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Sotheby's to Hold Selling Exhibition of Impressionist and Modern Art
Pablo Picasso, Jeune fille aux cheveux noirs (Dora Maar) 1939. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- In response to the increasing interest throughout Asia and especially within China in the field of Impressionist and Modern art, Sotheby’s announced a major selling exhibition to be held this autumn. Modern Masters: Impressionism and Early 20th Century Art will comprise approximately 20 works representing many of the most important artists active in Europe from the late 19th and early 20th century and who left an indelible impression on art history, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas, among others. The exhibition will preview in Beijing from 22-25 October 2010 and will then move on to Hong Kong from 26-28 November 2010. The works included in this exhibition are priced from US$2 million to $25 million (HK$15.6 to $195 million).

“This exciting event is both a first for Sotheby's and for China,” said Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby's Asia. “We have been impressed by the interest in the field of Impressionist and Modern Art from within China and across Asia in our recent auctions. While we will continue to serve this market through our regular auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art in London and New York, mounting a selling exhibition specifically for the Asian market consisting of high quality works from significant artists in this field is a unique opportunity for our many clients in the region. Asian collectors have historically shown considerable interest in other Sotheby’s selling exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture - at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, UK and Isleworth Country Club in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. We look forward to bringing this assembly of works directly to our discerning Asian clients, and continuing to develop enthusiasm among collectors for this important field."

“Throughout history, the passion of collectors has been a key factor in the development of art and the art market,” commented David Norman, Co-Chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Department Worldwide. “The most exciting and active growth in collecting today is occurring in China and other countries in Asia. As a result, we wanted to bring great works of art directly and exclusively to that audience. We have selected representative examples by many of the most important artists of the movement including some of the most beloved and important subjects by the respective artists, such as Monet’s Haystacks, Renoir’s Portraits and Bathers and Chagall’s depictions of the Circus. The exhibition will also present a more in depth view of certain artists such as Picasso, and will include works from many of the different phases of his career – his romantic, early Blue Period; the radical experiments of Cubism which were then followed by the Neoclassicism of the 1920s; a depiction of his most famed lover, Dora Maar; and, finally, his great, late Expressionist paintings created after 1960. We look forward to exhibiting these wonderful works of art, discussing and sharing our enthusiasm with our clients, and learning more about their interests as we plan new exhibitions for the future.”

Exhibition Highlights
Mère Tenant un Enfant (La Maternité) is arguably one of the most significant paintings of Picasso’s early career. Not only does the work represent the burgeoning of the artist’s coveted “Blue Period”, it is also among the earliest complete depictions of his enduring Mother and Child theme. The painting demonstrates a tenderness and vulnerability altogether new in Picasso’s work at the time. Picasso painted the present work in 1901 during his second visit to Paris, a pivotal moment in his career. One month after exhibiting with the celebrated dealer Ambroise Vollard, the artist entered his groundbreaking “Blue Period”, characterised by a sombre, introverted mood. This marked a significant departure from the colourful cabaret scenes that had inspired many of the artist’s major works to date. His choice of subjects invokes the religious iconography of the Renaissance and demonstrates the influence of the Old Masters on his work. The continuing importance of the Mother and Child theme in Picasso’s personal iconography cannot be underestimated. Over the span of his career it charts his relationships with his lovers and, ultimately, with his own children.

Also by Picasso is Jeune Fille aux Cheveux Noirs (Dora Maar) (pictured on p1), a striking portrait of Dora Maar completed by the artist in 1939. Dora Maar’s relationship with Picasso is one of the most tumultuous love stories in the history of 20th century art. Picasso met Maar, the Surrealist photographer, in the autumn of 1935 and became enchanted by the young woman’s powerful sense of self and commanding presence. In the eight years that followed, Maar was Picasso’s principal model and the subject of some of his most important portraits. Picasso's war-time depictions of Dora Maar are among the most famous of his oeuvre and have come to symbolize the collective emotions of that era. Shockingly abstract yet undeniably alluring, these pictures have a certain tragic beauty and power of presence that few other portraits in Picasso's vast repertoire were able to achieve.

Painted in the summer of 1894 on the Plaine des Ajoux, Les Demoiselles de Giverny is an audaciously modern composition and a fascinating continuation of Monet’s famous Haystacks series. While the painting’s formal subject is the small haystacks, Monet’s primary concern remains the changing effects of light across his landscape: “For me, landscape does not exist at all as landscape, since its aspect changes at every moment, but it lives through what surround it, through light and air which change continuously” (quoted in W. Byvanck, Un Hollandais à Paris, 1892, p. 177). Les Demoiselles de Giverny succeeds in capturing a fleeting moment of dawn, when the landscape is lit but the sun has yet to fully rise. For Monet, the form of the grainstacks in the early morning light is similar to that of a woman, an association he expresses in the title of the piece.

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s depictions of his infant Jean at play with his nurse remain some of the most appealing works of the late-19th century. In Léontine et Coco (Claude Renoir), Renoir returns to painting this type of intimate domestic scene. The artist portrays his son Claude, also known as Coco, in the company of Léontine, a young woman who worked in the Renoir household in the latter part of his life. Intimate in feeling yet monumental in form, this brilliantly coloured work is typical of the classicism of Renoir’s last phase.

Edgar Degas’ Danseuses au Foyer reflects the artist’s lifelong fascination with dance. Early in his career, Degas was attracted to the public spectacle of live performance in classical ballet. Later, he became interested in more intimate, behind-the- scenes moments that allowed the artist to focus on the psychology of his subjects as much as their form. Danseuses stands as an excellent example from this period, and also reflects Degas’ shift away from the linear towards a new interest in colour in his pastels of the 1890s. A palette of strong, bright tones and a degree of abstraction are direct products of this newfound freedom of expression.

Le Paysan Allongé is a classic example of Marc Chagall's iconic style, in which the artist assembles a world of folkloric images in a dense and colourful composition. Some of the artist’s most popular and recurrent themes are present: against the backdrop of rural rooftops, a reclining peasant gazes up at a crescent moon and observes a haloed woman dancing. Each figure is masterfully rendered through the combination of intense colour and spatial experimentation that is the essence of Chagall's work, reflecting his own personal delight in the act of painting.

Sotheby's | Impressionist and Modern Art | Patti Wong |

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