The highly anticipated event next month in Christie's
Paris Impressionist & Modern Art department is the upcoming sale to be held on Wednesday 14 April 2021. Comprising around 170 lots, the sale will begin with a section of Modern Works on Paper, which will be immediately followed by a section dedicated to Impressionist and Modern paintings and sculptures. Prices range from 700 to 500,000 and the overall low estimate is close to 8.5m. The sale will be led by a rare watercolour by Robert Delaunay, Manège de cochons, embodying the Orphism advocated by the latter, and will bring together the major figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Three prestigious private collections are at the heart of the two sections of this sale, each highlighting a refined and singular taste for Impressionist and Modern art.
Antoine Lebouteiller, Director of the Impressionist and Modern Art department, and Valérie Didier, specialist in the Impressionist and Modern Art department, in charge of the sale: "Despite the postponement of the Salon du Dessin this year, we are delighted to be able to maintain our Impressionist and Modern Art sale, and to present the public with a fine selection of works, especially as we have brought together a large number of works that have not been seen on the market for several years. Most of them are new to the market, including several very large compositions and signatures that collectors are always on the lookout for. We are looking forward to welcoming to our salons on Avenue Matignon from 9 April a public that has been particularly attentive in recent months to the offer made by the auction houses.
Produced between 1905 and 1922, the impressive Manège de Cochons by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), estimated at 500,000-800,000, is the highlight of the sale (pictured in the introduction) in the Modern Works on Paper section. This dynamic watercolour, punctuated by a multitude of coloured discs, the artist's favourite motifs and evoking the atmosphere of funfairs in a swirl of colour, was produced in three versions dated 1906, 1913 and 1922. The work offered in this sale is the closest to its final composition of 1922 - the only surviving canvas of the three versions, now in the Centre Pompidou collections. A lively portrait of the modern city of the Roaring Twenties, this piece illustrates the emulation of Paris, a source of new sensations for the painter and should appeal to lovers of the City of Light.
One of the highlights of the second part of the sale, including Impressionist and modern paintings and sculptures, is an exceptional canvas by Gino Severini (1883-1966), entitled Come le foglie, painted in the Florentine countryside near the village of Dicomano in 1904-05, (estimate: 300,000-500,000). The Italian painter and future leader of the Futurist movement, this is one of his most monumental and important works from his Divisionist period. With its richly coloured and material brushstrokes and juxtaposition of complementary colours, this large landscape already shows Severini's interest in the optical science of colour harmonies and his experiments with the Divisionist technique. As soon as the work was conceived, Severini himself recognised the importance of its composition but also the stylistic innovation in his approach to painting, writing to his patron Passerini: "I am painting a picture in which I summarise all that I have been able to study and observe up to now, (...) a complete work that defines a style and an individual period" (Pacini, 1980, p. 429, doc. VI, "Dicomano, 4 October 1904").
An outstanding work of the sale is a painting by the painter Henri Martin (1860-1943) entitled Les Vendanges, dated 1920 (estimate: 200,000-300,000). The painting was intended as a decorative panel for the dining room of the artist's close friends and neighbours, Dr Henri Tissier and his wife Alice, who had commissioned it. The work has therefore never been seen on the market or exhibited publicly, as it has not been taken down since its installation in the Tissiers' flat in 1920. Henri Martin painted this panel with the theme of the grape harvest, giving great importance to the vine leaves, echoing the plant motifs of the stained glass windows that had been incorporated into the woodwork of Henri Bouchard, who decorated the Tissiers' flat in collaboration with the painter-decorator Henri Bellery-Desfontaines. The theme of Les vendanges panel can be found in another monumental work by Henri Martin, which was commissioned to decorate the Escalier d'honneur of the Hôtel de la Préfecture du Lot in Cahors in 1927.
Another rediscovery is this beautiful Nu by the Russian artist Marie Vassilieff (1884-1957), which has also never been published or exhibited, having remained in the same family since the 1970s. Dating from around 1915, this portrait is a rare interpretation of Vassilieff's synthesis of early twentieth century artistic movements, from Fauvism to Cubism. The contrast of bright colours against the deep blue of the right-hand side of the composition accentuates the pensive, perhaps even melancholic, posture of the sitter, while at the same time giving the work an astonishing strength, particularly in its constructivist, circular lines. It is estimated at 250,000-350,000.
Among the works still sought after by collectors is les Roses (1915) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919; estimate: 200,000-300,000), which portrays these flowers in a charming and sensual way. In his old age, Renoir loved roses like no other flower, enthusiastically painting them alone on a canvas as the example here, or incorporated into a composition. The delicate nuances characteristics of his early Impressionist works gave way to a desire to evoke the tangibility of the object, particularly through a thicker, more expressive brushstroke.
In addition to Robert Delaunay's iconic watercolour, Le Manège des Cochons, the section dedicated to Modern Works on Paper will offer a rich panorama of works from Boudin to Picasso via Redon, including two floral compositions that combine strength of colour with delicacy, such as Géraniums et fleurs des champs and Pensées (estimate, 120,000-180,000 each). Redon was over sixty years old when he embarked on a long series of floral works. Colour became his central concern. Oscillating between an ostensible realism and a more fantastic universe, the artist here gives full rein to this intrinsically shimmering medium, which allows him to play on the effects of texture and saturation of pastel.
Among the section's top lots, Degas will be particularly well represented with two works that illustrate two themes dear to the artist, the dance and the bath. On offer will be the impressive charcoal Danseuses en maillot, au repos, estimated at 300,000-500,000, coming from a private French collection. Although many members of the Impressionist circle painted the world of theatre and opera, no one was able to portray it as vividly and accurately as Degas. Fascinated by all aspects of ballet, he illustrated it in all its facets, from backstage training to the spotlight, in more than fifteen hundred works in a variety of media. Here, the spontaneity of execution conveys the impression of a fleeting moment, masterfully captured on the fly. A feeling of immediacy emerges, very intimate, which the use of charcoal only reinforces. The present drawing is undoubtedly a preparatory study from which several works were to emerge. Here Degas emphasises the contortions of the busts, arms and legs. The figure on the left probably served as a preliminary sketch for the bronze Danseuse attachant le cordon de son maillot (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), while the ballerina in the centre foreshadows the postures of Danseuses sur un banc, a pastel drawn around 1898 and now in the Glasgow Museum.
Another favourite subject of the painter Pierre Bonnard, the bath, is also a pretext for the artist to treat the nude and be the subject of pictorial explorations. Femme à sa toilette (1933) is an incomparable illustration of this theme. This fresh, unpublished gouache, estimated at 150,000-250,000, is one of the artist's most accomplished papers. In an intimate composition, the background becomes a setting for this barely seated woman, who seems unaware of being observed, while the iridescent reflections rendered by the gouache diffuse over the body and echo the subtle hues of the bath. As is often the case in Bonnard's work, the artificial lighting and framing reinforce the impression that the figures are enclosed, withdrawn in their solitude. Unlike some of his other compositions of baths, however, the body of the woman - probably Martha, the artist's muse - is not abused here by the deconstruction of perspective, but is depicted with gentleness. Through the play of light, the planes, patterns and materials seem to merge in the warm atmosphere of the room, surrounding the model with a vibrant aura.