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Sotheby’s To Sell Works from Hester Diamond Collection

NEW YORK.- On November 4, 2004 Sotheby’s will present for sale six extraordinary Modern works of art from the esteemed collection of Hester Diamond. Highlighting the offering are paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, each estimated to bring more than $20 million. Important paintings by Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and an iconic sculpture by Constantin Brancusi will also be included in the single owner offering which is estimated to bring in excess of $65 million.

Charles Moffett, Co-Director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s, said, "These six Modern masterworks from the collection of Hester Diamond rank among the best to have appeared on the market in the last 30 years. Together, Ms. Diamond and her late husband, Harold, had an unerring eye for quality. They focused their collecting on only the finest examples by any given artist. Of the works being offered, the rarity, size and quality of both the Mondrian and Kandinsky will be regarded by the market as exceptional opportunities; the Brancusi depicts one of the artist’s most popular and enduring themes; the Léger of 1919 was painted during the same period as the artist’s renowned The City, which resides in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the two paintings by Picasso are exceptional examples from his Cubist and Classical periods. The overall quality of the group is outstanding, and any museum or private collector would be honored to have any or all of them."

About the Collector - For more than forty years, Modern Art was Hester Diamond’s passion and she strove to have the best quality collection possible. Following her retirement fifteen years ago, she began to study and collect Renaissance art. This now has become her passion, and she is engaged in building and enhancing that collection, hence her decision to sell her Modern art. Over the last fifteen years Ms. Diamond has collected 14th, 15th, and 16th century Northern European and Italian works at a very high level. She has acquired paintings and sculpture by Veronese, Pontormo, Dosso Dossi, Luis de Morales, Joos van Cleve, and Gianlorenzo Bernini to name a few. Her most recent purchase was a beautiful oil sketch by Federico Barocci which is a study for the head of St. Joseph in the Visitation at the Chiesa Nuova Rome. In connection with this interest, she helped found The Medici Archive Project. She also has a close relationship with the Department of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Frick Collection.

Six Works from The Collection of Hester Diamond - Wassily Kandinsky’s Skizze für sintflut II (Sketch for Deluge II), created in 1912 at the height of the artist’s involvement with the avant-garde Expressionist group, Der Blaue Reiter, is one of the canvases that established Kandinsky’s signature style among the avant-garde in Europe. Like most of the paintings that he completed during this critically important moment of his career, Sketch for Deluge II is provocatively abstract and yet retains references to natural forms. Kandinsky floods the surface of the canvas with opaque and translucent colors and amorphous forms appear to explode, overlap, and evaporate beyond the boundaries of the picture plane. The goal of Kandinsky’s art of this period, in the painter’s own words, was "to awaken as yet nameless feelings of a finer nature." It is with these grand canvases, pulsating with color, that the artist attempted to create a new aesthetic experience for the 20th century. Mr. Moffett noted that, "not only will this picture be sought-after for its quality, size and rarity, but also for its positioning at the emergence of Abstract painting in the 20th century." This transformative realization occurred in Kandinsky’s art about 1911 and coincided with his involvement with Der Blaue Reiter. Founded by Kandinsky and Franz Marc in 1911, this group of painters emphasized the importance of abstraction and the primacy of color as a means of expression in art.

New York/ Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian is the first of the artist’s legendary Boogie-Woogie series and one of only three works completed during the years that he lived in New York (1940-1944). New York/ Boogie Woogie, which was begun in 1941 and completed the following year, was strongly influenced by the artist’s experience of the sights and sounds of New York City. Mondrian was enraptured by the lure of Manhattan, its urban landscape unlike anything he had ever experienced in Europe. The linearity of the skyline and the grid of its streets created an environment that seemed to be a living example of Mondrian’s theories of Neo-Plasticism that he promoted in the 1920s and 1930s, and the neon signs of Times Square and the pulsing.  rhythm of New York jazz enlivened the spirit of his paintings during these years. Working in New York until his death in 1944, Mondrian produced canvases that demonstrated a fresher and more developed application of his original aesthetic. These paintings are considered the most innovative works of his career and ultimately came to define urban modernism in the 20th century.

An additional highlight from the collection of Hester Diamond is The Kiss by Constantin Brancusi from circa 1908, the only version of this iconic work remaining in private hands. After walking to Paris from Rumania in 1904 by way of Budapest, Vienna, Munich and Langres, Brancusi rapidly abandoned the academic style that he had perfected during his student years at the Bucharest Academy of Fine Arts, and in 1907-8 carved his first version of The Kiss. The present sculpture, carved in limestone, is the second version of that theme which dominated the artist’s work for five decades. The theme of the kiss, the fusion of souls, had been a major source of inspiration to Symbolist artists throughout Europe. Passionate  kisses can be found in the work of Peter Behrens, Edvard Munch and above all in the celebrated painting by Gustav Klimt. This small but exquisitely calibrated stone sculpture measures just under one foot high and is estimated to sell for $8/12 million.

Fernand Léger’s Le Disque Rouge was painted in 1919, the same year as the most monumental of Léger’s post-war paintings, The City. Discharged from the army, Léger turned to life in the rapidly industrializing modern city as the subject matter of his paintings. After celebrating specific events such as Le 14 Juillet à Vernon and the end of the war in L’Armistice, Léger painted a series of works on more generic modern themes as well as an extended sequence of works in which the form of a disk is the principal element. In the present work, the disk is one element among many abstract forms, vertical, horizontal and diagonal bands of color, spheres and less clearly definable shapes that coexist with glimpses of modern urban architecture and the anonymous citizens who animate it. This brilliant celebration of the machine age is estimated to sell for $3.5/4.5 million.

During the early 1920s, Pablo Picasso completed several compositions of bathers on a beach, including the present painting, Baigneur et baigneuses, which was painted in  1921. The theme would be the most significant of his production of these years, and provided a setting for his exploration of the human form. A dramatic departure from the highly abstract Cubist compositions that had occupied him a decade earlier, these pictures of bathers capitalized on the clarity of form and were indebted to the influence of Classical sculpture and Old Master painting, but more especially the work of Paul Cézanne and Aristide Maillol. While the identity of the figures in the present work is not specified, it can be assumed that the man, with his dark features and compact stature, is likely a self-portrait of the artist, who was nearly 40 at the time he completed this work. The women in this painting, as well as in many of the canvases that Picasso completed during the 1920s, were usually a composite of the women in Picasso’s life during this time: his wife, Olga; his son’s nannies; his former fiancée, Irène Legut; and, at the end of 1921, the captivating American expatriate, Sara Murphy. The present work is estimated to sell for $8/12 million. 


Pablo Picasso’s Cubist still-life, Dés, verre, bouteille de Bass, carte à jouer et carte de visite will also be offered. Of all of the manifestations of Picasso’s art throughout his long career, his Cubist compositions are among his most inventive and aesthetically original. Picasso, along with Georges Braque, pioneered this artistic movement and introduced the avant-garde to new levels of pictorial abstraction. Still-lifes were usually the favored subjects of these depictions, and never before had this age-old theme been interpreted with such a radical approach. Picasso experimented with the deconstruction and reconstruction of form and the manipulation of space in these compositions, exposing the physical properties of the objects he was depicting. The present work, executed in 1914 and estimated to sell for $1.5/2.5 million, is a wonderful rendition of this objective. In this painting, Picasso presents the objects on the table as they would appear from several different vantage points, providing a spectacle that would not otherwise be possible in a two-dimensional representation.

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