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Christie's to offer the personal collection of Barbara Lambrecht
Claude Monet (1840-1926), Les bords de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers, signed 'Claude Monet' (lower left), oil on canvas, 21 3/8 x 28 3/4 in. (54.2 x 73 cm.) Painted in 1874. Estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

LONDON.- The Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 28 February will launch 20th-Century at Christie’s, a season of sales that take place from 28 February to 10 March 2017. The personal collection of the esteemed philanthropist and patron of the arts Barbara Lambrecht* will lead the sale. All proceeds from the sale of the collection will benefit the Rubens Prize Collection in the Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen, Germany.

Barbara Lambrecht: “I began my collection in the early 1970s and have lived with the Impressionist masterpieces, including works by the female artists Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzalez, as well as striking examples of early Impressionism by Monet and the bold colours of Fauvists such as Dufy and van Dongen, all of which have brought me great joy. Art widens my horizon, and my paintings always allowed me to enter new worlds. I am delighted to offer future collectors an opportunity to appreciate them as much as I have over the years. All proceeds from the auction will contribute towards the future of the Rubens Prize Collection in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen.”

With the sale of her personal collection, Barbara Lambrecht, who was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2016, continues her profound and longstanding philanthropic engagement for social and educational projects, classical music, theatre and the arts. Her personal collection was carefully assembled during the 1970s & 1980s and presents paintings by Impressionist painters at critical turning points in their careers when they began to experiment with vantage points, painterly techniques and subject matter. The works will be on view at Christie’s King Street from 23 to 28 February 2017. Highlights will be on view in Hong Kong from 17 to 20 January 2017, Shanghai on 8 February and Beijing from 11 to 13 February 2017.

Two distinct conceptual strands can be identified within the collection: classic early Impressionism and the daring colour of the Fauves. Highlights of the collection include two important oils by Berthe Morisot, who, in an art world dominated by men, defiantly pursued a career as an artist and painted the world around her with constant innovation, expanding the boundaries both of artistic convention and of the prescribed roles of her gender. Further highlights include Claude Monet’s Les Bords de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers (1874, estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000), Les deux Anges by Kees van Dongen (1907-09, estimate: £400,000-600,000) and Pablo Picasso’s Lluis Alemany (1899-1900, estimate: £300,000-500,000), dating from the beginning of his career, just ahead of his first trip to Paris. Estimates range from £7,000 - £3,000,000, providing opportunities for collectors at all levels.

‘Berthe Morisot stands unrivalled’. This was the emphatic response from a critic upon seeing Morisot’s work at the Second Impressionist exhibition of 1876. Painted a year earlier, Femme en noir (1875, estimate: £600,000-800,000), also known as Avant le théâtre, was most likely included in this important exhibition. Depicting an elegant and fashionably attired young woman making her way to the theatre, this painting is one of only a few full-length portraits in Morisot’s oeuvre and is undoubtedly one of the most-celebrated works of her career. While Morisot and her Impressionist colleagues frequently depicted fashionably dressed women at the theatre or opera, seated in private boxes or presented against ornate backdrops, in the present work, the artist has removed all background detail, placing the model within an ambiguous setting. The viewer is then forced to focus solely on the figure herself – her expression, her costume and her idiosyncratic demeanour. With this unusual setting, Morisot has achieved a particularly novel and enigmatic vision of a woman.

In many ways a breakthrough work of the artist’s early career, Morisot held Femme et enfant au balcon (1872, estimate: £1,500,000-2,000,000) in such high regard that she executed a small copy of it in watercolour, which now resides in the Art Institute of Chicago. This was a particularly rare practice for Morisot who was dedicated to the spontaneous depiction of the world around her. By the time that she painted Femme et enfant au balcon, Morisot had grown extremely close to Édouard Manet who played a vital role in her early career, providing crucial encouragement in moments of uncertainty as she forged an independent identity as an artist. Exemplifying the artist’s nascent Impressionist style – she was a founding member of the Impressionist group and exhibited with them in all but one of the group exhibitions between 1874 and 1886 – Femme et enfant au balcon is composed with a combination of spontaneous, softly feathered brushwork and areas of fine, exquisite detail.

Painted in the immediate aftermath of the ground-breaking first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Claude Monet’s Les Bords de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers (1874, estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000) focuses on the idyllic, picturesque Parisian suburb of Petit-Gennevilliers, which sat on the opposite bank of the Seine to the artist’s adopted home of Argenteuil. Working alongside Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Édouard Manet, Monet produced a string of plein-air masterpieces over the course of this summer, inspired by the area’s timeless beauty, charming historical character, and lively nautical traffic that filled this stretch of the Seine. Focusing on the play of light, and the fleeting, ephemeral movement of the sky and river, the present composition is filled with swift, loose brushstrokes that convey a sense of the speed with which the artist rendered the scene, as he quickly translated the landscape as he saw it before him directly onto his canvas.

The two figures at the heart of Kees van Dongen’s early canvas Les deux Anges (1907-09, estimate: £400,000600,000) exude a raw sensuality as their naked bodies are frozen in a moment of ecstatic movement, their torsos curving elegantly as they sway erotically to a rhythm. The artist elongates their figures, allowing them to stretch into elegant poses as they lift their arms above their heads, thus accentuating the willowycharacter of their figures as they engage in an almost Dionysian dance. Van Dongen’s art at this time was dominated by such sensual, seductive female figures, with each of his depictions infused by a distinctively erotic tenor. The often explicitly sexual content was shocking to contemporary audiences and brought the artist a certain degree of notoriety as a painter of lustful sirens. One of the most striking elements of the present composition is the artist’s use of such bold, glowing colours, which seem to radiate from the surface of the canvas. The rich interplay of deep blues, vibrant reds and cool greens is used to great effect, as the vivid contrasts between these unmixed colours lends an extraordinarily powerful expressive quality to the composition, heightening the intensity of the erotic subject matter.

The Rubens Prize, founded in 1955, the same year as documenta in Kassel, is an internationally acclaimed art prize awarded by the city of Siegen every five years to a painter who occupies an outstanding position in European art. The art prize, previously awarded to painters such as Francis Bacon (1967), Antoni Tápies (1972), Cy Twombly (1987), Lucian Freud (1997), Sigmar Polke (2007) and Bridget Riley (2012), commemorates Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, who was born in the city of Siegen and who expressed the idea of European unity in his life's work long before it became political reality.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen is home to the Rubens Prize Collection, which consists of substantial groups of works by all 12 Rubens Prize-winners. Works by future laureates, such as Swiss artist Niele Toroni, who was announced as soon-to-be Rubens Prize-winner of 2017, will be integrated into the collection in future.

As well as having the Rubens Prize Collection at its core, the Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen focuses on conceptual art and photography from the 1970s onwards. It holds works by contemporary artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Thomas Struth and Diana Thater and presents at least three changing exhibitions of young contemporary artists every year, currently showcasing a solo exhibition of Argentian artist Sebastián Díaz Morales (until June 2017) and, from July to October 2017, a retrospective survey by Swiss artist Niele Toroni, the Rubens Prize-winner in 2017.

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