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A majestic sunset by Félix Vallotton to lead Sotheby's Auction of Swiss Art on 2 December
Félix Vallotton, Soleil couchant dans la Brume, 1911 Oil on canvas, 54 x 81cm (est. CHF 900,000 – 1,200,000). Photo: Sotheby's.

ZURICH.- Sotheby’s Auction of Swiss Art will be led by a captivating sunset demonstrating the exceptional talent of Félix Vallotton, who uses the technique of “paysage composé”, to give this natural landscape a universal feel. Works depicting the theme of sunset, very close to Vallotton’s heart, rarely appear on the market and are therefore highly sought after. The auction in Zurich on 2 December 2014 will also showcase emblematic top-quality works by some of Switzerland’s most influential artists, including Cuno Amiet, Alice Bailly, Jean Tinguely and Max Bill. Sotheby’s autumn auction of Swiss Art will include 121 works, with an overall estimate in excess of CHF 5 million.

Looking ahead to the sale, Urs Lanter, head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art department commented: “Sunset compositions by Félix Vallotton appear only very rarely on the market, and as such are very much in demand. His wider oeuvre has seen further attention and acclaim thanks to a retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, and the sale of this museum-quality work will no doubt be highly anticipated by collectors. We are also very excited to feature works from several important private collections, including the George Baines Collection, a wonderful selection of prime examples from the concrete art and constructive art movements.”

Stéphanie Schleining-Deschanel, director of Sotheby’s Export department and Swiss Art specialist, said “The last time a sunset by Vallotton appeared on the market, in December 2010, we set the current world auction record for this subject1. We are delighted to be entrusted for the third time with the sale of a rare and stunning piece by this artist. In addition to this extraordinary canvas, it is also very exciting to be offering the very first painting by Ferdinand Hodler of Lake Geneva – one of the most celebrated themes in his work and indeed in Swiss art.”

Vallotton and the Theme of Sunset
Between 1910 and his death in 1925, Lausanne-born Félix Vallotton produced some 40 variations on the theme of sunset. The most spectacular among them were completed in the Normandy fishing village of Honfleur, where he regularly spent his summers. Vallotton favoured the technique of “paysage composé” (composed landscape), for which he drew sketches or brief impressions and completed the process in the quiet of his workshop. In this way, the painter hoped to go beyond a literal depiction of nature and to recreate landscapes with the aid of the feelings and emotions recalled from his experience. By moving away from the topographical reality of a scene, he aimed to elevate his landscapes to show the universal spectacle of nature.

Soleil Couchant dans la Brume, 1911 takes natural elements and transposes them onto a very pared back surface, revealing the influence of Japanese woodblock prints. The stripped-back forms, brought together in an almost abstract style, allow colour to take on a new dimension, bold and expressive but smooth and even. The panoramic composition places the sun and its halo at the heart of the work, further emphasizing the universality and emotional power of the sunset. Soleil Couchant dans la Brume, 1911, will be offered as lot 49 in Sotheby’s auction of Swiss Art in Zurich on 2 December 2014, with an estimate of CHF 900,000 - 1,200,000.

Further Highlights
Ferdinand Hodler’s Early Love Affair with Lake Geneva

The autumn auction in Zurich will also proudly feature a very early landscape by Ferdinand Hodler, depicting what was to become one of his favourite subjects: Lake Geneva. Indeed, the top three prices achieved at auction for the artist all depict views of the lake2.The present painting, completed in 1877 when Hodler was just 24, is the first known example of this theme in the artist’s oeuvre. The composition of the painting is characteristic of his earlier work, and the more traditional style provides a fascinating contrast with his later, more abstract landscapes in the region (Ein schöner Abend am Genfersee, lot 17, est. CHF 600,000 – 800,000 / € 496,000 – 665,000).

Cuno Amiet: Still Life with Flowers
This stunning still life was painted during the most significant period in Cuno Amiet’s career, at a time when he was at the forefront of the Swiss avant- garde. The rich colours and textures of the work reveal influences from his early contacts in France: scholars point to stylistic references to Paul Gauguin and the German Expressionists, and his exposure to the powerful work of Vincent van Gogh is apparent in the palette and his generous application of paint (Blumenstillleben, lot 28, est. CHF 300,000 – 500,000 / € 248,000 – 413,000).

Alice Bailly: Ice skating in the Bois de Boulogne
Works by the radical painter Alice Bailly are highly sought after, and it is especially rare to see such a major painting by the artist appear at auction. Bailly’s interpretation of cubism saw her strive to reduce forms to movement on the canvas, and this scene of skaters in Paris is a captivating example. Feeding off the energy of the Bois de Boulogne, a location favoured by many artists including Félix Vallotton, Bailly’s colours and composition perfectly bring to life the rhythmic motion of the skaters (Patinage au Bois de Boulogne, lot 41, est. CHF 200,000 – 250,000 / € 166,000 – 207,000).

Jean Tinguely: Stabilität (Security)
The autumn event in Zurich will also showcase the playfully subversive work of Jean Tinguely, in the form of a very rare and unique ‘sculptural machine’. While other kinetic artists in the early years of the 20th century incorporated movement into their paintings, Tinguely went a step further, building moving objects and mechanical sculptures. For this impressive work, standing at a height of 1m60, the artist used a motor from the vertical tail of an aeroplane, which turns the spiral at the top of the work, sending shudders and reverberations through the whole work (Stabilität (Security), lot 88 est. CHF 60,000 – 80,000 / € 49,600 – 66,500).

Exceptional Modern Works from Important Private Collections
Sotheby’s Zurich is delighted to present a beautiful selection of works from the Collection of George Baines. This Belgian collector, a close friend of Swiss architect and artist Max Bill, assembled an extraordinary group of works representing concrete art and constructive art.

The ensemble to be offered on 2 December includes a remarkable painting by Max Bill, which sees the painter playing with clear forms and mathematical order (Zerteilung von Schwarz, lot 116, est. CHF 30,000 – 40,000 / € 24,800 – 33,100).

Following the new record set in May at Sotheby’s for a work by Richard Paul Lohse3, the sale features a stand- out work from the artist, from a Private Zurich Collection. The present canvas is a beautiful and serene example of the artist’s work, rejecting figurative painting and playing instead with blocks of rich colour and geometric patterns (Vier sich durchdringende gleiche Gruppen, lot 121, est. CHF 25,000 – 45,000 / € 20,700 – 37,200).

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