Monday, January 21, 2019

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 26 February 2018

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Claude Monet, Le Palais Ducal, oil on canvas, 1908 (est. £20,000,000-30,000,000)

Helena Newman, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said:
‘This spellbinding painting is a true masterpiece and among the very greatest Monet painted during his first and only encounter with Venice. Having remained in the same family collection since 1925, it presents a rare opportunity for collectors from all over the world to acquire a painting of this quality that is completely fresh to the market.’ Claude Monet arrived in Venice on 1 October 1908 – and, taken aback by the splendour of what he saw, the artist declared the city‘too beautiful to paint’. 

Enchanted by the city, Monet painted just under forty  canvases  during  the  course  of  his  three  month  stay, the greater  part  of  which  adorn  the  walls  of  museums  across  the  globe.  This  spectacular  painting  depicts  the  historic  Gothic façade of the Doge’s palace, and it belongs to a celebrated group of three works painted from the vantage of a boat moored along the canal, one of which is held in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

 Le Palais Ducal has been in the same family collection since 1925, when it was acquired by Erich Goeritz, a Berlin-based textile manufacturer. Goeritz was a significant collector of Impressionist and  Modern  art,  building  an  extensive  collection  that  was  both  eclectic  and  forward-thinking, counting  among  its  number  celebrated  works  such  as 

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Édouard  Manet’s  Un  bar  aux  Folies-Bergère,  now  in  the  Courtauld  Insitute  of  Art,  London.   Philanthropic  in  his  artistic  endeavours,  Goeritz  gifted  a  substantial  number  of  works  to  the  newly  founded  Tel  Aviv  Museum  of  Art  in  1933  as  well  as  donating  to  British  institutions  including  the  British  Museum  and  the  Tate.

Almost  a  century  later,  this  painting  will  now  appear  at  auction  for  the  first  time,  with  an  estimate of £20,000,000 – 30,000,000, as part of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 26 February 2018.  The painting was exhibited earlier this year – its first public appearance in almost four decades – alongside its counterpart from the Brooklyn Museum,  in a room dedicated to the Venice series in  the National  Gallery  in London’s  acclaimed  Monet  and  Architecture  show,  which  toured through Monet’s ground-breaking depictions of the modern world in which he lived. 

The composition  is  harmoniously  divided  between  the  palace’s brick exterior,  and  its  reflection in  the  water.  Monet  animates  the  lagoon  with  wonderfully  dappled  brushstrokes  whilst  also  bringing to life the façade of the building, which is softly diffused by light. The unique lacustrine quality  of  Venice and  its  architectural  heritage  allowed Monet  to  explore  more  abstract  compositions,  accentuating  the  interplay  between  the  rhythms  of  the  architecture  and  the  expanse  of  water.  

 In  Venice,  Monet  turned  to  his  artistic  forbears  JMW  Turner  and  James Abbott  McNeill  Whistler,  for  both  of  whom  the  city  had  held  a  special  importance.  Turner  presented  a  Venice  transfigured  by  light,  and  viewing  their  poetic  paintings  side  by  side,  Henri  Matisse  once  remarked  that  ‘it  seemed  to  [him]  that  Turner  must  have  been  the  link  between  the  academic  tradition  and  impressionism’.  Unapologetically  modern  in  its  outlook  and  in the way  that  it  is  painted,   the  work  is  not  a  topographical  view  so  much  as  it  is  an  evocation  of  atmosphere. Venice proved the perfect subject for Monet to explore his apotheosis of painting.