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Sotheby's to offer Francis Bacon's final portrait of his lover and muse, George Dyer
Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait Signed, titled and dated 1981 on the reverse. Oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas, 78 by 58 in. Executed in 1981. Estimate $12/18 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced that works from the Gerald L. Lennard Foundation Collection will highlight its marquee auctions of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art this May in New York. The Gerald L. Lennard Foundation’s interests include helping to promote programs involving visual and performing arts, healthcare, education and environmental sustainability. Proceeds from the sale of the 37 works presented will help to benefit the Foundation’s mission now and in the future.

Passionately assembled by successful commodities trader Gerard L. Lennard primarily in the 1970s and ‘80s, the collection features a number of evocative works executed by artists working at the peak of their powers. Highlights include: Willem de Kooning’s Untitled X, a stunning example from the group of works created in 1975 that marked the artist’s transition from a period of radical experimentation to the lush abstracts which are among his most celebrated and sought after works today (estimate $8/12 million); Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait, the last of the artist’s famed portraits of his lover and muse George Dyer (estimate $12/18 million); the most comprehensive group of late works by Philip Guston ever to appear at auction, including Legs, Rug, Floor from 1976 (estimate $6/8 million) and Red Sky from 1978 (estimate $6/8 million); and signature portraits by Frank Auerbarch depicting his wife Julia Wolstenhome and his friend Catherine Lampert.

Works from the collection by Francis Bacon, Philip Guston, Frank Auerbach and Max Beckmann are now on view in Sotheby’s London galleries through 8 March. Additional highlights will travel to Hong Kong and Los Angeles before returning to New York for the exhibitions of Contemporary Art and Impressionist & Modern Art, opening to the public in Sotheby’s expanded and reimagined galleries in New York.

Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, commented: “Gerald Lennard was a devoted collector who actively sought works of extraordinary emotional and psychological weight, which ultimately demonstrates their essential humanity. His personal integrity and honesty are matched by these grand explorations of the human condition – upon entering his New York apartment, visitors were immediately greeted by a fantastic trilogy of works by Guston that fully embodied this ethos. It is an honor to present Gerald’s vision to collectors and connoisseurs this spring.”

Saara Pritchard, Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York, said: “From the extraordinary group of late works by Philip Guston to de Kooning’s staggering 1975 composition and Francis Bacon’s final portrait of George Dyer, Gerry Lennard assembled a bold collection that is a great testament to his distinct eye and impressive legacy. The collection embraces the avant-garde spirit of the artists represented and reflects the taste of an intrepid collector, one who gravitated towards artists who were never afraid to challenge the orthodoxy and move against the grain. The decision to sell the collection together in New York, which is comprised of artists from the London school as much as those largely New York based, was informed by the powerful dialogue between the works. It is our privilege to tell the story of this visionary New York collector through this truly singular collection.”

Laura Paulson, Advisor to the Gerald L. Lennard Foundation, said: “Gerry was a passionate collector with a singular eye who delighted in the strength and beauty of each work he owned. He was a fixture in the New York art galleries from the mid-1970s throughout the 1990s, often accompanied by his close friend and fellow collector David Workman. Indeed, Gerry and David proved to be a formidable team. Gerry forged long and meaningful relationships with some of the most important galleries and art dealers of the time including Marlborough Gallery, David McKee and Xavier Fourcade which had a profound influence on this great collection.”


May 2019

A group of four paintings by Philip Guston from the 1960s and ‘70s represent the finest assemblage of the artist’s late work ever to appear at auction. The group is highlighted by Legs, Rug, Floor from 1976 – a quintessential expression of the tough and groundbreaking figurative style which came to define Guston’s career (estimate $6/8 million). The work exemplifies the innovative paintings that he produced after decades of acclaim as a master of abstract expressionism, replacing his hallmark aesthetic with bold, stylistic and symbolically charged figurative pictures. The tangled limbs, clustered shoe soles and looming clock face of the present work are among the most iconic motifs of this period, marking the very best of the artist’s late output and legacy as one of the most innovative painters of the 20th century.

Guston’s Red Sky from 1978 is highlighted by its notable exhibition history, having been included in the artist’s seminal retrospective in 2003, which travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth (estimate $6/8 million). Impressive in scale and impact, this powerful painting encapsulates many of the themes from the final years of the artist’s oeuvre. Guston’s venture back into figuration in the 1970s afforded him a newfound visual vocabulary, which he used to more accurately convey his attitude toward the social and political atmosphere at the time. In Red Sky, Guston references the student riots which took place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. This grave historical event was marked by excessive police brutality which unfolded before an international audience.

Painted in lush tones of blue, gray and pink and exhibited in Guston’s mid-career retrospective in 1964 organized by Sam Hunter for the Guggenheim Museum, Outdoors (estimate $1/1.5 million) is the most significant of the 1960s abstractions to come to auction, and together with his Untitled painting, depicting two “hooded figures”, round out this exceptional group (estimate $250/350,000).

Untitled X from 1975 encapsulates the full force of Willem de Kooning’s abstract vernacular - through each visceral swath, smear, drip and blow, the artist here asserts his total mastery of this medium (estimate $8/12 million). Executed in the year that de Kooning sensationally immersed himself in painting, this work belongs to an outpouring of creativity that produced an illustrious group of large-scale, color-saturated canvases that rank among the finest achievements of his career. Of this group - all produced in just six months - the present work is exceptional for the sheer force of its painterly conviction, the variety of its luscious brushstrokes, emphatic mark-making and violent flecks of paint, all conveyed in a breathtaking palette of navy, cream, lavender, and maroon.

Francis Bacon depicted his lover and muse George Dyer in more than 40 paintings, with as many created following his death as executed during his lifetime. Within that canon, Study for Portrait is distinguished as the very last painting of Dyer that Bacon ever executed (estimate $12/18 million). Monumental in its scale, and both seductive as well as somber, the present work encompasses the full range of their thrilling and intense relationship: at once vulnerable, brooding, romantic, heroic and tortured, the portrait reveals a multifaceted, tempestuous, and passionate love affair, as well as an artistic genius grappling with a highly charged and expressive artistic vocabulary.

A relentless self-editor, Bacon not only destroyed many of his paintings, but he also reworked and continually altered what had originally been dubbed ‘completed’, and Study for Portrait is notable as one of the most drastically reworked paintings that Bacon ultimately kept.

Works by British artist Frank Auerbach will also highlight our Contemporary Art auctions this May, including two important portraits painted at the height of his artistic powers, Head of Julia (pictured right, estimate $600/800,000) and Head of Catherine Lampert (estimate $350/450,000). A familiarity and understanding of his sitter’s psyche are a pivotal part of Auerbach’s oeuvre, which revolved around an attempt to whittle a small group of sitters in order to create works that speak to the artist’s own personality along with his subjects and executed both works with dense layered brushstrokes built over time to reveal dazzling color within each layer. Exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in the artist’s 2001 retrospective, Head of Julia depicts a portrait of the artist’s wife, Julia Wolstenhome. Executed with directness in the way Auerbach paints her, the work epitomizes his own unique aesthetic, while also illustrating the influence of American Expressionism on his work. Head of Catherine Lampert is a portrait of the artist’s old friend, key spokesperson and reviewer, resulting in a work with intense familiarity between artist and subject.

May 2019

Max Beckmann’s Liegender Akt In Starker Verkürzung (Reclining Nude Sharply Foreshortened) exemplifies the bold psychological portraits the artist executed in the last decade of his career (estimate $3/5 million). Having endured years of war and occupation in exile from his native Germany, the danger and confinement he experienced during World War II gave rise to one of the artist’s greatest periods of invention. Following his immigration to the United States, Beckmann’s work conjured a newly-found sense of liberation and autonomy, while retaining the sheer exuberance of his commanding imagery and bravura technique that set him apart as a contemporary visionary. His mature works mark a combination of everyday reality which makes palpable an assumed strangeness and fantasy, evident in the present work.

In addition, the Impressionist Day Sale will be highlighted by a superb group of works on paper, led by Gino Severini’s Sino Titilo, and sculptures by Jean Arp, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz and Henry Moore which reflect Gerald Lennard’s deep love of all medium and strong forms.

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