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Topography of Swiss Art: The great names of Swiss painting through key places in their oeuvre at Sotheby's
Giovanni Giacometti, Valle Fiorita, 1912/1924. Oil on canvas, 74 x 82 cm. Est. CHF 1.200.000-1.800.000 (€1.000.000-1.500.000). Photo: Sotheby's.

ZURICH.- On 4 June 2012, Sotheby’s Zurich Swiss Art sale will celebrate iconic places that inspired the greatest Swiss artists of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, from the Seeland region at the heart of Albert Anker’s oeuvre to the Engadin Valley that inspired some of Giovanni Giacometti’s most beautiful landscapes, and the village of Savièse – the location of a school of painting. Estimated in excess of CHF 9 million, the sale will include 97 lots which have been meticulously selected for their very high quality and rarity. Among them are major works by Ferdinand Hodler and Cuno Amiet.

“Swiss art has witnessed an increasing international interest over the past years”, comments Urs Lanter, Head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Departments. “Important retrospective exhibitions dedicated to great figures of the discipline have taken place in Switzerland, Europe and the United States and brought to a wider audience the richness and great diversity of this art. This growing recognition goes hand in hand with the arrival on the market of more and more international collectors who are attracted by the very high quality of major Swiss art works”.

Commenting on the forthcoming sale, Stéphanie Schleining Deschanel, Director of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Department, added: “We are delighted to be able to present a selection of works which come from important private collections and have very rarely, if not ever, appeared on the market. The sale on the June 4th pays tribute to the strong identity of Swiss Art, while also underlining the universality of the oeuvre of artists like Anker, Giacometti, Hodler and Biéler whose artistic talent transcends the discipline and allow them to be part of important international collections”.

Following the auction records achieved by works by Albert Anker (1831‐1910) in 2011, the June sale will be led by a group of 11 works by the Swiss Master. Featuring all the media the artist excelled at, from oil painting to drawing and watercolour, these works reflect the lifelong inspiration that Anker found in the people and the surroundings of the Seeland region, in the area of Bern. Childhood ‐ a recurring theme in Anker’s oeuvre – is represented in three important works. The first, Schulknabe is an oil portrait of a school boy painted circa 1875 (lot 6, est. CHF 1,5‐2 million/ €1,250,000‐1,670,000). Typical of Anker’s portraits, this work magnificently captures the psychology of the sitter and his interior world.

His background as a theologian gave Anker faith in humankind. In his portraits, the face is often a reflection of the soul, as exemplified in Mädchenbildnis. Dating from 1885, this oil portrait of a young girl displays the virtuosity of the realist painter (lot 13, est. CHF 1,200,000‐1,800,000/ €1,000,000‐1,800,000).

In 1866, Albert Anker received a gold medal from the Paris salon for a painting featuring a sleeping girl. This theme inspired many of his works, including Schlafendes Mädchen auf einer Holzbank, a magnificent oil on canvas painted circa 1900 which captures in a unique way the peace of mind and innocence of childhood (lot 18, est. CHF 1,000,000‐1.500.000/ €835,000‐1,250,000).

If the Seeland region and its inhabitants are at the core of Anker’s oeuvre, the Engadin Valley – situated at the centre of the Alpine range – has been a source of constant inspiration for Giovanni Giacometti (1868‐1933). On his return from Paris and Germany, the master of Swiss impressionism found in the light and colours of the surroundings of his village of Capolago the inspiration to develop his art. In the summer of 1924, the blooming fields of the area of the Maloja pass were of such beauty that the painter decided to rework a painting he had realised in 1912 for an exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Basel in 1913. Displaying Giacometti’s talent at its best, this final version of Valle Fiorita has passed through several prestigious collections, including the Brodbeck‐ Sandreuter Collection in 1925 and the Arthur Stoll Collection in 1957 (lot 41, CHF 1,200,000‐1,800,000/ €1,000,000‐1,500,000).

In 1932, just a year before his death, Giovanni Giacometti painted Paesaggio d’autunno, a monumental autumn landscape (120 x 150 cm) featuring a view from a high Alpine plateau near the village of Siglio (lot 64, est. CHF 1,000,000‐1,500,000/ €835,000‐1,250,000). Here, the painter found the sun, which he considered « one the main forces in his life » and a central element of his work on light and colour. In addition, when he painted Paesaggio d’autunno, Giacometti certainly had in mind his mentor and friend Giovanni Segantini who produced many views of the Siglio surroundings in the last years of his life.

Testament to Giovanni Giacometti’s work on light and colours is also Waldweg, an oil on canvas featuring a shadowy forest path. Dating from 1917, this work ‐ thought to have disappeared – remained in a private collection since the 1930s and has never been exhibited (lot 36, est. CHF 500,000‐700,000/ €417,000‐585,000).

The Savoy Alps occupy an important place in Ferdinand Hodler’s oeuvre. Between 1909 and 1915, the Swiss master paid many visits to his model Jeanne Charles Cerani‐Cisic in the French region of Haute Savoie. During his stay in Bonneville in 1909, he created Wasserfall in Savoyen (Waterfall in Savoy) (lot 28, est. CHF 400,000‐600,000/ €334,000‐500,000). Exhibited at Wiesbaden Aktuaryus Fair in 1913, this oil on canvas contains all of the key characteristics of Hodler’s iconography: the monumentality of the forms, the parallelism of the composition and the representation of water and stones that reached its apotheosis in a landscape featuring a torrent near Champéry which Hodler painted in 1916.

Jeanne Charles Cerani‐Cisic is also represented with Einzelfigurstudie
zu “Blick In Die Unendlichkeit” ‐ a study of a figure for “Gaze into
infinity”, a mural painting commissioned to Hodler by the Kunsthaus,
Zurich in 1910 (lot 35, est. CHF 200,000‐300,000/ €167,000‐250,000).

Savièse ‐ another important place in Swiss Art ‐ was the location of a School which gathered about twenty artists in the early 20th century. Led by Ernest Biéler (1863‐1948), represented in the sale by Paysage valaisan (Landscape of the Valais region) (lot 21, est. CHF 50,000‐70,000/ €41,700‐58,500), the school of Savièse « was not a school of painting in the strict sense of the term »1. The artists that belonged to it found inspiration in the beauty and the authenticity of rural life in the area of Savièse and were committed in creating art in response to the growing industrialisation of their environment.

Among these artists was Raphy Dallèves (1878‐1940) who distinguished himself through his perfect mastery of the tempera technique, as shown in Jeunes Valaisannes au parc aux chèvres, a composition from 1911 depicting an idyllic rural scene in which the human being live in perfect harmony with nature and animals (lot 22, CHF 220,000‐260,000/ €184,000‐217,000).

The garden is the subject of some of the finest works in the sale. Cuno Amiet’s artistic range (1868‐1961) is demonstrated with two works: Rosenbäumchen (The Small Rose Trees) (lot 40, est. CHF 60,000‐80,000/€50,000‐67,000) and Rosengarten (The Rose Garden) (lot 50, est. CHF 40,000‐60,000/ €33,400‐50,000), painted respectively in 1933 and 1935.

The Swiss Expressionist School is represented by a superb oil on canvas by Max Sulzbachner (1904‐1985). Painted in 1928, Blumengarten (The Flower Garden) is estimated at CHF 20,000‐30,000 (€16,700‐25,000) (lot 63).

Some Swiss artists travelled through foreign countries in pursuit of their art. Maurice Barraud (1889‐1954), for example, was inspired by the colours of the South of France in La Colline Sainte Croix, Cassis (lot 71, CHF 3,000‐5,000/ €2,500‐4,200) and the luminosity of an Arabic market in Marché arabe (lot 39, est. CHF 2,000‐3,000/ € 1,700‐2,500).

Interiors have a stronger evocative power than landscapes for artists like Marius Borgeaud (1861‐1924), one of the most gifted painters of his generation. Produced in 1920, Table rouge avec glycines (Red table with wisterias) captures the timelessness and quality of light that characterise the artist’s oeuvre (lot 55, est. CHF 40,000‐60,000/ €33,400‐50,000).

1 Michel Lehner, Les Peintres de Savièse, Ed. Skira, 1982

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