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Strong Selection of Prints by Modern and Contemporary Masters at Sotheby's
Vampire II by Edvard Munch. Est. £400,000-600,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s autumn sale of Modern and Contemporary Prints will take place on Thursday, 16 September, 2010 and will offer collectors a broad selection of works spanning the twentieth century. Prior to the auction, the sale will be on public exhibition at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries beginning 12 September. The 176 lots are expected to realise in the region of £5.3 million.

Taking centre stage is the group of prints by Pablo Picasso from a Private European Collection, comprising 58 lots (23-81) and estimated to realise in excess of £2.5 million. Three of Picasso’s greatest prints will spearhead this section and these are Le repas frugal (lot 23; est. £120,000-180,000), La Minotauromachie (lot 27, est. £400,000-600,000) and La femme qui pleure (lot 28, est. £500,000-700,000). Each of these works is singularly important in the development of Picasso’s graphic oeuvre, reflecting key themes and demonstrating a mastery of technique that is unsurpassed. Throughout his life, Picasso restlessly explored the medium of the print, employing many techniques, including lithography, linocut, etching and drypoint. The rarity of these prints in a single sale alongside further examples of virtually every technique and style of Picasso’s printmaking represents an unparalled event in the international auction market.

From the same Private European Collection comes a superb lithograph by Henri Matisse, dating to 1925 and entitled Grand Odalisque à la culotte bayadère (lot 13). Estimated at £150,000-200,000, it is the most important and monumental lithograph in which the artist depicts his favourite model Henriette Darricarrère. Matisse had chosen lithography in the 1920s to produce a series of sensual odalisques in exotic settings and the present work shows Henriette seated with one leg raised and tucked under, a pose which fascinated the artist. The play of light and shade and the contrast between the rich textures – the bold stripes of the culotte, the floral pattern of the drapery that covers the chair and the model’s silken skin – all combine to dramatic effect, offset by Henriette’s calm and authorative gaze.

Four works by Edvard Munch – once again from the Private European Collection – demonstrate the collector’s discerning eye for seminal prints by the most important artists of the twentieth century. Vampire II (lot 20) is one of Munch’s most technically complex polychrome prints, combining woodcut and lithograph. The present impression, printed on japon paper – which has the effect of holding the ink on the surface of the paper to give it an exceptional richness – comprises a lithograph printed in black and orange over the woodcut printed in green, blue and ochre. It is estimated at £400,000-600,000. Vampire is one of Munch’s most important and instantly recognisable subjects. Central to the artist’s exploration of the complex and contradictory nature of the human condition, it can be categorised in a series of works exploring the theme of love.

Equally compelling in its strength of imagery is Madonna (lot 18), one of Munch’s most famous and challenging works. The artist’s fascination with life and death, desire and fear is encapsulated in this print. Although the title suggests a religious theme, it is understood that Munch portrays Madonna at the time of conception with the viewer taking the place of her lover. The artist would often create images and themes he would later re-visit to develop and rework in a different medium and with different colour combinations. Madonna is a great example of this, from its inception in paintings and drawings from as early as 1893, through an etching created in 1894 – his first translation of the subject into a print medium – to its further development in 1895 as a black and white lithograph. In 1902 Munch developed the image even further when he created a colour version, first adding the colour stone for the red halo, followed by the subtle blue background colour, and then a light olive-green tone for the torso for the print’s fourth state, as shown in the present lithograph, estimated at £350,000-450,000.

The Sick Child I (lot 19) depicts the tragic death of the artist’s sister, Sophie. The trauma of her death haunted Munch throughout his entire life and is a recurrent and major theme in his graphic and painted works. He began work on a canvas in 1885 and the subject culminated in 1896 in his most famous coloured lithograph, of which this impression focuses on Sophie’s head in the same orientation as the paintings, unlike other prints of the subject which are all in reverse. Munch demonstrated great technical expertise by producing a total of five colour stones which allow a large number of variations, the combination of colours expressing varying psychological moods and generating different emotional responses. The present work, estimated at £150,000-200,000 and printed with four stones in a gradation of red, both resonates with emotion and evokes the bloody signs of the deadly infectious tuberculosis, the disease which claimed the artist’s beloved Sophie. Munch regarded this lithograph as his most important graphic work.

The fourth and final print from the Private European Collection is The Brooch. Eva Mudocci (lot 21, est. £80,000-120,000), a beautiful portrait dating to 1903. Eva Mudocci was a famous British violinist, with whom Munch became acquainted in Paris in 1903. She gave numerous concerts around Europe, also in Norway. Featured within the Contemporary section of the sale are two prints by Andy Warhol which provide a compelling symmetry with the Munch prints to be offered. Warhol’s Eva Mudocci (After Munch) (lot 176) is based on Munch’s lithograph. It was commissioned as an edition print, but was never published. One of an unspecified number of unique colour variants of this image, the present version, dated 1984, is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Warhol’s appropriation of iconic Munch subject matter is taken to its obvious conclusion in The Scream (After Munch), an image that is unanimously identifiable (lot 175, est. £80,000-120,000). Viewed within the context of the pop artist’s exploration of famous images from the history of art, Munch’s seminal masterpiece was the perfect vehicle for Warhol’s vision. Even though his use of the image reveals an inherent reverence to its creator, Warhol’s treatment of the work turns it into a commercial object, available for mass-production and dissemination. Warhol used Munch’s print of The Scream, rather than the painting, as his primary source, at once acknowledging his desire for reproduction.

Following the auction record for a ‘black’ Marilyn Monroe print by the artist, achieved at Sotheby’s in London in April 2010, Sotheby’s autumn sale will present a further example (lot 151, est. £80,000-120,000, illustrated right), alongside three different coloured versions of the iconic figure (lot 152, est. £40,000-60,000; lot 153, est. £60,000-80,000 and the extremely desirable, bright and vibrant lot 154, est. £110,000-150,000). Also figuring prominently are two differently coloured versions of Liz by Warhol (lot 149, est. £12,000-18,000; lot 150, est. £30,000-50,000), one of which is printed without the red background and is extremely rare.

Other important works in the Pop Art section include two prints by Richard Hamilton. Release (lot 133), a screenprint in colour with collage, is estimated at £10,000-15,000, and Picasso’s Meninas (lot 134), an etching from 1973 in homage to Picasso’s reworking of the Velasquez masterpiece, is estimated to bring £15,000-20,000. Keith Haring’s Retrospect, dated 1989, depicts a series of twenty-four different images within the frame (est. £25,000-35,000). A number of examples by Roy Lichtenstein are highlighted by the vibrantly coloured Reverie (lot 142, est. £50,000-70,000).

Featured among the Contemporary offerings are Kate Moss by Bansky (lot 102, est. £25,000-35,000), a screenprint in colour from 2005; Damien Hirst’s red heart butterfly screenprint with diamond dust, All You Need Is Love. Love. Love (lot 154, est. £18,000-22,000), and 12 Etchings by Anish Kapoor (lot 116, est. £25,000-35,000), the complete portfolio from 2007.

Sotheby's | Modern and Contemporary Prints | Pablo Picasso |

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