1930 Nu au Chat by Foujita
2016 SOLD for HK$ 39M by Sotheby's
Like the other artists, Foujita seeks and finds the ideal woman in Montparnasse. He marries Fernande and paints nudes of Kiki. The whiteness of Lucie's skin brings to him a new artistic impulse. He nicknames her Youki which means Little snow.
Now his paintings must present the expressionist effect of the perfect woman. He covers the canvas with milky white or ivory paint on which he draws the nude in ink by a thin and sharp line before completing the work by the transparent color of skin and hair.
The hedonistic life of Montparnasse does not invite to fidelity. In 1930 Youki leaves Foujita for loving Desnos. The painter nevertheless continues his aesthetic quest and copies a 1924 draft showing Youki sleeping naked on a bed with her arm and her long hair carelessly flowing to the floor.
The ideal and diaphanous life size woman occupies the upper part of the picture in a pose inspired from Fuseli's Nightmare. In the foreground, the strong point is a reclining cat bringing a high contrast in density along with the opposition of its bright gaze with the inactive attitude of the sleeping goddess. The cat is according to Foujita an alter ego of a woman with added whiskers and a tail, sensitive and lovable but ready to betray.
This large size ink and oil on canvas 98 x 163 cm was sold by Sotheby's for £ 1.2M on February 5, 2014, lot 89 and for HK $ 39M on April 3, 2016, lot 1035. It passed at the same auction house on October 5, 2023, lot 8511.
1931 The Inaccessible Desire
2018 SOLD for £ 2.7M including premium
Gala is for Dali the personification of the inaccessible desire. He nicknames her Gradiva from a Pompeian statue passionately loved by an archaeologist in a novel by Jensen. Meanwhile Dali's family is upset. The father takes under the name Guillaume Tell the role of the castrator in Dali's exacerbated complex of Oedipus. Sigmund Freud will be delighted by this case of obsessive psychiatry. Gala's sudden and lasting infatuation with Dali would also deserve a psychoanalytic explanation.
In 1930 Dali and Gala settle in Paris. He paints Guillaume Tell, oil and collage on canvas 113 x 87 cm acquired in 2002 by the Centre Pompidou. The castrator has a knee placed on a stele decorated with the Dalinian Gradiva next to a phallus as high as her.
In 1931 two oils on copper build the story of Gradiva illustrated by Dali as a resurgence of Andromeda chained to the rock. Gradiva is Gala, the sole object of Dali's worship, with no remaining reference to Jensen.
That first opus titled Gradiva, 21 x 16 cm, is estimated £ 1.2M for sale by Sotheby's in London on February 28, lot 33. The body of the woman is twisted in the sufferings of a St. Sebastian which have here an orgasmic dimension. The shredded tunic reveals the breasts and especially the sex centered by the appealing lips of a mouth. A drop of blood flows on the thigh.
The same sale includes also as lot 34 a study for Gradiva of similar size and same provenance which is probably the final preparatory drawing for the painting above. It is estimated £ 60K.
The final image 30 x 24 cm in the same rocky surrounding is titled Guillaume Tell et Gradiva. It was acquired in 1996 by the Dali Museum in Figueres. The woman remains in a similar position but is now completely naked. Beside her an ithyphallic humanoid once again prevents the lover from accessing his desire.
Please watch the video of Gradiva shared by Sotheby's.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM
Painting : £ 2.7M
Preparatory drawing : £ 100K
1931 The Universal Art of Torres-Garcia
2019 SOLD for $ 3.4M including premium
In 1903 he had created for Gaudi some stained glass windows for the cathedral of Palma. Medieval inspiration is soon joined by Picasso's cubism, which is another way of de-constructing space on a flat surface. In his craze for the role of geometry in art, he will even admire in New York the vertical structures of the skyscrapers.
The abstract art of Mondrian is not enough for him. He comes closer to the geometric idealism of van Doesburg and integrates Dadaism and constructivism into his conceptions. He finds his style of universal painting in 1931 by inserting pictograms into a construction, with a minimalist color palette.
For example, Composition Nord places in boxes the naive drawings of a fish, a ladder, a clock, a heart, a coat of arms. This oil on masonite 79 x 60 cm was sold for $ 2.1M including premium by Christie's on November 20, 2015.
On May 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells Construccion en blanco, also painted in 1931, where the symbolic illustration includes two fishes, a clock, a pen, a cathedral porch, two ghosts, two pre-Colombian faces, a woman. This oil on linen 175 x 90 cm is estimated $ 3.5M, lot 43.
These inclusions of symbols within abstract art bring a new reading of art while being a link between Dada and Dubuffet.
1931 The Profile of Amrita Sher-Gil
2015 SOLD for £ 1.76M including premium
On June 10 in London, Christie's sells a self-portrait painted in 1931, oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm, lot 11 offered in an open range of estimates between £ 1 and 1.8M. Despite all the attention given to Amrita since she was declared a National Treasure artist in India in 1972, this artwork that remained in France was not known. It is her only self-portrait that was realized in profile.
At 18, she is now a coquettish young woman promised in marriage to a young man by her family and loved by another. The profile has the meaning of her new attitude, now proud of herself and enjoying to be coveted. The empty bowl on the table before her is the past that she no longer watches.
The teaching is excellent and the student is gifted. References to European art abound in this work. The profile recalls the aristocratic portraits of the Renaissance and the wide beret on the side of the head is a modern version from a portrait by Rembrandt. The use of color to strengthen psychology is following the model of the Polynesian women by Gauguin, certainly with the friendly encouragement of Valadon.
1931 The 22 Faces of Amrita Sher-Gil
2015 SOLD for £ 1.75M including premium
She painted intensely during those Parisian years, mostly self-portraits and portraits of friends.
22 self-portraits are known. Amrita observes her own transition from teenager to adulthood, which is also a passage from shyness to energy and from family life to the free life of Parisian students and artists. She analyzes her feelings with a high psychological curiosity, whilst complacently stating that her supreme model is Van Gogh.
On October 6 in London, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 55 x 46 cm, lot 18 estimated £ 1.5M. This self-portrait was painted in 1931 for her classmate and flirt Boris Taslitzky and stayed up to now in his collection. She was 18 years old and her personality was becoming radiant. She reddened her thick lips and displayed her somehow plenty teenage appearance.
Figures by Amrita often include a symbolic subtlety. Here the loose necklace gives an impression of spontaneity that contrasts nicely with her static attitude. A self-portrait painted from profile in the same year, sold for £ 1.76M including premium by Christie's on June 10, 2015, showed her confidence in the future through the emptied bowl which she looked over.
Amrita and Boris did not stay long together. Boris chose the political involvement while the young woman was leaving to discover her cultural roots in India, with the prodigious success that has been assigned to her in that country, unfortunately posthumously.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1931 The Ageless Woman
2019 SOLD for £ 1.45m including premium
His appointment in 1926 as a professor at the University of Dresden brings him a professional stability that does not end his nightmare. He offers his pessimistic vision of the German society while simulating the great masters of the old days, Dürer, Cranach, Baldung Grien. To promote the objectivity, he rejects the notion of ugliness. His nudes of aging women are however not appealing.
Sitzender Akt mit blondem Haar, oil on canvas 100 x 80 cm stretched on panel painted in 1931, is a miserabilist portrait that avoids the caricature and the grotesque. The naked woman is thin and unhealthy, and her eyes are too open to look at anything. She is probably a prostitute. She is indeed an allegory of the discomfort of the individuals in the modern German society. Although the veil is held in a mannerist gesture, this scene is resolutely contemporary.
This blonde nude is estimated £ 2.2M for sale by Christie's in London on June 18, lot 33. I had discussed it in this column before it passed at Sotheby's on June 19, 2012, lot 34.
After a few years of lull, new ordeals await Otto Dix. His pictures in total opposition to the Aryan ideology cannot suit the Nazi power. His work becomes a preferred target for the slayers of the degenerate art. He changes his style to avoid being persecuted for his art.
1931 The Early Art of Amrita Sher-Gil
2012 SOLD 610 K$ including premium
In 1972, an act of the Government of India protects all works of nine artists classified as National Art Treasures. First on the list is Rabindranath Tagore.
In second position comes a young woman whose career was early and rapid, dying at age 28, Amrita Sher-Gil. 172 paintings by this artist were identified, of which 60% are kept at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.
On 19 and 20 September online from Mumbai, Saffronart sells an oil on board, 61 x 41 cm, made circa 1931,estimated U.S. $ 600K.
Amrita was not yet 20, but she already had a cosmopolitan influence and a total passion for art. Daughter of a Sikh aristocrat and a Hungarian musician, she had viewed the great classical art in Florence and the best of modern art in Paris.
The painting for sale is a Hungarian landscape including a path in a skillful composition of bright colors, reflecting her enthusiasm for Cézanne and Gauguin.
By comparison, Girls in conversation, an oil on canvas from the same period sold INR 35M including premium by Osian's on January 31, 2007, confirms the early talent, originality and eclecticism of the artist while still within her years of learning.
In 1934, Amrita feels strongly attracted to India, where she will realize her masterpieces, with a high sensitivity to the lives of humble people, along with female nudes. A village scene painted in 1938 was sold 60M INR on 1 March 2006, also by Osian's.
POST SALE COMMENT
This rare painting was sold $ 610K including premium. The scenery was Hungarian and not made in India, so it should not have expected more. The sale of a painting by Amrita Sher-Gil is however an event whatever the outcome.
1932 Compotier et Guitare
2023 SOLD for $ 23.5M by Sotheby's
Still life was such a tool. A compotier et guitare painted in 1927 and completed on 1929 matches that purpose. The three pieces of fruit evoke the breasts. This oil on panel 97 x 130 cm was sold for £ 3.04M by Christie's on February 6, 2007, lot 41.
A similar Compotier et guitare was painted in February 13, 1932 in the mean time between the explicitly erotic Le Rêve executed in January and the frenzy of masterpieces preparing the groundbreaking solo exhibition for summer at the Galerie Georges Petit.
Matisse's popularity was growing with his theme of the odalisques. In 1931 he had a successful solo exhibition in Paris, also at Georges Petit. In several paintings of the period including Le Rêve, Picasso decorates the background wall with a colored pattern of lozenges imitating the style of the odalisques of his rival. The position of the guitar may be a hard core symbol.
The 1932 Compotier et guitare was part of the Georges Petit exhibition. This oil on canvas 97 x 130 cm was sold for $ 23.5M by Sotheby's on November 13, 2023, lot 23.
1932 Kandinsky inside the Last Drama of the Bauhaus
2009 SOLD 10.6 M$ including premium
Pioneer of abstract art, he did not consider it as a simple assembly of geometries, but rather as this symbolism which makes his work looking so hermetic after the First World War. The surface shapes, the density of colors and the meeting of lines and points should form a musical design to exacerbate the sensitivity of the observer of the work.
In 1932, Kandinsky is already for ten years a master at the Bauhaus. Modernist teachings of this school had focused the hatred of extremists from the beginning. Events rushed with the arrival of the Nazis in the town council of Dessau. The Bauhaus left for Berlin where it will be dissolved a few months later. The attempt of Mies van der Rohe to depoliticize the school had been uneffective to face the Nazi steamroller.
On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells "Mild und Krass," painted in early 1932 by Kandinsky before the close out of Dessau. The artist was supported by the philanthropist Solomon Guggenheim who bought many paintings including this one.
A large black triangle, haunting, pointed down, is like the dagger of the threat that the politics push on the art (Krass, dramatic). The free and light forms that fly around are empty (Mild, sweet).
Curiously, the figurative works from before 1910 have most attracted the interest of Kandinsky fans at auction in recent years. The arrival of this tragic painting will again highlight the abstract period, which corresponds to what the public better knows of this artist. In these conditions, the estimated $ 6 million is reasonable.
POST SALE COMMENT
There was no doubt about the importance of this work, it is why I said that the estimate was "reasonable".
The result confirms: $ 10.6 million including premium.
Here is an image of this painting in an article shared by the New York Times before the sale.
Size of the painting 100 x 120 cm.
1932 Femme Rouge et Pelote Verte by Le Corbusier
2015 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Phillips
In the late 1920s, his business in architecture, urban planning and furniture is prosperous and painting serves him primarily as a support to the expression of his concepts mixing geometry and poetry. He now accepts a complex juxtaposition of objects, opposed to the views of Ozenfant and close to the cubism by Gris, and perhaps compensating his own lack of binocular vision.
On November 8, 2015, Phillips sold for $ 4.6M Femme rouge et pelote verte, oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm painted in 1932, lot 21. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The one eyed woman in an intense red has resolutely surrealist features. She does not exist by herself and her role is to occupy the living space offered by the architect. Her nakedness appeals the intimacy of an interior and the knitting accessories evoke the everyday life.
Her surrounding is a window above a wrought iron gate whose incoming shadow confirms that the scene is viewed from inside the apartment, so joining a favorite theme by Matisse.
This painting had been bought by his collaborator Heidi Weber and remained in her collection. Heidi Weber will be the promoter of the last work designed by Le Corbusier, the Maison de l'Homme in Zurich incorporating the Heidi Weber Museum-Center Le Corbusier.
1932 Female Nudes at Macdougall's
2009 SOLD 1.07 M£ including premium
The female nude is a favorite topic for Russian art lovers. For the second consecutive time, the star lot of the sale of MacDougall's in London falls into this category. Remind that MacDougall's auction house is specialized since its creation in the Russian figurative art, and is now also proposing an important choice of icons.
On June 11 it was a large oil on canvas by Ilya Repin, 142 x 214 cm, painted in 1914. The woman, in her apartment, is absently caressing a flat-faced dog. Not understanding why she was totally nude for such activity, I did not open an article. Others have understood or have posed fewer questions, and this lot was sold £ 1.4 million including premium.
The star of the sale of December 3, however, shall please by its natural effect. This young woman painted by Zinaida Serebriakova in 1932, 73 x 52 cm, stands in an attitude of relaxation and confidence, backed by a blue curtain.
Nude Russian women have often been painted by women. The precise line of Serebriakova is close to the art of Tamara de Lempicka, but without the ambiguity of attitudes that is the mark of her colleague. The artist wanted to show a pretty girl, simply. She succeeded. It is worth 1 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
Serebriakova was particularly successful in this painting. It sold £ 1.07 million including premium.
Here is an image shared before the sale by Bloomberg.
1932 Connivance in the Beaux-Arts
Her younger sister Indira followed her to Paris and did the same studies. A complicity of teenagers is established between the two Hindu girls and Denyse, a classmate of Indira. In 1932 Amrita paints a 133 x 164 cm canvas titled Young Girls, featuring her sister and their friend. This seminal masterpiece by Amrita in terms of genre scenes ensures her visibility on the Parisian artistic scene, while her studies are not yet completed. She is nineteen.
A portrait of Denyse by Amrita has just surfaced. It will be sold by Christie's in New York on March 17, lot 1020 estimated $ 1.8M. This oil on canvas 46 x 38 cm was painted a few months before Young Girls, to be presented to her friend. Influenced by the art of Gauguin and Valadon, Amrita has created a warm environment perfectly matching with the girl's communicative attitude. The quiet intimacy also reminds us of Morisot.
For the preparation of the sale, Christie's was able to consult the letters sent by Denyse to her future husband. She fully appreciates that Amrita has an amazing personality and a great culture, with many enthusiasms.
1932-1937 Emily Carr's Totem Pole
2008 SOLD 1.05 MCan$ including premium
The totemic elements are returning to earth, especially when natural forces rage. The Alert Bay Burial Ground has been ravaged by a storm last winter, perhaps irreparably.
As for the painting, it still exists. Heffel sells it in Toronto on November 19, at lot 184, with an estimated 900 KCAD. It had sold 200 CAD at the artist's death in 1945 in favor of an Emily Carr Trust for assistance to aspiring artists!
It is an opportunity to pay tribute to this woman artist that natives from Vancouver Island had called Klee Wyck, "the laughing one".
Artvalue, as always, helps us to get references. Thus we have a result on a painting showing a totem, at 630 KCAD on May 28, 2008 by Ritchie's. It is equally disturbing but interpreted in a more documentary fashion. For Alert Bay, we see a scenery with war canoes sold by Heffel 920 KCAD on May 10 2000 in Vancouver.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result is in line with the estimates, for this especially original painting of Emily Carr: 1.05 MCAN $ fees included.
1934 Figure by Miro
2018 SOLD for $ 7.3M by Sotheby's
Miro will later observe that at that time the discomfort created by social events was more physical than conscious. The antidote for the artist is the use of colors.
Indeed his style and technique changed in 1934. He worked more with gouache or pastel on paper, to better highlight the brightest colors than on canvas. He put aside his ethereal poetic vision to recreate a surrealist universe adapted to the anguish of social tensions. Used for pastels, velours paper also brings a tactile effect.
Miro liked to express his art in series, such as the 18 Peintures made from collages in the previous year. At the end of the summer 1934 he designs a series of 15 pastels on velours paper of large size, which he will date October 1934. These pastels display deformed humans in childish style in front of glaucous backgrounds. The arms are often atrophied to mark the unconscious impotence of the angry people in the face of the social crisis.
On November 12, 2018, Sotheby's sold for $ 7.3M Figure, pastel 108 x 73 cm, lot 33. Please watch the video shared by the auction house, in which this series is rightly discussed as a premonition of the Spanish Civil War.
1934 A German in Bali
2013 SOLD 31.5 MHK$ including premium
Enamored of freedom, he shows the immense lush of nature in which man is small but manages to shape the landscape with his huts and clearings.
On October 5 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells Blick von der Höhe ('top view'), oil on canvas 100 x 81 cm painted in 1934. It is illustrated in the press release shared by ArtDaily.
The thickness of the vegetation breaks the perspective. A man sits in the foreground, wearing a large native hat. The piercing light illuminates the subject of his peaceful contemplation, rice field and village, in an almost symmetrical composition separated by a tall tree.
Spies's paintings are rare on the market because his life was too short. The Dutch authorities did not like the inner circle of this German citizen and persecuted him from 1938. He died in 1942 when the Dutch ship that transferred him to Ceylon was sunk by a Japanese aircraft.
1934 a catalan mirage
In 1933 he remembers a journey to Figueres in a horse-drawn cart and paints La Charrette Fantôme. The theme is limited to the vehicle partially masking the small town far away within a desert. Approaching the panel the spectator observes that the two characters in the cart are in fact the highest towers of the city in continuity with the rest of the topographical view.
Dali is satisfied with this attempt at expressing a psychoanalytic feeling. In 1934 he copies his mirage inside a more ambitious surrounding.
The desert has become a Catalan landscape at sunset. This moment is recognizable both by the strident colors and the extremely elongated shadows of the rocks and of the two isolated characters who bring a very discreet human presence. Dali adds a mystical dimension with a big cloud opened by a triangular wound.
This oil on canvas 54 x 65 cm titled Moment de Transition is estimated £ 6M for sale by Sotheby's in London on March 1, lot 45.
Dali's careful mix between dreamlike surrealism and hyper-real will be of interest to Sigmund Freud. In a contract signed in 1946 Dali will authorize Disney to copy the figuration of his subconscious.
mid-1930s Munnings on Turf
2010 SOLD 524 K£ including premium
Horses with their jockeys prepare for the race. This theme extremely popular in England and the United States made the glory of Alfred Munnings. On May 5, 2004, Sotheby's sold in New York for $ 7 million ($ 7.85 million with fees) a painting made in 1921, 101 x 152 cm.
On March 17 at Bonhams in London, an oil on canvas of the mid-1930s shows a tight group of five horses mounted by their riders heading towards the start line at Newmarket. It is small, 46 x 61 cm, but was virtually identical to a larger work which was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. It is estimated £ 500K.
Munnings would not appreciate that his work is discussed as modern art, a genre he castigated when he reached the position of President of the Royal Academy of Art.
Yet the attitudes of his race horses in action are much more beautiful than those of his former colleagues, like Herring in his country or de Dreux in France. Our five animals are true thoroughbreds, visibly nervous and focused despite the slow movement of their walk. We see it on the image in the release shared by AuctionPublicity.
POST SALE COMMENT
Less active than other racecourse scenes of the artist, the painting was sold at 450 K £ hammer price, 524 K £ including premium, thus remaining below the estimate.
1935 The Great Stage of the World
On May 21 in New York, Sotheby's sells Shakespeare at Dusk, oil on canvas 64 x 44 cm painted by Edward in 1935, lot 16estimated $ 7M. This work is neither mysterious nor surreal, it is a realistic view of a corner in Central Park dominated by the statue of Shakespeare. In all of Hopper's work, it is one of the very rare cases where the artist has unveiled a source of literary inspiration.
Shakespeare wrote : "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players". Sotheby's cleverly chose this quote for commenting Hopper's ultimate painting, the self-portrait with his wife Jo titled Two Comedians, sold for $ 12.5M including premium on November 16, 2018.
Hopper's graphic art is a stage set, illustrating the diversity of his life between New York City and Cape Cod. The scene is mostly empty, as in Shakespeare at Dusk. He does not need to install characters. The interpretation of his art by the theme of loneliness is an illusion and perhaps even a misinterpretation : Hopper prepares the setting in which an action will begin. His works will rightly influence many filmmakers including Hitchcock and Wenders.
The choice of twilight is quite common in Hopper's art. This is the unstable moment of the day, just before the lights are lit in the streets and behind the windows, just before a new theatrical performance begins.
1936 Alexander Calder, Engineer of the Trees
2012 SOLD 4 M$ including premium
Alexander "Sandy" Calder was both an engineer and an artist. He introduced his first mobiles in 1932 with the help of Marcel Duchamp.
On November 15 in New York, Phillips de Pury sells The Whiffletree a mobile 2.03 m high made circa 1936, estimated $ 3.5 M. Here is the link to the catalog.
This piece of sculpture is a tree with nine colored leaves carefully spread over the branches. It is mounted on a tripod hat ensures stability without adding heaviness.
In this early work, the artist's vision of Calder is to recreate the mechanical balance of a product of nature.
The pun is worthy of Duchamp. Do not look to Whiffletree in a botanical handbook. This word is referring to a mechanical tree which distributes the forces by means of pivots.
POST SALE COMMENT
The art market discovers the beginnings of Calder and his very original style full of humor.
Sold $ 4M including premium by Phillips de Pury, the Tree has met the expectations.
The day before, at Christie's, a wire twisted ca 1928 constituting a Policeman only 47 cm high was sold for $ 4.2 million including premium from a lower estimate of $ 1.2 M.
1936 Saddling Mahmoud by Munnings
2000 SOLD for $ 3.8M by Sotheby's
1936 A Champion in the Paddock
2020 SOLD for $ 3.14M including premium
Thoroughbreds, like athletes, are capable of exceptional sporting feats. Spring had been dry and the very hard course suited Mahmoud perfectly. He won the Derby with a faultless final straight, breaking the event record in 2 minutes 33.8 seconds. The second place of his stable companion Taj Akbar completes the triumph of the Aga Khan in a double that remains unique in the history of the Derby.
The prince commissions two paintings from the artist. The larger, for his personal use, is an oil on canvas 98 x 130 cm. It was sold for $ 3.14M by Sotheby's on January 31, 2020, lot 442.
The smaller is an oil on panel presented to the horse trainer. It was sold for $ 3.8M by Sotheby's on June 1, 2000. The two pieces have an identical composition. A stamp copying this image was issued by the Royal Mail in 1979.
In the Epsom paddock, Mahmoud is being saddled. His attitude is calm, with ears down. He is a beautiful light-gray horse, with all the features of an Arab thoroughbred. On the left in the background, Taj Akbar is nervous. The two horses are surrounded by active characters perfectly identified from the staff of the Aga Khan.
Mahmoud continued his career as a stallion, for the Aga Khan in Newmarket until 1940 and then for C.V. "Sonny" Whitney in Kentucky. Whitney also acquired the Derby canvas at an undocumented date. The painting then belonged to his widow Marylou, recently deceased, known for her brilliant involvement in American horse racing.
Sonny was a cousin of J.H. "Jock" Whitney who was also a great owner of racehorses. His collection of paintings, sold by Sotheby's on May 5, 2004, included two masterpieces on this theme. The Red Prince Mare, oil on canvas 102 x 152 cm painted by Munnings in 1921, was sold for $ 7.8M including premium. Les Courses au Bois de Boulogne, oil on canvas 73 x 94 cm painted by Manet in 1872, six years before the decomposition of the gallop by Muybridge, was sold for $ 26.3M including premium.
1936 The Flying Eagle of Xu Beihong
2012 SOLD for HK$ 21.3 M including premium
2017 SOLD for RMB 18.4M including premium
Xu Beihong drawings are profoundly original, and renew the art of representing animals. His bestiary is a representation of the forces of nature, without biological distortion and especially without anthropocentrism. Often alone, the animal of Xu is active and assertive.
Xu was passionate about horses. It makes sense that he was also interested in the eagle, the most powerful and free of birds, yet his drawings of this animal are rare.
On October 7, China Guardian, the auction house usually operating in Beijing, makes its first sale in Hong Kong.
One of the highlighted lots, estimated HK $ 3M, is a vertical scroll in ink and color on paper, 130 x 78 cm, by Xu. The eagle is in flight, wings extended, beak and claws forward in the attitude of the descent, still high in air above a pine branch.
This drawing was made in 1936 with a poem or a dedication, as usual. It is not appropriate to compare it with the large size drawing made by Qi in 1946 with the branched eagle as a political symbol in tribute to Jiang Jieshi, sold RMB 425M including premium on May 22, 2011, also by China Guardian.
Here is the link to the catalogue.
POST 2012 SALE COMMENT
For their very first sale in Hong Kong, the estimates of China Guardian had been too conservative. The eagle by Xu Beihong achieved a very good price, HK $ 21.3 million including premium.
The same Eagle was sold for RMB 18.4M including premium by China Guardian in Beijing on June 19, 2017, as shown in the post sale press release. I did not catch it before that sale.
1936 EYES WIDE OPEN OF MAGGIE LAUBSER
2009 SOLD 275 K£ INCLUDING PREMIUM
One of the specialties of Bonhams in London is the art of South Africa. They always include artworks of Irma Stern, a woman artist whom I previously discussed here. I like the realistic characters of this artist whose paintings have ethnographic and psychological qualities.
In addition to Irma, we find in the same sales some paintings by her contemporary artist Maggie Laubser. Irma Stern was born in 1894 and Maria Magdalena Laubser in 1886.
The press release for the sale of February 18 is opening on an oil on canvas by Maggie, 59x53 cm, showing a young Indian lady with poinsettias. It could be dated from 1936, during a journey of the artist in Natal.
Maggie's intention is artistic. Ethnic but less psychological than typical subjects of Irma, our Indian woman takes advantage of a simple graphism. I compare it with van Dongen, especially when I see the big eyes, so large that they become the highlight of the whole image.
The estimate is £ 100K.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result is excellent: K £ 230 excluding fees.
Sales of South African art at Bonhams in London always include good surprises. This is a sign that it is a market of enthusiasts, so a healthy market.
I want to remember the extraordinary result of the sale of 10 September 2008: £ 720 K before fees for a painting of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef showing a baobab tree.
1936 Henry Moore going Abstract
Better than painters, sculptors have at their disposal the infinite variety of stones and woods. The art objects with which primitive civilizations sought some mystical truth already had simplified lines. Rodin's naturalistic clays are out of fashion, and the avant-gardes prefer the direct carving.
In the 1920s, Henry Moore found his models of human and animal heads in the pre-Columbian art. He observes the structural asymmetry of the masks, which display both the convex and the concave view of the face. A 19 cm high alabaster mask carved in 1929 was sold for £ 3.25M including premium by Bonhams on November 14, 2018 over a lower estimate of £ 1M.
For Moore, the next step is the asymmetry of the head, with a simplification of the lines which cancels the facial expression. A 27 cm high Head in Hopton Wood stone from Derbyshire, carved in the round circa 1935, was sold for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's on June 19, 2018 over a lower estimate of £ 2M.
Certainly inspired by Giacometti whom he first met in 1933, Moore attempts an abstraction scattered with details that can be interpreted as biomorphic. On January 21 in London, Christie's sells Square Form, carved in 1936, lot 8 estimated £ 3M.
Square Form is a thick plaque in Hornton brown stone, an Oxfordshire limestone which is one of the artist's favorite stones because of its mottled grain which looks like a wood. The 54 cm wide square with irregular edges may evoke a face.
The stone is pierced right through with a circular hole that can be an eye, which is a great example of the reciprocal influence of Moore and Hepworth, The two flat sides have different incisions : two vertical and one horizontal scars on front side, an arc concentric with the fake eye on rear side
1937 Rythme Circulaire by Delaunay
2023 SOLD for £ 7.2M by Sotheby's
In the 1930s husband and wife realize separately a series of fully abstract views titled Rythmes, based on endless sets of disks providing a poetic feeling of eternal motion.
This activity culminated in 1937 when Robert, always keen to support the technical progress, was commissioned for mural and hanging decorations in the Exposition internationale des arts et des techniques appliqués à la vie moderne, held in Paris.
Rythme circulaire, oil on canvas 254 x 300 cm painted by Robert Delaunay, is a reduced scale replica of his monumental back panel in the Palais de l'Air of the 1937 Exposition. It features two lines of disks of various diameters over a background of concentric disks, in a great variety of mostly pale colors.
It was sold for £ 7.2M by Sotheby's on March 1, 2023, lot 121.
The London Sales are just around the corner!— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) February 17, 2023
Discover the full auction catalogues ahead of the sales at #SothebysLondon on 1 & 2 March.
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1937 The Mystical Mosaics of Paul Klee
2020 SOLD for € 4.15M including premium
Influenced by the rhythms of Delaunay, he gives throughout his career a pre-eminence to the movement, which for him is the expression of nature and leads to musicalism. Like Torres Garcia, he mixes figuration with an architectural abstraction. As in Miro's poetic paintings, the title guides the reader a bit. Like Kandinsky, he sought the expressive basics of colors, while mostly studying the confrontation of tones. He tries all patterns and all materials.
Just before leaving Germany where his art will be considered as degenerate, Klee paints surfaces stuctured like mosaics with rectangular elements which can evoke a minimalist urbanism. Stadtburg Kr, oil and tempera on gesso 36 x 30 cm painted in 1932, was sold for £ 2.6M including premium by Sotheby's on June 22, 2011.
Returning to Switzerland which was his native country, Klee is suffering from an incurable disease. His isolation and his anxiety bring him a new phase of great creativity, from 1937 to 1939.
On June 5 in Paris (postponed to June 18), Sotheby's sells Abend in N, oil on muslin 60 x 45 cm painted in 1937, lot 10 estimated € 2M. Considering the fragility of the support, this work is remarkably preserved.
The patchwork of rectangles has an almost absolute regularity, unlike the example above which offered a somewhat swelling rhythm. Some elements are divided in a diagonal. The title directs the viewer to the dark atmosphere of twilight in a city, with an alternation of cold and warm colors.
#BestOf2020 Nos ventes d’art moderne ont proposé des œuvres emblématiques des grands artistes du XXe siècle. Ce tableau de Paul Klee apparaissait pour la première fois sur le marché depuis 60 ans. ´Abend In N’, composition révélatrice de la poésie architecturale de l’artiste. pic.twitter.com/okeDYN50N4— Sotheby's France (@SothebysFr) January 4, 2021
1937 The Armillary Universe of Paul Manship
Outstanding art by Paul Manship is rare at auction. This former assistant to Borglum was most busy in sculpture formonuments and gardens. Inspired by antique symbolism, he can be inscribed in the international trend of the Art Deco period between the two world wars.
Entitled Cycle of Life, a gilded bronze made in 1924 is his most ambitious and most original artwork, listed in thecollections of Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.
The use in large size, 1.20 m in diameter, of the shape of an armillary sphere maintains an undeniable lightness to this structure which is yet carrying multiple cosmographic or metaphysical symbols.
The equator is a strip of the zodiac. Not admitted in the zodiac, gryphons and turtles find their place at the top and at the bottom of the sculpture. Small compared to the universe, three humans reside on the floor of the sphere: parentshoist a praying child.
Cast in reduced size in 1937, a bronze 60 cm in diameter is estimated $ 400K, for sale on September 25 by Nye and Company. This auction house operating in Bloomfield NJ relies on the online bidding platform iGavel Auctions.
1937 CHAGALL QUESTIONING THE REVOLUTION
Marc Chagall is the painter of a light and colorful poetry where he hosts his dreams. His couples in flight, his donkeys, his rabbis, form a dreamlike pictorial vocabulary with which the artist wants to express happiness.
The oil on canvas 63 x 115 cm which is on sale at Bonhams in London on June 22 shatters the preconceptions of lightness that we like to apply to Chagall. It is assumed that he worked it for years and the only certainty we have on the date is that he began to design it in 1937 when Europe was torn by war in Spain.
Titled "La Révolution", it is a political work with a complex symbolism, and an interesting thought on the meaning of life. It is illustrated in the press release shared by FineArtPublicity.
A well lit circus ring separates two worlds. On the left, the dark fighters of the Russian Revolution, on the right the carefree happiness of lovers. On the stage are displayed the rabbi, a thief, animals, artists, a dead man, and a very strange Lenin faced acrobat that perhaps expresses the futility of the serious news of the world.
Chagall did not admire the Revolution, which bothered him. But the symbolism that he developed to show his own place in life was to fascinate him, as he loved this piece which he kept until his death. It is estimated £ 1.2m.
1938 Femme Accoudée
2022 SOLD for £ 12M by Sotheby's
At a first glance it looks like a portrait of a quiet Marie-Thérèse in a rest with her cheek on a fist. Nevertheless, according to the signature play of Pablo with his two mistresses in that year, the face of the woman has a few angular features from Dora.
This portrait was sold for £ 12M by Sotheby's on March 2, 2022, lot 112.
In the next few days, Pablo dissociated his dual mistress in two separate color paintings in the same resting attitude as in the example above. This pair reveals that the December 31 opus had been intentionally painted in gray and white for preventing an identification of the woman by the color of the hair. The artist indeed used at that time to be unfair to Maya's sweet mother.
1938 The Dry Planet
2019 SOLD for £ 3.13M including premium
Tanguy is captivated by De Chirico's stagings where smooth spaces are populated with indefinable objects and robotic characters, under a bright light that generates their much elongated shadows. To create his own universe, he avidly reads books of psychiatry and metaphysics, encouraged by Breton. He has his first solo exhibition in 1927.
Tanguy constructs each artwork without preparatory plan and without preconceived idea, as if he was attending the automatic development of his mental landscape, with a total concentration that probably leads to physical exhaustion.
On June 18 in London, Christie's sells L'extinction des espèces, oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm painted in 1938, lot 14 estimated £ 2.5M.
The artist offers his dreamlike space, dry and bright, populated with scattered robotic elements amidst the shadows of clouds. The ambiguity of the horizon generates an imbalance. The further the objects are, the more they seem to levitate. The title reflects a desire to express an extreme situation, without specific blackness and therefore without premonition of the current-day anxieties about biodiversity.
In the same year, Tanguy meets Kay Sage, an American artist visiting Paris whose surrealist approach is similar to his. After the beginning of the war, Yves joins Kay in the United States where they get married. Their life as a couple is a mixture of exclusive mutual admiration and of violence aggravated by alcohol, exacerbating the psychiatric issues of this artist whose universe had looked like no other.
Yves dies in 1955. Kay is desperate. Le Passage, oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm painted in the following year by Kay Sage, was sold for £ 4.3M including premium by Sotheby's on February 5, 2014 over a lower estimate of £ 70K. Viewed from behind, a shirtless woman looks at an unlimited space.
1938 The White Grounds of L.S. Lowry
2019 sold for £ 1.15m including premium
The short biography above is not enough to reveal that this artist was the best observer of the working class in the north of England and that he led his personal life with a wit out of the ordinary. He defined himself as a Sunday painter who painted every day of the week (after the end of his working day).
He lived for his art and refused honors, including a knighthood proposed by a Labor prime minister.
The background of his images is often a large, dull building, which hides the rest of the city : he had once observed it from the platform of the station where he had just missed his train. His characters are active crowds that come and go, forming a beautiful contrast on a white ground. White is not snow : he had been once upset by an art critic who thought that his palette was too dark. In addition to white, he at first uses only four colors. His colors become more varied after the Second World War.
This social observer is keenly watching the groups of children because they are passionate about their games and politically innocent. On June 18 in London, Sotheby's sells A Cricket Match, oil on canvas 45 x 61 cm painted in 1938, lot 16 estimated £ 800K. The kids improvise a cricket game on a waste ground. Adults are rare : at that time, they are at their workstation. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The artist does not waive encouraging the local football team. He painted in the same year a group of supporters before the match Manchester City vs Sheffield United. Lowry's figures are too caricatural when his characters are in close-up. This 43 x 53 cm oil on canvas passed at Christie's on June 6, 2008 from a lower estimate of £ 700K.
Also painted in 1938, the Fairground, a 45 x 61 cm oil on canvas showing a festive animation, was sold for £ 1.42M including premium by Sotheby's on December 13, 2007
1938 A Real Egyptian Girl
2018 sold for £ 510k including premium
Far away from his daily tasks, this still amateur artist observes the ethnic beauty of ordinary women, first in intimate nudes and then in portraits closer to their everyday life. His great merit is to have revealed the modern pride of Egypt with the techniques of European painting.
On April 18 in London, Bonhams sells as lot 8 an oil on canvas 81 x 58 cm painted in 1938 which was successively titled Fellaha au voile noir and Fille à l'imprimé.
This very young peasant woman with an introverted gaze enters modern life while practicing a hard traditional occupation for her livelihood. Her cheap dress is printed with patterns of brightly colored flowers. Her elbow is resting on an amphora. In the distance, barely perceptible, another herself carries the amphora to take water at the river.
This young person has nothing in common with the mysterious girls of Egypt re-imagined by the European Orientalists. The features of her face and her dark skin are typical of Bedouin groups in the north of the country. This painting was greatly applauded in 1939 at the Salon du Caire, becoming the symbol of the artistic representation of the real Egyptian life.
The second world war slowed down this expectation for modernism. Judge Said continued, becoming a full-time artist in 1947 only.
Please watch the video prepared by Bonhams to introduce the whole sale by positioning modernism in Egyptian history. Fille à l'imprimé is a significant element in that trend.
1938 Femme Assise au Chapeau de Paille
2023 unsold by Christie's
Femme assise au chapeau de paille, painted on July 2, features the beautiful blonde seated with a sweet smile on a chair for enjoying the sunshine. Her face is distorted by the double angle. This oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm expresses this happy atmosphere in light pastel tones over a warm pink background.
It is estimated $ 20M for sale by Christie's on May 11, 2023, lot 28A.
1938 MAYA, MARIE-THERESE AND DORA
Whom did Maya Picasso, the daughter of Pablo, look like? Like her mother, of course, Marie-Thérèse Walter.
In 1938, just some months after Guernica, Maya, aged two and a half years, brings joy to her father. He retained all his life this portrait he did of her, and which is now at Sotheby's in New York on May 5.
At that time, Picasso destructures faces, to provide juxtaposed front and profile visions in the frame of the head. It is the culmination of his research on third dimension and presence on a two-dimensional surface. The simple and clear lines make these portraits disturbing, and it is through them that Picasso was the most known to the general public. The rest of the body and environment are more traditional.
In this sense, our portrait of Maya has many commonalities with Dora Maar au Chat (1941), which has amazed the world of auctions with a result at $ 95 millions charge included at Sotheby's in New York on 3 May 2006.
Both models are sitting, each with an added-on "object": the cat for Dora, a toy boat for Maya. Maya is heightened by bright yellow spots that Dora does not have. Both look to the artist: Maya with a little childish smile, Dora quieter.
Maya will not reach the price of Dora. It is smaller: 73 x 54 cm, compared to 130 x 97 cm for Dora. Its estimated value of $ 16 million seems almost reasonable.
1939 Crab's Claw Ginger
2021 SOLD for $ 7.7M by Phillips
She made a nine week stay in Hawaii in February and March and was not disappointed. She created 22 paintings either in the islands or at home from memory and sketches. Crab's Claw Ginger, featuring a variant of ginger also named heliconia, was one of two images accepted by the customer for the print campaign including ads in Vogue, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines.
This oil on canvas 48 x 41 cm was sold for $ 7.7M from a lower estimate of $ 4M by Phillips on November 17, 2021, lot 9. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The spectacular red flower with a large green leaf is set against an open landscape made of the clouded blue sky, the deep blue ocean and an abstract shore, in opposition of the usual practice of the artist for close surroundings.
1939 The First Visit of Irma Stern to Zanzibar
2014 SOLD 1.08 M£ including premium
Born in Transvaal to German parents, Irma Stern first divides her time between the two continents. Permanently installed afterwards in South Africa, she develops her artistic career with local scenes inspired by the Expressionist style.
Her personal life changes from her divorce in 1934. Passionate about traveling, she meets the inhabitants of the visited regions with an extraordinary empathy and an ethnographic curiosity opened to all cultures. This woman artist seeks to express in her portraits the intimate link between beauty and psychology of her models, men and women.
Irma visits Zanzibar for the first time in 1939. The Muslim life is a perfect theme in her quest. She embeds her portraits in sumptuous frames inspired by the local style.
On March 19 in London, Bonhams sells the close-up portrait of a well dressed woman maintaining a shy reserve despite an undeniable desire to communicate with the artist. This oil on canvas 61 x 52 cm is estimated £ 1M, lot 15 in the catalog.
Irma Stern will make a second trip to Zanzibar in 1945. The psychological portrait of a young seated woman, 87 x 71 cm, was sold for £ 2.37 million including premium by Bonhams on October 26, 2010.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, £ 1.08M including premium, is consistent with the estimate.
1939 The Island of the Muslims
2015 SOLD for £ 840K including premium
Originally trained in the German Expressionism, she realized stereotypical portraits but in a perfect artistic technique with bright colors. Her characters communicate intensely with the viewer, possibly hiding some difficulty of the artist to define her own social position.
Her trip to Dakar in 1938 linked her to a group of Arab ethnicity. In 1939, her first stay in Zanzibar meets a desire of a deep immersion inside a similar community. The population of the island is almost exclusively Muslim. She had the ingenious idea to create her own frames by recuperating or imitating the carved panelings which are a spectacular local art.
Young men are authoritarian and inflexible. The beard is black and turbans are brightly colored. A double portrait in a frame 75 x 97 cm was sold for ZAR 21M including premium by Strauss on September 26, 2011.
The old priest has a thick white beard. His figure was sold for ZAR 17,3M including premium by Strauss on 11 June 2012. A slightly sulky young woman with a straight gaze fetched £ 1,08M (ZAR 19,3M) including premium on March 19, 2014 at Bonhams.
On September 9 in London, Bonhams sells another oil on canvas of the same year, 61 x 51 cm, also within a Zanzibar frame, entitled Arab in black, lot 12 estimated £ 700K. At the lower edge of the image, the hand of the young bearded man is holding the hild of his dagger.
Around 1960 through an auction in Johannesburg, the sister in law of the anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman donated the painting to the benefit of the defendants in the trial of the signers of the Freedom Charter, among whom history retains the names of Luthuli, Sisulu, Mandela and Tambo.
1939 Rivera and the Future of Mexico
The art of Diego Rivera had a revolutionary goal. His large murals are calling for a new social order for his country, Mexico, just out the failures of the civil wars.
Mexicans have a strong cultural and ethnic identity, and its future is in the hands of the children. Diego looks theindigenous children growing up, and Juanita became his favorite model.
In 1939, she is ten years old. She stands barefoot, in long skirt, at the corner of an empty room that reflects herhumble social condition. Innocent and pensive, almost worried, she is preparing for her day's work, with a heavy basket of laundry in one hand and a bale in the other.
This oil on canvas, 121 x 91 cm, is a very good psychological portrait and one of the artist's preferred works.Estimated $ 4M, it is for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 23. Here is the link to the catalog.
1939 SOVIET FLOWERS
Among the artists who began their careers before the October Revolution, some went into exile but others remained in their country. Of these, Piotr Petrovich Konchalovsky is probably the best known. His portraits are arranged in the style of Soviet Realism.
An admirer of Cézanne, he was a specialist of flowers and still lifes. In 1939, on the order of a Soviet office, he made a large oil on canvas, 165 x 229 cm, designed to be widely exhibited in Moscow and Leningrad.
Definitely a masterpiece of the artist, this painting shows four bouquets of flowers, a watering can and a table. It is on sale on August 19 in Deauville, and is shown in the catalog shared by the auction house, Artcurial Deauville. It is estimated 1 million €.
Artcurial Deauville is the Fine Arts department of the Arqana group, whose core business is the auction of racehorses.Indeed the art sale is held immediately after the sale of yearlings managed by Arqana in Deauville from 13 to 16 August.