Saturday, November 12, 2016

Christie’s Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art Nov 16: Kandinsky, Picasso, Monet, Soutine, Cézanne

Christie’s has announced complete details of its upcoming Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on November 16. Forty-nine works by the major artists of the era, including Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Chaim Soutine, Paul Cézanne, among others. The evening sale is expected to achieve in excess of $200 million.

Wassily Kandinsky’s Rigide et courbé (Rigid and Curved) (estimate: $18-25 million), undoubtedly the most important Paris period painting by Kandinsky to ever appear on the market, is a highlight of its November 16th Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York. Rigide et courbé (Rigid and Curved) is one of the most celebrated and dynamic compositions, of grand scale. The canvas is densely packed with lively geometric vignettes and a thoughtfully textured surface composed of sand mixed with paint, a technique Kandinsky used only in his Paris paintings of 1934-1935. The present work, first owned by Solomon R. Guggenheim who acquired it from Kandinsky in 1936, has been extensively published and highly exhibited from 1937-1949. Estimated at $18-25 million, the painting is undoubtedly the most important Paris period painting by Kandinsky to ever appear on the market. It is being offered from an important private American collection and has not been on the market since 1964. The upcoming sale preview marks the first time in over 50 years that the work will be publicly displayed.

Conor Jordan, Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art, remarked: “With its dynamic sweep of upward energy, Kandinsky’s Rigide et courbé, a late masterpiece from the mid-1930s, unseen in public for over fifty years, evokes an epic paean, a rhapsodic song of thanksgiving suggesting the bright hope the artist saw in his new home in Paris following his flight from Nazi Germany. Abstract forms, runic symbols and mythic references, summoning Kandinsky's life and career, intertwine with veiled allusions to contemporary events, across the broad dimensions of this technically audacious canvas which is richly worked in oil and sand. It ranks among the greatest Kandinskys still in private hands.”

Christie’s will also present Swedish artist August Strindberg’s Inferno (estimate: $3-5 million) in its upcoming Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on November 16. Widely exhibited and published, Inferno has been in the collection of J.E. Safra since 1992, and marks the first time that any work by Strindberg has been offered at auction in New York since 1990.
Adrien Meyer, Christie’s International Director of Impressionist and Modern Art, comments: “Inferno strikes for its daringness and singular freedom. An avant-garde masterpiece through and through, this canvas implements the same philosophies revolutionized by Abstract Expressionist pioneers, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, half a century later.”

Painted in 1901, the striking landscape depicts Strindberg’s conception of Inferno–Hell. The canvas is thickly painted as a field of light consuming darkness, spreading outward from the center of the canvas enveloping and overwhelming the light within. The effect draws the eye to the brilliant white radiance at lower right, the proverbial light at the end of this tunnel. Strindberg was especially attached to the present picture, which he retained for eight years.

In addition to his accomplished painting career, Strindberg also authored dozens of plays, novels, stories, poetry, autobiographies and articles on a range of diverse subjects. He studied metaphysical philosophy, para-physics, and occultism. Completed in 1897, Inferno was first the title of Strindberg’s most famous autobiographical tract. Based predominantly on actual experience, Inferno recounts the events that transpired during the artist’s Paris sojourn from late 1894, which followed the separation from his second wife, Frida Uhl. Living alone in Paris, without the prospect of theatrical success, Strindberg soon fell prey to hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and depression, while his proclivity for alchemic research damaged his health.

At the end of 1896 Strindberg returned to Sweden where his fortune began to improve. He commenced a prolific campaign of playwriting, completing nearly a dozen dramatic works during the next several years. In 1900, his well-received plays filled the theaters in Stockholm, and he fell in love with Harriet Bosse, a gifted actress 27 years his junior. They married a year later, but within months, rising tensions and jealousy fomented a new inferno into which Strindberg rapidly descended, the tumult of his emotions, including thoughts of suicide, filling the pages of his Occult Diary. This dark but fruitful time in Strindberg’s career yielded his most prolific body of paintings, including the present canvas, a clear apogee of this period.

Claude Monet’s Meule (Grainstack) (see previous post here)is one of the culminating and finest examples of Monet’s Grainstack series;

Chaim Soutine’s Le garçon d’étage (estimate: $6-9 million)i a prime example from the artist’s great series of Parisian hotel workers

Two works by Paul Cézanne, demonstrating the artists mastery of both watercolor,  

Théière et oranges (La Nappe) (estimate: $8-12 million),

and oil,  Paysage avec route et clocher (Île de France près de Melun) (estimate: $10-15 million),

his favored subjects of the French landscape and still life.

In keeping with increasing demand for major works by Pablo Picasso, the most heralded artist of the 20th century, Christie’s will offer a diverse selection of 11 Picasso works from various collections, showcasing the artist’s major themes, varying styles and his many muses-- from two powerful portraits of his muse Dora Maar to a whimsical and oversized work of a seated man from his great late series, and a uniquely painted ceramic sculpture of an owl from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection.


Monet’s masterpiece Meule, the culminating work in a series of 25 from 1890-1891 and a direct precursor to the famed Water Lilies cycle, attracted highly competitive bidding from 5 clients. After 14 minutes of volleyed bids, it sold for $81.5 million and broke the record for the artist established by Christie’s in 2008. Kandinsky’s magnificent 1935 Rigid et courbé also set a new world auction record for the artist. Our curated selection of Picassos were highly sought after, the top lot of which was the Buste de femme (Dora Maar). We are pleased to share the buyer was the esteemed Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa, who offered the following comment, ‘I am honored to be able to live with and enjoy this work by Pablo Picasso the most beloved artist of all artists.’”