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    Friday, June 15th, 2018

    Four paintings created by three of the key players in the development of Impressionist art come up at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern sale in London on June 19.  Each one embodies a different aspect of the movement, together providing an engaging insight into one of the most important periods of art history. The journey opens with Boudin’s Crinolines sur la plage (1866) and Monet’s Le Port de Zaandam (1871)marking the beginnings of Impressionist painting, with both artists painting en plein air to capture fleeting ‘impressions’ of time and place. In a rare still-life painted the following decade, Monet adapts the pioneering techniques of this ‘new’ art to a traditional subject, and the story ends with Pissarro’s majestic urban view of fin-de-siècle Paris.

    Commenting on this group, Philip Hook, Senior Specialist, Sotheby’s Board Director and author of Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers, said: ‘Three of the works also share a connection with one of the most remarkable men in the history of the Impressionist movement – Paul Durand-Ruel. Durand-Ruel was drawn to contemporary art and to the process of painters painting pictures, and dedicated his life to developing a wider appreciation for such works, creating the modern art market in the process. No dealer was closer to an artistic movement than Durand-Ruel was to Impressionism – he was its promoter and its champion, its defender and its bankroller. Without him, and these revolutionary artists, art history might have looked very different.’

    Claude Monet, Le Port de Zaandam (£3.5-5 million)

    Eugène Boudin, Crinolines sur la plage (£600,000-900,000)

    Claude Monet, Citrons sur une branche (£2.5-3.5 million)

    Camille Pissarro, Le Boulevard Montmartre, brume du matin (£3-5 million)


    Friday, June 15th, 2018

    Jean-Michel Basquiat – New York New York

    An early Basquiat masterpiece capturing the urban energy of New York’s cityscape comes up at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in London on June 26.  New York New York was painted in 1981 at the moment when his ground-breaking practice came to the attention of the international art world.   It has been in the same private collection in Italy for over 35 years and is estimated at £7-10 million. “I wanted to paint like the Lower East Side and what it was like to live there”  the artist said. The work narrates his transition from spray painting the streets of Manhattan to painting on canvas. Unconstrained by convention, his paintings on canvas and found objects of 1980-81 fully embraced the urban environment that surrounded him and speak the language of New York’s city streets.

    New York, New York was made for Basquiat’s debut solo exhibition, which took place at Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, Italy in 1981. The show came about following the artist’s participation in the legendary New York / New Wave exhibition at P.S.1. in 1980 – an underground show at a rundown former school in Long Island that came to define a moment and was recently celebrated in the Barbican Centre’s Boom for Real exhibition. It was at P.S. 1 that visionary gallerist Emilio Mazzoli first encountered Basquiat’s work and subsequently set the wheels in motion for the artist’s international debut. The Italian show was named SAMO, after Basquiat’s street tag (an abbreviation for the phrase ‘same old shit’). The exhibition’s title marked the coming of age of the downtown graffiti-poet. This is one of the first of Basquiat’s works in which the three-pointed crown plays a central role. Basquiat’s shorthand for a long overdue ennoblement of black subjectivity in western art, the crown is repeated twice in this work, emblazoned in metallic-silver spray paint and flanking the left and right sides of the composition.


    Sunday, June 10th, 2018

    Wassily Kandinsky – Gabriele Münter im Freien vor der Staffelei

    A 1910 painting by Wassily Kandinsky of Gabriele Münter Painting Outdoors in front of an Easel  comes up at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening and Day sales in London on  June 19 and 20 June.   The auctions will include a spectrum of works by some of the most important, challenging and powerful German and Austrian artists of the 20th century. Featuring paintings and works on paper, many of which are completely fresh to the market, by leading figures such as Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Alexej von Jawkensky, August Macke, Max Liebermann and Egon Schiele, the group of over 65 works constitutes one of Sotheby’s largest offerings of German and Austrian art in recent years.

    Leading the group is  the Kandinsky which is estimated at £3.5 million.  It marks the artist’s definitive transition into abstraction. His first major breakthrough was his discovery of how colour, when disassociated from representational concerns, could become the principal subject of a painting. In this work, he achieved a delicate balance between the subtle figuration of Gabriele Münter – his companion, lover and fellow artist – and the almost completely abstracted landscape that surrounds her. In 1908 they discovered the small town of Murnau in the foothills of the Alps, and the unique context of the Bavarian countryside was key to Kandinsky’s move towards abstraction. Münter appears in four paintings from this period, of which this oil is the only one still in private hands. The work originally belonged to Jawlensky, who kept it in his collection until his death in 1941, perhaps as a memento of the happy, productive years he spent in Murnau alongside Kandinsky in a spirit of communal and artistic collaboration.


    Thursday, June 7th, 2018

    Henri Matisse, Portrait of Mary Hutchinson, 1936

    A Matisse portrait of the writer Mary Hutchinson comes up at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in London on June 19. It was created in the Paris studio of Matisse in 1936 and is estimated at £2-3 million.  Mary Hutchinson, a member of the Bloomsbury gr0up, was an active patron of the arts throughout her life.  A cousin of Lytton Strachey and friend of artist Duncan Grant, Mary was introduced to the Bloomsbury set and commenced a decade-long love affair with the art critic Clive Bell, the husband of painter Vanessa Bell. In 1915, Vanessa painted her own portrait of Mary, in dazzling colours reminiscent of Matisse’s style.

    The charcoal portrait  – one of only a handful of commissioned portrait drawings Matisse made of English women –  is coming for sale from the estate of the late Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, QC, the sitter’s son. He was a renowned criminal barrister who defended Christine Keeler and Howard Marks, as well as the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in a long career of watershed legal cases and cause célèbres.  The sitting was arranged by the artist’s son-in-law Georges Duthuit, who was a writer and friend of Vanessa and Duncan.


    Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

    A view of the packed saleroom.

    Amadeo Modigliani’s Nu Couche (Sur le cote gauche) sold for $157.2 million at Sotheby’s in New York last night.  This is the highest price in Sotheby’s auction history and nearly six times the price paid for the same painting when it was sold by casino mogul Steve Wynn in 2003.  The seller this time round is believed to be the Irish horse trainer John Magnier of Coolmore Stud.  Modigliani now belongs to a rarefied league of only three artists to break the US$150 million barrier at auction, along with Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci.

    A quarter of all sold works at the Impressionist  and Modern Art evening sale were acquired by Asian private collectors.  Those works were led by Pablo Picasso’s dreamy 1932 portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Le Repos, which made $36.9 million. A portion of the proceeds from the work will go to charity through The Sue J. Gross Foundation. The painting last sold at auction in 2000 for $7.9 million.  The evening sale achieved $318.3 million.

    (See post on for April 24, 2018)


    Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

    This splendid full length 1600-1603 portrait of Anne Russell, Lady Herbert, later Countess of Worcester comes up at Sotheby’s sale of Old Master paintings in London on May 2.

    It represents some of the most extravagant court fashion worn during the final years of Elizabeth I’s reign. Anne is portrayed in the costume associated with Elizabeth’s maids of honour, such as the head-dress composed of silver wire and pearls.

    Anne Russell was the younger daughter of Lord John Russell (d. 1584) and Elizabeth Cooke (circa 1528-1609). She went to court as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s last maids of honour in 1594, and on 16 June 1600 the Queen honoured Anne and Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert, later 5th Earl & 1st Marquess of Worcester (1577-1646), by attending their marriage, one of the last dynastic unions of Tudor England.

    The work was reproduced in Peter Somerville-Large’s  The Irish Country House, a social history as hanging in the galleried hall at Kilcooley Abbey, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Estimated at £80,000-120,000 it was in the collection of Sir William Barker, 4th Bt. (d. 1818) at Kilcooley Abbey.  It passed by descent within the Ponsonby Barker family at Kilcooley Abbey and was with the Weiss Gallery in London in 2004.  It is described by Sotheby’s as the property of a European private collector.

    UPDATE: THIS MADE £297,000


    Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

    Amedeo Modigliani Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) Signed Modigliani (lower left)

    Modigliani’s largest painting – Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) – is estimated to sell for more than $150 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale in New York on May 14.  This is the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art at auction.  Nu couché was acquired by the present owner at auction in 2003 for $26.9 million.  The seller is believed to be Irish bloodstock billionaire John Magnier  who owns Coolmore Stud, the world’s biggest breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. His wife Susan co-owns a promising three-year-old colt  named Amedeo Modigliani.  It was previously owned by casino mogul Steve Wynn.

    In 2015, another reclining nude from the series sold at auction for $170.4 million, at the time marking the second-highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.

    Painted a century ago, Nu couché is the greatest work from the iconic series in which Modigliani reinvented the nude for the Modern era. Upon their debut exhibition in 1917, these striking and sensual images stopped traffic – quite literally – and prompted the police to close the show. Today, the series is recognized as one of the seminal achievements in Modern painting. The shock and awe that Modigliani’s nudes continue to elicit was evident most recently during Tate Modern’s celebrated retrospective of the artist’s work that included Nu couché.   The work is the largest painting of Modigliani’s entire oeuvre – measuring nearly 58 inches / 147 centimeters across – and the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas.

    Most of the 22 reclining nudes from the series are found in museums, with particular depth in the United States: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each hold three examples. Outside of the United States, institutions with reclining nudes include the Long Museum in Shanghai and The Courtauld Gallery in London.


    Saturday, March 31st, 2018

    Jackson Pollock’s Number 32, 1949

    Number 32, 1949 by Jackson Pollock comes up at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction in New York on May 16.  Never before seen at auction it is estimated at $30-40 million.  The production of the artist’s drip paintings of 1948-9 stands as one of the most radical events in 20th-century art, in which the boundaries of painting were pushed and a new aesthetic established. Number 32, 1949 comes from a critical year for the artist and epitomises the chaotic vibrancy, heroic drama and thrilling vigour that have come to define Pollock’s prodigious legacy.

    Jackson Pollock executed his first drip painting in 1947. Over the next two years he would hone this now instantly recognisable, signature technique, producing the monumental Autumn Rhythm (collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Number 1A, 1948 (collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York). Number 32 is one of a small number of more intimate 1949 paintings in which the artist more fully explored the subtleties of the drip technique. It was featured in the second of two shows that year at Betty Parsons Gallery about which Robert M. Coates wrote in the New Yorker: “They seem to me the best painting he has yet done.”

    Number 32 is one of a very limited group of 16 drip paintings Pollock created on paper mounted on masonite or canvas in 1949 and one of only eight that feature the aluminium paint that creates a lustrous shimmer around his elaborate gestural movements. Boasting a fully painted surface with intricate layers of dripped and poured oil the work has one of the most complete and richly covered surfaces of the entire series.

    Saturday, March 24th, 2018

    Africa Dances by Ben Enwonwu (£60,000-£90,000). UPDATE:  THIS SOLD FOR £187,500

    Modern and Contemporary African art will come under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on March 28.  This is the second dedicated sale in what is the newest specialist department at Sotheby’s.  It will include works by 62 artists from 16 countries across Africa.

    The focus is on contemporary art.  Most of these works have not been offered before in an international auction. Last year the inaugural sale in this category drew buyers from 30 countries and more than half the lots sold at figures above the high estimate.

    Hannah O’Leary, head of modern and contemporary art at Sotheby’s said:  “The international spotlight on Modern and Contemporary African art is growing ever stronger as museums, critics and art fairs increasingly look to profile art from the region”.


    Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

    The Farnese Blue

    After three centuries in the same family one of the foremost historic diamonds – The Farnese Blue – will come to market  for the first time in history this spring. Given to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain (1692-1766), worn on a diadem that formerly belonged to the last Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette (1755-1791), the legendary diamond has subsequently passed down through four of the most important royal families in Europe: Spain, France, Italy and Austria. Witness to 300 years of European history the diamond has travelled across the continent for centuries.  It was kept secretly in a royal casket.  Few knew of its existence. The 6.16-carat pear shaped blue diamond will be offered in Sotheby’s sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels in Geneva on May 15 2018 with an estimate of US$ 3.7 – 5.3 million.

    Blue has often been identified as the colour of the Kings and in the 17 and 18th centuries, blue diamonds were viewed as the ultimate royal gift. Like the famous Hope and Wittelsbach diamonds, the Farnese Blue was certainly found in the famed Golconda mines of India, which was the sole source of diamonds until the discoveries in Brazil in the 1720’s.

    David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, said: “It is difficult to put into words the excitement of holding between thumb and forefinger a gem discovered centuries ago, knowing it originated in the legendary Golconda diamond mines of India. This stone has witnessed 300 years of European history, and in colour is reminiscent of historic Golconda blue gems such as the Hope diamond.”.