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Sotheby's Zurich sale of Swiss Art to present a major landscape by Ferdinand Hodler
Ferdinand Hodler, Genfersee von Chexbres aus (Le Lac Léman vu de Chexbres). Huile sur toile, 81 x 100 cm. Painted in 1904. Est: CHF 3.000.000–5.000.000/€ 2.420.000–4.030.000. Photo: Sotheby's.

ZURICH.- Since the launch of the Swiss Art sale in 1979, Sotheby’s Zurich has sold some of Ferdinand Hodler’s most important landscapes to have come to auction – often for record prices*. In its sale of Swiss Art on 28th November 2011 Sotheby’s Zurich will present a major landscape by the celebrated Swiss painter:

Genfersee von Chexbres aus (Lake Geneva from Chexbres). An exceptional group of works by Albert Anker, depicting some of the painter’s favourite themes, will spearhead the sale. Estimated in excess of CHF 11 million, the 121‐lot auction also comprises works by eminent Swiss artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including Giovanni and Augusto Giacometti, Félix Vallotton, Cuno Amiet, Adolf Dietrich, Albert Müller, Alice Bailly and Gustave Buchet. 

Commenting on the sale, Urs Lanter, Head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Department said: “Ferdinand Hodler’s landscapes are some of the most sought‐after works on the Swiss art market. Coming from an important private collection and having not appeared on the market since 1963, Genfersee von Chexbres aus reflects the unique style which has made Hodler an internationally acclaimed artist, represented in the most prestigious private and institutional collections. The November sale comprises works by other major Swiss artists who, like Hodler, have participated in important artistic movements of the 20th century and find their place in collections both in Switzerland and in the rest of the world”.

The view of Lake Geneva from Chexbres inspired many landscapes by Hodler (1853‐1918) between 1895 and 1911. Highly sought after, most of these paintings were purchased by private collectors and Swiss Museums immediately after they were produced by the artist. Situated at an altitude of 565 metres between Lausanne and Montreux and easily reached by train at the beginning of the 20th century, Chexbres offered a magnificent panorama over the village of Cully and the Savoy Alps.  

Hodler painted only two landscapes from the vantage point featured in Genfersee von Chexbres aus. Painted in May 1904, this work was probably executed shortly before a very similar canvas which is now part of the collection of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva. It reflects the stylistic direction taken by Hodler in the early 1900s. In 1904, the artist took part in the Vienna Secession and the influence of the Jugenstil movement is clearly mirrored in the ornamentation, curves and lines of the painting. Testament to Hodler’s style are also the composition’s parallel design, the depiction of forms as large spreads of colour and the dominance of the colour blue, symbol of transcendence for the artist (lot 47, est. CHF 3‐5 million/ €2.420.000‐4.030.000).

At the core of the sale is also an exceptional group of works by Albert Anker (1831‐1910), featuring all the media the artist excelled at, from oil painting to drawing through watercolour. A painter of everyday life, Anker found inspiration in the people of his time, creating compositions which capture in a unique way the interior world of the characters and their symbiosis with their environment.

Childhood ‐ a recurring theme in Anker’s portraits ‐ is beautifully represented in an oil portrait featuring a knitting girl watching a toddler in a craddle. Painted in 1885, Strickendes Mädchen, Kleinkind in der Wiege hütend mirrors the care the child puts into her work and the tranquillity she finds in the natural surroundings (lot 17, est. CHF 3‐5 million / €2.420.000‐4.030.000).  

Another favourite subject of Anker is old age, often associated with wisdom and the decline in physical capabilities. An old man and his dog are depicted in an oil canvas painted shortly before the painter’s stroke in September 1901. Alter Mann beim Znüni (Gyp) (Old ManTaking A Rest) represents the “Old Johner” who posed several times for Anker, and Gyp, the artist’s dog, to which the artist dedicated a portrait (lot 18, est. CHF 700.000‐900.000 / €565.000‐730.000).  

The two ages of life are portrayed in a magnificent work featuring an old woman and two children. Entitled Grossmutter, Ihrem Enkelkind die Suppe Gebend (Grandmother spooning the soup to her grandchild), this oil on canvas dating from 1868 once belonged to Adolphe Goupil, Anker’s first Parisian dealer. It explores another theme favoured by the painter: the communication between generations (lot 12, est. CHF 1‐1.5 million /€810.000‐1.210.000). 

Other highlights include two works by Giovanni Giacometti (1868‐1933) that are striking in their powerful use of colour. The first, Capolago features the quarter in Maloja where the painter and his family spent their summers from 1909. This work shows the influence on Giacometti’s oeuvre by Giovanni Segantini, the artist’s mentor and friend, and Van Gogh, whose letters Giacometti had read in 1907‐1908. Convinced that “for the painter, everything exists through light”, the artist reproduces the effects of light by juxtaposing points and brushstrokes of pure, and often complementary, colours (lot 59, est. CHF 400.000‐600.000 / €323.000‐484.000).

The importance of light for the master of Swiss impressionism is also evident in Grevasalvas, another landscape of the Sils Lake region. Previously unknown, this oil on canvas dating from 1927 is innovative in the use of the violet, a colour scarcely used at the time (lot 62, est. CHF 300.000‐500.000 /€242.000‐403.000). 

Félix Vallotton (1865‐1925), another celebrated artist of the Swiss avant‐garde, is represented by Le Pont Neuf from 1902. In 1901, Vallotton had already devoted an audacious work to the oldest Parisian bridge (inaugurated in 1607) which now forms part of the collection of the Kunstmuseum in Winterthur (lot 52, est. CHF 150.000‐250.000 / €146.000‐202.000). 

Since it was painted in 1905, Le Bain (The Bath) has been exhibited on several occasions. Typical of Vallotton’s nudes, this work displays a realistic depiction of female nudity and relies on a playful use of academic classicism combined with a sense of cynical irony (lot 51, est. CHF 220.000‐280.000/ €178.000‐226.000).

A key figure of Naïve art, Adolf Dietrich (1877‐1957) is represented by Gemüsestillleben mit Mäusen und Kaninchen, a still life with vegetables, mice and rabbits from 1928, reminiscent of the Baroque works of the Spanish and Flemish masters (lot 50, est. CHF 300.000‐350.000 / €242.000‐282.000).

The artistic verve of Albert Müller (1897‐1926), a leading representative of Swiss expressionism, is demonstrated in a portrait dating from 1925. Bruststück Eines Schwarzen Mädchens (Bust of a coloured girl) was clearly inspired by Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner who Müller met at the Kunsthalle exhibition in Basel in 1922 and 1923 (lot 68, est. CHF 120.000‐180.000/ €97.000‐146.000).

The “Romande” School appears in two works with a Cubist influence by Alice Bailly (1872‐1938) and Gustave Buchet (1888‐1963). In La joie dans la forêt (Joy in the woods), a work from 1922, Bailly offers a reinterpretation of Cubist art forms with a joyful and enchanting iconography (lot 73, est. CHF 120.000 180.000 / €97.000‐146.000).  

Dating from 1930, Buchet’s stunning Nu de dos (Nude seen from back) demonstrates the influence of Cubism on the painter’s œuvre – an influence imbued with sensuality in the present composition (lot 95, est. CHF 50.000‐70.000 / €40.300‐56.500).

Among the contemporary art works are La jeune visiteuse (The Young Guest), an oil on board by Emile‐François Chambon (1905–1993) dating from 1959 (lot 71, est. CHF 8.000‐12.000 / €6.500‐9.700) and Jazz II, a project for a poster for the Montreux Jazz Festival realised by Luciano Castelli in 1987 (lot 119, est. CHF 20.000‐25.000 / €16.200‐20.200).

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