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Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and Munch: Complete portfolios and sets headline Sotheby's Prints & Multiples Sale
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Jazz. The complete portfolio, comprising 20 pochoirs printed in colours, after collages and cut paper designs, with facsimile text by the artist, 1947. Est. £120,000-180,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Spanning 600 years of printmaking from Old Master and Modern to Pop and contemporary, Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples sale in London on 18 March 2014 will be headlined by complete sets and portfolios by Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, and two rare works by Edvard Munch.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Mao. The complete set of ten screenprints in colours, 1972. Est. £300,000-400,000
Produced in 1972, Andy Warhol's Mao is a masterpiece of great significance within the artist’s career. Warhol based his ten screenprints on the official portrait of the Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung that was illustrated on the cover of the widely circulated 1966 publication Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, also known as the Little Red Book. By the early 1970s Mao was established as one of the most important figures in modern history and his portrait was one of the most replicated. Considering Warhol’s obsession with fame, it is not surprising that Mao – with his global political profile further augmented by US President Richard Nixon's visit to China – provided an appealing image for his art. Warhol was inspired to create this set of screenprints, five series of paintings, a series of drawings and a design for wallpaper. Although it can be said to constitute his first political portrait, Warhol’s Mao ultimately leaves the work open to question, forcing the view to question the artist’s intentions. The portfolio contains ten brightly coloured, monumental portraits. Through their multiplicity, they illustrate Warhol’s fascination with the clash of imagery between Communist propaganda and Western fashion kitsch. Warhol translates a powerful, intimidating image into a glamourised 1970s pop icon embodying political and cultural power, and reminiscent of the artist's celebrity portraits.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Jazz
The complete portfolio, comprising 20 pochoirs printed in colours, after collages and cut paper designs, with facsimile text by the artist, 1947. Est. £120,000-180,000

Henri Matisse created Jazz in the final decade of his life. Confined to his bed due to ill health, he devised papiers découpés in order to continue working. This new and inventive technique proved so life-changing – and life-affirming – that Matisse abandoned painting altogether in favour of the cut-outs which, for him, definitively linked drawing and colour. Cutting shapes from brightly coloured sheets of paper eliminated the traditional distinctions between line, form and colour. Matisse poured all his energy into producing an entire book of paper cut-out designs and the twenty pochoirs which resulted from months of intense creativity are a glorious celebration of life. Matisse used the circus, folk tales and exotic voyages as his inspiration, and the improvised themes and compositional variations prompted his printer Tériade to suggest ‘Jazz’ as a title.

The book was an unequivocal success on its publication in 1947, no doubt in part due to the artist’s insistence on printing Jazz using the same Linel gouache paints he had used to colour his paper cut-out maquettes. These paints imparted a glowing intensity to the playful forms of the imagery, making Jazz one of the most significant print series of the 20th century. This spring, Tate Modern will stage the most comprehensive exhibition of Matisse’s paper cut-outs ever held.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), La suite des Saltimbanques. The complete set of 14 etchings and drypoints, 1904-05. Est. £150,000-250,000
Picasso was in his early twenties and living in Montmartre, Paris when he created the Saltimbanque Suite. This famous series of 14 etchings and drypoints marks the passage from Picasso’s Blue period to his Rose period. The Repas Frugal, the strongest image in the series, was only the second work produced by Picasso in the field of printmaking and constitutes one of the most important prints he ever produced. Whereas the other 13 prints feature circus performers, a subject Picasso drew heavily on during the Rose period, Repas Frugal depicts a destitute couple sharing a meagre meal of bread and wine. The theme is melancholic, with emotion heightened by the elongated proportions of the figures – derived from El Greco – and the effect of light and shadow. Complete sets of the Saltimbanque Suite rarely come to auction.

When Picasso moved to the South of France in 1958, he found himself deprived of the printing facilities for colour lithography provided by his master printer in Paris. Without close contact with the workshop he found lithography time-consuming and frustrating. Craving a print medium which allowed him to work spontaneously and independently in colour, he adopted the linocut. Picasso re-invented the method by using just one or two blocks of lino, rather than using a separate block for each colour, layering different colours to create intricate patterns and textures.

Picasso was in his early eighties when he worked on the linocuts that resulted in these 1962 prints featuring his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, and a vibrant still life. Two important sets of Picasso linocuts, including Nature Morte au Verre sous la Lampe, were purchased in 2013 by The British Museum.

Portrait de Jacqueline au Chapeau de Paille Multicolore, 1962. Est. £35,000-55,000

Nature Morte au Verre sous la Lampe, 1962. Est. £40,000-60,000

Grande Tête de Jacqueline au Chapeau, 1962. Est. £50,000-80,000


In 1982 Andy Warhol was commissioned to make 15 paintings and three screenprints in homage to Edvard Munch. Striking, unique and ground-breaking works, The Scream (After Munch), Eva Mudocci (After Munch), and Madonna and Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arm (After Munch) are a rare and enterprising offering from Warhol – a meeting between two of the finest artists of the 20th century. Warhol appropriated Munch’s emotionally charged works to create his own equally evocative and emblematic images. It is perhaps not unexpected that Warhol chose to make these prints. He was fascinated by the history of art and sought to adapt and explore famous motifs from the past. The universally recognisable work of Munch, a modern master, was the perfect vehicle for Warhol’s vision.

Andy Warhol, Eva Mudocci (After Munch), Screenprint in a unique combination of colours, 1984. Est. £100,000-150,000
As well as being one of the finest English violinists of her generation, Eva Mudocci was also Edvard Munch’s lover. Munch tried several times to paint the perfect picture of Eva in vain; each time abandoning his attempts and destroying his canvases. He had more success with lithographs, and one such work entitled ‘Madonna (The Brooch)’, forms the basis for Warhol’s print. In Warhol’s adaptation, the pop artist retains the romantic essence of Munch’s original image, though he creates his own 20th century interpretation of the female ideal.

Andy Warhol, Madonna and Self-Portrait With Skeleton's Arm (After Munch). Screenprint in a unique combination of colours, 1984. Est. £120,000-180,000
Warhol’s unnerving screenprint Madonna and Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arm (After Munch) is composed of motifs from two of Munch’s celebrated works. On the left, we see Warhol’s interpretation of Munch’s Madonna. Capturing the moment of the conception, this was one of Munch’s most controversial works. Surrounded by long flowing hair, Warhol has transformed her into an emblem of powerful femininity, on par with the artist’s prints of Hollywood stars Liz Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. On the right, Warhol pays tribute to Munch’s haunting self-portrait, ‘Self-Portrait with Skeleton’s Arm’. The use of the self-portrait reflects Warhol’s anxiety over mortality and his pre-occupation with death.

Andy Warhol, The Scream (After Munch). Screenprint in a unique combination of colours, 1984. Est. £80,000-120,000
Munch’s The Scream is one of the most instantly recognisable motifs in both art history and popular culture. An existential cry for the struggle of mankind, the composition is one of the artist’s darkest and most challenging works. In this impression, Warhol makes some radical changes to the original motif, emphasising the basic features of the figure to create a cartoon-like face. Warhol has succeeded in replicating the feelings of the intense angst of the original – rendering man’s inner turmoil and utmost despair in print.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), The Sick Child I. Lithograph printed in rose and vibrant red, 1896. Est. £100,000-150,000
Munch regarded The Sick Child as his most important graphic work. The lithograph, dated 1896, depicts the tragic death of the artist’s sister, Sophie. The artist’s eldest and favourite sister died of tuberculosis in 1877 at the age of 15, the disease that had killed his mother ten years earlier. The trauma of her death haunted Munch throughout his entire life and is a recurrent theme in his graphic and painted works. He began work on a canvas in 1885; the subject culminated the following year in his most famous coloured lithograph. Munch demonstrated great technical expertise by producing a total of five colour stones which allow a large number of variations, the combination of colours expressing varying psychological moods and generating different emotional responses. This impression focuses on Sophie’s head and was printed with two stones in a gradation of red, which not only intensifies the emotion and tension, but also evokes the bloody signs of the deadly infectious tuberculosis.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Melancholy III. Woodcut printed in blue, ochre, light-grey and black, 1902. Est. £120,000-180,000
Melancholy III is a colour print which takes its subject from ‘Melancholy’, Munch’s painting 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 is seen approaching the rowing boat on the far shore with her husband.

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February 21, 2014

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Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and Munch: Complete portfolios and sets headline Sotheby's Prints & Multiples Sale

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