Zurich sale of Swiss Art on 30th May will celebrate the muses of Swiss painting in a selection featuring the principal movements of the discipline, from Ferdinand Hodlers masterpiece Femme joyeuse to Félix Vallottons realistic nudes and Daniele Buettis enigmatic Kate Moss. Estimated between 11 and 14 million Swiss francs, the 128-lot sale also comprises important landscapes by Vallotton and works by eminent Swiss artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, including Cuno Amiet, Albert Anker, Ernest Biéler, Augusto and Giovanni Giacometti.
Commenting on the sale, Urs Lanter, Head of Sothebys Swiss Art Department said: « Recent sales have witnessed an increasing interest in Swiss Art from international collectors, and most notably for works by important artists like Hodler and Vallotton, recognised far beyond the Swiss borders. We are therefore delighted to be able to present Femme Joyeuse, one of Hodlers most impressive and beautiful figure compositions whose extraordinary quality is matched by an impeccable provenance. This masterpiece and all the other works reflect the wealth and diversity of Swiss Art and will, without doubt, generate excitement beyond traditional collectors ».
Swiss Art Muses
The sale will be spearheaded by Femme joyeuse (Joyful Woman), the first in a series of five works on this theme produced by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1919) between 1909 and 1911. The subject of this monumental canvas one of the most powerful figure compositions by the great Swiss painter is Valentine Godé-Darel (1873-1915), who had been the object of Hodlers adoration since he first met her in 1908. Fascinated by the young womans beauty and spirit, the artist went on to depict her in most of his portraits, pushing the limits of portraiture to represent his mistress agony and death in 1915.
Femme joyeuse shows Valentine at the height of her beauty and reflects a recurrent theme in Hodlers symbolist oeuvre: the communion of man with nature. A series of illustrious collectors have been quick to recognise the importance of this exceptional work. In 1909, the painting was bought directly from Hodler by the Winterthur industrialist and art collector Richard Bühler. In 1936 it entered the important collection of the Swiss chemist Arthur Stoll. At the death of the latter, the work went to a private collection. Estimated at CHF 2.5-3 million (1,890,000-2,260,000), this masterpiece has not been seen in public since the 1976 exhibition at the Kunsthaus, Zurich, A Painter of Love and Death Ferdinand Hodler and Valentine Godé-Darel (lot 72).
Contemplazione (Tranquility), a major work by Augusto Giacometti reaches a further level in the symbolist theme of the « dialogue of man with nature » by representing three female figures in ecstasy whose bodies merge into a mystical mountain landscape. Dating from 1907, this monumental canvas carries an estimate of CHF 600,000-800,000/ 452,000-605,000
The female figure appears in all its sensuality in a magnificent life-size nude by the celebrated Impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933). Theodora explores the classical motive of the reclining female nude, while warm colours foster an atmosphere of intimacy. Realised in 1914, this work has not been exhibited since 1921 and is offered for sale with an estimate of CHF 1,200,000-1,600,000/ 905,000-1,210,000 (lot 87).
Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) considered women as « the mans terrifying partner in crime » and his realistic depiction of female nudity often relies on a playful use of classic academism combined with a sense of cynical irony. In Femme nue agenouillée devant un canapé rouge (Naked woman kneeling in front of a red couch) dating from 1915, the voluptuousness of the models body, inspired by Ingres contour lines, contrasts with the womans posture and the dissonance of her orange hair on the red sofa. This probably betrays the artists sadness and anger with World War I. Lot 37 in the sale, this work bears an estimate of CHF 500,000-700,000/ 377,000-530,000.
This ambivalence, typical of Vallottons nudes, also appears in Femme à la rose (Woman with rose). Estimated at CHF 100,000-150,000/ 75,000-113,000, the 1914 painting features a young woman sitting in a traditional portrait posture but whose innocence is immediately denied by her nudity and the roses provocative position (lot 27).
The subject of Jeune fille peignant (Young Girl painting) is Vallottons friend Hélène Chatenay. This work belongs to a group of three works which mark the culmination of the artists first realist period, i.e. before woodcut started influencing his painting. Realised in 1892, during the summer that Vallotton spent in Ballancourt-sur-Essone with Hélène and the printmaker Félix Jasinski, it is estimated at CHF 120,000-150,000/ 90,500-113,000 (lot 19).
A testimony to the great inspiration that Ernest Biéler (1863-1948) found in his country, the Canton of Valais, the realist portrait of Deux Valaisannes au paysage dhiver (Two women from the Valais in a winter landscape) pays tribute to the traditional figure of the « Valaisanne » (lot 25, est. CHF 150,000-200,000/ 113,000-151,000), while Daniele Buetti, one of todays most exciting Swiss artists celebrates Kate Moss beauty in a mesmerising colour photograph. Enhanced with ball-point pen the artists signature, Looking for love, 1996-2000 is offered for sale with an estimate of CHF 6,000-8,000/ 4,550-6,100 (lot 123).
Following the sale of a prestigious collection of works by Vallotton in December 2010, Mays sale will bring together a group of 13 works by the celebrated artist, including portraits, nudes, still-lifes but also landscapes which occupy a major place in the oeuvre of Vallotton.
The Dordogne in Vitrac (La Dordogne à Vitrac) is perhaps one of Vallottons most accomplished composed landscapes a technique described in the artists Livre de raison as the result of a painting freed from a strict depiction of nature, a couple of large evocative lines, one or two details chosen without exactitude of time and lighting allowing him « to recompose landscapes from the memory of the emotionthey evoked. Painted in June 1925, after a stay in Dordogne, this work captures Vallottons enduring fascination with the silence and timelessness of nature. This exceptional work was once in the collection of the great French art lover Georges Renand and returns on the market with an estimate of CHF 400,000-600,000/ 302,000452,000 (lot 62).
A further testimony to Vallottons art of landscape, The Wood of Boulogne (Bois de Boulogne) underpins the inspiration that the artist found in the Parisian park over the seasons from 1903 until his last work. Painted in 1921, this composition featuring a stream running through undergrowth is animated by two male figures, the left one probably being Vallotton himself (lot 38, est. CHF 300,000-500,000/ 226,000-377,000).
View over Honfleur in the Evening, (Vue dHonfleur, le soir) reflects another source of inspiration in Vallottons work: the Côte de Grâce in Normandy where he spent numerous summers. Dating from 1912 and featuring a birds eye view of onfleur and the Seine estuary, this work is the largest of five on the same theme (lot 52, est. CHF 650,000-750,000/ 490,000-565,000).
In addition to Vallottons landscapes, the sale features a magnificent landscape by Ferdinand Hodler, Walk along the border of a wood (Spaziergang am Waldrand) estimated at CHF 380,000-450,000 / 287,000-339,000 (lot 15) and an outstanding portrait of the Zaeslin Siblings (Die Geschwitzer Zaeslin) painted in 1896 by Albert Anker (1831-1910), one of the most important Swiss artists of the time (lot 9, est. 600,000-800,000/ 452,000-605,000).
Other highlights in the sale encompass works by major Swiss painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Cuno Amiet, Gustave Buchet, François Bocion and Louis Soutter. A leading Art brut artist, Soutter is represented by Filet et pneu, a finger painting from the artists most sought-after period. Lot 97 in the sale, this group of persons with tyre is estimated at CHF 100,000-150,000/ 75,500-113,000.
Reflecting the dynamism and variety of the 20th century Swiss artistic scene, the section devoted to contemporary art will be highlighted by a rich selection of photographs by leading representative in the discipline: René Burri, Daniel Schwartz and Daniele Buetti (lot 123, Looking for Love, 1996-2000).
Sothebys Zurich, Talstrasse 83
Monday, 30 May 2011 at 6pm
Sothebys Geneva, Hôtel Beau-Rivage
14-16 May 2011, from 10am to 6pm
17 May 2011, from 10am to 4pm
Sothebys Zurich, Talstrasse 83
27-29 May 2011, from 10am to 6pm