectively known as the Album—constitute a subjective, symbolist-inspired re-envisioning of the Natansons’ cultivated milieu, in which poetry, art, and music reigned supreme, and the mundane, material world was held at bay. “The Album panels, which presented themselves from the outset as a high-water mark in Vuillard’s art, may be viewed as an allegory of life in the Natanson home,” Guy Cogeval has written, “where refined tastes and the art of living were combined” (op. cit., 2003, p. 434).

"Vuillard first entered the Natansons’ orbit in 1891, when Thadée—a keen advocate of the band of young avant-garde painters who called themselves the Nabis—gave him his first solo show in the offices of La Revue Blanche. In 1893, Thadée married the prodigiously charismatic Misia, a gifted pianist and born iconoclast, who soon became the object of reticent Vuillard’s unrequited infatuation, as well as the muse and darling of the sophisticated, intellectual society that revolved around La Revue Blanche. “Her position, combined with her unique personal style, her seductive charm, and her almost physical need to be constantly surrounded by people, was to make her the magnetic center, the feminine touchstone for one of the most gifted circles of artists Paris has ever known,” Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale have observed (Misia: The Life of Misia Sert, New York, 1980, p. 38).

"For Vuillard, his relationship with the Natansons—Misia especially—was like a religious conversion, life-changing and all-consuming. By the middle of the decade, he saw them almost daily. They purchased his work in quantity and recommended him unreservedly to friends; they afforded him inside access to the very latest in arts and ideas, and they demonstrated a way of life—a taste and a culture—that fascinated the sheltered young artist. “Vuillard’s vision of reality,” Cogeval has written, “which melded bodies, faces, inanimate objects, flowers, draperies and light into a single texture, was developed and supported by his contact with Misia, whose appearance in the interiors he painted represented a daily miracle for him. His painting, even when Misia was not in the picture, was conditioned by the imprint in space of her passing” (op. cit., 2003, pp. 454-455).

"Vuillard painted the five panels of the Album for the sprawling central room of the Natansons’ apartment—at once parlor, music chamber, and salon—where Misia hosted a spirited weekly soirée for the painters, poets, composers, and critics of La Revue Blanche. In lieu of the prim refinement of their conventionally haut bourgeois childhood homes, Misia and Thadée embraced in their own shared space a cluttered and eclectic informality. The main room was profusely decorated with millefleur tapestries, exotic textiles, oriental rugs, and upholstered furniture; the walls were covered in a heavily patterned, Arts and Crafts-style paper, with a crisscross motif of leaves and flowers. In the Album paintings, Vuillard used densely layered patterns, closely ranged tonalities, and a delicately stippled technique to create an all-over, tapestry-like surface effect that harmonized with this laden setting. “Space does not retreat before us,” John Russell wrote, “we can caress it” (Edouard Vuillard, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1971, p. 59).

Detail of Lot 22 by Vuillard

Detail of Lot 22

"The present painting depicts two women in conversation, with a third partially visible in profile at the far left; they are all, Joseph Rishel has suggested, variants of Misia, clad in the charming, patterned day dresses that she favored and with their hair informally pinned up like hers (exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 112). The heads of the two women at the left seem to emerge, dream-like, from the copious bouquet of chrysanthemums on the table in the foreground, only to vanish once again into the patterned wallpaper; the third participant, seen from behind, dissolves into the deepening shadows at the periphery of the painting, absorbed compositionally and psychologically into the interior. The very ethereality of the figures contrasts with and underscores the palpable existence of the objects around them, heightening the impression of sensuous abundance. 
“The mood is languorous, subdued, and highly sensual,” Kimberly Jones has written. “The spatial ambiguity—the tension between the two-dimensional picture plane and the illusory three-dimensional interior space—that marks so many of the artist’s domestic interiors from this period is particularly pronounced here, further intensifying the rarefied atmosphere of domestic calm and mystery that pervades the suite as a whole. Even the women themselves seem to blend into their surroundings, their features vague, their forms simply another ornamental element in the elaborately patterned picture” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2003, p. 191).

"The five panels of the Album, though harmoniously unified in subject, palette, and technique, have disparate sizes and orientations, which allowed for varying decorative arrangements within the unstructured environment of the Natanson apartment. The title of the ensemble comes from the motif of the largest panel, which shows women leafing through an album, suggesting that Vuillard drew on the idea of a portfolio of prints with a loosely connected theme and diverse formats. Of the five paintings in the group, only the present canvas and Le pot de grès share the same dimensions (Salomon and Cogeval, no. V-96.5; Christie’s New York, 18 November 1998, lot 38); the smallest panel, Le corsage rayé, is the same height as these but half the width (no. V-96.1; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). The remaining two canvases have an unusual, exceptionally narrow format, but one—L’Album—is oriented length-wise while the other, Les Brodeuses, is a vertical composition (nos. V-96.2 and V-96.3; The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, respectively).
"Photographs and paintings of the Natanson apartment indicate that the panels were originally hung unframed or sometimes propped informally against the wall, blending with the undulating arabesques of the wallpaper. They did not remain in fixed positions but rather were arranged and re-arranged according their owners’ whim, functioning more like portable textiles than integral murals. Thadée and Misia even brought the paintings along when they left Paris each summer, installing them in their country house at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne in Burgundy, where Vuillard was a frequent guest.

"A month after Vuillard completed the paintings in November 1895, they were included in the inaugural exhibition of the dealer Siegfried Bing’s Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris, the first of the artist’s decorative ensembles to be shown publicly. When the Natansons’ marriage ended in 1904, the panels stayed with Thadée; in 1908, facing bankruptcy, he was forced to sell at auction, and the ensemble was dispersed. La table de toilette entered the personal collection of Vuillard’s dealer Jos Hessel, whose wife Lucy had replaced Misia by that time as the artist’s closest confidante and abiding muse. “As for Lucy,” reads a note in his journal, “guiding light that she is—domination—bewitchment...totally dazzled by her” (quoted in G. Groom, op. cit., 1993, p. 148). The Hessels kept the present painting at least until 1941, the year after Vuillard—a lifelong bachelor—died with Lucy at his side.

It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $8,000,000.  It sold for $7,883,000.  In 1989, it sold at auction for $7.7 million.


Lot 23, "Femme s'essuyant," by Edgar Degas, pastel on paper laid down on card laid down on panel, 38 3/4 by 27 1/2 inches, circa 1899

Lot 23  is a fine pastel on paper laid down on card laid down on panel by Edgar Degas (1834-1917).  Entitled "Femme s'essuant," it measures 38 3/4 by 27 1/2 inches and was painted circa 1899.  It is property of Drue Heinz.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"The vivid, scintillant, chromatic tints of pastels reigned supreme in late oeuvre of Edgar Degas. All the pictures he had shown in the eighth and final Impressionist group exhibition in 1886—nude bathers, milliners, and portraits—were executed in pastel. By the middle of the following decade, when the character and means of the late style had become fully manifest and definitive in Degas’s art, his use of pastel had largely supplanted oil painting. Among the approximately 500 works the artist created in color after 1890, fewer than fifty were painted in oils; the rest were rendered in varying applications of pastel on paper, ranging from counter-proofs retouched with the powdery sticks, to works such as the present Femme s’essuyant, a fully worked and signed composition, drawn to circa 1899, which is as impressive in scale and visual impact as any of the late oil paintings.

"Having finished her bath, this young woman towels herself dry—in the series to which this pastel belongs, specifically her left side, beside her breast—while seated in a scallop-backed chair draped with linen sheets. The lines of the bathtub, of a new, porcelain-enameled, cast-iron design, indicate perspective in the room. Standing above and gazing down on his model, Degas projected between the shapes of the bathtub and chair an abruptly ascending sense of deep space. Amid the prevailing blue-green tonality, the subject appears as if she had been bathing outdoors on a river bank.

"The late pastels represent Degas’s resolution of the apparent dichotomy between the perception of color and the semblance of linear contour. “I am a colorist with line,” Degas declared. “To color is to pursue drawing into greater depth” (quoted in R. Kendall, ed., Degas by Himself, New York, 1987, p. 319). The guiding forces in the artist’s evolution had been the exemplary linear discipline manifest in the art of Ingres, in contention with the adventurous, passionate expression of color in Delacroix. A half-century later, Henri Matisse discovered his own solution to reconciling color and line in his paper cut-outs.

"Paul Válery recalled Degas stating that a picture is the result of a “series of operations” (quoted in Degas, Manet, Morisot, Princeton, 1960, p. 6). The present Femme s’essuyant pastel stemmed from a sequence of six known charcoal drawings that Degas executed circa 1895-1900, included in the sales of the artist’s atelier: 1ère Vente, no. 314; 2ème Vente, nos. 266, 309, and 311; 3ème Vente, nos. 186 and 292. These studies also resulted in four other related pastels, Lemoisne, nos. 1011, 1340, and 1342-1343.

In the process of tracing the drawings from one to another, and while configuring his subject in the five pastels, Degas altered the elevation of the sitter’s bent left arm, as well as the incline of her back, from the nearly upright contour seen in the present work to a forward-leaning posture in the others. With the addition of room space at both the top and bottom edges, the present Femme s’essuyant and the version, Lemoisne 1342, likewise titled, are the largest in this group. During this period, Degas also modeled a sculpture in wax of this subject, Femme assise dans un fauteuil s’essuyant l’aisselle gauche (Hebrard, no. 43; Rewald, no. LXXII; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

"Among the pastels Degas exhibited in the final Impressionist exhibition of 1886 were ten works which marked the debut of his domestic bathers theme—“Suite de nuds [sic] de femmes se baignant, se lavant, se séchant, s’essuyant …” These scenes of the female nude à sa toilette were deemed scandalous; viewers assumed the artist’s models to be prostitutes, and the rooms those of seedy, cheap hotels. Painting a bather as the mythical Diana or the biblical Susanna was perfectly acceptable in the official Salon—however, as Degas remarked to his dealer Ambroise Vollard, “a woman undressing, never!” (Quoted in A. Vollard, Degas: An Intimate Portrait, New York, 1937, p. 48).

“Hitherto the nude has always been represented in poses which presuppose an audience,” Degas explained to the artist George Moore, “but these women of mine are honest, simple folk, unconcerned by any other interests than those involved in their physical condition. Here she is washing her feet. It is as if you looked through the keyhole” (quoted in R. Kendall, op. cit., 1987, p. 311).

"Peering into such intimate and hidden moments in a woman’s private life unsettled many viewers. Accused of prurient voyeurism, decried as a misogynist for the blunt exposure he accorded his female subjects, Degas was dismayed at the outcry, but persisted with the bathers theme. “Retreating from the public eye,” George T.M. Shackelford has written, “Degas treated the nude for himself, for his own gratification, and for his own celebration of the body” (Degas and the Nude, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2011, p. 156).
"In deference to his clientele’s conservative inclinations, and more comfortable himself with Degas’s earlier production, Paul Durand-Ruel, since 1874 the artist’s primary dealer, shied away from the bather pastels. Vollard eagerly took up the slack, often acquiring Degas’s recent work in exchange for pictures from his wide-ranging inventory of contemporaries—Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and others—that Degas was seeking to add to his own estimable collection of 19th-century art.

In 1914 Vollard published his Degas holdings, comprising mostly late pastels, in Quatre-vingt-dix-huit reproductions signées par Degas, the so-called "Album Vollard.” This folio of both color and duo-tone plates proved instrumental in creating a market for these pictures outside France, especially in Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia, while inspiring young foreign artists with a modernist bent to emulate Degas’s use of electric color and audacious, emphatic line. The present Femme s’essuyant, as noted in the cataloguing above, is illustrated as plate XLIII in the "Album Vollard."

The lot has a modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $3,135,000.


Lot 8, "Therese sur une banquette," by Balthus, oil on board, 28 5/8 x 36 ¼ inches, 1939

Lot 8, "Therese sur une banquette" is a good oil on canvas by Balthus (1908-2001) from the collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood.  It is an oil on board that measures 28 5/8 by 36 1/4 inches and was painted in 1939. 

It has an estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000.  It sold for $19,002,500.

The catalogue entry provide the following commentary about this lot:

"In late 1935 Balthus met Thérèse Blanchard, who lived several blocks from Balthus’s studio at 3, cour de Rohan. Thérèse’s appearance was unconventional, but she “had the grave and moody look that appealed to [Balthus],” writes Sabine Rewald, who selected the present work for the cover of the catalogue of the 2013 “Cats and Girls” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his first portrait of Thérèse, painted in 1936 (Monnier and Clair, no. P 95), Balthus concentrated on her “serious mien” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2013, pp. 8 and 68). He similarly depicted her two years later (P 118; illustrated here). Thérèse sur une banquette, which dates from 1939, is the culminant image in what would be regarded as the most brilliant series of Balthus’s career, considered by Rewald to be “among his finest works” (ibid., pp. 7-8). “The paintings of Thérèse show Balthus at the apogee of his strength,” Nicholas Fox Weber has stated (Balthus, New York, 1999, pp. 388-389). Of Balthus’s ten portraits of Thérèse, five are acknowledged masterpieces, four of which are in museums. Thérèse sur une banquette is the fifth.

"A sibling or school-mate posed with Thérèse for Frère et soeur in 1936 (Monnier and Clair, no. P 94). Her brother Hubert, two years older, appears with her in Les enfants Blanchard, 1937 (no. P 100); both their names are recorded on the reverse of the canvas. Picasso, by then the world’s most famous living artist, purchased the latter painting from the dealer Pierre Colle in 1941. “You’re the only painter of your generation who interests me,” Balthus recalls Picasso having told him. “The others try to make Picassos. You never do” (quoted in Vanished Spendors: A Memoir, New York, 2001, pp. 9-10).

"Balthus last portrayed Thérèse in the present painting, seated on the banquette in which she appears in two earlier full-figure portraits (Monnier and Clair, nos. P 101 and P 112). At one time he envisioned a larger composition—perhaps on the scale of Les enfants Blanchard or even larger—the conception of which is known only from a loosely brushed study on a medium-sized board, painted earlier in 1939, Trois personnages dans un intérieur (no. P 122; sold, Sotheby’s London, 25 June 2009, lot 240). The three figures in the high-ceilinged interior—likely set in Balthus’s cour de Rohan studio—are Thérèse leaning back on the bench seat (as seen in the present painting), Hubert standing, his knee propped on a chair, gazing out the window, and their mother, Madame Blanchard, viewed from the side, resting in an armchair placed before a table. Three of four known preparatory drawings for this interior scene focus on Hubert.

"Partly reclining on the banquette and turned to her left, Thérèse in the present painting dangles a string from her raised hand. In the smaller, three-figure essay, this string is attached to a ball.  A kitten—not shown here—rears up and attempts to grasp the ball. In dispensing with the ball and cat in this picture, Balthus avoided the anecdotal distraction of the creature captured in stop-motion, as one might enjoy in a sentimental genre scene. The figure of the girl alone instead evokes a deeper sense of myth. Thérèse becomes an exemplar of l’éternel féminin, one of the ancient fates, said to measure and determine man’s thread of life.

"In Thérèse sur une banquette, Balthus attended to the primarily professional, compositional concerns he had in mind—he aimed to depict the figure of his model in a novel, unique posture, one with neither a familiar nor apparent precedent. He moreover sought to evoke the inner world of her reality with a sense of presence that was outwardly and convincingly grounded in the mechanics of movement, while exalting the architecture of the figure. “The portrait of Thérèse on a Bench is caught in the sort of delicate balance that cannot last for more than a moment,” Jean Clair has written  (V. Monnier and J. Clair, op. cit., 1999, p. 38).

"Indeed, Thérèse displays the acrobatic ease and grace of the young girl saltimbanque in Picasso’s Rose period Acrobate à la boule, 1905 (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 290; Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow). Balthus’s treatment of Thérèse recalls the gentle poetry of Picasso’s Rose period, even if rendered in a technique more like that of the 19th-century masters Courbet and Corot. A token of the rose tonality is here in evidence; “no reproduction can convey the unusual color of Thérèse’s sweater,” Rewald has commented, “which mingles red with shades of pumpkin and orange” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2013, p. 88).

"Picasso surely appreciated Balthus’s mastery of the unusual pose, which lends Les enfants Blanchard, the painting he chose for his own collection, its visual novelty and charm, qualities that Thérèse sur une banquette shares with the earlier picture. Her poses in both pictures comprise a trapezoidal shape, which forms the base for a classic, Renaissance conception of a pyramidal composition. The pinnacle of this pyramid in the present painting is Thérèse’s upraised hand; in the room with her brother, his head in profile at the top center edge of the canvas. The artist also incorporates as a constructive means the diagonal emphasis characteristic of Baroque painting. Balthus invested the figures in both compositions with carefully plotted contrapposto, while also employing contrasts of bodily form with the geometry of furniture, and reiterations of formal elements, such as the arching of elbows and knees. From such imbalance and asymmetry Balthus created a configuration of parts that is sprawling and dynamic—yet stable, harmonized and whole.

"Balthus prided himself on his thoughtful, patient, and methodical technique, traditional qualities in perception and execution from which, he believed, modern painting had irrecoverably strayed. “Modern society can never imagine painting’s unsuspected requirements,” he lamented. “If one wants to enter into painting and arrive at painting’s heart, these demands and deliberation must be accepted, but contemporary painters cannot resolve to do so… If we could return to Giotto’s deliberation, Masaccio’s exactitude, and Poussin’s precision!...Real modernity is in the reinvention of the past, in refoundoriginality based on experience and discoveries” (quoted in J. Clair, op. cit., 2001, pp. 77 and 81). 

"Thérèse sur une banquette was fittingly his last tribute to Thérèse and perhaps his last painting before the onset and dislocations of war, rendering the timelessness and mythical suggestion of the fates in Thérèse’s suspended string all the more poignant. On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Balthus, having already done his initial, obligatory military service, was called up for duty the next day. On 3 September, France and Great Britain, as per treaty with the Warsaw government, declared war on Germany. Accounts of the artist’s war experience vary; a leg injury led to his early demobilization in December 1939. After living in the Savoie, in the unoccupied zone following the fall of France, Balthus and his wife Antoinette moved to her native Switzerland, where they spent the remainder of the war. By the time Balthus returned to Paris in 1946, his young muse from the rue de Seine had married and relocated to a different neighborhood in Paris. Thérèse died in 1950 at age 25 from an unknown cause.
The finest works of the series each had eminent private stewards before entering public collections: Pablo Picasso (who acquired his example in 1941; Musée Picasso); Lindy and Edwin Bergman, pioneering collectors of Surrealist art and Cornell boxes (acquired 1963; The Art Institute of Chicago); Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil, who remade the New York University campus with their gift of Picasso’s monumental “Bust of Sylvette” in 1968 (acquired 1958; The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Jacques and Natasha Gelman, whose magnificent bequest to the Met in 1998, including their portrait of Thérèse, represented the largest the museum had then received (acquired 1979). Thérèse sur une banquette was acquired by the Sherwoods from Balthus via dealer Frank Perls in Paris in 1962 and has remained in their collection ever since."


Lot 42, "La Terrace," by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas, 49 1/4 by 52 7/8 inches, 1912

Lot 42 is a fine terrace scene by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) that is an oil on canvas that measures 49 1/4 by 52 7/8 inches.  It was painted in 1912 and is from the collection of Drue Heinz. 

It has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $8,000,000.  It sold for $19,570,000.

Sisley trees
Lot 12, "l'alle des peupliers au bord du Loing," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 29 by 36 1/4 inches, 1892
Lot 12 is a very fine landscape oil on canvas by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) entitled "L'allee des peupliers au bord du loing."  It measures 29 by 26 1/4 inches and was once owed by Samuel and Saidye Bronfman of Montreal.  It has a modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  It is from the collection of Frederick A. and Sharon L. Klingenstein.  She was the daughter of Nathan Cummings who founded the Consolidated Food Corporation.

"In 1889 Sisley moved to the medieval town of Moret-sur-Loing, which is located along the Loing River not far from its intersection with the Seine. The artist had begun painting in this area in 1880, when he settled at nearby Veneux-Nadon, and the Loing and its poplar-lined banks became a central theme in his paintings of the 1890s. “In this thickly wooded countryside, with all its tall poplars, the waters of the river Loing here, so beautiful, so translucent, so changeable”—Sisley wrote in 1892 to the critic Adolphe Tavernier—“at Moret my art has undoubtedly developed the most. I will never really leave this little place that is so picturesque” (quoted in R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 123).

"L’allée des peupliers au bord du Loing depicts a sun-dappled path on the bank of the river, lined on either side with a row of soaring, graceful poplar trees. In this tranquil, welcoming scene, Sisley captured with expressive brushstrokes the movement of the tree branches rustling in the breeze. The inclusion of several small and loosely rendered figures walking into the foreground of the painting reinforces the monumental scale of the poplars, inviting the viewer to enter the scene and to relish nature’s grandeur. The linear structure of the poplars along the Loing appealed to Sisley, and he painted them from various viewpoints and in different seasons, light, and weather conditions.
These paintings, Richard Shone has noted, “gave expression to his love of clustered lines of perspective running to a low horizon; towering poplars along its banks give those marked vertical divisions that make for strong surface pattern, offsetting the diagonals that take us gently into the distance” (ibid., p. 144). The converging rows of poplar trees in the present scene suggest that Sisley was looking towards the point where the Loing River and its adjacent canal come together, a short distance north of the town center of Moret.

"Sisley’s emphasis on the linear, repeating pattern of the poplar trees finds a parallel in Monet’s depictions of the same subject from 1891. Sisley, though, juxtaposed this decorative surface effect with perspectival lines that recede into depth, thus maintaining a strong sense of place—the illusion of a landscape that can be traversed. “It is this exploration of place through multiple viewpoints that shows Sisley to be as innovative an artist as Monet,” Mary Ann Stevens has written. “Rather than mimicking the other Impressionist’s series paintings embarked upon from the late 1880s, Sisley forged his own response to the need to find stability within his compositions by approaching his motif in a linked, serial mode” (Alfred Sisley, Impressionist Master, exh. cat., Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2017, p. 162)."

It sold for $4,215,000.

Sisley green

Lot 12, "L'Allee des peupliers au bord du Loing," by Alfred Sisley, oil on canvas, 29 by 36 1/4 inches, 1892

Lot 12 is a lovely landscape by Alfred Sisley (1838-1899) entitled "L'Allee des peupliers au bord du Loing."  An oil on canvas, it was painted in 1892 and measures 29 by 36 1/4 inches.  It is from the collection of Frederick A. and Sharon L. Klingenstein and was formerly owned by Samuel and Saidye Bronfman of Montreal.  It has a very modest estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.

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