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Painting by Danish artist Peder Severin Krøyer leads Sotheby's Sale of 19th Century European Paintings
Peder Severin Kr°yer, Oleanders in Bloom, Capri, 1896. Estimate: ú400,000-600,000 (DKK 3.4-5.1 million). Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Danish artist Peder Severin Kr°yer’s love letter to the Amalfi coast is set to lead Sotheby’s 19th Century European Paintings sale in London on 24 May 2018. Painted in 1896, Oleanders in Bloom, Capri distils the architecture, flora, and above all the radiant light of the Italian south. Appearing on the international market for the first time, the painting is estimated to bring ú400,000-600,000 (DKK 3.4-5.1 million).

Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sotheby’s Denmark, said: “We are delighted to be offering this impressionistic masterpiece by Kr°yer to the international market. While Kr°yer’s fame at home in Denmark goes without saying, his aesthetic – with its obvious parallels with John Singer Sargent and the French Impressionists – far transcends his local market, as we saw recently when we sold Wine Harvest in the Tyrol to an American collector in 2016. Timeless luminous views like Oleanders in Bloom, Capri will appeal to collectors around the world.”

Claude Piening, Head of the 19th Century European Paintings Department, London, commented: “We are delighted to be offering Kr°yer’s seminal 1896 painting as the cover lot of our 19th Century European Paintings sale in London on 24 May, one year on from our success selling Vilhelm Hammersh°i’s White Doors to Ordrupgaard. The polar opposite of Hammersh°i’s cool, calm interiors, Kr°yer’s hot, sun-filled impression of Capri in bloom will make have no less of an impact.”

Set against an ultramarine sky, the crimson exuberance of a mature oleander tree dominates the painting in a firework-like burst of flowers. On either side, the wall of a building and the niche of a well to the left act as repoussoirs framing the scene, leading the eye into a veritable ‘symphony in white’. Below this the contrasting vermillion flowers of a pot of martagon lilies connect the oleander to the lower half, and to the row of pot plants along the ledge. The apparent simplicity of the scene is animated by countless closely observed details, from the copper bucket and its sinuously flowing rope lying next to the wet ground, to the delicately fallen petals strewn along the path, and even the sleeping cat – the very embodiment of southern dolce far niente.

Dating from three years after Summer Evening on Skagen’s South Beach, the artist’s ‘blue period’ masterpiece, Oleanders in Bloom, Capri represents a culmination of Kr°yer’s Impressionistic ambitions in free use of colour and assured brushwork. While Kr°yer’s oeuvre is defined in the public imagination by his views of Skagen on the north coast of Jutland, the luminosity of his art would be unthinkable without his experience of the light of the south. The work can even be seen as a development of the white draperies and deep blue skies of the Skagen works, transposed to Italy.

Smaller studies from this time reveal Kr°yer’s burgeoning interest in the tonal harmonies of bright sun on whitewashed walls, such as Cloister (Skagens Museum), or The Bay at Amalfi. View from Albergo della Luna (The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen). The artist is even said to have whitewashed his studio on his return to Denmark from one of these journeys, the better to recreate the dazzling light.

Kr°yer and his wife Marie arrived in Capri on 10 June 1896, remaining there at least until the end of August. Italy generally, and especially the island of Capri, had a special significance for the couple as they had honeymooned there some six years earlier, during extended travels via Florence, Rome, and Naples. In 1890 they made at least three separate short trips to the island, in February, July, and October, a journey which inspired the more Impressionistic handling visible in his work in the following decade.

Key among the Skagen works of this decade is Summer Evening on Skagen’s South Beach of 1893, a work which captures the carefree existence and cosmopolitan elegance that defined the painting community in Skagen. Compellingly evocative of the end of the nineteenth century, the image has proved enduringly popular; its lyricism continues to resonate in the imagination to this day, not only across Denmark but the world-over. Depicting Marie Kr°yer, the painter's wife, with Anna Ancher arm in arm walking along the shore on Skagen's South Beach, the scene was inspired by a post-dinnerparty stroll with Kr°yer and Marie, fellow Skagen artists Michael and Anna Ancher, and authors Otto Benzon and Sophus Schandorph and their wives.

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