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Swiss made: Sotheby's sale showcases the very best of Switzerland's artistic diversity
Ferdinand Hodler, Der Champfèrsee. Öl auf Leinwand, 41 x 57 cm. CHF 2,000,000 – 3,000,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

ZURICH.- This spring, Sotheby’s Switzerland will host Swiss Art - Swiss Made, an auction bringing together the very best of Swiss Art. The sale on 31 May aims to open up new perspectives: it will proudly offer paintings by the nation’s most enduring and best-loved artists, while at the same time exploring new avenues to showcase the wonderfully varied facets of Swiss Art, taking in sculpture, prints, works on paper, furniture and design. Highlights include a very strong group of paintings by Félix Vallotton showcasing his varied subjects, alongside seminal furniture design by Diego Giacometti. Following the success of themed sales hosted by Sotheby’s, including Made in Britain in London and Boundless in Hong Kong, the selection of works on offer goes beyond conventional boundaries to embrace a diverse range of works by Swiss and nonSwiss artists, all of which illustrate the diversity of art which is “Swiss Made”.

Looking ahead to the sale, Stephanie Schleining, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Department, commented: “For our first themed sale in Switzerland, we have taken a dualistic approach: continuing to select works which reflect this country’s strength on the international market – by celebrated artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Félix Vallotton, we have also widened our scope to include different forms of artistic expression. The result is a richly textured selection in which 19th century painting comfortably rests alongside contemporary works, furniture and sculpture.”

Commenting on the sale, Urs Lanter, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Department, said: “From the 19th century - with Wolfgang Adam Töpffer - to Gottfried Honegger’s bold contemporary canvases and Diego Giacometti’s seminal furniture design, the upcoming sale showcases the best of Switzerland’s artistic diversity. We have worked especially closely with our colleagues around the world to curate a sale with a strong Swiss identity, and also an international dimension, thanks to works from a number of international collections. These include paintings by artists such as Sam Francis, an American who spent time in Switzerland, and John Armleder, a Swiss artist whose success has always transcended borders.”

Swiss master Ferdinand Hodler will be present in the sale thanks to both a historical scene and a majestic landscape.

A magnificent landscape painting, Der Champfèrsee, presents a rare opportunity for collectors: this beautiful work is one among a very few by the artist featuring the scenery of the Engadine region. Still fewer of these remain in private hands, as most are now housed in museums. (Lot 23, Est. CHF 2 million – 3 million).

The sale will also present Rückzug von Marignano, a detailed preparatory work for Hodler’s famed large-scale fresco depicting the army’s retreat from Marignan, created for the Swiss National Museum in Zurich (Lot 12, Est. CHF 100,000 – 150,000).

Collectors from all corners continue to covet works by Félix Vallotton, whose popularity on the international stage has long been cemented. Sotheby’s is pleased to offer a very strong group of works by the artist, continuing our tradition of sourcing the very finest examples in each of the artist’s favoured categories.

The first to be offered in May will be Eglise Sainte-Anne à Cagnes, a wonderfully atmospheric and important landscape completed in the South of France, where Vallotton spent winters from 1920 onwards. The work is exquisite in its use of light and shadows – a feature characteristic of Vallotton’s Southern lansdcapes. It also perfectly demonstrates the artist’s technique known as “paysage composé”, in which he first sketched a scene, before completing the work in the tranquillity of his workshop. (Lot 19, Est. CHF 350,000 – 550,000).

This technique appears once again in Paysage maritime, 1904, a charming landscape captured by Vallotton during his visit to the beautiful Normandy coastline near Varengeville in the summer of that year (Lot 56, Est. CHF 150,000 – 250,000).

Vallotton also excelled in his depictions of interiors, which are among the most sought-after of his works. This skill is illustrated by Intérieur, jeune fille écrivant, 1905, which depicts the artist’s stepdaughter, Madeleine. The painting powerfully illustrates how strongly Vallotton was influenced by the Parisian avant-garde (known as the “Nabis”) during this time. Works from this period are among his most admired pieces, and those most coveted on the market (Lot 38, Est. CHF 280,000 – 350,000).

Also standing out in this impressive ensemble of paintings by the French-Swiss painter is a stunning nude, Baigneuse, buste, 1910. This motif and its various representations were recurrent throughout Vallotton’s life and this example demonstrates his extraordinary ability. The evening light creates a unique atmosphere in this canvas, which ranks among the most impressive nudes realised by the artist. (Lot 39, Est. 100,000 – 150,000.)

Admirers of Vallotton’s work will also be captivated by La femme aux roses, 1919, a sumptuous and mysterious painting combining two of the artist’s best-loved genres: portrait painting and interiors. The purist green background and the composition, including a painting on the wall, is characteristic of his work. The result is a stunning masterpiece of museum quality (Lot 44, Est. CHF 150,000 – 200,000).

The selection of artworks gathered under the banner of Swiss Art – Swiss Made reflect the impressive diversity of Switzerland’s creative output. Nowhere is this more clear than within the Giacometti family, who, across generations, created works and objects that are now highly coveted on the international stage.

Giovanni Giacometti is well represented in the sale, thanks to the very fine Der Durst, 1915, a masterpiece of Swiss Post-Impressionism. Filled with light and shade and richly atmospheric, the painting renders the heat of the sun and the fresh mountain air almost palpable (Lot 26, Est. CHF 200,000 – 300,000).

Collectors will also have the opportunity to acquire pieces of sculpture by Giovanni’s son Alberto Giacometti – indisputably the best-known member of the dynasty. Two exquisite sculptures give fascinating insight into the master’s technique and showcase his ability to render the most subtle of human features in bronze (Lot 72, Buste d’Ottilia, Est. CHF 90,000 – 110,000 and Lot 94, Tete de Rita, right, Est. CHF 90,000 – 110,000).

Diego Giacometti, Alberto’s brother, created superbly proportioned furniture which is highly sought-after by collectors all over the world. His work is perfectly suited to Sotheby’s event on 31 May: the two pieces presented go beyond strict functionality and stand as works of art in their own right. The first is a pair of elegant bronze wall-lights (Lot 86, Zweiarmige Wandappliken, Est. CHF 50,000 – 70,000), the second a beautiful chair, unmistakeable in its design, which has until today remained in the same family who commissioned it (Lot 88, Tabouret, below, Est. CHF 40,000 – 50,000).

Following several impressive retrospective exhibitions, including one at the Centre Pompidou last summer, we are proud to offer two beautiful paintings by Gottfried Honegger. The Zurich-born artist, who passed away in January of this year, is widely recognised as a master of geometric abstraction (Lot 68, Tableau-Relief (P.Z.13), 1962, Est. CHF 25,000 – 35,000) and Lot 82, Tableau-Relief (Z.475), 1967, Est. CHF 30,000 – 40,000).

Swiss-American painter Fritz Glarner was strongly influenced by Piet Mondrian’s theories of ‘dynamic symmetry’, and this is evident in a captivating painting to be offered by Sotheby’s in May. Relational painting Tondo no. 19, 1951 illustrates Glarner’s dialogue with the artists of the ‘De Stijl’ movement, whose ideas he adapted, for example in his tondos, where geometric areas of colour are ordered within a circle (Lot 78, Est. CHF 280,000 – 350,000).

The themed sale will include a delightful selection of sculptures. Alongside two works by Alberto Giacometti (see above), these include a very charming and beautifully executed example of Diego Giacometti’s bronze animals, Chat maître d’hôtel, (Lot 41, Est. CHF 40,000 –60,000), as well as works by Wilfrid Moser, Trix & Robert Haussman, and Edouard Marcel Sandoz.

Le Corbusier, who expressed his vision through painting, design, writing and of course architecture, exemplifies the spirit of Swiss Art – Swiss Made. The May sale will include two powerful works on paper by the artist, offering fascinating insight into his creative process (Lot 57, Femmes nues debout, left, Est. CHF 25,000 – 30,000) and Lot 58, Untitled, Est. CHF 30,000 – 35,000). Collectors will also be offered a rare opportunity to acquire a portfolio comprising very fine lithographs by the artist in colour and black and white (Lot 96, Le Corbusier, Entre-deux, Est. CHF 8,000 – 10,000).

A conceptual artist of great international renown whose works are in high demand, John Armleder’s rise is an illustration of the importance of Switzerland in the art world. Eschewing any affiliation with a particular group or manifesto, Armleder is in equal parts painter, sculptor and installation artist. Sotheby’s spring sale will offer a striking large-scale ‘pour painting’ in which Armleder creates a bold glimmering effect using laquer (Lot 91, Untitled, below, Est- CHF 80,000 – 100,000).

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