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Masterworks by Cezanne and Modigliani lead sale of the Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt at Sotheby's
Paul Cézanne, Les Pommes. Estimate: $25/35 million. Photo: Sotheby's. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s will offer The Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt in a series of auctions in New York and Paris in 2013, including seminal paintings by Paul Cézanne and Amedeo Modigliani that will lead the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 7 May 2013. Befitting Mr. and Mrs. Lewyt’s deep devotion to philanthropy, proceeds from the sale of their collection – comprising 200 pieces together estimated at more than $65 million – will benefit a charitable foundation to be established in their name. The foundation will support the causes that they both were passionate about, especially those concerned with animal welfare.

“Assembled in the 1950s, this collection is a real time capsule”, commented Simon Shaw, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department in New York. “The Lewyts’ connoisseurship is reflected in the exquisite quality of works from a roll call of key Impressionist and Modern artists – from Renoir, Degas and Pissarro through Picasso, Braque and Matisse.”

NEW YORK, 7 MAY 2013

The evening auction will offer a stunning selection of 20 works from the Collection, led by masterpieces by Paul Cézanne and Amedeo Modigliani:

Les Pommes, painted by Cézanne in 1889-90, reveals why his work in the still-life genre is considered among his greatest achievements (est. $25/35 million). These moving compositions, which explore the paradoxes of forms in space, inspired the Cubism of Picasso and Braque and signal the very birth of modern art. “Les Pommes is one of Cezanne’s most perfect still lifes” commented Charles Moffett, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department. “One could never imagine altering a single brushstroke or touch of color. The painting was a highlight of any visit to the Lewyts’ home, which was filled with works they dearly loved – from small pictures the size of playing cards to important drawings, watercolors and sculpture.”

Amedeo Modigliani’s sensational L’Amazone is an early masterpiece by the artist and one of his most arresting images of women (est. $20/30 million). Painted in 1909, it depicts Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers, a glamorous socialite and lover of the younger brother of Modigliani’s patron, Paul Alexandre. Marguerite poses in her riding-habit, gloved-hand on her hip and her arch gaze holding the viewer captivated. L’Amazone’s draughtsmanship and exquisite brushwork announced the arrival of a singular talent that Modigliani would explore during the following decade.

In addition, the evening sale will offer works from Impressionists such as Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro, to Post-Impressionists including Odilon Redon, Georges Seurat and Édouard Vuillard, and Modernists like Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Marc Chagall.

NEW YORK, 8 MAY 2013

The centerpiece of Sotheby’s day auction will be a 100-lot sequence of works from the Lewyt Collection. Highlights include illustrated artists’ letters that offer intimate glimpses of their creators, such as Trois prunes by Édouard Manet (est. $150/250,000), and gorgeous small-scale works, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Petite baigneuse – a nude bust portrait on panel measuring just 3 5/8 by 2 5/8 inches (est. $150/250,000). The painting is related to the larger composition Étude. Torse, effet de soleil, which now resides in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

PARIS, 5 JUNE 2013

The Paris sale will offer two important paintings by Nicolas de Staël, whose works – produced over a short but intensely-productive career, before his death at the age of 41 – often illustrate a dialogue between abstraction and figuration. Marseille from 1954 is one of the most important mature paintings by the artist to come to the market (est. €1.2/1.8 million). In bright Fauvist colors, de Staël depicts a view of the Mediterranean harbor in which the sky and sea mix, and where abstracted depictions of boats help convey the narrative of a sun-drenched day on the water. Fleur sur une table couleur saumon is a classic example of the artist’s work in still life, notably exhibited in his landmark show at Paul Rosenberg & Co. in New York in 1954 (€800,000/1.2 million).

Born in Manhattan in 1908, Alex Lewyt proved an adept businessman at a young age, inheriting his family’s business while still a teenager. He went on to design his most famous invention, the Lewyt vacuum cleaner, and before the end of World War II had plans to transition from wartime production to manufacturing vacuums and other devices like popcorn poppers and air conditioners for the post-war consumer. By 1952, Mr. Lewyt was living part-time in France, and had begun collecting art by the time he married Elisabeth in 1953. He died in 1988.

Elisabeth Lewyt was born in Chartres, France in 1913 – it is therefore fitting that Mr. Lewyt’s wedding present to her was a Maurice Utrillo painting of the city. However, it was in New York that Mrs. Lewyt would find her life’s work. Known to her friends as Babette, she championed organizations that followed a no-kill policy for strays and abandoned pets. She was instrumental in saving countless animals from euthanasia, both through her philanthropy and her hands-on work. Mrs. Lewyt died in December of 2012.

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