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Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale
Sotheby's New York

10 AM, May 15, 2019

Sale 10068

Bernard 43

Lot 143, "Bretonnes ramassant des pommes," by Emile Bernard, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 by 21 1/2 inches, 1889

By Carter B. Horsley

The day auction of Impressionist & Modern Art May 15, 2019 at Sotheby's New York is highlighted by several very fine Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Emile Bernard, Berthe Morisot, Edward Manet, Eugene Boudin and Edouard Vuillard.

The cover illustration of the catalogue is Lot 143, "Bretonnes ramassant des pommes," an 1889 oil on canvas by Emile Bernard (1868-1941).  It measures 33 3/4 inches by 21 1/2 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Painted at the innovative height of the Pont-Aven School in 1889, Bretonnes ramassant des pommes is undoubtedly one of the most iconic works in the oeuvre of Émile Bernard. The convergence of ravishing colors, flattened perspective and pastoral subject matter embodies the new Post-Impressionist vocabulary that Bernard and other artists of the Pont-Aven colony sought to create, underscoring a striking contrast from the modern bustle of a rapidly industrializing Paris.

"Born in 1868 in the northern French town of Lille, Émile Bernard was the son of a textile merchant. During his childhood, Bernard’s family moved frequently and he was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother, the owner of a laundry shop, who would become one of the most fervent supporters of her grandson’s artistic career. Precociously intelligent and gifted in the arts, Bernard enrolled in the Collège Saint-Barbe upon his family’s relocation to Paris in 1878. Finding formal academic instruction too constraining for his creative energies, Bernard expressed his wish to become a painter at age 16, much to the chagrin of his parents. Nevertheless, in 1884, Bernard joined the workshop of Fernand Cormon, a history painter and thus a darling of the Salon. During his time in Cormon’s studio, Bernard befriended other artists also under Cormon’s tutelage, including Louis Anquetin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, with whom he would go on to have productive working relationships....

"Finding Paris and its plethora of Bohemian artists distasteful, Bernard set off on a voyage à pied along the coast of Brittany in 1886. As far back as the 1860s, this remote region of northwestern France had held an almost mystical fascination for avant-garde artists. Its raw and dramatic coastline a source of endless inspiration for Impressionists like Monet and the distinctively religious and almost medieval culture of its people a draw for Post-Impressionists who sought a reprieve from the French capital. When he arrived in Pont-Aven for the first time in the summer of 1886, he was introduced to Paul Gauguin, a fateful meeting that led to a tumultuous partnership that would impact the trajectory of modern art.

"In the summer of 1888, Bernard and Gauguin were reunited in Pont-Aven and worked side-by-side to develop pictorial Symbolism, a bold new artistic style defined by emphatic contours, unorthodox cropping and exaggerated planes of color, all with the goal of achieving, in Bernard’s own formulation, “transcendental idealism” that pushes art beyond naturalistic depictions of reality. Most of Bernard and Gauguin’s canvases from this critical year feature Breton women in their traditional garb, often engaged in spiritual or agrarian activities set against an abstracted background with flattened perspective....This departure from one-point perspective can be attributed to the influence of Japanese woodblock prints, which flooded the French market following the opening of Japanese trade with the West in 1854. Bernard, like many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, adopted modes of visual representation and, at times, appropriated pictorial elements from these prints. Traces of Hiroshige, the most famous of the Japanese ukiyo-e artists, can be seen in the present work....

"Like other canvases Bernard painted at the apex of his Symbolist period, Bretonnes ramassant des pommes is a pure feast of audacious color....The field in which the women are working has been abstracted and then heightened with a brilliant lime-green hue while their traditional dresses are shaded with saturated navy blue and scarlet pigments. The bounty of orange-hued apples, which Bernard has rendered with bold outlines, is the unlikely source of the painting’s drama, piled high in the baskets and scattered on the ground as though they are overflowing out of the canvas. The two harvesters, disproportionately large in relation to the rest of the composition, are caught in the midst of an interaction, the frozen ambiguity of their expressions projecting a feeling of timeless tension.

"Tiphereth, the legendary art critic of Le Coeur, wrote in 1895: “Today, among the privileged ranks of the ‘Masters,’ the Émile Bernards the Gauguins and the Filigers take their place. Bernard, blessed above all else with a rare spirit of invention, capable of the boldest strokes of originality, had the brilliant idea, after immersing himself in the very Soul of the Celtic land, of painting Brittany in all its grand decorative aspects, and uniting in a single mystical harmony both figures and landscapes” (quoted in L’Exposition de M. Armand Séguin (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Le Barc de Boutteville, Paris, 1895, n.p.)."

The lot has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.   It sold for $1,940,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
The auction total was $44,733,250.

vuillard 136

Lot 136, "Modele au grand chapeau," by Edouard Vuillard, distemper on canvas, 29 by 23 3/4 inches, circa 1912

Lot 136 is a great distemper on canvas by Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) of a Model wearing a "grand" hat.  It measures 29 by 23 3/4 inches and was painted circa 1912.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Edouard Vuillard, along with his contemporary Pierre Bonnard, is considered the most secular-minded of the Nabis painters. Vuillard painted in a style labeled Intimisme, producing countless scenes of domestic life. This genre of painting developed from his celebrated Nabis period, where his work was characterized by a decorative flatness and by an emphasis on color. The artist introduced new elements in his work with highly patterned surfaces and detailed decorations, thereby creating mystifying and enchanting paintings of women in domestic interiors.

"The present work depicts an elegantly clad woman, likely seated within the artist’s studio, and reveals Vuillard’s superlative skill as a portrait painter. The model gazes pensively beyond the picture plane, and her face is softly portrayed under the shadow of her hat, which with its brightly colored pink and green trimmings, vies to be the subject of the picture itself. Stephen Brown has noted with specific reference to the artist's portraits that: "Vuillard may be seen as the heir of Degas, Gauguin and the Impressionists. He was also an artist of his time and, more precisely, the artist of a particular social milieu and moment…" (Stephen Brown, Édouard Vuillard, A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940, New Haven, 2012, p. 33). Vuillard’s portraits act as an intriguing record of early twentieth-century Parisian life, documenting rich lives of the cultural elite during this period."

The painting is from the collection of Joe R. and Teresa Long.

It has a modest estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.  It failed to sell.

Vuillard  137

Lot 137, "Monsieur et Madame Jos Hessel, rue de Rivoli," by Edouard Vuillard, oil on board, 24 1/2 by 24 1/8 inches, circa 1904

Another Vuillard masterpiece from the same collection is Lot 137, "Monsieur et Madame Jos Hessel, rue de Rivoli," an oil on board that measures 24 1/2 by 24 1/8 inches.  It was painted circa 1904.  It has been widely published and exhibited.  It has an modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.  It failed to sell.

Cross 121

Lot 121, "Murano, matin," by Henri Edmond Cross, oil on canvas, 15 1/4 by 18 1/8 inches, 1904

Lot 121 is a great Pontilist oil on canvas by Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910).  Entitled "Murano, matin," it measures 15 1/4 by 18 1/8 inches and was painted in 1904.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Murano, matin is one of a series of paintings that Henri-Edmond Cross produced following a five-week trip to Italy with his wife in July 1903. Like generations of artists before him, Cross was immediately seduced by the region's winding canals and the dancing reflections of the buildings’ façades. In a letter to fellow artist Charles Angrand dating from February 1904, Cross wrote, “The admiration and the taste that one has for the coast of Provence prepares one for the sensual joy of Venice. Their two contrasted beauties create a happy balance: one is brown and stripped bare, the other is blonde and bedecked in the most marvelous jewels. As it is in Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, the two gaze at one another in the same water” (quoted in Françoise Baligand, Cross et le néo-impressionnisme, Musée de la Chartreuse de Douai, Douai, 1998, p. 42; translated from French).

"Just as Cross had been seduced by the light and color of the Mediterranean coast following his move there in 1891, so too in Italy he found much to inspire him. While he was greatly impressed by the works of Italian masters such as Jacopo Tintoretto, Vittore Carpaccio, Paolo Veronese and Francesco Guardi, the city itself had the most profound effect on him. Cross filled notebooks with sketches and watercolors which show him delighting in not only the vibrant hues and dazzling light of the city, but also in its grandiose architecture and maze of canals. These watercolors serve as the basis for a series of oils that Cross completed upon returning home to Saint-Clair in the fall, which he would exhibit over the next few years, most notably at a show at Galerie Druet in 1905....As evidenced in the present work, Murano provided the ideal setting for Cross to continue the scientific exploration of color that he had pioneered along with his fellow Neo-Impressionists. Using the small, deft brushstrokes that characterize his later work, Cross perfectly captures the contrasts between the cool, shimmering hues of the canals and the colorful movement of the gondolas and sailing boats."

The lot has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.  It sold for $560,000.

Manet 189

Lot 149, "Bar-maid," by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, pastel on paper, 25 1/2 by 19 1/4, 1898

Lot 149 is a charming and very fine pastel on paper of a "bar-maid" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  It measures 25 1/2 by 19 1/4 inches and was painted in 1898.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In turn-of-the-century Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec had no rival as chief chronicler of café culture and night life. Born into an aristocratic French family in 1864, Lautrec spent much of his life among the Parisian demimonde, revealing his genius in sharp, analytical portrayals of the twilight world. With almost 300 cafés opening between 1890 and 1900, fin-de-siècle Parisian nightlife was ever growing. A brilliant interpreter of this lively and debauched world, Lautrec did not limit himself—as so many of his contemporaries had done—to social critique. Whether it was the quick sketch of a face, the curving lines of a group of dancers, a scene in a café, at the Théâtre des Variétés or in a maison close, he succeeded in capturing the humanity that lay beneath the illusory social façades of his subjects.

"Portraiture played an important role in Toulouse-Lautrec’s oeuvre, and he approached his sitters with a keen psychological acuity. Freed from the necessity of seeking portrait commissions due to his family’s wealth, the artist rarely flattered or yielded too greatly to convention in his portraits. He also felt free to cross class boundaries, choosing between artists and performers, or the working class and his own social circle of friends and family members. His interest in the complex nature of each sitter’s personality naturally led him toward the habit of executing multiple renderings of favored models. The present work reflects Lautrec’s fundamental ability to express the emotional and psychological tensions of human relations.

"An exceptional example of the artist’s portraiture, Bar-maid captures an archetypal figure in Lautrec’s world. With the growth of Parisian nightlife, scores of women were hired to staff the flourishing café-concerts, theaters and brasseries of Montmartre and Montparnasse. Unconstrained by bourgeois conventions, such women learned to navigate the intricacies of class and economics that populated their new world. Traced in light strokes of pastel, the central figure of Bar-maid personifies this growing population as she serves an absinthe-drinking patron in suit and bowler hat. While Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère presented such a woman to a scandalized Salon, more than a decade later it would be Lauturec who fully captured the psychological experience of life in the demimonde...."

It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It sold for $596,000.

Manet 155

Lot 155, "Nu au chapeau, buste," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches, 1965

Lot 155 is a very good 1965 oil on canva by Pablo Picasso entitled "Nu au chapeau, buste."  It measures 36 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Manet only began using pastels late in his life, but he soon mastered the subtleties of the medium. Completing his first pastel in 1874, Manet went on to execute eighty-nine pastels, and more than seventy of these are portraits of women. With the sitter’s soft yet thoughtful expression and delicate features, Jeune fille au col cassé, de profil exemplifies the breezy elegance and ephemeral atmosphere Manet creates in his pastel portraits.

"The spirited technique in the application of the pastel contributes to the air of spontaneity and the intimacy of the present work. Commenting on the artist’s skill, Françoise Cachin wrote: “Between 1879 and 1882, Manet did a series of dazzling portraits of women, about which Rewald has noted that while ‘Manet had to fight frequently against a dangerous tendency of faire folie, in his pastels he did not oppose this tendency.’ Hence his great success with his models. Pastels allowed him a freshness, a gay palette, a powdery texture more flattering to the face” (Françoise Cachin, Manet 1832-1883 (exhibition catalogue), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris & The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983, p. 493).

“Pastel was for him a comparatively easy exercise, a diversion,” explained Théodore Duret, “and gained him the company of the engaging women who came to pose for him” (quoted in ibid., p. 429). Duret noted that this straightforward medium offered Manet a break from the labors of oil paint, especially as he grew weary during the final months of his life. 

"As Duret points out, Manet continued to seek out the company of beautiful women, even as his health failed him and despite the ever-abiding presence of his wife Suzanne. Joseph de Nittis provided the following description of Mme Manet's tolerance for her husband's indiscretions: “One day, [Manet] was following some pretty girl, slender and coquettish. His wife suddenly came up to him, saying, with her merry laugh, 'This time, I caught you.' 'There,' he said, "That's funny! I thought it was you.' Now Mme Manet, a bit on the heavy side, a placid Dutchwoman, was no frail Parisienne. She told the story herself, with her smiling good humor” (quoted in ibid., p. 437)."

"Picasso's art was closely related to his pe