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Signac, Caillebotte, Monet & more lead Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Gustave Caillebotte, Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers. Estimate $14/18 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s unveiled highlights from their Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on 12 November in New York. Distinguished by a diverse range of works on offer from private collections and with exceptional provenance exhibited throughout, the 53 lots on offer are on public view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries.

Likely the greatest post-1900 work by Paul Signac ever to come on the market, La Corne d'Or (Constantinople) from 1907 is the largest and most striking canvas that the artist painted during his first visit to Istanbul in the spring of that year (estimate $14/18 million). Depicting a lush, textural surface comprised of rectangular brushstrokes, the present work captures the grandeur, history and unique quality of light and color that filled the ancient city.

This historic meeting place of East and West had captivated Signac’s imagination for some time before he finally discovered it for himself while sailing between Naples and Greece. The location inspired twelve paintings, all of which take as their subject the historically significant Golden Horn — a flooded estuary of the Bosphorus near the port of Istanbul. When he painted the current work in 1907, Signac was further developing his artistic style beyond the strict tenets of Divisionism that he had adopted from Georges Seurat in the 1880s. He liberated his color palette, daring to blend the pure pigments seen in earlier works, and broadened his approach while retaining the main characteristics of the style through his pointed application of brushstrokes. This mature style was characterized by a subtle exploration of the nuances of light combined with a chromatic richness that is a key quality of this dazzling canvas.

Gustave Caillebotte’s Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers leads an ensemble of ten works entitled Property of a Gentleman. Gifted by the artist to Gallo, the present work from 1884 is Caillebotte’s final and most impressive portrait of his dear friend and most frequently painted figural subject, Richard Gallo (estimate $14/18 million).

Appearing in Caillebotte’s work in four large-scale paintings from as early as 1878, Gallo was the Egyptian-born son of a French banker who settled in Paris in 1869 and befriended the artist at school. Gallo would go on to become the editor of the newspaper Le Constitutionnel and maintain his friendship with Caillebotte and his brother Martial for years to follow. While little more is known about Gallo, the frequency with which he is portrayed in Caillebotte’s oeuvre stands as a testament to the pair’s lasting friendship. Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers remained in Gallo’s collection until his death, at which time his nephew Maurice Rolland inherited the work. This resplendent and touching portrayal was on extended loan to the National Gallery in London in the early 1990s, as well as on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2000-02, and has appeared in numerous international exhibitions since its creation.

The work also presents one of the finest syntheses of Impressionist techniques and portraiture, capturing the revolutionary artistic spirit of the Impressionists. A seamless blend of the traditional academic genre of landscape and portraiture, the painting embodies the Impressionist exaltation of light, leisure and the fleeting moment, while recalling the Parisian cityscapes of Caillebotte’s earlier career.

The November Evening Sale is led by Claude Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge from 1903 (estimate $20/30 million). Painted during a series of three trips to London from 1899-1901, the canvas is a luminous example from the French painter’s seminal London series and one of the finest pictures from this prolific group ever to appear to auction.

Throughout these works, Monet captured the juxtaposition of the beauty of natural phenomena, such as fog rolling over the Thames, with the industrial development booming in London at the time, epitomized by smoke stacks and steam powered railways. Composed from the vantage point of his room at the Savoy Hotel, Monet found the view particularly advantageous in observing the London landscape and onset of the city’s fog. The mutability of the fog, he discovered, proved to be an apt vehicle for capturing scenes of the same subject matter repeatedly, but with differences in color, touch and lighting.

Having remained in the same family for more than 40 years, the painting leads a group of 16 works from the Klepetar-Fallek Colleciton, to be offered across Sotheby’s Evening and Day Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art this November. The collection was assembled primarily in the 1970s and 1980s by Andrea Klepetar-Fallek and her then-husband Fred Fallek. Ms. Klepetar-Fallek’s extraordinary life story is one of incomparable resilience, independence and optimism – including an escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna, liberation from an Italian concentration camp, and flight from Peronist Argentina.

Charing Cross Bridge comes to auction during a sensational time for Monet’s series pictures: Sotheby’s established a new auction record for the artist when Meules from 1890 sold for an astounding $110.7 million during our May Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York. The stunning canvas from Monet’s famed Haystacks series also became both the first work of Impressionist art to exceed $100 million at auction and the 9th most expensive work ever sold at auction. In addition, Sotheby’s offering of Charing Cross Bridge coincides with an exhaustive exhibition of Monet’s paintings, Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, now on view at the Denver Art Museum through February 2020. Separate release available

The November Sale will offer five works by Pablo Picasso that span 63 years of his prolific career. The selection is led by Nus from 1934 – a crowning achievement of motion, energy and manipulation of the human form that synthesizes the artist’s groundbreaking achievements of the late 1920s and early 1930 into one colorful, dynamic canvas (estimate $12/18 million).

Here, in the seclusion of his new country home of Boisgeloup, three nude figures leap, dance and intertwine in a semi-abstracted landscape, their biomorphic shapes imbued with fertility, sexuality and grace. The country house, the shape of the nudes, and their light, airy movements are all direct reflections of the developments in Picasso’s work since his first meeting with Marie-Thérèse Walter in 1927, while married to his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. The late 1920s and early 1930s were moments of rapid change in Picasso’s ever-evolving style. Firmly in mid-life, he reinvented himself once again, changing his daily life, his studio setting and his family. Nus is both a perfect example of this defining period and an outlier in the artist’s production. The figures are related to his lover Marie-Thérèse but are also embodiments of acrobats and myths – perhaps a nod to the artist’s fascination with circus performers. Nus captures Picasso at the height of his powers in the 1930s and creates a dazzling allegory of these tumultuous and productive years.

The present work was last offered at auction during Sotheby’s sale of the Evelyn Sharp Collection in November 1997, where it sold for $5.5 million. The painting appears at auction this November on the heels of the celebrated Tate Modern exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s annus mirabilis, The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, which was on view from March to September 2018.

A rare example from Picasso’s coveted Blue period, Portrait de Lola, soeur de l’artiste is a hauntingly elegant portrayal of the artist’s younger sister, Maria Dolores Ruiz “Lola” Picasso, who was also one of his most favored early subjects (estimate $4/6 million).

Painted in Barcelona in 1901, Portrait de Lola, soeur de l’artiste comes from a period of great transition for the nineteen-year old Picasso and was likely exhibited in the historic and career-defining Vollard exhibition of that same year. The work also documents a time of crisis in the artist’s personal life. A few months prior to the exhibition, Picasso learned about the suicide of his closest friend Carles Casagemas while away in Madrid. Awash in grief but still obligated to create works for the upcoming exhibition, Picasso headed back to Paris, stopping in Barcelona for about ten days along the way. It is from this dolorous interim that Portrait de Lola, soeur de l’artiste emerges. The tragic loss of Casagemas at this time likely recalled an earlier watershed moment for the artist, the death of Picasso’s youngest sister Conchita in 1895. The successive losses provoked in Picasso a period of deep reflection and resulted in the empathetic and lugubrious works that would define the artist’s iconic Blue Period in the following years.

Portrait de Lola, soeur de l’artist can be traced to a number of prestigious collections. Olivier Sainsère, a prominent politician and patron of the arts, likely acquired the painting from Picasso soon after its creation. Many works owned by Sainsère now enrich the collections of some of the world’s greatest museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre Museum and the Musée d’Orsay. Portrait de Lola, soeur de l’artiste later belonged to Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon, who are best remembered for their generous philanthropy and acclaimed art collection.

Exemplifying Picasso’s limitless versatility, Nature morte à la tête classique et au bouquet de fleurs from 1933 further highlights the selection (estimate $5/7 million). Having remained in the same family collection for more than 35 years, this lyrical work on paper is among the finest of a small group of highly-worked watercolors and gouaches on this subject that the artist created while on holiday in Cannes with his wife Olga and his young son Paolo. The work reflects a time of immense personal and professional change for the artist: his personal life was in disarray following Olga’s discovery of his blossoming relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter; while his professional life was reaching new heights following his first large-scale museum exhibition in 1932.

In the present work, Picasso has subverted the traditional embodied interaction of artist and model— a theme that came to symbolize his own life and work most evocatively — and replaced these lead roles with sculpted avatars. In place of the artist is a large, bearded neoclassical head, while the model is substituted by a bas-relief sculpture affixed to the wall above a bouquet of flowers, echoing the graceful profile of Marie-Thérèse. Haunted by the absence of his mistress who had remained in Paris, Picasso re-created her image from memory.

Last sold at Sotheby’s London in 1982 for $173,135, this magnificent work was held for decades in the collection of Edward James, a poet and a lifelong collector of art. James owned several notable works by Picasso and is remembered for his patronage of Surrealist painters including Salvador Dalí, Pavel Tchelitchew, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington and René Magritte. Separate release available

Sotheby’s is presenting five works by René Magritte in the November Evening Sale, underscoring the recent marked demand for the artist’s works, as well as a renewed interest in Surrealism among collectors. In November 2018, Sotheby’s established a new auction record for Magritte, when Le Principe du Plaisir from 1937 sold for $28.6 million. The work had once resided in the collection Surrealist patron, Edward James.

The group is led by Cosmogonie élémentaire from 1949 – a triumphant example of the artist’s mature oeuvre that combines myriad visual motifs amassed over the course of his career (estimate $6/8 million). Against the recurrent backgrounds of a cubed sky and mountain range, the reclining bilboquet – a chess-like figure frequently depicted in Magritte’s body of work – breathes fire while holding aloft a single leaf, which in itself was the subject of a number of Magritte’s compositions.

The present work first belonged to gallerist Alexander Iolas, who championed the late works of Magritte, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso among many other artists, and who was instrumental in bringing Surrealism to America. Iolas later sold the work to renowned collector Christophe de Menil, daughter of John and Dominque de Menil who mounted the then-largest exhibition of Magritte’s work in the United States in 1964. The canvas also hung in the de Menil home.

Having remained in the same family collection for nearly 70 years, La Légende des siècles establishes a dialogue between a monumental stone-age chair, presented as a natural phenomenon within a desolate landscape, and a tiny human-made version seated upon it (estimate $4/6 million). A frequent element in Magritte’s iconography, the rock often appears as a giant boulder suspended in mid-air, or as an ordinary element, such as a figure, a landscape or a still-life, fossilized into stone. In La Légende des siècles, the gigantic stone chair and the rocks scattered around it imbue the work with a primeval, timeless quality, in stark contrast to the temporary character of the clouds moving across the sky, and in juxtaposing this imagery Magritte subverts the viewer’s perception of the continuity of time and space. Acquired from Magritte in 1951 by Jean Debernardi, a friend of the artist’s brother Raymond Magritte, the work is the third and most complex oil version on this theme that Magritte painted in 1950; the largest of the three versions is in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

Four pieces by Alberto Giacometti will highlight the impressive selection of sculpture on offer. In particular, two works present a variation on the iconic motif of four female figures, worked and re-worked by Giacometti over the course of 15 years to reach a state of sculptural resolution in a masterpiece cast in bronze.

Individually, Quatre figurines sur piédestal (Figurines de Londres, version A) and Quatre figurines are testaments to Giacometti’s radical rendering of the human form and ability to imbue a sense of tension in his figures. Along with a masterful drawing from 1952, Rue de l'Échaudé (Quatre figurines sur piédestal) (estimate $200/300,000), the group documents an extraordinary narrative of the creative process of an artist at the height of his career and a ceaselessly imaginative mind in constant action.

Conceived in 1950-65 – the base cast in 1950 and the figurines cast in 1966 – Quatre figurines sur piédestal (Figurines de Londres, version A) was inspired by a group of nude women that the artist saw across the room while frequenting one of his favored Parisian brothels, The Sphinx, which later closed in 1946 (estimate $6/8 million). The Sphinx’s closure so affected Giacometti that he not only wrote about it in a seminal post-war text, but he also painted, drew and sculpted myriad recollections of his time there. In the present bronze work, the tall pedestal conveys the physical distance between the artist and the women, while the sloped trapezoid beneath their feet represents the vertiginous floor which further emphasized this dislocation of space and remoteness of the subjects. In this work, the haunting isolation of these women, a motif that Giacometti would explore repeatedly throughout the 1950s, is explored ensemble and without compromising the striking, visual impact of each figure.

Executed in 1950, the plaster medium of Quatre figurines (estimate $3/4 million) served Giacometti twice over: one purpose was completely practical in the artist’s process, used (most frequently by his brother Diego) to create the first cast of a clay work. These plaster casts would then be used to create molds for the subsequent bronzes. The other usage was completely artistic and from here the present work derives. These two media allowed him the greatest expression with texture and surface work, where each marking is visible. Once he finished molding and shaping a work in plaster, the artist would often paint the surface to further formalize and refine the piece. In Quatre figurines Giacometti uses a brush to add highlights on the faces where each figure’s eyes stare out, and to delineate right leg from left leg, as well as arms from torso.

Other works by Giacometti include Buste d’homme (Diego au blouson) – a robust personification of the Existentialist movement during the heated years of the Cold War and the most formally radical, visually engaging and emotionally impactful of all his representations of the human figure (estimate $6/8 million).

In addition, Auguste Rodin’s Cariatide tombée portant sa pierre, agrandissement d'un tiers further highlights the outstanding selection of sculpture (estimate $4/6 million). On offer from the Ruthmere Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, the present work was commissioned from the artist by collector Berthe Dumon, who became entranced by a plaster form of the work during a visit to Rodin’s house in February 1894. The work remained with Mme Dumon and her descendants from its creation until 1950. In 1969, the stone was acquired by Walter R. Beardsley of Elkhart, Indiana and subsequently donated by him to the Ruthmere Museum where his son, the Founding Director Robert B. Beardsley, curated its display.

Conceived circa 1881-82 and carved in 1893-94, Cariatide tombée portant sa pierre was viewed by Rodin and his circle as one his most accomplished and important sculptures. Examples of Rodin's Caryatids can today be found in preeminent museum collections around the globe, though the rarity of carved stone is notable. It is thought there may have been a first stone version, whose location is unknown. Two other examples were carved in stone, the present work of 1894 and another carved before 1897, which entered the collection of the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels in 1918.

Depicting one of Tamara de Lempicka’s most famed muses and lovers, Rafaëla, La Tunique rose from 1927 presents a rare example of the artist’s full-length figures (estimate $6/8 million).

An alluring representation of Lempicka’s multifaceted work, La Tunique rose presents a rich tableau balanced by piercing lines and sumptuous curves, her radiant figure accentuated by dramatic chiaroscuro and the pop of silky color against swells of sensuous skin. Beyond her fastidious attention to line and composition, Lempicka possessed a talent for portraying women in a sexualized yet empowering way. The artist’s appreciation of the female form and its power also recalls the once-scandalous nudes of Modigliani, whose works presented women in full possession of their sexuality, often with knowing and solicitous gazes that shocked audiences and authorities at the time.

On loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the last decade, Tristan Bernard au Vélodrome Buffalo is an exquisite example of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s insightful Parisian scenes and captures a crucial moment in the history of French Modernism (estimate $4/6 million). Painted in 1895, the present work situates the eponymous Tristan Bernard at the helm of the cycling track which he operated from 1892. Bernard first introduced Lautrec to the world of cycling, though the artist was less interested in the sporting aspect than he was in capturing the spirit of the crowd and movement of the riders. Among his myriad careers as a lawyer, journalist and industrialist, Bernard was perhaps most gratified by his role as director during the triumphant early days of cycling in Paris.

The canvas bears all of the hallmarks of Lautrec’s most defining works: radical touches of color and energetic brushwork; the attuned psychological nuances of his subjects as attested by Bernard’s fast gaze and self-assured posture; and the artist’s quintessential encapsulation of the precise time and place in which the work was created. Once in the collection of Bernard himself, the work comes to market for the first time in more than 70 years from an illustrious family collection.

A quintessential example of Vilhelm Hammershøi’s defining motif, Interiør, Strandgade 30 from 1899 exemplifies the most refined and important period of Hammershøi’s career (estimate $2.5/3.5 million). On offer from the distinguished collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr., the work was painted during the years of Hammershøi’s residence at Strandgade 30 in Copenhagen’s historic Christianshavn neighborhood. The artist and his wife Ida moved to Strandgade in 1898 following an extended stay in London, and remained in the same apartment for a decade. It was in these rooms that Hammershøi would complete his best works, including the present canvas.

The November offering marks the second occasion that a work by Hammershøi will appear in Sotheby’s New York Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art: in November 2017, Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 from 1901 established a new auction record for the Danish artist when it sold for $6.2 million.

The exceptional examples of Latin American art on offer this November are highlighted by two works by Rufino Tamayo and Joaquin Torres-Garcia.

In her catalogue essay, Anna Indych-López, Professor of Latin American and Latinx Art at The City College of New York, describes Rufino Tamayo’s La Máscara roja (estimate $4/6 million) as “a breakthrough painting that signals a departure from the artist’s earlier densely packed figurative works and announces a transition to a new more sparse, yet intensely colored hieratic style focusing on isolated figures, especially the female nude… A study in form, specifically the particular seated pose associated with depictions of an enthroned Virgin Mary, La Máscara roja secularizes that venerated iconography, translating its essential elements to conjure a universal figure.”

Painted in 1938, Constructivo en blanco y negro (Inti) is one of the best-known and most-exhibited works of Joaquín Torres-García’s career (estimate $2/3 million). Created in the period following his return to Uruguay in 1934, the genesis of Inti was bracketed by the founding of the Asociación de Arte Constructivo (AAC) in 1935 and the organization of the Taller Torres-García (TTG) in 1943. From 1937 onwards, Torres-García was involved in his “Indo-American project,” concerned with separating his version of contructivist abstraction—which he called Universal Constructivism—from its European origins that included the influences of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. As a part of this program, Torres-García began incorporating motifs derived from the art and architecture of pre-Columbian civilizations, particularly those of the Andes, but also from Mexico and North America, throughout his work. The constructions of this period are rigorously geometric, with emphasis on the organizational grid, made even stronger by the use of subtle shading to create a sense of bas-relief. Another aspect of these works is the restricted palette, often monotone earth colors—a quality taken to the extreme in Inti, a grisaille composition.

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November 3, 2019

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