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Works by Picasso, Munch, Rembrandt, Basquiat and Warhol lead Sotheby's London Sale of Prints & Multiples
Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944), EVENING, MELANCHOLY I (W. 91; SCH. 82) The very rare woodcut printed in light blue, dark-blue, light-green and reddish brown, 1896, a good impression of Woll's state a/IV/3 with the sea behind the figure, signed in pencil, printing with relief verso, on laid paper with a Bird Feeding watermark. Image: 372 by 452mm; 15 5/8 by 17¾in. Sheet: 422 by 600mm; 16 5/8 by 23 5/8 in. Estimate: £550,000 — 750,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s London Sale of Prints & Multiples on 17 September 2013 will offer a stellar selection of prime works by Munch, Rembrandt, Picasso, Basquiat and Warhol, among others, together with an exceptional selection of ceramics by Picasso. The auction will be led by several rare woodcuts by Edvard Munch, an offering concurrent with the series of exhibitions in Oslo marking the 150th anniversary this December of the artist’s birth. Estimated at £550,000-750,000, Evening, Melancholy I is one of Munch's earliest woodcuts and one of his most remarkable colour prints. It demonstrates an immediate fluency in the medium and a complex printing of colours. The print, which is dated 1896, is a reverse image of the painting of the same subject of 1891. The dejected figure of the man represents Munch's lifelong friend Jappe Nilssen, a writer and critic who conducted a doomed love affair with the married Oda Lasson Krohg, who in the second printed rendition is seen approaching the rowing boat on the far shore with her husband. Munch skilfully balances the tension between the hot and cool hues with what has been described as the artist's favourite range of colours for this motif.

Two Women on the Shore, estimated at £400,000-500,000, is a powerful expression of Munch's preoccupation with the themes of loneliness, sex and death. This haunting and beguilingly beautiful print is a meditation on the cycle of life. A young girl stares out to sea; beside her sits a macabre death-like figure clothed in black – a premonition of her fate. Munch’s engagement with symbolist ideas of colour and form is evident in the basic shapes and limited colours he uses to denote meaning. The yellow moon and its reflection in the water, the sensual tresses of the girl’s red hair, seeping blood-like onto her virginal white dress, and the anonymous expanses of land and sea, each combine to produce an image that communicates Munch’s existential anguish. He also incorporates the rough texture of the woodblock into the work, which was produced in 1898.

Munch’s woodcut Encounter in Space depicts a man and a woman floating together in a weightless cosmic vacuum, on a background of swimming spermatozoa. The lovers’ physical proximity, as they gravitate toward each other, is erotically charged. Munch creates flat shapes separated by white outlines to further isolate his figures. Estimated at £130,000-180,000, and printed in black, red and bluish green (1898-99), this work demonstrates the radical nature of the artist’s printmaking process.

Old Master Prints
Rembrandt is represented in the sale by a remarkable series of etched self-portraits, spanning a period of over ten years, from 1630 to 1642. The group of eight etchings is notable for the range of expressions in which the artist depicts himself, and the inquisitive, penetrating self-inflection that has come to define his unique standing in self-portraiture. Rembrandt’s experiments with facial expression are demonstrated in Self-Portrait, Frowning: Bust (1630), estimated at £5,000-7,000, and Self-Portrait Open Mouthed, as if Shouting (1630), estimated at £3,000-5,000. Both etchings are intimate in size, measuring 2⅞ by 2⅜ inches. Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill (1639), carries the highest estimate within the group (£8,000-12,000). By this time, the accoutrements of wealth, social position and maturity are evident in Rembrandt’s confident pose, fine dress and direct gaze. Each element has been carefully chosen to make references to paintings by Old Masters such as Titian, a ploy that sees Rembrandt place himself in a long line of great artists.

A rare working proof by Goya, Escapan entre las llamas (They Escape Through the Flames) shows subtleties that were lost in the published edition. This etching with engraving, circa 1810, is from Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War), the first edition of which was published in 1863, well after the artist’s death. It is part of the earliest set of plates made for the series, and features a greater range of tonal values. The compelling effects of chiaroscuro can be seen in the fire blazing forth from the ring of darkness, and the glare from the burst of flames which illuminate the women in their light-coloured dresses. Many of these qualities are obscured in the 1863 edition, which was printed with a heavier tone, dulling the figures and concealing the delicate handling. The example offered by Sotheby’s, estimated at £20,000-30,000, is one of only six impressions of this state and one of only eight working proofs.

Property from The Collection of the Late Stanley J. Seeger
The sale will present 22 prints from the Collection of the Late Stanley J. Seeger. Whilst finishing his studies at Princeton University, Stanley Seeger acquired an etching by Pablo Picasso, which would spark his life-long interest in collecting works by the Spanish master. Over the years, Seeger added other etchings and some lithographs to his collection, many of them unusual and rare examples, most of which are closely linked to important stages in Picasso’s career. Amongst the earliest in the collection are two drypoints, Les Deux saltimbanques, estimated at £20,000-30,000, and Le Saltimbanque au repos (El Tío Pepe), estimated at £15,000-20,000. These two works were pulled in 1905 by the celebrated Montmartre printer Eugène Delâtre. The impression of Les Deux saltimbanques offered here is the only example of this state.

Picasso’s first known monotype, Portrait de femme à la mantille (late 1905), was originally made on glass. Seeger’s version is the only known proof done on paper and for many years was in the collection of the dealer Ambroise Vollard. Estimated at £60,000-80,000, this majestic monotype shows Picasso as one of the greatest experimenters and innovators in the history of printmaking. It is one of the most significant and complex of his early works in the medium. The portrait depicts Benedetta Canals, whose husband, the Catalan painter Ricard Canals, helped Picasso with his first attempts at printmaking in Barcelona in 1899.

An Exceptional Selection of Ceramics by Pablo Picasso
The sale will include an exceptional selection of ceramics by Pablo Picasso. This follows Sotheby’s sell-out auction in March 2013 of Important Ceramics by Pablo Picasso From A Private Collection, in which 100% of the lots sold as bidders competed fiercely for the prized works. The forthcoming offering of a comprehensive group of over 100 Picasso ceramics represents an opportunity for collectors to acquire their own work of art by one of the twentieth century’s most famous artists. The selection includes plates, vases, jugs, bowls and tiles designed by Picasso, depicting a range of classical and mythical forms alongside portraits of animals and people. The individual pieces range in estimate from £800 to £15,000.

Beginning with his first trip to Vallauris in the summer of 1946, Picasso remained enchanted by the freedom and expressive nature of the ceramic medium throughout the last 25 years of his life. Working with the Ramié family during these years, Picasso found great satisfaction in working with clay – the alchemy of working with slips and glazes, the effects of texture and colour, and the daily life of the artisan attracted him greatly. These elements, combined with the surrounds of the Côte d’Azur, created a font of inspiration for Picasso, and his ceramics feature many recurring motifs, such as the fish, goats and famous corridas of the area. Picasso’s freedom of thought and creative powers are clearly evident in these works, and the sense of playfulness for which he was so renowned. The years Picasso spent in the region are understood to have been amongst the happiest of his life. At Madoura, he met his future wife and famed muse Jacqueline Roque, who was to remain his partner for over 20 years until his death in 1973.

Featured in the sale, amongst other pieces, are a selection of plates and dishes from the famous Service visage noir (lots 169, 170 & 171, estimated respectively at £2,000-3,000, £3,000-4,000 and £2,000-3,000) which was created by Picasso in 1948, and as such is one of the earliest pieces he ever designed. A complete set was gifted by the town of Vallauris to Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth as a wedding present on the day of her marriage to the Aly Khan. The joyful pieces – decorated with the heads of fauns – embody the spirit of fun that is often seen in Picasso's post-war work, when he had just moved down to the South of France and was filled with the hope that the horrors of the previous half-century were finally behind his beloved Europe.

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