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After 30 years in Africa significant collection of Impressionist & Modern art emerges at Bonhams
Fernand Leger (1881-1955) Composition. Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A striking collection of iconic artworks not seen in public since 1982 will lead Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art sale at Knightsbridge, London on 30th October. The Goldberg Collection features drawings, paintings and sculptures by pioneering artists who pushed the boundaries of avant-garde art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Gustav Klimt, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and Fernand Léger.

The collection was started in 1982 by Dr. Hyman Goldberg, an important industrialist from Cape Town whose passion for twentieth century European art led him to the London auction scene. As well as oil paintings and sculpture, some of the most interesting pieces are personal and intimate sketches which reveal a lesser-known side to these renowned artists.

Three intimate sketches of women by Gustav Klimt are among the highlights in the collection, showing the artist’s clear mastery of the female form. ‘Reclining female nude with sleeping child in swaddling clothes’, a delicately drawn sketch executed in the crayon that Klimt favoured at this time, is the top lot in the sale with an estimate of £30,000 – 50,000. The sketch uses elegant and deft lines and includes the barest of details to capture the scene. Far from being a simple sketch, however, it is imbued with overtones representing a sense of unease typical to men of the artist’s time, where conventional stereotypes of women were challenged. While the woman in the drawing is depicted as sexually provocative, she is also shown as protective of her child.

Two personal works by subversive surrealist Salvador Dalí also make a great impact on the collection. ‘Autoportrait, dédié à Federico García Lorca’, estimated at £5,000 – 7,000, reveals the intense relationship that existed between Dalí and the great writer. Drawn in 1928, the self-portrait was executed two years after Federico García Lorca published his passionate ‘Oda a Salvador Dalí’, in which he expresses his love for the artist.

Lorca was one of the most significant European writers of the 20th century and the best known Spanish literary figure since Cervantes. The two successful young Spaniards developed a close friendship in the 1920s and although Dalí claims to have rejected Lorca’s amorous advances, the two were inseparable until the artist met his future wife Gala. The portrait shows how close the two young men became at this time.

Another important work by Dalí is ‘La vierge et le rhinocéros’, estimated at £15,000 – 20,000. The work in pencil, gouache, felt-tipped pen and coloured inks on paper was destined to be transformed into a stained glass window at the Teatro-Museo Dalí. The simple nature of the drawing with strong graphic lines and bold colours is in stark contrast with the complex subject. The work brings together two familiar subjects from Dalí’s pictorial landscape, but they are positioned so that the sexual liaison is heightened, while the contradictory theme of impotence is championed. The inclusion of this piece in the stained glass project at the Teatro-Museo Dalí confirms its significance within Dalí’s pictorial language.

A striking composition by Fernand Léger is another highlight in the collection, estimated at £20,000 – 30,000. The work is a strong example of the artist’s developing style in the 1930s, where the artist sought to create a new, universal aesthetic to appeal to the masses. Léger creates a timeless piece with the abstract forms in the centre of the work floating, seemingly unanchored.

Ruth Graham, Specialist in the Impressionist & Modern department said, “Dr. Goldberg clearly had a keen eye for early twentieth century works by some of the greatest artists of the period. The sale features many pieces which reveal defining elements of these artists’ oeuvre. As well as the Goldberg collection, the auction includes works by artists such as George Grosz, Enrico Donati and Jean Cocteau, and a selection of Picasso ceramics.”

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