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Works by Impressionist and Modern titans lead Christie's Works on Paper and Day Sales
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Le Baiser. Estimate: $700,000–1,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s will present its Impressionist & Modern Art Works on Paper Sale and Day Sale, Including Property from the Estate of Edgar M. Bronfman, on May 7 in New York. The sales comprise paintings, drawings, sculptures and works on paper from leading Impressionist and Modern masters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and many more. An early moonlit landscape by Van Gogh and a rare oil on panel by Toulouse-Lautrec, plus a small bronze sculpture of Rodin’s beloved Le Baiser, which has been in a private collection for over 70 years, are among the many fresh-to-market works offered throughout the two sales, including highlights from the estate of Edgar M. Bronfman, the distinguished businessman, philanthropist, and diplomat; The Bergman Collection; and J. Carter Brown, longtime director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among other distinguished collectors. Both sales will offer bidders the perfect opportunity to enter the market, or further expand their own collections. Highlights from the sale are on tour, stopping in San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver and Texas.

Painted in Nuenen in August 1884, Oude Toren bij Zonsondergang (Old Tower at Sunset) is an accomplished painting from Vincent Van Gogh’s (1853-1890) formative Dutch period and depicts a recurring motif from this time (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). After taking courses in anatomy, composition, and perspective at the Académie Royale des Beaux-arts in Brussels and a period in The Hague, Van Gogh returned home to live with his parents in 1883, due in part to financial necessity and also his deep-seated desire to become a painter of peasant life. Inspired by the powerful paintings of weary laborers by Jean-François Millet, Van Gogh here depicts a Brabant countrywoman wearing her distinctive white cap in a wheat field bathed in moonlight. The warm yellows and browns of the wheat and the solid, solemn tower and foliage at the edge of the field contrast with the deep blue and gray of the luminous sky. The painting, which has not been seen at auction since 1969, embodies Van Gogh’s concept of the landscape as a vehicle for feelings and sentiments, which he would develop for the rest of his career, culminating in the landscapes he created half a decade later in the South of France.

Le Baiser is one of the most emblematic works by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), its fame equaled only by that of Le Penseur (estimate: $700,000–1,000,000). The 23⅝”-high sculpture, inspired by an episode in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno, is unparalleled in its description of the complex emotions associated with the inception of love. Rodin has captured the instant in which the couple’s lips are barely touching, a split second before they actually join in an impassioned kiss. The original version of Le Baiser was conceived in 1886, and measured about 34 inches. In 1888, following the success of the sculpture in Brussels and Paris, the French government commissioned Rodin to create a monumental marble version, approximately 75 inches high, now in the Musée Rodin in Paris. In 1898, Rodin authorized the Barbédienne foundry to cast bronze editions in four reductions, of which this work is the second reduction, cast between 1914-1918, and signed by the artist.

Created on May 1, 1944, Buste de femme is the first of nine portraits of a young woman Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted over the course of four days (estimate: $800,000–1,200,000). Depicted against a bright red background, the sitter bears little resemblance to either of Picasso’s wartime muses, Dora Maar or Françoise Gilot. Yet, there is an unmistakable duality to the painting, as represented in the differing hairstyles on either side of the woman’s head: one is coifed and styled, while the other is unkempt and wild. With the tensions his love triangle would have posed, it is not surprising to see such dualism. Yet, there is a great sense of optimism, too, in the radiant brush strokes emanating from the young girl’s head, suggesting a burst of new love, and an increasing sense of hopefulness as the end of the war was drawing near.

Fillette au bois, Le petit cheval rose is a vibrant portrait by Kees Van Dongen (1877-1968) that displays his mastery as a colorist (estimate: $1,000,000–1,500,000). The present work, one of several from the Estate of Edgar M. Bronfman, belongs to an extensive series, begun early in his career, of exquisite portraits Van Dongen painted of women wearing extravagant hats. The artist applied his colors—multiple hues of blue, red and green—straight from tube to the picture, mixing them right on the board, adding generous smears of lead white to form the face. The opposition in the face of white and pink flesh with green shadow became a trademark Fauve color effect.

As the critic Gustave Geffroy wrote in 1914, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is “the quintessential chronicler of Paris, as it is understood by those who come here seeking bright lights and wild pleasures.” Over the course of his short artistic career, Lautrec executed innumerable scenes of the Parisian demi-monde, and the popular entertainments of Montmartre—the circus, café concert, cabaret, and above all the bal or dance-hall, usually in quick sketches on paper. Au bal du Moulin de la Galette is a rare Lautrec oil painting on panel (estimate: $600,000–800,000). In it, he invites the viewer to peer into the bal through the eyes of the waiting women at the bar.

Among the highlights in the Works on Paper Sale is a watercolor by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Rochers à Bibémus (estimate: $500,000-700,000), which has been in the family collection of the late J. Carter Brown, longtime director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Between 1895 and 1899, Cézanne rented a cabin near Bibémus, an abandoned quarry just east of Aix-en-Provence. Here he found the motif to which he returned time after time in his late watercolors: the soaring vertical pine trees set in counter-point against the softer, rounded shapes of rock formations. Like Mont Sainte-Victoire, it is among the key motifs of his late pictures. The present watercolor, with its vibrant blue, green and ochre brushstrokes, and its powerful overall rhythm, is an outstanding example of the artist’s late style.

Executed in 1951, Deux dames japonaises dans un intérieur (estimate: $400,000-600,000) was created long after Picasso was introduced to Japanese art at the turn of the century. While Picasso maintained a reserved appreciation for Japanese printmaking, he was particularly attracted by the elegant eroticism of shunga prints. Deux dames japonaises is unique in that it is more closely associated with ukiyo-e subjects, the pleasures of the urban world—theater and pleasure houses, famous actors, beautiful ladies, and high-class courtesans—as opposed to the erotic. The seated figures are holding a shamisen, a traditional Japanese instrument, identifying the women as geishas.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) painted the gouache Oui in in 1937 in Paris, where he moved when the Nazis closed the Berlin Bauhaus in 1934, and remained with his wife, Nina, until his death in 1944 (estimate: $250,000-350,000). They took an apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, marking the beginning of the artist’s final creative phase, his so-called “Paris” period. In Paris, moving away from the straight lines and harsh geometry that typified the Bauhaus movement, Kandinsky’s work developed a mysterious and organic nature. Amoeba-like forms and embryonic shapes began to form semi-distinct characters and unique, separate hieroglyphic patterns of form, hinting at a mysterious code or hidden glyphic language—one that seemed suspended halfway between the two worlds of figuration and abstraction. Oui is a pictorial manifestation of Kandinsky’s belief that not only all painting but also all of nature is, in essence, abstract, and that phenomenal figurative reality is but a surface manifestation of this fundamental truth.

During the German occupation of Paris, Picasso devoted himself to three great series encompassing three of the principal genres of European painting: the still-life, portraits, and the female nude, usually represented asleep or reclining like an odalisque. His first painting in Paris after the occupation depicts a reclining female nude asleep, as do the two largest canvases he made during the occupation—at a time when canvas was expensive and difficult to buy. The largest of these accomplished works is L’Aubade (Nu allongé avec musicienne), painted on May 4, 1942. Thematically, the present work, Femme couchée et personnage (estimate: $500,000-700,000), is closely related to this important wartime painting. He did not execute any more studies on this subject until November 1941, when he first made three highly worked gouaches of an interior, then the present lot, which introduces two nude females set in the complex interior, followed by four further related gouaches.

From the Estate of Edgar M. Bronfman comes a beautiful gouache and watercolor by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), L’Ancien Testament raconté par Esope (estimate: $300,000–500,000). The scene depicts one of Aesop’s classic fables: the story of the inheritance of three daughters of diverse habits: one was beautiful and lascivious; the second, frugal and partial to the country; and the third, unattractive and given to drink. In his illustration, Chagall accentuates their differences, the bibulous on the left, frivolous in the middle, and austere daughter on the right. The work is from a series of 100 gouaches Chagall painted in 1926-1927 as a commission from the French dealer Ambroise Vollard, at a time when Chagall found himself caught between his Russian past and French present. An edition of engravings based on the colorful originals was released in 1952, but the gouache Fables remained largely unseen until a 1995 anniversary exhibition—the 300th year from La Fontaine’s death and the 10th from Chagall’s.

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