Vladimir Georgievitsch Bechteevs Leda und der Schwan has not been shown in public since 1914. Now that the impressive painting surfaced in a German private collection, it will be shown in five German cities throughout November before it is going to be called up in the Ketterer Kunst
auction in Munich between December 9 and 11.
The whereabouts of large parts of Bechteevs oeuvre are unknown. In this light the rediscovery of this particularly rare early work with a top provenance is a lucky strike for both Bechteev research and the art market, says Robert Ketterer, auctioneer and owner of Ketterer Kunst.
Indeed, Vladimir Georgievitsch Bechteevs Leda und der Schwan is an especially rare largesize painting with a mythological motif that is characteristic of the artist. It is particularly captivating for its timeless beauty and sensuality. As common in those days, the subtly erotic composition uses a theme from Greek mythology in order to display and celebrate the naked female body without facing legal consequences.
The outstanding art-historical relevance of this work is largely owed to the time of its creation, as French Cubism was introduced in Germany with a grand exhibition in 1912/13. Franz Marc, August Macke and Vladimir Georgievitsch Bechteev, who was part of the European avant-garde in the direct circle around the Blauer Reiter, were inspired by the new style on-the-spot. Under these circumstances Bechteev created Leda und der Schwan in his best Munich period. From flowing boisterous motions to a strong Cubist stylization, it marks a milestone in his artistic development and emphasizes the relevance of his early works. Accordingly, today the few known paintings from Bechteevs early expressionist period of creation are largely in possession of public collections like the Munich Lenbachhaus and the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, as well as the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and the Von der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal.
Bechteevs Leda und der Schwan has an exciting history:
In December 1912 the monumental picture was part of an exhibition of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Munich Artist Association, N.K.V.M.), incubator of the Blauer Reiter, shown at Kunstverein Barmen - a then vibrant center for modernist art. At around the same time the renowned Düsseldorf collector Werner Dücker also showed his remarkable collection in Barmen, which makes it more than likely that Dücker discovered Leda mit dem Schwan while browsing the N.K.V.M. exhibition. A little later he acquired the work directly from the Kunstverein Barmen. In January 1914 the work featured in Die neue Malerei, the first grand Expressionism show in Dresden at gallery Arnold. At the same time it was the last public display. It came as a loan from Werner Dücker, who marked his Leda as not for sale in the catalog.
Werner Dücker - a fascinating collector
Werner Dücker was a dazzling personality: wealthy and sophisticated, progressive and liberal. He and his wife, the sculptress Marta Zahn, were close friends with Richard Schultz. They went to salons, were avid nudists and followers of Adolf Koch, a nudism luminary, and regulars at the legendary pub Westend-Klause with the innkeeper Walter Franke. In a modern setting characterized by sexual freedom and openness it is little surprising that Werner Dücker was willing to pay the then remarkable sum of 1650 Reichsmark for Bechteevs work in 1913. As a consequence of the hyperinflation, he lost a fortune ten years later and was forced to sell his important art collection. Richard Schultz took some of the works, however, there are no signs of Leda und der Schwan in his estate. Only a few decades ago the Bechteev masterpiece, unidentified as such, was found in a private collection.
The December auction at Ketterer Kunst will mark the beginning of a new stage for Vladimir Georgievitsch Bechteevs masterpiece. The sale already promises a lot of excitement, perhaps even a new world record, as Ketterer Kunst has realized several records for works by Bechteev. Currently the top 5 results of works by the artist are in the books of Germanys leading art auctioneer. Robert Ketterer gets to the point: I am convinced that this multifaceted work with its amazing history has an enormous potential. We already see an immense interest.
Next to Vladimir Georgievitsch Bechteevs painting, the auction also offers other great works of art, such as Erich Heckels early painting Erzgebirgslandschaft im Winter, which is also been estimated at 300,000-400,000, or Gabriele Münters Berglandschaft mit Haus (estimate: 250,000-350,000), Imi Knoebels Lilola (estimate: 200,000-300,000) and Egon Schieles Schlafendes Mädchen (estimate: 150,000-250,000).