Sunday, February 5, 2023

Vrel, Forerunner of Vermeer

The Mauritshuis 

16 February – 29 May 2023

 Fondation Custodia, Paris
17 June 2023 – 17 September 2023

Almost everyone knows Johannes Vermeer’s quiet interiors and that little street he painted, but few people know that artist Jacobus Vrel (active c. 1640-1660) was already producing scenes of this kind before the paint was dry on Vermeer’s first masterpiece. The Mauritshuis shares the story of this mysterious painter in Vrel – Forerunner of Vermeer.

The exhibition will tell the story of how Vrel was rediscovered in the 19th and early 20th century using a selection of his finest works. Two extraordinary paintings from the famous Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna will be coming to The Hague. One is Woman at the Window (1654), the only dated work by Vrel.

Image: Jacobus Vrel, A Seated Woman Looking at a Child through a Window. Paris, Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection.

Forerunner of Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer and Jacobus Vrel depicted the same subjects, as well as sharing the same initials: JV. For a long time, some paintings by Vrel were actually attributed to Johannes Vermeer. There have even been cases of full signatures by Jacobus Vrel being turned into forged Vermeer signatures. Two works in the exhibition – Street Scene with a Bakery by the Town Wall, Probably Waterstraat in Zwolle from Hamburger Kunsthalle and Old Woman Reading, with a Boy behind the Window, now part of a private collection – were purchased in 1888 as ‘Vermeers’.

More information and images

Saturday, February 4, 2023


Lower Belvedere

3 February to 29 May 2023 

Which works by Vincent van Gogh did Gustav Klimt actually know? How familiar was he with Henry Matisse’s oeuvre? Together with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Belvedere traces the demonstrable influence of those avant-garde artists on the great master of Viennese Modernism. The exhibition also includes works that do not usually go on loan due to their fragile condition. With Water Serpents II, last shown publicly in Austria in 1964, one of Klimt's major works returns to Vienna. 

General Director Stella Rollig: “How could we start the Belvedere anniversary year 2023 more festively than with an exhibition dedicated to Gustav Klimt? Without a doubt, this presentation provides fresh perspectives and a selection of magnificent works, some of which are being shown in Vienna for the first time or have not been seen in decades. We also see Klimt in a new light: as an open and innovative artist who studied other art and never made a secret of his sources, and who was always curious about changing trends, incorporating them into his own work.” 

The comprehensive show at the Lower Belvedere highlights the impact of significant Western European artists on Gustav Klimt's work. Carefully chosen comparisons of his paintings with works of art that had a verifiable influence on him create an exciting dialogue, with works by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, and Jan Toorop, as well as Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Matisse. In what ways did they inspire Klimt? How did he translate these influences into his own visual language? 

According to curator Markus Fellinger: “Klimt is often considered a solitary genius, one whose creativity emerged from within and was shaped by the circumstances that prevailed in his immediate environment in 'Vienna around 1900.' Our exhibition shows a very different Klimt. Many of his contemporaries were aware of the extent to which his work was influenced by the most modern artists of his day, whom he met at the Secession, the Galerie Miethke, and other places. Through a series of clear comparisons, we illustrate how Klimt was able to assimilate the artistic achievements of the time into the development of his own work with unerring instinct.”

Basis of the exhibition is an extensive research project launched in 2015 by the Belvedere and the Van Gogh Museum that investigated the question of which works of international modern art Klimt could have actually encountered, whether in exhibitions and collections in Vienna; during numerous trips abroad to Munich, Venice, or Paris; or through reproductions in publications. Important exhibition venues such as the Secession and the Galerie Miethke – as well as lesser-known institutions and important Austrian private collections such as those of Carl Reininghaus or the Wittgenstein family – were thoroughly investigated. In addition, period publications were reviewed and Klimt's travel activities were traced for references to exhibition and gallery visits. 

The information gathered provides the exhibition with a sound scientific foundation and gives a sense of the prominence and presence of international modern art in Vienna. A fresh understanding of Klimt's artistic development emerges through the juxtaposition of his works with those that inspired him during his creative process. In response to the diverse impressions he gained, especially from the exhibitions that followed the founding of the Secession, his style continuously changed and evolved, demonstrating his keen awareness of the artistic movements of the day. 

The exhibition shows some ninety paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Gustav Klimt and his contemporaries. 

Curators: Markus Fellinger (Belvedere, Vienna); Edwin Becker and Renske Suijver (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) 

Assistant curators: Stephanie Auer (Belvedere, Vienna) and Lisa Smit (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) 


Klimt. Inspired by Van Gogh, Rodin, Matisse Editors: Stella Rollig, Markus Fellinger (Belvedere), Emilie E. S. Gordenker, Edwin Becker (Van Gogh Museum) Authors: Stephanie Auer, Edwin Becker, Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Markus Fellinger, Lisa Smit, Renske Suijver Graphic design: Joseph Plateau, Amsterdam Binding: hardcover Publisher: Hirmer Verlag GmbH Number of pages: 240 Format: 23 x 29,8 cm Available in English, German and Dutch ISBN: 978-94-93070-42-4 (EN)


Gustav Klimt, Water Serpents II, 1904/1906–07

Private collection, courtesy of HomeArt

Gustav Klimt, Johanna Staude, 1917/1918

Foto: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Wien

Henri Matisse, The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908

Photo: Ben Blackwell © Succession H. Matisse / Bildrecht, Vienna 2022

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Harriet Lane Levy

Gustav Klimt, Freundinnen (Wasserschlangen I), 1904

© Belvedere, Wien

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, Embroidered Panels, c. 1902-04

The Glasgow School of Art

Gustav Klimt, Blühender Mohn, 1907

Foto: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Wien

Ferdinand Hodler, Ergriffenheit, 1900

© Belvedere, Wien

Gustav Klimt, Avenue in the Park of Schloss Kammer, 1912

Photo: Belvedere, Wien

Gustav Klimt, Judith, 1901

Photo: Belvedere, Wien

Gustav Klimt, Eugenia Primavesi, 1913

Toyota Municipal Museum of Art

Vincent Van Gogh, Orchard in Blossom, 1889

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent Van Gogh, Field with Irises near Arles, 1888

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Claude Monet, Branch of the Seine near Giverny (Mist), 1897

The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Gustav Klimt, A Morning by the Pond, 1899

Leopold Museum, Vienna

John Singer Sargent, Study for Madame Gautreau, c. 1884

Tate, London, Presented by Lord Duveen through the Art Fund 1925

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of a Lady, 1894

permanent loan from a private collection

Photo: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna


André Derain (1917 Zurich - 1994 Vienna) Auguste Rodin (1840 Paris – 1917 Meudon) Cuno Amiet (1868 Solothurn – 1961 Oschwand) Édouard Manet (1832 Paris – 1883 Paris) Ferdinand Hodler (1853 Berne – 1918 Geneva) Franz von Stuck (1863 Tettenweis – 1928 Munich) Aubrey Beardsley (1872 Brighton – 1898 Menton) Claude Monet (1840 Paris – 1926 Giverny) Edmond Aman-Jean (1858 Chevry-Cossigny – 1936 Paris) Edvard Munch (1863 Løten – 1944 Skoten near Oslo) Fernand Khnopff (1858 Grembergen-lez-Termonde – 1921 Brussels) George Minne (1866 Ghent – 1941 Laethem-Saint-Martin) Georges Seurat (1859 Paris – 1891 Paris) Gustav Klimt (1867 Vienna– 1931 Vienna) Henri Matisse (1869 Le Cateau-Cambrésis – 1954 Cimiez) James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 Massachusetts – 1903 London) John Singer Sargent (1856 Florence – 1925 London) 

Giovanni Segantini (1858 Arco – 1899 Schafberg) Hans Makart (1840 Salzburg – 1884 Vienna) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 Albi – 1901 Château Malromé [Gironde]) Jan Toorop (1858 Purworejo [Java] – 1928 The Hague) Kees van Dongen (1877 Delfshaven – 1968 Monte Carlo)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 Dronrijp – 1912 Wiesbaden)  Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864 Tipton – 1933 London) Max Klinger (1857 Leipzig – 1920 Großjena) Pierre Bonnard (1867 Fontenay-aux-Roses – 1947 Le Cannet) Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862 Ghent – 1926 Saint-Clair) Paul Cézanne (1839 Aix-en-Provence – 1906 Aix-en-Provence) Sascha Schneider (1870 St. Petersburg – 1927 Swinoujscie) Vincent van Gogh (1853 Groot-Zundert – 1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)


1862 Klimt is born in Baumgarten, a suburb of Vienna. His father is a self-employed engraver with a small studio and a modest income. 1873 Vienna World’s Fair at the Prater, including a major art exhibition. Claude Monet exhibits a small painting that goes largely unnoticed. Further major exhibitions of international art are held at the Künstlerhaus and the Österreichischer Kunstverein (Austrian Art Society), featuring key works by Gustave Courbet. 1874 First exhibition in Paris of works by a group of artists who would become known as the Impressionists. 1876 Klimt starts his education at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in Vienna. 1878 After two years attending the preparatory course, Klimt is accepted in Ferdinand Laufberger’s class at the school of painting. He starts collaborating with his younger brother Ernst and their mutual friend, Franz Matsch. Even as students, they work on major commissions together. Reports about the Impressionists’ exhibitions begin to appear in the Viennese press. 

1880 Rodin starts on the designs for his masterpiece, The Gates of Hell, which he would continue to work on until shortly before his death. 1883 In summer, Klimt completes his studies at the Vienna School of Applied Arts and establishes a joint studio with his brother Ernst and Franz Matsch. A major International Art Exhibition is held in Munich; the Vienna Künstlerhaus shows reproductions of masterpieces from across Europe. The ceiling paintings for Liberec city theater—a joint project by the Klimt brothers and Franz Matsch—reveal the influence of a Western European master, Alexandre Cabanel, for the first time in Klimt’s work. Death of Édouard Manet and Eva Gonzalès in Paris. 1884 Death of Hans Makart, Vienna’s preeminent artist. Georges Seurat develops Pointillism. 1886 The ceiling paintings for the grand staircases at the Burgtheater are the first major commission in Vienna to be awarded to the Klimt and Matsch Atelier. The artists start looking to Lawrence Alma-Tadema and move away from the influence of Hans Makart. The School of Pont-Aven is formed around Paul Gauguin. 

1888 Klimt in all likelihood travels to the major International Art Exhibition in Munich, which includes numerous key works by James McNeill Whistler. Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin work together in Arles for nine weeks. In Paris, the Nabis emerge as a group of artists centered around Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. 1890 Klimt becomes established as Vienna’s leading painter. First trip to Venice. Lawrence Alma-Tadema is still his main source of inspiration for the paintings around the staircase at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The influence of works by Frederic Leighton can also be identified. Vincent van Gogh dies in Auvers-sur-Oise. 1892 Foundation of the Munich Secession. Works by Franz von Stuck, its co-founder, are showcased at the Vienna Künstlerhaus and cause a sensation. Edvard Munch’s first exhibition in Berlin ends in scandal. The death of Klimt’s father, closely followed by his brother Ernst, plunges Klimt into a deep personal crisis. 

1894 The Third International Art Exhibition at the Vienna Künstlerhaus shows hardly any modern art. Dissatisfaction about this conservative environment builds among young artists and critics. In December, Franz von Stuck again exhibits at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, this time with the Munich Secession. These impressions prompt Klimt to turn away from academic painting. He paints his first works revealing a completely new approach to color, emulating Stuck and other modern painters. 1897 In April, Klimt and a group of progressive artists leave the Künstlerhaus and found the Vienna Secession. In summer, Klimt first encounters paintings by Claude Monet in the International Art Exhibition at Munich’s Glaspalast. 1898 The Secession’s first exhibition presents an overview of contemporary art in Europe with the work of 131 foreign artists. Klimt finds new sources of inspiration in the art of Auguste Rodin and Fernand Khnopff. From April, paintings by Claude Monet are shown at the Künstlerhaus jubilee exhibition, the artist’s first appearance in Vienna since 1873. Shortly afterward, Klimt paints his first landscapes during his summer vacation in the Salzkammergut. Klimt becomes a corresponding member of both the Munich Secession and the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in London. 

1899 The third Secession exhibition opens in January showing Pointillist paintings by Théo Van Rysselberghe. In May, while on a trip to Italy, Klimt visits the Venice Biennale, where two of his paintings are on show. There he sees works by James McNeill Whistler, Claude Monet, Ferdinand Hodler, and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, all of major significance for his further development as an artist. Giovanni Segantini dies in Pontresina. 1900 The media storm around Klimt’s Faculty Paintings begins to rage. Klimt exhibits Philosophy, Sonja Knips, and Pallas Athene at the Paris World’s Fair and wins a gold medal. His planned trip to the French capital is abandoned. The seventh Secession exhibition brings to Vienna the art of Paul Signac, Fernand Khnopff, and Jan Toorop; the eighth exhibition includes works by George Minne and the Glasgow Four, the collective centered around Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 1901 The ninth Secession exhibition showcases Giovanni Segantini and Auguste Rodin. In autumn, Klimt creates the Beethoven Frieze, although this is not displayed until 1902. Opening in December, the twelfth Secession exhibition brings to Vienna works by Jan Toorop, Edvard Munch, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Ferdinand Hodler. Death of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

1902 The Beethoven Exhibition, featuring Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, runs from April to June at the Vienna Secession. Klimt and Auguste Rodin meet in Vienna during the exhibition. 1903 At the beginning of the year, the Secession shows a comprehensive exhibition about Impressionism, with major works by all its key exponents. It also covers Post- and Neo-Impressionism. The names of artists like Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Édouard Vuillard, and Pierre Bonnard first appear in the Austrian press as a result. Foundation of the Wiener Werkstätte in May. In November, Klimt’s first major solo exhibition opens at the Secession. After this, he travels to Venice, Ravenna, and other destinations in Northern Italy. James McNeill Whistler dies in London; Paul Gauguin dies in French Polynesia. 1904 The nineteenth exhibition of the Secession focuses on works by Ferdinand Hodler, Cuno Amiet, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Edvard Munch. 1905 An exhibition of Aubrey Beardsley’s work is held at Galerie Miethke in January. In May, Klimt travels to Berlin to the second exhibition of the Deutscher Künstlerbund (Association of German Artists). He has his own room at the show and is awarded the Villa Romana Prize. At the same time, a Van Gogh exhibition is shown at Kunstsalon Cassirer in Berlin. Carl Moll becomes artistic director of Galerie Miethke. The resulting internal disputes cause Klimt and his followers to leave the Secession. Moll transforms Galerie Miethke into the premier venue for international modern art in Vienna. Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck develop Fauvism. The artist group Die Brücke (The Bridge) is formed in Dresden. 

1906 Galerie Miethke stages a major Van Gogh exhibition in January. Klimt travels to London, Brussels, Berlin, and Dresden. Paul Cézanne dies in Aix-en-Provence. 1907 Klimt finishes his portrait Adele BlochBauer I (“Golden Adele”); Pablo Picasso completes his early masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. In March and April, a major Gauguin exhibition is held at Galerie Miethke, also featuring works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, and other modern French artists. Klimt travels to Berlin in November. 1908 Klimt and his circle, the so-called Klimt Group, organize the Wiener Kunstschau. Auguste Rodin exhibits eighty drawings at Kunstsalon Heller in Vienna. 1909 At the Internationale Kunstschau, the Klimt Group again brings together modern trends in European art, including works by Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse. Between mid-October and early November, Klimt and Carl Moll travel to Paris, Madrid, and Toledo. Klimt visits the Salon d’Automne, in which works by Matisse are exhibited. He also views many public and private collections, where he admires the art of Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne. Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at Galerie Miethke (mid-October to late November). Matisse publishes his “Notes of a Painter” in the journal Kunst und Künstler. These new experiences lead to the end of Klimt’s Golden Period and a dramatic stylistic shift to his more expressive late work.

 1910 Exhibition of works by Édouard Manet and Claude Monet at Galerie Miethke. At the ninth Venice Biennale, a room is devoted to Klimt’s art. 1912 Klimt finishes his mosaic frieze for Palais Stoclet in Brussels. He paints Adele BlochBauer II and Paula Zuckerkandl, the first portraits in the style of his late work. Both are significantly inspired by Chinese applied art. In Paris, František Kupka is the first artist to show an abstract painting at a public exhibition. 1913 At the beginning of the year, the exhibition New Art is held at Galerie Miethke featuring works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Signac, as well as the new generation of artists, including Pablo Picasso, André Derain, and Kees van Dongen. 1914 Galerie Miethke stages a Picasso exhibition (February to March) and a Derain exhibition (March to April). In May, Klimt travels to Brussels, where he admires traditional African art at the Musée du Congo. Outbreak of World War I while Klimt is on his summer vacation at the Attersee lake. Artistic exchange with Western Europe effectively draws to a halt.

1917 Klimt participates in exhibitions in Nuremberg, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. He starts working on his final major painting The Bride, which would remain unfinished. Edgar Degas dies in Paris. 1918 Klimt has a stroke on the morning of January 11. In hospital he becomes seriously ill with pneumonia; he dies on February 6.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Christie’s 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale on 28 February 2023- Lucian Freud

 Two rare and exquisite Lucian Freud paintings that trace the artist’s enduring fascination with the natural world throughout his distinguished career will highlight Christie’s 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale on 28 February 2023. Unseen in public since 1974, Scillonian Beachscape (1945-46, estimate: £3,500,000-5,500,000), is an early painting by the artist, and one of a handful of works inspired by a formative visit to the Isles of Scilly, accompanied by his close friend, the artist John Craxton. During the trip, Freud created a number of drawings and completed this canvas when he returned to London. Unusually for the artist, the composition of Scillonian Beachscape is directly based on one of his location drawings, Untitled (which was sold by Christie’s in October 2022). Scillonian Beachscape is presented alongside Garden from the Window (2002, estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000), which comes to auction for the first time. Both paintings are offered from the same private collection, and were formerly in the renowned collection of Simon Sainsbury.

Tessa Lord, Acting Head of Department, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s London: “Lucian Freud, revered as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, continually returned to the natural world as a source of rich inspiration throughout his career. This lifelong fascination is perfectly encapsulated in these two exquisite paintings which offer viewers insight into both his early and late life. The significance of the natural world to Freud is currently being explored in an exhibition at London’s Garden Museum. Each previously in the prestigious collection of the British philanthropist and businessman Simon Sainsbury, these two remarkable works will highlight our upcoming 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale. We expect them to resonate with our international collector base, particularly in light of London’s National Gallery’s recent centenary retrospective “Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” which will open at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, Madrid in February.

Scillonian Beachscape
 presents a dreamlike coastal scene in lush, sun-drenched colour. Captured in the crisp detail that defines Freud’s work of this period, a tall sea-holly dominates the foreground, unfurling sharp, scalloped leaves. To the left, a puffin perches on a round, perfectly pitted pebble. With their precisely modelled shadows, the objects contrast with the backdrop’s stylised, near-abstract fields of colour: they stand on a golden beach, which gives way to bands of blue and turquoise sea, and a distant strip of cyan sky. Two dark islets slice through the water like fins. Freud’s early practice was defined by plant and animal subjects before he shifted his focus to portraiture. Scillonian Beachscape is also distinguished by its remarkable scale. At half a metre in height and three-quarters of a metre across, it stands alongside major early works including Boy with a Feather (1943), The Painter’s Room (1945) and Dead Heron (1945), as one of the very largest paintings Freud had made by this date.

An exquisite portrait of nature painted at the height of Freud’s powers, Garden from the Window offers a rare glimpse of life beyond the artist’s studio walls. With exceptional detail, the artist captures the dappled play of light across the buddleia at the centre of his garden. Cropped to near-abstraction, leaves and petals are rendered with the same exacting textures that Freud applied to human flesh, their forms entangled like limbs. Painted in 2002, and unveiled at Tate Britain, London two years later, the canvas belongs to a series of works depicting the artist’s garden at 138 Kensington Church Street. The wild, overgrown plot became a great source of inspiration to him during the last two decades of his life. More keenly aware than ever before of time’s inevitable passage, Freud set about capturing the miraculous flux of light and life outside his window.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Sotheby’s Auctions on 7 October, November 14 2022: Picasso, Mondrian


EST. HK$60M - 80M/ US$7.7M - 10M

This Autumn in Hong Kong, for the fourth consecutive season[1], Sotheby's will once again present an exceptional work by Pablo Picasso in Asia. Making its auction debut, and unseen in public for more than thirty years, Femme assise à la galette des rois - a loving portrait of the artist’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque - will lead Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Art Evening Auction on 7 October with an estimate of HK$60-80 million / US$7.7-10 million.

Picasso first met Jacqueline in 1952 at the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris in the South of France; she quickly became his lover and muse and would remain by his side right up until his death in 1973. No other figure looms larger in Picasso’s life and art than Jacqueline - of all the women associated with Picasso, it was Jacqueline who would feature most often as his subject. Her legendary features first appeared in Picasso’s output in 1954 and the following two decades, which art historian John Richardson called “l'epoque Jacqueline”, reveal the essential role she played in Picasso’s late artistic career.

In Femme assise à la galette des rois, although the sitter’s image has been partially abstracted, the dark eyebrows, the beautifully curved eyelids and the firm, straight nose are unmistakably those of Jacqueline. Picasso depicts his wife as an all-seeing classical beauty, invested with a sense of regal authority with a crown placed upon her head. Jacqueline is also seen holding the galette des rois (King Cake), a cake traditionally baked to celebrate the Epiphany, containing a small charm or figurine inside bestowing the moniker of “king for a day” on whomever finds it. This charming detail offers a personal insight into the life of the artist and his muse, and evokes an atmosphere of playful celebration that encapsulates their life together as a couple.

The vibrant palette of green, black and gold, and the comparatively formal nature of Jacqueline’s posture, reflect the influence on Picasso of Old Masters such as Velázquez. Throughout the 1960s, Picasso turned repeatedly to the reinterpretation and investigation of the artists of the past that he revered, a process through which he reaffirmed his lineage to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. These achievements were made possible by the loving company of Jacqueline who inspired many of his most significant compositions of the period.

Femme assise à la galette des rois comes to auction from a Swiss private collection and has remained in the possession of the same family for over 50 years. In 1988 (to 1989), the painting was included in Picasso’s major retrospective at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Now, some three decades later, the public will once more have a long overdue opportunity to appreciate Picasso’s visually stunning painting of the women who meant so much to him.

The work will be presented alongside a selection of paintings by internationally renowned Modern masters, including Pierre Soulages’ Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956 - a rare large-scale composition by the abstract artist, Joan Miró’s Personnage dans la nuit - a strikingly colourful work featuring Miró’s iconic motifs, Sanyu’s Branches - one of the artist’s largest flower paintings, and Zao Wou-Ki’s 15.02.65 - a seminal work from his acclaimed Hurricane Period.



“There are few artists who have staked such an audacious claim in the history of Modern art as Piet Mondrian, whose grid-style of abstract painting is a truly singular achievement in painting history. Composition No. II is an undeniable masterwork by the artist, bearing the signature hallmarks of Mondrian’s groundbreaking, elemental approach to composition – black lines, forms of primary colors, and geometric precision. The work hums with an electricity that mirrors the energy of painting in Europe at this time and remains as vital as it did when it was painted nearly 100 years ago.”

In his recent review of Hans Janssen’s newly translated biography of the Dutch Modern master Piet Mondrian, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl places the artist alongside only Picasso as the premier progenitors of twentieth-century painting: “Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian are, to me, the twin groundbreakers of twentieth-century European pictorial art: Picasso the greatest painter who modernized picture-making, and Mondrian the greatest modernizer who painted.” As one of the earliest and most innovative creators of truly abstract painting, Mondrian is not only among the cornerstone figures of Modern art, but also among the great Dutch masters, in company with Rembrandt and Van Gogh, who revolutionized painting and the course of art history in their time.

Possessing the balance and harmony that drove Mondrian to create the most daring compositions of the twentieth century, Composition No. II from 1930 represents the pinnacle of Mondrian’s mature style, which the artist refined during his time in Paris and immersion in the artistic firmament that took hold there during the 1920s and early 1930s. Works from this period are entirely distinct from Mondrian’s earlier movement toward abstraction before and during World War I, as well as from his later period Boogie Woogie works he produced after emigrating to America in 1940.

In Composition No. II, the artist’s signature grid abstraction and geometric composition is on full display; this work is further distinguished by the large red square form occupying the upper right quadrant. Works by Mondrian that have a predominance of the color red are exceptionally rare within his oeuvre, with only 17 paintings of the nearly 120 works executed by the artist from 1921 to 1933 having a focus on the color red, and of this group, only three paintings remain in private hands. Composition No. II comes from a discrete series of square-format canvases, the majority of which are held in museum collections. It is also one of only three of paintings to feature the dominant red square at upper right; the other two works with this feature are both in museum collections (the National Gallery of Belgrade and the Kunsthaus Zurich) and are smaller in size. Composition No. II has an exceptional exhibition and provenance history, and was first exhibited the year it was painted in the inaugural Cercle et Carrée exhibition in Paris.

Reflecting on his artistic evolution, his aims as an artist, and how a primary color such as red would come to feature so prominently in his work, Mondrian recounted how his “work unconsciously began to deviate more and more from the natural aspects of reality...The first thing to change in my painting was the color. I forsook natural color for pure color.”

Coming to auction for the first time in nearly 40 years on 14 November at Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction, Composition No. II is anticipated to sell for in excess of $50 million, making this work one of the most significant and valuable works by the artist ever offered on the market. When the painting was sold at auction in 1983, it achieved the highest price ever paid at the time for a work by Mondrian and for a work of abstract art at auction, as reported in The New York Times1.

“Quintessential works by Piet Mondrian rarely come to auction as many are housed in the most prestigious museum collections around the world. Composition No. II embodies everything you could want from a Mondrian – it is a seminal painting that is both crucial to the development of Modern art and emblematic of the enduring appeal of the Modern aesthetic, characterized by a serene sense of compositional balance and spatial order, and with superb provenance. On his path towards abstraction, Mondrian reached an epiphany with the works he created at the peak of his career. The opportunity to acquire a painting of this quality is truly a once-in-a- generation occurrence.”

In the popular imagination, Mondrian’s unique style is perhaps the most commonly recognized form of abstract art, which has influenced art movements from Color Field to Minimalism, as well as artists spanning generations and global cultures, including Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, Liu Ye, Richard Pettibone, and many more. Mondrian has not only had an impact within the arts, but also a wide-ranging impact on popular culture. The artist’s geometric motifs and palette of primary colors has also left an undeniable imprint on popular culture, ranging from the designer Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Mondrian-inspired cocktail dresses of the mid-1960s, the architecture of the Eames House in California, the exterior of the Hague’s City Hall, Italian designer Danilo Silvestrin's furniture, a specially designed pair of Nike SB Dunks, The White Stripes album De Stijl and album cover designs by other artists, to name just a few instances of the artist’s influence.

By the time Composition No. II was painted, Mondrian was already well known in international art circles. Peggy Guggenheim and Alfred Barr both courted him for work; Hilla Rebay and Marcel Duchamp stopped by his studio and dozens of young artists visited him in his immaculately designed environment. At the center of the art world in Paris during this time, Mondrian felt at home within the bustling metropolis and the access to new forms of culture, such as jazz, modern dance, and the excitement of fast-moving visual culture that was often associated with nightlife throughout the city. Mondrian was known to stay out all night at Café du Dome and attend the Cirque Médrano in Montmarte. The pleasures of Parisian nightlife were not only for passing the time. As with every aspect of his studied daily routine, these nocturnal outings infused and inspired his work. However, with the deteriorating political situation in Europe, by 1937 Mondrian’s work was being exhibited as Degenerate Art in Germany. Within a year he would leave France, first for England and then, in 1940, for New York, where he would, for the first time in decades, finally abandon the black line in his work as he embarked on a new series within the evolution of his work that was also indebted to the new culture he experienced around him.

Despite being at the vanguard of modernism, and effectively altering its course, Mondrian’s Dutch background and Puritan upbringing were formative influences on his ideas and work, as he sought to infuse a religiously inspired Dutch aesthetic with a radical, modernist fervor. His return from the Netherlands to his studio in Paris in 1919 marked the beginning of a period of intense activity devoted to developing the style that would dominate his work of the 1920s, during which time he confined his pictorial language to planes of pure primary color, planes of non-color and black lines. Over the next decade Mondrian refined this new vocabulary to the highest degree of balance and economy, creating several series of similar works, with each new canvas featuring minor variations in the precise shades of the primary colors, the thickness of the black lines, and the size and shape of the geometrical grids that delineate his compositions. Each work is a unique attempt to express a principle of equilibrium borne out of opposing elements, further amplified by Mondrian’s decision to present his finished canvases in recessed frames.

Mondrian’s studio environment in Paris was a vehicle for creating his work and encountering this carefully constructed world was akin to encountering one of his paintings. He had moved to the French capital in 1911, settling into what, with the interruption of World War I, would be his home until 1938. Alexander Calder visited the studio in 1930, the year Composition No. II was produced, and recalled: “I was very much moved by Mondrian's studio, large, beautiful and irregular in shape as it was, with the walls painted white and divided by black lines and rectangles of bright color, like his paintings.” It was through the careful balance of color – or lack of color – and form expressed through vertical and horizontal lines that Mondrian created his ultimate vision.

Composition No. II carries an illustrious provenance and extensive exhibition history, including a Paris-based show the year it was painted. The work was loaned by Mondrian to the Swedish artist Otto Carlsund in the early 1930s and enjoyed a stint in the collection of Dutch artist César Domela in the late 1940s. The work was later held in the Bartos collection, where it remained until 1983 when it last made an appearance at auction, alongside other important works from their collection by Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger and Mark Rothko.

Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Auction on 1 March: Picasso, Munch


LONDON, 22 JANUARY 2023 – The women in Picasso’s life have always been at the heart of the artist’s oeuvre. On September 5, 1935, a new muse arrived in the form of his daughter Maya, named María de la Conceptión after Picasso’s beloved late sister, and born in secrecy while Picasso was still married to his first wife, the former ballerina Olga Khokhlova. The daughter of his greatest love Marie-Thérèse Walter, Maya was to prove an immense source of happiness for Picasso. Her timely birth coincided with a personal crisis which Picasso later referred to as “the worst period of his life”. A lengthy divorce battle with Olga and the associated loss of his beloved property, Château de Boisgeloup, in combination with the increasingly worsening political situation in Europe and a deepening sense of the inevitability of war, conspired to overwhelm the artist, who was experiencing a nearly year-long abstinence from painting.

Between January 1938 and November 1939 Picasso painted fourteen portraits of Maya – the most important series Picasso devoted to one of his children, in which his joy as a father finds poignant expression in his joy as an artist. One of the artist’s most playful and bold depictions of his daughter will now appear at auction for the first time in more than 20 years. Estimated at $15-20 million (in the region of £12-18 million), Fillette au bateau (Maya) will be offered in Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction in London on 1 March 2023. Kept by Picasso until his death in 1973, the painting was subsequently owned by Gianni Versace, before being sold by Sotheby’s in London in 1999 as part of the late fashion designer’s collection of 25 works by the artist. Its reappearance on the market coincides with the passing of Maya Ruiz-Picasso on December 20, 2022, at 87 years of age. The work will go on view at Sotheby’s Hong Kong (5-7 February), New York (11-15 February) and London (22 February-1 March).

“In his portraits of Maya, Picasso reached for his most joyful, brightly coloured palette, and employed a combination of styles to elevate his daughter to the same level as his paintings of her mother, Marie-Thérèse – the artist’s greatest love, with whom we associate his most romantic pictures. There is a continued strong demand for paintings from the 1930s, and a work of this calibre is made even more remarkable for not having appeared on the market in almost a quarter of a century.”

Painted on 4 February 1938, when Maya was two-and-a-half years old – shortly after Picasso had completed the monumental and harrowing Guernica – the portrait is filled with exuberant colour and energy. Picasso depicts Maya at eye level, and captures her fidgety nature through implied movement, while her face is depicted with the Cubistic distortion that was common in Picasso's pictures from this era. An important feature of Picasso’s series of portraits of Maya is the striking resemblance that Maya’s features carry to those of her mother, Marie-Thérèse.

It was no secret that Picasso revered childhood, and in his art attempted to capture the spirit and freedom that often eludes adult creativity. Playing with his children presented him with an opportunity to reclaim his lost youth, and his portraits of them were extensions of that cherished playtime. He would sing songs to his daughter, dance with her, make paintings for doll’s houses from matchboxes, puppet theatres using paper, and small fabric figures with heads made of chickpeas.

Maya was Picasso’s eldest daughter and second child, following the birth of Paulo in 1921 (born to Olga Khokhlova), and preceding Claude in 1947 and Paloma in 1949 (born to Françoise Gilot) – all of whom were represented by Picasso in his art.

Young María – who could not pronounce her name, so her parents opted for Maya instead – was a constant presence in the artist’s studio – while her father worked on the large canvas for Guernica, she would innocently pat her hands on the surface, recognising the distinguishable profile of her mother in the faces of the anguished victims of the massacre.

“With his eyes he looked; with his hands he drew or modelled; with his skin, nostrils, heart, mind, with his gut, he sensed who we were, what was hidden in us, our being. This, I think, is why he was able to understand the human being – however young – with such truth.”

Picasso would produce a final portrait of Maya in 1953, just as she was about to turn eighteen. After her father died, Maya would go on to devote her adult life to preserving Picasso’s legacy – and, in turn, her daughter Diana Widmaier Picasso recently turned the spotlight on her grandfather's relationship with her mother as a small child, with a critically acclaimed exhibition at Paris’ Musée de Picasso – which united this painting with other portraits in this series for the first time.

Also confirmed for Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Auction on 1 March, is a seminal four-metre-long painting by Edvard Munch exploring love, life and death on the Oslo fjord – from the walls of Max Reinhardt’s avant-garde Berlin theatre to a luxury cruise liner and hidden from the Nazis in a barn deep in the Norwegian forest, Dance on the Beach is being offered from the renowned Olsen Collection as part of a restitution settlement with the gamily of leading Jewish patron Curt Glaser, with an estimate of $15 – 25 million (in the region of £12 – 20 million). 

A Seminal Four-Metre-Long Painting by Edvard Munch Exploring Love, Life & Death on the Oslo Fjord

By Sotheby's

From the Walls of Max Reinhardt’s Avant-Garde Berlin Theatre to a Luxury Cruise Liner & Hidden from the Nazis in a Barn Deep in the Norwegian Forest

“Dance on the Beach” to be Offered at Sotheby’s London in March From the Renowned Olsen Collection As Part of a Restitution Settlement with the Family of Leading Jewish Patron Curt Glaser

Edvard Munch’s singular vision resulted in vivid, psychological artworks as he battled his demons and the eternal pull between life and death on canvas. In 1906, at a turning point in his life, Munch was commissioned to paint what is now known as “The Reinhardt Frieze”, installed on the walls of impresario Max Reinhardt’s avant-garde theatre in Berlin with twelve major canvases – in an immersive installation that was one of the first of its kind, and trailblazed the relationship between performance and art.

At just over four metres wide, Dance on the Beach is the monumental culmination of the series. In the foreground of the canvas are two of the artist’s great loves, affairs with both of whom ended in heartbreak. It is the only example from the Reinhardt series remaining in private hands, with all of the others held in German museum collections.

As part of a tumultuous journey in the lead up to and during the Second World War, the painting was last on the market 89 years ago, when it was acquired at auction by Thomas Olsen – who assembled an unmatched collection of around thirty works by the artist, including one of four versions of the infamous The Scream. Having been identified as once having belonged to Professor Curt Glaser, a major cultural figure in 1930s Berlin who was forced to flee, it is being sold by agreement between the two families.

The work will be offered as a highlight of Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Sale in London on 1 March, with an estimate of $15-25 million. Prior to the sale, the painting will go on public view for the first time since 1979, with an exhibition in London (22 February – 1 March), as well as digital installations of this frieze in Hong Kong (5-7 February) and New York (11-15 February).

“Munch was the ultimate rebel, and every brushstroke on this frieze is utterly modern and purely expressive. This composition reimagines one of Munch’s greatest images, the Dance of Life, which was the culmination of the artist’s Frieze of Life and places love at the centre of the artist’s ‘modern life of the soul’. His first version dates from 1899-1900 and hangs alongside the iconic Scream in Oslo’s National Gallery. This work is among the greatest of all Expressionist masterpieces remaining in private hands — its shattering emotional impact remains as powerful today as in 1906.”
“This exceptional painting is made all the more special due to its extraordinary provenance, a history that has unfolded since it was painted 115 years ago. Intertwined in the story of this painting are two families – both leading patrons of Munch. Indeed, so important were the Glasers and the Olsens to Munch, that he painted both Henrietta Olsen and Elsa Glaser (wives of Thomas and Curt). We are proud to play a part in the painting’s next chapter, whilst celebrating the legacy of the patrons who were integral in supporting the vision of such a great artist.”

The sale will also include a monumental masterpiece from Gerhard Richter’s celebrated cycle of abstract painting. Also of spectacular proportions, and also spanning four metres across, Abstraktes Bild, 1986 will be offered with an estimate in excess of £20 million.