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Sotheby's Spring Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York to be held on 7 May
Paul Cézanne, Les Pommes. Painted in 1889-90. Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 inches. Estimate $25/35 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual spring Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York will be held on 7 May 2013, led by seminal paintings by Paul Cézanne and Amedeo Modigliani from the Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt. The auction is further distinguished by: a powerful sculpture of Sylvette David by Pablo Picasso; three superb bronzes from Auguste Rodin’s iconic The Gates of Hell; a vibrant Fauve landscape by Georges Braque; an important painting from by Fernand Léger, sold by legendary entertainer Madonna to benefit the Ray of Light Foundation; and major works from the Estates of Milton Ginsburg and Veronique and Gregory Peck. Select works have traveled to Hong Kong and London this spring, and will return for exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 3 May.

The evening auction will offer a stunning selection of 20 works from the Collection of Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt, led by masterpieces by Paul Cézanne and Amedeo Modigliani. Befitting Mr. and Mrs. Lewyt’s deep devotion to philanthropy, proceeds from the sale of their collection 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.

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 birth of modern art. “Les Pommes is one of Cézanne’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.

Additional works from the Collection on offer in the evening sale include a range of pieces from Impressionists such as Pierre-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.

Picasso’s extraordinary sculpture of Sylvette – the artist’s 20-year-old neighbor in Vallauris – is among his most powerful interpretations of the human face (est. $12/18 million). Using bent sheet metal painted with Sylvette’s features, Picasso created a wildly imaginative view of her blonde ponytail and blue-striped sailor’s shirt. This highly-detailed sculpture features two simultaneous interpretations of the woman’s face, which can be seen when viewed in the round. Of the four metal sculptures of Sylvette, the present example is perhaps Picasso’s most complex.

The May sale also will feature three exquisite bronzes from Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece The Gates of Hell. The group – consigned from a distinguished private collection – is led by a rare, early cast of Le Penseur (‘The Thinker’) from 1906 (left, est. $8/12 million). Renowned as an icon of art history, this composition numbers among the most celebrated sculptures ever created. The early cast on offer was made by the Alexis Rudier foundry in Paris on the original scale of the Gates, where it formed the crowning apex in the tympanum above the doorway, and was commissioned directly from the artist by publishing magnate Ralph Pulitzer in 1906. Uniquely, it bears a plaque affirming that the cast was made for Pulitzer under Rodin’s direct supervision.

Georges Braque’s Paysage à La Ciotat is a magnificent view of La Ciotat in the south of France that provides a rare glimpse into the Fauve revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, (est. $10/15 million). The jubilant hues Braque used to create this vibrant image owe less to nature than to his own emotional response to the landscape. His explosive Fauve period would end quickly when Braque turned to Cézanne's example in the construction of the Cubist idiom.

Sotheby’s will auction a painting from the collection of legendary entertainer Madonna in the May evening sale. Proceeds from Fernand Léger’s Trois femmes à la table rouge will benefit the Ray of Light Foundation, to support girls’ education projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries (est. $5/7 million). Madonna commented: “I have a great passion for art and a great passion for education. In conjunction with Sotheby’s, I would like to share these two passions. I have chosen to auction this painting called “Three Women” by Fernand Léger and donate all the proceeds to support girls’ educational projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries where female education is rare or nonexistent. I cannot accept a world where women or girls are wounded, shot or killed for either going to school or teaching in girls’ schools. We don’t have time to be complacent. I want to trade something valuable for something invaluable – Educating Girls! Knowledge is power. Let’s change the world!”

A further Modern highlight of the sale will be Henri Matisse’s Femme au chapeau (est. $3.5/5 million). Matisse painted the charming composition while working in the south of France in 1919. The model posing on the chair was a popular subject during the period, and his focus on the supple curves of her body and the rich, textural contrasts of her clothing and surrounding interior tapestries is beautifully executed in the present example.

Painted in March 1888, the month after Vincent van Gogh arrived in Arles, Eglogue en Provence – Un couple d’amoureux is an intimate depiction of two lovers walking along the bank of a river (est. $5/7 million). According to recent findings of the Van Gogh Museum, the painting likely belonged to the owners of the ‘Café de la gare’ in Arles by 1898 – van Gogh rented a room there from May to September of 1888, and was friendly with the owners. The first public appearance of the picture at auction was at Hôtel Drouot in Paris in 1911, when it was sold by the French playwright Henri Bernstein.

Three works by Claude Monet in the auction are led by Poirier en fleurs, which the artist painted in 1885 (est. $5/7 million). The subject is a pear tree in bloom on a resplendent spring day, painted just outside Giverny – the area that would become synonymous Monet’s most innovative compositions. Poirier en fleurs was acquired from Durand- Ruel by one of the pioneers of impressionist collecting, Potter Palmer of Chicago. Palmer was a tycoon in the retail industry and a vital contributor to the historic landmarks of his city, who assembled one of the first great collections of Impressionist art in the United States.

The evening sale will offer works by central figures of the Surrealist movement, including Paul Delvaux, Francis Picabia, René Magritte, Max Ernst and Joan Miró. The group is led by Delvaux’s monumental Éloge de la mélancolie (Pénélope), which takes its title from the story of Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus (est. $2/3 million). In Delvaux’s retelling of Homer’s tale, the forlorn Penelope is pictured reclining on a day bed, distraught over her state of abandonment.

A group of five pieces from the collection of celebrated philanthropist Milton Ginsburg feature Pablo Picasso’s Buste d’homme (est. $5/7 million). The richly-textured portrait of a man, saturated with blocks of bold color and dripping with thick paint, belongs to a series of works that Picasso completed in 1969 that were the subject of a monumental one-man show at the hallowed halls of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon. The present work, which featured prominently on the great stone walls of the Chapel of Clement VI, is a wonderful example of the magisterial pieces on view.

Three works from the estate of Veronique Peck and Hollywood legend Gregory Peck include Printemps rose by Henri-Edmond Cross (est. $800,000/1.2 million). In the small village of Cabasson, situated between the sea and Mediterranean pines, Cross began to paint his first Divisionist landscapes. The present example of this technique resembles a carefully-composed mosaic of shimmering colors. The tonal variations and juxtapositions in Printemps rose recreate the vibrant, dazzling atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur that became a major source of inspiration for the artist.

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