Art/Auction logo

The  Collection of Anne H. Bass

Christie's New York

7 PM, May 12, 2021

Parliament by Monet

Lot 10, "Le Parlement, soleil couchant," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 32 by 36 1/4 inches, 1900-1903

The May 12, 2022 auction of the Collection of Anne H. Bass is highlighted by three fine works by Monet and several by Degas.

The auction, which comprised 12 lots, totalled $363,087,500.

Lot 10, "Le Parlement, soleil couchant," by Claude Monet (1840-1926), is an oil on canvas. 32 by 36 1/4 inches, 1900-1903

It has an estimate on request.  It sold for $79,960,000.

The catalogue's website provided the following commentary:

“There’s no land more extraordinary for a painter” (quoted in G. Seiberling, Monet in London, exh. cat., High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1988). Claude Monet’s emphatic passion for England’s capital is magnificently displayed in his monumental, landmark series, the Vues de Londres. Started in London in 1899 and completed in Giverny in 1904, this series remains today among his greatest achievements, as he transformed the city into magical, elegiac visions at once timeless and modern.

"Charing Cross Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament served as the principal subjects of this seminal group, each landmark a pretext for symphonic, often near abstract combinations of light and color. A host of both subtle and dramatic meteorological conditions—from the soft, gray morning light, to spectacular, fog-filled evening skies streaked pink, purple, and orange by the setting sun—gave rise to a theater of effects that Monet reveled in from his vantage point at the Savoy Hotel and St. Thomas’s Hospital. The largest series of paintings the artist had yet produced, numbering almost a hundred canvases, the 
Vues de Londres pushed Monet to the extremes of his artistic powers, testing the fundamental Impressionist tenet of capturing the ephemeral, fleeting atmospheric effects of nature.

"Crowning this series are the nineteen paintings of the Houses of Parliament, of which 
Le Parlement, soleil couchant is one of the finest (Wildenstein, nos. 1596-1614). Begun in either 1900 or 1901, on his second or final painting campaign in the capital, and completed in 1903, this painting shows the golden orb of the sun, having burnt through the impenetrable cloak of clouds and fog to cast the scene into an atmospheric array of jewel-like violets and lilacs, cobalt and inky blues, and deep pink tones. Dwarfing the tugboat that noiselessly crosses the river, the majestic, windowless silhouette of the Houses of Parliament appears mystical, the rising and falling pattern of towers seemingly both emerging from the sulphurous light and at the same time, dissolving into the expansive, still waters of the Thames, London’s silent witness of epochs past.

"Among the most rich and deeply colored works of the series, this painting shows Monet’s mastery at capturing the velvety darkness that gradually engulfs the vista, the 'hair’s breadth' moment between day and night, 'when the light and the darkness are so evenly balanced that the constraint of day and the suspense of night neutralize each other, leaving absolute mental liberty,' as Thomas Hardy once described (
Tess of the d’Urbervilles, London, 1892...). For Monet, this moment offered him not only mental, but artistic liberty, as his subject was transformed upon his canvas into a transcendent and wholly immersive vision of color, light, and pigment, rendered in expressive, passionate brushstrokes.

"Le Parlement, soleil couchant was one of the thirty-seven works that Monet chose to include in his critically acclaimed exhibition, Monet: Vues de la Tamise à Londres, held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1904. Today, it is one of only four of this Parliament series to remain in private hands. Other works now reside in museums including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Kunsthaus, Zürich.

"The idea of an extended series set in London had been percolating in Monet’s mind for some years prior to his first painting campaign there in 1899. In 1880, he had written to the critic Théodore Duret, “When you come through Paris you can advise me on what the chances could be for me in coming to spend several weeks in London where I could paint some aspects of the Thames” (quoted in exh. cat.,
 op. cit., 1988...). Yet, it was not until 1887 that the artist actually traveled to London, spending a twelve day sojourn in the city, where he especially admired his friend James McNeill Whistler’s famed Nocturnes depicting the Thames and the thick fogs that surrounded it. It seems that these works planted the seed for Monet’s own series. He described his desire to return 'to paint some effets of fog on the Thames' (quoted in R. Thomson, Monet and Architecture, exh. cat., National Gallery, London, 2018...).

"The artist and his family installed themselves in the Savoy Hotel, the fashionable establishment set on the banks of the Thames just behind the Strand. They took a suite of rooms on the 6th floor with a balcony overlooking the river. From here the heart of London stretched before them, the panorama bathed in the pale winter sun diffused through a dense atmosphere of mist mingled with coal smoke from domestic fires and industrial furnaces. Looking to the right, Monet would have seen the Houses of Parliament rising impressively beyond the iron structure of Charing Cross railway bridge, complete with steam trains running back and forth, and to the left, the monumental, looming arches of Waterloo Bridge framed by a plethora of factory chimneys complete with bellowing plumes of smoke that lined the banks of the river eastwards into the City and beyond. This vantage point held two of his three London motifs, all of which were recent constructions amid the ever-expanding expanse of the turn-of-the-century capital. Thrilled with his setup, Monet quickly converted one of their rooms into a studio, leaving his family to sightsee together, while he explored the artistic potential of his new surroundings.

"This was not the first time Monet had depicted the rapidly growing Victorian metropolis. He had spent what he later described as a “miserable time” in the city in 1870-1871, during 
les années terribles of the Franco-Prussian War. While there, Monet painted five works of London, one of which depicts the Houses of Parliament (Wildenstein, no. 166). Yet, after so many years immersed in the serial depiction of rural France, his Meules and Peupliers, and even to an extent the gothic façade of Rouen Cathedral, it was in many ways a surprising move for the artist to return to the modern metropolis, a subject he had more or less abandoned after his great Gare Saint-Lazare group of the late 1870s. Even more unusual was his decision to cross the Channel for such an endeavor, when he could have found such modern vistas in his own country....

"Filled with enthusiasm for his new project, Monet returned to London in February 1900....
Monet was immediately captivated by the vista of Sir Charles Barry’s recently rebuilt neo-Gothic palace....

"Despite sharing near identical subject matter, no two works of this group are the same—each one rendered in a distinct palette and evoking a different mood. Sometimes Parliament and the river appear enveloped in a soft gray fog, other times they remain resolute amid dramatically windswept or storm laden skies. Gulls sweep through two of the compositions, their presence adding a Romantic drama (Wildenstein, nos. 1612-1613), and in another, the sky threatens to crack open, filled with dazzling streaks of golden light (Wildenstein, no. 1603).

"With each day that passed, the “pretty red ball” of the sun, as Monet had once described (D. Wildenstein, 
op. cit., 1985, letter 1597), moved gradually higher, meaning that the striking effect of Parliament backlit by the setting sun would soon cease to exist for the year. Another work of the group, now in the Kunstmuseen, Krefeld (Wildenstein, no. 1602), features the same coin-sized sun, this time hanging lower and closer to the turrets, a sign that the present Le Parlement, soleil couchant was begun later in Monet’s campaigns, the sun ascendant as spring inched closer. “Time marches on and the sun too, so that when the day comes that it decides to appear, it will no longer be in the same place” (ibid., letter 1525).
The Houses of Parliament offered Monet a different kind of motif to the bridges of his other series. Aside from the obviously contrasting compositional effects of the structure and appearance of these subjects, this site was also imbued with an alternate symbolic resonance. Trains and vehicles pass in a cavalcade across Monet’s visions of Charing Cross and Waterloo Bridge, while river traffic moves beneath them, all of which charge these scenes with an energy, and above all, an unmistakable modernity. By contrast, as 
Le Parlement, soleil couchant encapsulates, the Parliament works are endowed with a solemnity and stillness that lends them a greater sense of monumentality and timelessness. Appearing, “like specters, their towers rising to various heights as if replicating some ancient hierarchy or medieval form of competition,” the Palace of Westminster appears otherworldly in these works, the vivid color and atmospheric effects that surround it transforming bricks and mortar into ethereal visions (P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 169).

"Yet more than solely the edifice they depict, with all its symbolic resonance, it is nature itself that is rendered extraordinary in these works. Monet has conveyed to the viewer the magical power of light and its ability to transform the tangible into the intangible. Color too is lent a new role in the theater of painting; no longer solely descriptive, but expressive and mystical. Rendered on a large scale, with open, impassioned, and visible brushwork, with these works, Monet broke new ground in the realm of painting, the example of which would come to serve as a vital influence on future generations of artists.

"While Monet could enforce a clear painting routine for himself during his days in London, the weather remained steadfastly out of his control, much to his frustration, anguish, and at times, awe, all of which he often conveyed to Alice in his copious correspondence. For an artist who had built his career upon mastering the depiction of the elusive, fleeting effects of atmosphere on the landscape, Monet found the depiction of London one of his greatest challenges so far. 'This is not a country where you can finish a picture on the spot,” he wrote dejectedly to Alice during his last visit to the city in 1901, a reflection of the fact that even after two extended stays, the weather could still outfox him. 'The effects never reappear. I should have just made sketches, real impressions' (quoted in P.H. Tucker, 
Monet in the 20th Century, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1998...).

"While the capricious London weather was clearly a source of angst for the artist, there was one aspect in particular, the fog, that beguiled Monet, as it had for many artists before him. 'What I like most of all in London is the fog,' he told the dealer René Gimpel. 'Without the fog, London would not be a beautiful city. It’s the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth' (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 258). He quickly learnt the city’s routines: on Sundays, the dense smog would not appear until later in the day, when domestic smoke took the place of that which was usually emitted from the factories....

"After three campaigns in London, Monet decided to finish the series in his studio at Giverny rather than returning to the Savoy Hotel. The series continued to cause Monet great difficulty, and he worked on it at Giverny for nearly three more years. In March 1903, he wrote to his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, “No, I’m not in London unless in thought, working steadily on my canvases, which give me a lot of trouble. I cannot send you a single canvas of London, because, for the work I am doing, it is indispensable to have all of them before my eyes, and to tell the truth not a single one is definitively finished. I work them out all together or at least a certain number, and I don’t yet know how many of them I will be able to show, because what I do there is extremely delicate. One day I am satisfied, and the next everything looks bad to me, but anyway there are always several good ones” (quoted in exh. cat., 
op. cit., 1988, p. 80).
Monet finally exhibited thirty-seven paintings of London at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in May 1904: eight views of Charing Cross Bridge, eighteen of Waterloo Bridge, and eleven of the Houses of Parliament, including the present canvas. The exhibition was a resounding success. Marc Joël of 
La Petite Loire called it “ of the most beautiful demonstrations of pure art,” while Georges Lecomte believed that Monet had never “attained such a vaporous subtlety, such power of abstraction and synthesis” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 267). “In his desire to paint the most complex effects of light,” another critic wrote, “Monet seems to have attained the extreme limits of art. He wanted to explore the inexplorable, to express the inexpressible, to build, as the popular expression has it, on the fogs of the Thames. And worse still, he succeeded” (ibid., p. 267).

"Anticipating the success of the Parliament series, Durand-Ruel purchased nine of the finest, including the present work, just before the opening of the exhibition in May 1904. Over the course of the following years, many of these paintings were acquired by prominent collectors such as Henry O. Havemeyer, Isaac de Camondo, and Sergei Shchukin. The present work was acquired from Durand-Ruel by the prominent Boston lawyer, William Lowell Putnam in 1907. He also acquired another of Monet’s London series, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard (sold, Christie’s New York, 13 May 2021, lot 8B), from his sister, Amy Lowell. It remained in his family's collection until at least 1962."

 Poplars by Monet

Lot 11, Poplars au bord de l'Epte, automne, by Claude Monet, oil on canvas. 39 3/4 by 25 7/8 inches, 1891

Lot 11, "Poplars au bord de l'Epte, automne," by Claude Monet, is an oil on canvas that measures 39 3/4 by 25 7/8 inches.  It was painted in 1891.  It has an estimate of $30,000,000 to $50,000,000.  It sold for $36,457,000.  It was once owned by Stephen C. Clark of New York.

The catalogue essay provided the following commentary:

"During the spring of 1891, Claude Monet discovered an intriguing new subject in a stretch of elegant poplars lining the banks of the river Epte, just two kilometers south of his home at Giverny. Inspired by their towering forms and the regular rhythm of their placement along the water’s edge, he began a concentrated series of paintings which placed the poplar as the central protagonist within the composition. Building on the development of his experiments in the Meules series (Wildenstein, nos. 1266-1290), which had occupied him over the course of the previous winter and were likely completed around the same time as the poplar paintings were begun, Monet set out to capture the trees in a variety of light conditions, tracking the changes in their shape, form and color as they transitioned from early spring, through the height of their summer growth, and into early autumn. Executed in an array of rich, vigorous brushstrokes, their forms overlapping and intertwining across the canvas, Peupliers au bord de l’Epte, automne is among the most dynamic and richly worked paintings in the series, capturing the trees as the season shifts and their leaves turn a golden-red hue.

...With their strict linearity and intrinsic decorative elegance, the poplar held an obvious aesthetic allure for Monet—indeed, the trees had long been a recurring feature within his paintings of the landscape, from his views of Argenteuil from the 1870s, to more rural pastures and open fields of Giverny through the 1880s and early 1890s. A common feature within the French countryside during the nineteenth century, poplars were typically found lining the entrance routes to grand châteaux, or used along rural roads as windshields for tilled fields, while land owners around the country planted them as a form of fencing to demarcate property boundaries. Svelte and elegant, they grew quickly—generally twenty-five to thirty feet in a little over a decade—making them a popular investment for speculators, while their ability to quickly absorb large amounts of water made them a perfect addition to river banks as protection against flooding. Moreover, following the French Revolution, the poplar had become a symbol of liberty, largely due to its name, and ceremonial plantings were common on important anniversaries. As such, the tree became an emblem of the stability, beauty and fecundity of rural France within the public imagination....

"The twenty-four paintings in the Peupliers series (Wildenstein, nos. 1291-1313) were all created from almost the exact same vantage point, near a spot where the Epte bends back on itself twice to create a distinctive S-shape. Whereas the Meules series had focused on isolated grainstacks, an effect which endowed them with a greater sense of weight and monumentality, it is in their sheer numbers and their relationship to one another that the poplars achieve their greatest effect. Most of the series focuses on a screen of tall, slender poplars in the foreground, while behind, looping away along the river bank, the rest of the trees make up a beautiful arabesque pattern. In the present composition, the sweep begins behind the bushy tree in the background on the left, moving first to the right and then to the left to touch each side of the scene, before finally culminating in the upper right corner, with the poplars gradually growing in size as they approach the viewer. Rather than looking directly across the river at the poplars, Monet turned slightly to the left to accentuate the rise and fall of the trees as they followed the curving bank, generating a dynamic sense of movement and depth within the composition....

"For many contemporary commentators, the
 Peupliers paintings owed a great debt to Monet’s interest in Japanese art, which was at its height in the 1890s. The artist had begun to collect Japanese woodcut prints as early as 1871, and by the time that he painted the present series, the walls of his house at Giverny were covered with them. The Japanese were widely seen by French observers as masters at extracting decorative patterns from nature, and Théodore Duret went so far as to claim that the Peupliers had been inspired by the sweeping curves of trees in Utagawa Hiroshige’s Numazu: Twilight (Numazu, tasogare zu), from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road (Tokaido gojusan tsugi no uchi) (circa 1833-1834). But as is true with all of Monet’s work, these paintings were not a direct response to any such singular source, nor Japanese prints in general—their surfaces are more manipulated, their colors more varied, as he artfully invoked Eastern sensibilities while remaining true to his native French roots and individual creative sensibilities. Indeed, in Peupliers au bord de l’Epte, automne, the entire canvas is filled with overlapping, darting brushstrokes, in a dynamic display of Monet’s skills with a paintbrush. Though at first glance they may suggest a certain spontaneity of execution, these richly worked surfaces were carefully constructed, underpinned by striking color harmonies that enhanced the decorative effect of the finished composition."

 Water lilies by Monet

Lot 12,  "Nymphias," by Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 37 by 35 inches, 1907

Lot 12,  "Nymphiasm:," by Claude Monet, is a good oil on canvas that measures 37 by 35 inches.  It was painted in 1907.

It has an estimate of $35,000,000 to $55,000,000.  It sold for $56,495,000.

The website provides the following commentary:

"During the final two decades of his long career, Monet devoted himself with single-minded focus to painting the hauntingly beautiful water garden that he had designed and cultivated at his home in rural Giverny. In some two hundred canvases, he captured the shifting relationships among water, reflections, and light that continually transformed the surface of his lily pond, the infinity of nature matched only by the prodigious breadth of his own creativity. 'His repeated treatment of the reflective surfaces of his pond,' Benedict Leca has written, 'and the kaleidoscopic color variations of its flora visible above and beneath mirrored water served as an interminable canvas, where both motif and metaphor of reflection combined directly in the service of self-definition' (Monet in Giverny: Landscapes of Reflection, exh. cat., Cincinnati Art Museum, 2012, p. 41). While these valedictory paintings affirm Monet’s life-long belief in the primacy of vision and experience, they are at once more abstract and more profound than anything he had previously painted—a prescient and visionary art for the new, modern century.

"Monet had moved to Giverny with his future wife Alice Hoschedé and their combined eight children during the last days of April 1883. Situated at the confluence of the Seine and the Epte, about forty miles northwest of Paris, Giverny at the time was a tranquil farming community of just three hundred residents. Monet found a sprawling, pink stucco house to rent on two acres of land, just a few hundred meters from the Seine. When the property came up for sale in 1890, he bought it at the asking price, 'certain of never finding a better situation or more beautiful countryside,' as he wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel (quoted in P.H. Tucker, 
Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 175).

"A dedicated gardener all his life, Monet’s first priority upon purchasing the estate was to replace the vegetable plots in front of the house with flower beds, sparing neither time nor expense to transform
/the acreage into a paradise of vivid color and heady fragrance. Three years later, he acquired an adjacent piece of land beside the river Ru and successfully applied to the local government for permission to divert the tributary and dig a pond for aquatic plants. By autumn, he had converted nearly a thousand square meters into an eastern-inspired water garden—hushed, mysterious, and contemplative—with a lily pond spanned by a wooden footbridge and encircled with an artful arrangement of flowers, bushes, and trees....

"Between 1893 and 1899, Monet made only ten images of the lily pond, possibly because he was waiting for the plantings to mature. He may also have wanted to cement his national stature by concentrating on subjects that were more distinctly French—Rouen Cathedral, the Norman coast, and the Seine—before embracing his own horticultural fantasia. After the searing and divisive events of the Dreyfus Affair, though, Monet turned away from the glories of France and sought sustenance, both aesthetic and moral, in the personal landscape of his gardens. 'By tending to his own garden so meticulously and so diligently and by producing paintings of such startling beauty,” Tucker has explained, “Monet was affirming one of the most important principles of eighteenth-century thinkers, most specifically Voltaire—namely, that nature was the source of all goodness and wisdom and that each person should cultivate his own garden' (exh. cat., 
op. cit., 1998, p. 26).

"In 1899-1900, Monet painted eighteen views of the water garden, his first extended treatment of the theme (Wildenstein, nos. 1509-1520, 1628-1633). These focus on the motif of the Japanese bridge, lending the composition a stable geometric structure and traditional linear perspective. It was not until 1904, following the completion of his London series, that Monet shifted his gaze downward to the surface of the pond, yielding a radically destabilized vision of shifting, disintegrating forms. The plane of the water now tilts toward the vertical, and the world beyond exists only in mirror-image. 'The reflections of the sky and the surrounding landscape, the surface of the water and plants in the depth of the pond, the reflected and the real landscape'” Karin Sagner-Düchting has written, 'are combined into a new, virtual, even simultaneously expanded, landscape space that refers far beyond reality and that is complex, ambivalent, and indefinable' (
Monet and Modernism, exh. cat., Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 2001, p. 68).

"Having established the essential compositional scheme for his water lily series, Monet began to work with unbroken intensity. Between 1905 and 1908, he painted more than sixty 
Nymphéas. Within the limitations he had set for himself, he devised a dazzling array of variations, altering the arrangement of the lily blossoms, increasing or reducing the amount of reflected material, and exploring a wide range of lighting effects....

"The latter paintings are dramatic in their contrasts and brooding in their mood—so much so that Durand-Ruel worried when he eventually saw them about their marketability. In the present canvas and the related Nymphéas, by contrast, Monet mitigated the value differences between the horizontally striated islands of lilies and the vertical reflections, producing an effect of integration and harmony. Conventional spatial recession, indicated by the diminishing scale of the blossoms and lily pads, is played against the flat surface of the canvas, which Monet emphasizes through his vigorous, textural brushwork. The flowers themselves are rendered with the most impasto to give them a sculptural presence, affirming their position on the top of the pond, while in the watery areas, thin layers of color are laid on top of one another to suggest the refractions of light and the changing hues in the pond’s depths.

"Monet and Durand-Ruel had originally agreed on a date of 1907 for the inaugural exhibition of the 
Nymphéas series. The artist, though, repeatedly postponed the show, “full of fire and confidence,” he told the dealer, and determined to keep working (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 47). When the exhibition finally opened in May 1909, it was stunning success—well worth the wait. Forty-eight views of the lily pond were featured, more than Monet had ever exhibited from a single series; the present painting was no. 28 in the group. Critics marveled at how transcendent and nearly abstract the pictures appeared, even by comparison with Picasso and Braque’s latest Cubist experiments....

"Monet could not have hoped for a better response. After the close of the exhibition, though, there followed nearly five years in which the artist—exhausted from the intense work leading up to the show, and then suffering from a sequence of personal tragedies—barely picked up his brushes. It was not until spring 1914 that he returned to the water garden in earnest....

"Although Monet completed well over a hundred new paintings of the lily pond between 1914 and his death in 1926, he kept the vast majority of these late views in his studio, neither exhibiting them nor offering them for sale. The culmination of the series was the 
Grandes Décorations, twenty-two mural-sized canvases totaling more than ninety meters in length, which Monet completed just months before his passing and donated to the French State. The Musée de l’Orangerie, newly remodeled to house this magnificent bequest, opened to great fanfare the following year." 


 Lot 4, "Untitled (Shades of Red)," by Mark Rothko, oil on canvas. 69 by 56 inches, 1961, left; Lot 5, "No. 1," by Rothko, oil on canvas, 69 by 60 inches 1962, right

Lots 4  and 5 are a pair of large abstract oils on canvas by Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

Lot 4 is "Untitled (Shades of Red" and it measures 69 by 56 inches and was painted in 1961,  It has an estimate of $60,000,000 to $80,000,000.  It sold for $66,800,000.

It was onced owned by Mary Lasker of New York.

The website provides the following commentary:

"Painted in 1961, Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Shades of Red) forcefully captures the mysterious and emotional intensity that lies at the very heart of the artist’s work. Haunted by the eternal drama that he believed was an inherent part of the human psyche, Rothko spent his life trying to convey these emotions on canvas, and his floating fields of color became the central elements in many of his most accomplished paintings. One of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth-century, Rothko maintained that his canvases weren’t paintings of an experience, they were the experience, and standing before paintings such as the present example he sought to induce in the viewer a deep emotional—almost spiritual—connection. Untitled (Shades of Red) is a manifest example of the triumph of Rothko’s oeuvre, and painted the same year as the artist’s seminal mid-career retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, it displays the self-assurance of an artist at the height of his painterly powers.

"Across this expanse of canvas, Rothko lays down clouds of crimson, red, ruby, scarlet, and deep orange pigment, one on top of one another, resulting in bottomless pools of rich color that appear to reverberate with chromatic energy as the eye passes over them. These shifting planes, constantly churning and roiling, produce a sense of dynamism that continues to play out long after the artist’s brush has left the surface of the canvas. Pushing against each other, this trifecta appears to be in a constant state of expansion, pushing out over the surface like an ever expanding galaxy of celestial gases. Surrounding each of the fields of color are paler areas, sheer veils of pigment that surround the central rectangles of deep red and saturated orange, revealing what is regarded by many as one of his greatest accomplishments: his ability to contain a vast array of colors of differing hues in differing proportions all on the same plane.
It is here, around the edges of each of these bodies of color, that Rothko’s tempestuous painterly energy is readily exposed; individual layers of paint bleed into each other revealing the rawness and vitality of the artist’s unmistakable process. Unlike the center of the blocks of color where a more harmonious co-existence results in rich fields of color, around the edges the tussle between order and chaos is played out to its ultimate conclusion. Throughout much of his career, Rothko struggled with his own inner demons, caught between the competing forces of order and chaos, and it is here, on the surface of the canvas, and in these contrary planes of color that he sought to confront and tame these forces once and for all....

"Untitled (Shades of Red) emanates the same sense of ethereal light that radiates from Rothko’s best works. The artist always maintained that his paintings possessed their own inner source of light that illuminated any room in which they were placed, an effect achieved by an intensive process of laying down numerous translucent washes of pigment. Rothko would rub down each of these using a soft brush—or sometimes even a rag—before using a dry brush to 'scrub in' the primary wash. The resulting 'disembodied' colors stem from the optical mixture between the usually strong tincture of the pigment and the lightness of the scoured fabric support, 'the hues become aftermaths—as when the flaming orange-reds are no more than ‘breathed’ onto the surface so that they vacillate between ardency and pale, vaporous transience' (D. Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas. Catalogue Raisonné, 2001, London, p. 93).

"The effect of this process produces the luminosity that Rothko so admired in the works of two of his favorite artists, namely Rembrandt and Henri Matisse. In Rembrandt, Rothko admired the inner radiance that illuminated his subjects, be they portraits, mythological scenes, or landscapes, and from Matisse, he was enraptured by the depth and intensities of the French artist’s colors, particularly his reds. Rothko was particularly enamored with Matisse’s 1911 painting The Red Studio and he visited the painting at the Museum of Modern Art every day for months, often overcome by the intensity of Matisse’s planes of red....

"Rothko’s process reached its peak during the period in which the present work was painted. The late 1950s and early 1960s proved to be a particularly significant period for the artist having come off the back of his commission to paint the Seagram Murals in 1958. The story of Rothko's murals is one of the central legends of his career and has become the kind of fable that impregnates and often threatens to dominate the history of any great artist's life. It is however nonetheless a remarkable and particularly pertinent story because the Seagram commission and the unfolding drama that surrounded Rothko's eventual rejection of it—after having worked on the project for nearly two years—encapsulates and reveals two important parameters of Rothko's character and artistic temperament. The Seagram commission threw Rothko's long held personal keenness to create a complete painterly environment into direct conflict with his deep-rooted principles. Ultimately, the overt luxury of the Four Seasons restaurant proved too much for Rothko's conscience and this, alongside the fact that he feared that the solemn paintings that had devised for it would come to be seen as mere decoration, led to his pulling out of the project in 1960.

A significant influence on Rothko’s oeuvre is the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, and it is said that in his paintings he tried to bring together the two opposing forces of the universe—order and dynamism—that the German philosopher identified. It was with the aim of establishing a similar state of harmonious détente between these two central organizing principles of existence that Rothko painted, hoping to generate within the reductive format of his abstract forms a profound expression of these dual elements compacted into a single unity. Conflicting the romanticism and heightened emotionalism of the rich and expansive horizon-like landscape vistas of his color-drenched rectangles with a strict rational vertical grid-like progression of form compressed onto a rectangular canvas, the dynamism of confrontation is all important in Rothko’s work. Such dynamism is often defined and characterized by the nature of the shimmering edges of his colored forms and the "personality" that they give to the work as a whole. “In a way my paintings are very exact,” Rothko explained in his lecture to students at the Pratt Institute in New York in 1958, “but in that exactitude there is a shimmer, a play…in weighing the edges to introduce a less rigorous, play element…The tragic notion of the image is always present in my mind when I paint and I know when it is achieved, but I couldn’t point it out—show where it is illustrated. There are no skull and bones. I am an abstract painter” (quoted in J.E.B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography, Chicago 1993, p. 395).

Lot 5, "No. 1," has an estimate of $45,000,000 to $65,000,000.  It sold for $49,625,000.
"No. 1 is listed as the first canvas that Mark Rothko painted in 1962, a pivotal year in which the artist produced some of his most vital and vivacious works. Dominated by a central field of intense orange, this large-scale painting displays the full force of Rothko’s creativity, from the floating passages of penetrating color to the animated brushwork that results in its iridescent surface. The rich, warm red and orange hues that are so prevalent in No. 1 are also emblematic of the experiential nature of Rothko’s art—a physical manifestation of what one critic called the 'immediate radiance' of these paintings. Famously, Rothko is quoted as saying that he wanted his paintings to have 'presence' so that when you turned your back on such a work, you 'feel that presence the way you feel the sun on your back' (M. Israel, quoted in J.E.B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography, New York, 1993, p. 275). No. 1 exhibits this quality to spectacular effect....

"To achieve the radiance that Rothko required, he would lay down numerous washes of thin, almost translucent, pigment that he would burnish with a soft cloth or brush. Finally he would apply the final, primary layer of pigment with a stiff, dry brush, scouring the surface to leave a richly burnished effect. In No. 1 in particular, the traces of these different layers can be seen in the undulating layers of underpainting that constantly roil up towards the surface. There is a constant shifting of color, as differing areas of pigment give way to saturated passages of high-keyed intensity....

"Rothko’s ultimate aim was to break down the traditional and long established barriers that existed in art, and he wanted the viewers of his paintings to undergo an almost religious experience when stood before them. In evolving this idea, the artist was profoundly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's text The Birth of Tragedy. Rothko's abstract paintings play on the dualism inherent in human nature that Nietzsche had identified as composed of Apollonian and Dionysian forces. The Apollonian represents the force of becoming, of precise definition, of the sculptural arts and of universal order while the Dionysian represents an unstable and wild force, the musical arts, disintegration and chaos. The duality of light and darker areas in the present work echoes these hostilities. In painting No. 1’s main passages of color in competing colors, they vie with one another for dominance, seeming to both emerge from and recede into the painting's more neutral background, evoking this perpetual struggle. As the eye responds to this shifting play of undefined form and color, the viewer's mind enacts an emotive drama, yet Rothko holds the whole together in a fragile balance using the calm serenity of the pale ground. In this way, he counterpoints Apollonian order and refinement with the more unstable Dionysian energy of the shimmering oblongs, creating an overwhelming sense of the sublime...."

 Degas statue

Lot 2, "Petite danseuse de quatorze ans," by Edgard Degas, 30 1/2 inches high, original wax model execurted 1879-1881, this nronze version cast in 1927.

Lot 2, "Petite danseuse de quatorze ans," a bronze sculpture by Edgar Degas 1834-1917) based an original wax version executed i 1879-1881.  This bronze was owmed by Mrs. Sandra Payson of New York.  It has an estimate of $20.000,00 to $30,000,000.  It sold for $41,610,000.

The website provided the following commentary:

"Edgar Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans is one of the most recognizable sculptures of modern art. It is the largest work in this medium that the artist ever produced, and the only one that he chose to exhibit in his lifetime. Formally innovative, as well as iconographically daring, this two-thirds life-size depiction of a young ballet dancer caused a sensation when the original wax version was first exhibited in 1881 at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris, and continues to compel audiences to this day. Evoking a curious combination of compassion and intrigue, this iconic sculpture is a synthesis of Degas’s extensive work on his beloved theme of the dance, a visual encapsulation of the conflicting concepts of artifice and reality that define so much of his art. Just as the dancer stands in a pose of insistent defiance, so too this work can be regarded as a bold visual manifesto: an embodiment of the artist’s own, resolute avant-garde independence, and a demonstration of his unceasing fascination with the human form.

"Petite danseuse de quatorze ans was originally made in wax, which the artist carefully modeled, adding meticulous detail—even the folds of the dancer’s tights gathered behind her knees were sensitively rendered—before coloring the wax so as to simulate real flesh. Degas finally dressed this figure in real life accoutrements: a dancer’s cotton faille bodice, linen ballet slippers, a tarlatan tutu comprised of several layers of netting, as well as a wig of real hair, which he scooped into a braid tied with a silk ribbon. This original wax version was never cast in bronze during the artist’s lifetime (it is now held in The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). It was only after his death that twenty-nine casts were made, the majority of which now reside in museums across the world....

"Marie’s identity was established thanks to a note that Degas inscribed on one of the preparatory drawings for the sculpture (Vente III: 341.2; Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Since she turned fourteen in June of 1879, it is thought that Marie likely worked for Degas over the course of the two or so year period in which he conceived and created the Petite danseuse. While she featured in the host of drawings, as well as a nude sculpture (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), their artistic relationship went beyond this body of work, with Marie thought to have also served as the model for several other pastels and paintings made around the same time, including Danseuse au repos (Lemoisne, no. 573; Private collection) and La leçon de danse (Lemoisne, no. 479; Philadelphia Museum of Art)....

"That Degas chose a pose for his dancer that is neither a formal ballet position nor a wholly relaxed posture is not surprising. In his works on the theme of the dance, Degas reveled in capturing these unselfconscious, unplanned movements, spurning the perfection of the performance to instead provide glimpses of his models caught off guard. Marie is shown in one such moment: her eyes appear half closed, as if she is lost in a moment of reverie, or perhaps exhaustion. Nothing Degas did was spontaneous or the result of whimsy. After years studying dancers, he most likely would have carefully invented this indefinable pose to purposefully defy expectation or identification....

"Degas had initially intended to show the sculpture in the Fifth Impressionist exhibition held in March 1880. He announced its inclusion in the catalogue, but at the last minute, and for reasons unknown, decided to withdraw it from the show, instead deciding, in a radical move that remains as daring today as it was in 1880, to leave only the work’s glass vitrine on display. One critic, Gustave Goetschy, lamented on 6 April 1880: “Everything M. Degas produces interests me so keenly that I delayed by one day the publication of this article to tell you about a wax statuette that I hear is marvelous and represents a fourteen-year-old dancer, modeled from life, wearing real dance slippers and a bouffant skirt composed of real fabric. But Degas isn’t an ‘Indépendant’ for nothing! He is an artist who produces slowly, as he pleases, and at his own pace, without concerning himself about exhibitions. All the worse for us!” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1988, p. 343).

"Anticipation therefore grew around the Sixth Impressionist exhibition held the following spring. Titled simply Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (statuette en cire), Degas added the work two weeks after the exhibition opened, its late inclusion serving only to heighten the wave of consternation, adoration, and condemnation with which the work was met by viewers. 'Paris could scarcely maintain its equilibrium,' Louisine Havemeyer recalled. 'His name was on all lips, his statue discussed by all the art world' (quoted in T. Reff, Degas: The Artist’s Mind, New York, 1976, p. 239). James McNeill Whistler reportedly 'uttered sharp cries and gesticulated in front of the case which enclosed the wax figurine,' while Pierre-Auguste Renoir said to Mary Cassatt that this work proved Degas was 'a sculptor capable of rivalling the ancients' (quoted in C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, p. 28).

"Petite danseuse earned a host of vociferous supporters and detractors. The unprecedented verisimilitude led the critic J.-K. Huysmans to declare it was, “the only truly modern attempt I know in sculpture,” proclaiming, 'The fact is that at one fell swoop, M. Degas has overthrown the traditions of sculpture, as he has for a long time been shaking up the conventions of painting' (quoted in G.T.M. Shackelford, Degas, The Dancers, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1984, p. 676)....

"Many also condemned this level of realism. Although the life-like quality of the sculpture’s tinted wax surface provoked some comment, the most innovative and audacious feature of the work was its incorporation of actual articles of clothing, which made it seem at once illusory and real. These sartorial elements—which anticipate the use of found materials in Cubism and Dada—constituted an overt challenge to the accepted criteria of sculpture in the late nineteenth century. Contemporary viewers were affronted. Some critics compared the dressed wax figure to a doll, a puppet, or a shop mannequin.

"Following the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition, the wax version of the Petite danseuse remained in Degas’s studio until his death in 1917. It was never again exhibited during his lifetime, nor reproduced in any form. The possibility of casting the sculpture arose in 1903 when the celebrated Impressionist collector Louisine Havemeyer attempted to purchase the wax original....
 Degas was concerned about parting with it on account of its condition and proposed producing a bronze or plaster cast instead. Although the sale did not come to fruition, several references in Degas’s correspondence—in particular, a letter to the sculptor Albert Bartholomé that begins: “My dear friend, and perhaps caster...”—indicate that the artist seriously considered casting the sculpture at this time.

"In the end, however, the casting of the Petite danseuse was not begun until 1918, when Degas’s heirs contracted the founder Adrien Hébrard to produce limited bronze editions of all seventy-four wax sculptures found during the posthumous inventory of the artist’s studio. The first complete set of bronzes, including the Petite danseuse, was finished in 1921 and purchased by Louisine Havemeyer."

Degas dancer

Lot 1, "Danseuse attachant son chausson," by Edgar Degas. pastel on buff paper, 18 1/2 by 16 7/8 inches, 1887

Lot 1, "Danseuse attachant son chausson," by Edgar Degas. is a pastel on buff paper, 18 1/2 by 16 7/8 inches, 1887. It was once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Henry O. Havemeyer of New York. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It sold for $8,977,000.

The website provides the following commentary:

"Alive with color, light, and vivid texture, Edgar Degas’s Danseuse attachant son chausson of 1887 captures a dancer in a moment of repose, as she bends down to tie the ribbon on her ballet slipper. With her feet turned out, and tutu and sash thrown upwards in spectacular relief to create a dazzling halo around her, the dancer pictured in this pose was one of Degas’s favorite and most famous views, not only challenging him to display his artistic virtuosity through the depiction of a foreshortened figure, but allowing him to indulge in splendid contrasts of light and form. Relishing the expressive effects of pastel, his favored medium at the time that he created this magnificent dancer in the late 1880s, Degas has portrayed the dancer with long, strident strokes of color and frenetic line, enlisting the paper ground as an active formal component of the tightly cropped composition. As a result, this work, formerly in the legendary Havemeyer family collection, is infused with an incredible sense of life; she is momentarily stationary, yet brims with suspenseful energy, poised at any moment to ascend upright once more and leap back into her performance."

Home Page of The City Review