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Three Major 20th Century Works to be Sold at Artcurial's Sale of Modern & Contemporary Art
Lyonel Feininger, Hafen von Swinemünde”, 1915. Huile sur toile, 75 x 101 cm. Photo: Artcurial.

PARIS.- Artcurial | Briest - Poulain - F. Tajan announces the sale of three major 20th century works at their important Summer auction of Modern & Contemporary Art, to be held on 29 May 2011 at the Hôtel Marcel Dassault under the gavel of Francis Briest.

Highlights include a very rare 1915 painting by Lyonel Feininger, Hafen von Swinemünde (estimate €1.5-2m); Nicolas de Staël's 1952 Méditerranée – La Ciotat (est. €700,000-1,000,000); and Jean Dubuffet's 1964 Le Lit I in vinyl on canvas (est. €600,000-800,000).

Lyonel Feininger's Hafen von Swinemünde (1915) will be sold in aid of the Institut Curie, Secours Populaire Français and UNESCO World Foundation for AIDS Research & Prevention.

The painting, to be auctioned in conjunction with Millon & Associés, has an estimate of €1.5-2m.

Hafen von Swinemünde (Swinemünde Harbour) is a spectacular and unusual work from a key, and particularly productive period, in the career of Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), and counts as one of the most original works of the German avant-garde from the 1914-18 period.

In 1915 Feininger produced several masterpieces, such as one of his rare Self-Portraits (Blaffer Collection, University of Houston) and Jesuiten III, sold in New York for over €16m ($23m) in 2007.

Leading Feininger specialist Achim Moeller, who has studied Hafen von Swinemünde closely, reports that the painting belonged to the Berlin collector Hugo Simon (1880-1950) before entering the Collection of Roger-Jean Spiri (1908-2007) in Paris in the late 1930s.

Cubism, which Feininger discovered in 1910, would have a lasting influence on his perception of space and light. He was fascinated by boats and the sea; along with cities and buildings, they formed the main themes of his work. Feininger often liked to retreat to Germany's northern coast; Hafen von Swinemünde shows the small, bustling Baltic harbour of Swinoujście (as it has been called since 1945, when it became part of Poland) in a rhythmic, rigorously constructed composition with vertical lines and horizontal expanses of colour.

Alongside Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Alexei Jawlensky, Lyonel Feininger was ideologically committed to the avant-garde movements of his time – yet he remained true to his beliefs in freedom of artistic expression, achieving a synthesis with Cubism by formulating his own rules of perspective while pursuing an individual aesthetic approach in counterpoint to Expressionism and Futurism, the leading movements of the period.

He is considered one the leading Expressionist artists in Germany, and a forerunner of Abstraction in the United States.

As an American citizen of German origin, Feininger emerges as an exceptional link between the German avant-garde and new forms of 20th century expression in the U.S.A.

Important recent prices for Feininger include €3.6m for his small 1912 canvas Raddampfer am Landungssteg in London in February 2011, and a world record €16.4m for Jesuiten III (1915) in New York in May 2007.

During his stay in Le Lavandou in June 1952, Nicolas de Staël (1914-55) was again struck by the violence of the light, which he termed "blinding" and "voracious" – writing to Denys Sutton that "the sea is so blue it turns red."

Méditerranée (La Ciotat) is a magnificent example of the impact of the South of France and its all-consuming light on De Staël's painting. In total contrast to his horizontal Normandy landscapes of a few months earlier, he fashioned solid, massive forms, chiselling away at the Mediterranean scenery with the brutal frankness of the sculptor he fleetingly thought of becoming. The colours are radiant, the light dazzling. Composition has an essential role; forms fit into one another to construct a single ground; perspective is absent. In this decomposed landscape, with its shattered elements structured by colour, De Staël prolongs the revolution of form initiated by Analytic Cubism.

Méditerranée (La Ciotat) comes from a private French collection.

JEAN DUBUFFET, LE LIT I, VINYL ON CANVAS, 1964 (EST. €600,000-800,000)
Le Lit I comes from Dubuffet's Hourloupe cycle, his longest and most original work cycle (1962-74).

Dubuffet works from 1964 seldom appear on the market: just 21 have changed hands since 1989, an average of one per year.

Le Lit I, from the first Hourloupe phase, still resembles an easel painting. In 1964 Dubuffet started using everyday objects (scissors, wheel-barrow, typewriter…) in his Hourloupe cycle, abruptly renewing the art of the still life.

The idea, derived by chance from doodlings he made while talking on the phone, was developed to give rise to jigsaw-like paintings like Lit I. The work consists of a sinuous network of moving cells – a sort of labyrinth where content and form are indissociable, and all notion of hierarchy abolished. The sharply compartmentalized outlines on a white ground spawn surfaces which either have red and blue stripes or are left white – all on a black ground resembling a stage curtain.

The result is an hallucinatory vision that plunges the viewer into a world without reference, making the organization of Lit I a perfect exercise in disorientation. Dubuffet shuns faithful reproduction to pave the way for a creative inventiveness that knew no bounds.

"All this Hourloupe business" (as Dubuffet once put it) began in 1962 and lasted until 1974. Dubuffet became obsessed with a multi-faceted pictorial language that embraced drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture and the theatre to become a work in its own right.

Le Lit I hails from a private French collection.

Further Highlights from the sale of 29 May 2011

Modern Art:
Kees Van Dongen – Grand Prix de Normandie c.1930 (est. €450,000-500,000); Pierre Bonnard – Femme au Corsage Bleu (est. €400,000-600,000); Félix Vallotton – Seine near Les Andelys (est. €180,000-250,000); Charles Camoin – Port of Marseille, 1904-05 (est. €170,000-220,000).

Contemporary Art:
Simon Hantaï – Blanc 1973, acrylic on canvas (est. €150,000-200,000); Mubin Orhon – Abstract Composition (est. €200,000-300,000); François-Xavier Lalanne – Sheep (est. €100,000-150,000).

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