This Decembers Fine European Art Auction is the largest sale of European art Heritage has offered in more than 15 years. Comprised of paintings, drawings, and old master prints, the sale is richly diverse in subject matter, media, national schools, period, style, and price point. French painting is at the core of this auction, with works by such luminaries as Eugène Boudin, Fauvists André Derain and Louis Valtat, and School of Paris figures including Raoul Dufy, Jean-Pierre Cassigneul and Le Pho leading the offerings. But some unusual collections give this auction an extra dimension.
An outstanding feature of the event is the carefully curated selections of artwork drawn from three private American collections, says Dr. Marianne Berardi, Heritages Senior Specialist for European Art. The first is drawn from an extensive collection of Nordic landscape painting assembled by an American collector based in Colorado. His personal interests and intellectual passions led him to pursue the artwork of painters from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and the Faroe Islands.
This event features the first installment of Nordic artwork Heritage will offer from this collector. These initial works have a strongly modernist bent, and find affinities with French or German artists with whom American collectors are often more familiar such as Cezanne, Gauguin or Nolde, says Berardi. This private collector in the late 1970s immersed himself in the Old Norse language and medieval Icelandic sagas, and later, when he and his wife started taking regular trips to the Nordic region, he found that the landscape captured his imagination and would not let go.
Two highlights from this collection include an oil on canvas by Ásgrímur Jónsson, one of the first Icelandic painters to make a living as an artist. After training at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen from 1900 to 1903, he traveled widely and adopted as his primary subject his native Icelandic landscape in which mountains figure prominently, as in this work. A painting by Jónsson protégé, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval is also in this auction. Kjarval, who rose from poverty and initially worked as a fisherman, was an extremely prolific painter and draftsman whose landscapes, like this work, feature the immediate foreground in sharp focus, while middle- and backgrounds fall away into a dreamy, atmospheric haze.
The second collection that shapes this auction features a remarkable selection of 19th-century European genre paintings gathered over years by Hollywood actor Eugene Iglesias. Iglesias, who starred in many westerns and crime dramas, traveled widely for his work, but also in pursuit of the exquisite examples of 19th-century academic painting with which he surrounded himself in his hilltop home, says Berardi.
One highlight from the actors collection includes an 1852 oil on panel by Belgian artist David de Noter. Titled A woman with lapdogs in a lavish interior, this work joins another collection highlight an 1882 oil on canvas by Spanish painter Luis Alvarez Catala titled In the artist's studio. Both are excellent examples of narrative European genre scenes rendered in the kind of meticulous detail that drew Iglesias actorly eye over the years of his collecting.
The third major collection that distinguishes this auction is a selection of intimate devotional paintings that were produced by 19th-century German Romantic artists associated with the Nazarene Movement and the Düsseldorf School. The works were collected by a couple from the Chicago area over the past ten years. These artists looked to medieval and early Renaissance art for inspiration in their quest to restore German painting, which they believed had become increasingly superficial and spiritually bereft, says Berardi. A notable work from this collection is a moving oil on canvas attributed to Ernst Deger (German, 1809-1855). It is one of the Degers best-known works, of which a number of versions are known (one version is in the Cathedral Museum of Hildesheim). This selection of small devotional paintings is a testament to these artists careful study of centuries-old techniques such as stamping and tooling gold grounds with decorative elements, fine calligraphy, and paint application so subtle that brushwork is barely perceptible, says Berardi. The effect these painters created is one of almost impossible precision, and above all, reverential beauty.
The innovations of these artists soon made their way to England and later, in 1848, influenced the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A particularly beautiful Pre-Raphaelite drawing by a woman artist, Mary Evelyn De Morgan (British, 1850-1919), is separate from the above-mentioned collection but is also in this auction: a colored chalks on brown laid paper composition titled Figure study with clenched hands.
Another event highlight is this elegant still life by Eugène Bidau; the paintings provenance includes its exhibition at Le Salon des Artistes Français, Paris in 1875. Two paintings in this auction are attributed to Jean Baptiste Vanmour (Flemish 1671-1737), who was important historically as the artist-biographer of the early eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire. He lived in Constantinople and produced a body of pictorial evidence that was illustrative of all aspects of Ottoman life, which was critical to opening up the Wests understanding of this part of the world. Vanmour's series of paintings depicting the different stages of an ambassadorial reception, from which these paintings come, established an iconographic typology for the way ceremonies were conducted by the Ottoman sultan.
And there is a stunning oil-on-canvas view of Venice by the gifted Romantic landscapist Franz Richard Unterberger (German, 1837-1902) titled View across the Grand Canal to San Giorgio Maggiore, circa 1898. Not to mention a work that once belonged to media baron William Randolph Hearst. The oil on canvas Winter evening at the harbor is by Charles Edouard Delort (French, 1841-1895). Hearsts attraction to human-interest stories is reflected by this work; Delort knew something of colorful and dramatic harbor life given he had entered the French Navy when he was only 12. He later moved to Paris where he studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme and with Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre. Images and information about this painting and all other lots in this auction can be found at HA.com/8103