Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in May 2008 Features Evdard Munch

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Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in May 2008 Features Evdard Munch
Edvard Munch, Girls on a Bridge, Painted in 1902, 39½ by 40¼ in, Est. $24/28 million. © Sotheby's Images.

NEW YORK.-Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on May 7, 2008 in New York will present a superb offering of key works by many of the leading artists of the period: Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Joan Miró and others. The sale of 53 lots is estimated to bring $207/284 million. Prior to the exhibition and sale in New York, highlights of the offering will be on view at Sotheby’s London from April 20-25, 2008.

MASTERPIECES OF MODERNISM - The highlight of the May 7 Evening sale is Fernand Léger’s Cubist masterpiece, Étude pour La Femme en Bleu (est. $35/45 million). Painted in 1912-13, the canvas is one of very few key works of Cubism remaining in private hands. It was included in the ground-breaking Der Sturm exhibition in Berlin in October 1913 before entering the legendary collection of Hermann Lange in the late 1920s. The painting has remained in Lange’s family since then and will be offered for sale this spring by his heirs. This spectacular image is one the most enduring achievements of the Cubist movement and a milestone in the development towards abstraction. The canvas has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition FERNAND LÉGER Paris - New York to be held at the Beyeler Foundation, Basel, where it will be hung, for the first time, with the other two treatments of this theme.

Edvard Munch’s Girls on a Bridge is one of the artist’s most widely popular and lyrical compositions (est. $24/28 million). It was painted in 1902, a year that the artist himself recognized as pivotal: “Those years from 1902 until the Copenhagen clinic were the unhappiest, the most difficult and yet the most fateful and productive years of my life.” With Van Gogh, Munch was one of the fathers of Expressionism. His vibrant colors and radical perspective inspired the Fauves in France and the Expressionists in Germany and Austria. Girls on a Bridge was formerly in the esteemed collections of Norton Simon and Wendell and Dorothy Cherry, whose collection at one time also featured major modernist masterpieces by Chaïm Soutine (L’Homme au foulard rouge sold for a record price - $17.2 million - at Sotheby’s London in 2007) and Amedeo Modigliani (Jéanne Hebuterne (au chapeau) sold for a record price - $31.4 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2004). In 2006, Sotheby’s London held a historic sale of eight works by Munch from the collection of his patron Thomas Olsen, which proved to be a watershed moment in the auction market for the artist – achieving nearly $30 million and establishing a new record for the artist at auction when Summer Day achieved $10.8 million.

AN EXCEPTIONAL OFFERING OF WORKS BY ALBERTO GIACOMETTI - The May sale features a fascinating collection of the work of Alberto Giacometti. Notable for both its range in date and medium, the group includes major works of sculpture and painting. Of the six works included in the evening sale, the earliest is Composition dite cubiste II, a unique painted plaster from 1926-27 (est. $1.5/2 million). Giacometti’s celebrated series of nine standing figures of a female nude, collectively known as the Femmes de Venise is generally considered the summit of his achievement. The May offering also includes one of these iconic figures -- Femme de Venise VIII (est. $8/12 million). Another classic image is that of his younger brother Diego, who was the artist’s primary model throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Buste de Diego was conceived in 1959, cast in 1961 and acquired by the late owners in 1969 (est. $4/6 million). A transfixing portrait of Giacometti’s lover and primary model during the early 1960s until his death, Portrait de Caroline is also among the highlights (est. $10/15 million). He painted this large portrait of the dark-eyed brunette in 1963, when she was twenty-five years old and he was sixty-two. It was inherited by Caroline after the artist’s death and then sold to the family of the present owner in 1966. The sale will also include two small-scale works by Giacometti – Femme (est. $1/1.5 million) and Femme Debout (est. $800,000/1.2 million) - that come from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, one of the most renowned collections of sculpture in the world.

SCULPTURE - Modern sculpture has been one of the stand-out stories of the past decade with auction prices doubling and tripling previous benchmarks. Back in 2000, Sotheby’s established a new record for sculpture at auction with Henri Matisse’s La Serpentine – Femme à la Stèle – L’Araignée which sold for $14 million, more than double the previous record at auction. Last November, Sotheby’s again set a new standard for modern sculpture with the sale of Pablo Picasso’s Tête de femme (Dora Maar) which achieved $29.2 million. The May sale will feature another spectacular work by Picasso – La Grue, a painted bronze sculpture of a crane from 1951-52 (est. $10/15 million). The artist only created four of these works, each uniquely painted, and this is the first to ever appear at auction. Picasso created his elegant crane from found objects including a shovel, a piece of twisted wicker, two forks, a gas spigot, screw nuts and a spike. The artist kept the present work in his home, and after his death, it was inherited by his granddaughter Marina, who included it in several traveling exhibitions of her private collection. It then entered the collection of the award-winning Hollywood television and film producer David Wolper. It has been in a private collection since 1994.

DISTINGUISHED OWNERSHIP HISTORIES - The upcoming sale is characterized by high quality works, that are fresh to the market and which boast distinguished provenance. In addition to the aforementioned works which were at one time included in many of the most notable collections in the world – Hermann Lange, Norton Simon, Wendell Cherry, Marina Picasso -- other highlights with eminent ownership histories include:
Edgar Degas, Trois Danseuses en Rose, est. $7/9 million - J. Paul Getty
Paul Cézanne, Environs de Gardanne, est. $6/8 million – Joan Whitney Payson
Pablo Picasso, Le Baiser, est. $10/15 million – Raymond and Patsy Nasher
Pablo Picasso, L’Atelier, est. $6/8 million – Raymond and Patsy Nasher
Alfred Sisley, Moret-sur-Loing, Temps de Pluie, est. $1.25/1.75 million - Duncan Phillips
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Las Tres Velas, est. $3/4 million – Max and Fanny Steinthal
Lyonel Feininger, Umpferstedt III, est. $1.5/2 million - Dr. Lothar Wallerstein
Henri Matisse, Le Géranium, est. $2.5/3.5 million – Catherine Gamble Curran

GIORGIO MORANDI Leading off the evening sale is a group of four stunning works by the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi from an important private collection. The theme of still-life, which remained central to Morandi’s art, was always guided by his concern to bring together space, light, color and form, and his great achievement was to reconcile this traditional genre with the abstract aesthetic of his own time. The offering presents a fantastic overview of the subject that dominated his career through works that range in date from 1946-1963.
Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta, painted in 1956, est. $700/900,000
Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta, painted in 1963, est. $450/650,000 4
Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta, painted in 1946, est. $800,000/1.2 million
Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta, painted in 1963, est. $500/700,000.

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