1888 The Studio of the South
2015 SOLD for $ 66M including premium
He moved to the maison jaune where he wanted to create a community of artists named by him L'Atelier du Midi. Paul Gauguin arrived as his first guest on 23 October.
A period of fine weather, from October 29 to November 2, allows a first outdoor session. The two artists set their easels in the Alyscamps dominated by the bright yellow of the autumn leaves.
They must come to some understanding. Two of van Gogh paintings include forms within sharp outlines that could appeal to Gauguin. Their very different conceptions of artistic creation begin however to oppose the two artists from that first trials. Gauguin is a cerebral man for whom the achievement must be consistent with the original design, van Gogh is an impulsive wishing that the spontaneous gesture contributes to the artwork.
On May 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells a view of the Alyscamps painted on November 1, 1888, oil on canvas 92 x 74 cm, lot 18. The press release of April 13 is expecting a price in excess of $ 40M.
The composition is geometric, with its perspective view of the allée of trees. The contrast between the warm colors of soil and trees and the cold blue sky make this van Gogh painting resolutely away from the flat colors of Gauguin. The expression is enhanced by the rich shades of the palette. This painting contains the elements that will generate misunderstanding and estrangement between the two great artists.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's. Its image is also shared by Wikimedia.
1888-1890 The Movements of the Tablecloth
2019 SOLD for $ 59M including premium
I recently discussed in this column one of the first still lifes of this phase, sold for £ 21M including premium by Christie's on February 27, 2019. The composition seems naively simple until we perceive the imbalance of the plate. The observer awaits the tilting that will roll the fruit onto the table.
The artist will then increase the complexity. Bouilloire et fruits, oil on canvas 49 x 60 cm painted between 1888 and 1890, offers the dynamic contrast between a heavy pot steadily placed on the table and the fruits in a precarious balance in the folds of the tablecloth.
Cézanne reworked each painting tirelessly, seeking a perfection that existed only in his own imagination. Sometimes he stops before it is finished. The handle and the body of the kettle are disjointed. A lemon or an apple that did not suit the artist left some traces without disappearing completely.
It does not matter: the variety of forms and the mingling of the colors that constitute the textures are already satisfactory. Cézanne accepts to sell this unfinished work to a collector.
Bouilloire et fruits was sold for £ 18M including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 1999. This painting is listed as lot 18A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The press release of March 27 announces an estimate in the region of $ 40M. Please watch the very short video shared by the auction house.
Painted in 1893 with a similar inspiration, Rideau, cruchon et compotier, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm, was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The fruit bowl is not placed on the table.
June 1888 Le Pont de Trinquetaille by van Gogh
2021 SOLD for $ 37.4M by Christie's
At the beginning of June, Vincent goes by stagecoach to Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer for a five-day stay. On June 17, he paints an animated view of the banks of the Rhône with the iron bridge of Trinquetaille which links the Camargue to the city.
The unlimited embankment on the left side of the painting may remind some views by Monet in Argenteuil but is most probably inspired by the Japanese style. The sky and the reflections in the water are greenish-yellow, the color of absinthe according to the artist's avowal. The quiet attitude of the anonymous figures are in the follow of his Montmartre views from the previous year.
This oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm oil was sold three times by Christie's : for $ 15.4M on November 8, 1999, for $ 11.2M on November 3, 2004, lot 41., and for $ 37.4M on May 13, 2021, lot 29 B. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1888 Study of the Iridescent Spectrum
2018 SOLD for $ 35M including premium
In January 1888 the artist quietly begins his second stay in Pont-Aven. He takes the time to walk on the Wild Coast and observes that the colors of the swell in heavy weather meet his theory.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 6 La Vague, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm painted by Gauguin in 1888. A strong wave hits a group of high rocks in the open sea. Two bathers flee the tide onto the vermilion beach.
This painting, unusual and perhaps even unique in Gauguin's art, was included in the 1891 auction set up by the artist to finance his departure for Oceania. Its title in the catalog, La Vague (arc-en-ciel), seems enigmatic but provides the key for the interpretation.
There is no sky or rain in this picture. Arc-en-ciel is here the bow-shaped iridescent spectrum on the sea, passing from pale violet to yellow when the prismatic depth of the water decreases while approaching the coast. With a surprising modernism the unreal color of the beach is the ultimate extension of that spectral decomposition.
Gauguin's Vague was purchased in that auction by a collector of Japanese prints probably attracted by the similarity of theme with The Wave by Hokusai. The comparison stops here because the view taken by Gauguin from the top of the cliff has no close-up.
Despite Gauguin's admiration for Degas, the completely off-center position of the two women is secondary in this composition. Their difference of scale in the face of the grandiose nature is however not without relation to the metaphysical questions of the artist.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1888 Bathing Beauties by Renoir
1997 SOLD 20.9 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
Not so easy, the artist's life! After the early period of enthusiasm, the Impressionists began to look for adapting their style to what they thought they could sell.
The Grandes Baigneuses by Renoir are exhibited in Paris in 1887. The line is too sharp, imitating Ingres and puzzling the friends of the artist who were probably expecting a more original evolution. They were right.
The considerable work done by Renoir for this questioned painting had a fundamental impact on his art: now, the artist is passionate about the theme of bathers.
The young woman is nude after a bath, quiet, gesturing toilet. No other accessory than a small towel, in an unimportant outdoor setting. She is the ideal woman, timeless.
Especially, the quality of the flesh is exceptional, velvety without being erotic. The synthesis of Impressionist experience and Ingresque ideal pushes Renoir to the level of Rubens.
A Baigneuse, oil on canvas 65 x 55 cm painted in 1888, is estimated £ 12M, for sale by Christie's in London on June 20.
Auctions have already consecrated this Baigneuse as a masterpiece. On 13 November 1997, Sotheby's sold it for $ 20.9 million including premium, and this price has never been exceeded at auction for a nude by Renoir.
POST 2012 SALE COMMENT
A generally well-informed observer said that this painting was sold before the auction and therefore has not been submitted.
This only happens for real masterpieces.
1888 Pissarro playing with Fire
2020 SOLD for £ 13.3M including premium
Pissarro moved away from the Paris region in 1884 to settle in Eragny-sur-Epte, near Gisors and not far from Giverny. He observes an authentic peasant life in a pleasant rural landscape. In that place, to better capture the quiet atmosphere of the countryside, he begins using divisionist techniques. Seurat is very proud of this apostasy from impressionism by one of its most famous exponents.
Divisionism, or pointillism, is a painstaking process which is hardly compatible with Pissarro's desire for spontaneity and humanism. At the time of Seurat's untimely death in 1891, he states that this technique is no longer suiting him. The hatched knife painting of Pissarro's pointillist works paves however the way for the precise and meticulous touch of the rest of his career.
Signac had managed to convince Seurat that pointillism was taking all its advantage when expressing an intense light. This remark is superbly applied by Pissarro in his painting Gelée blanche subtitled Jeune paysanne faisant du feu, oil on canvas 93 x 93 cm conceived in spring 1887 and completed in July 1888.
On a sunny winter morning, a peasant girl helped by a young boy feeds a big wood fire in a meadow. She is bent under the wind which pushes her skirt, imitating the position of the woman in Millet's Angelus like a snub from the anarchist to the religious scene of his predecessor. The warm clothes of the boy confirm a very cold weather.
The technical feat in this work is the extreme luminosity of the smoke, made up of a crossed pattern of blue hatching gradually interspersed with large white lines in a contrasting effect which provides a three-dimensional illusion.
This brilliant painting is perhaps a unique tour de force within the short pointillist period of Pissarro. It was seized in 1940 in Paris from a Jewish collector. Restituted in 2018 to his heirs after having been entrusted for eighteen years to the Musée d'Orsay, it is estimated £ 8M for sale by Sotheby's in London on February 4, lot 11.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house, including a painting by Signac with the same provenance.
October 1888 Le Pont de Trinquetaille by Van Gogh
1987 SOLD for £ 12.5M (worth at that time $ 20M) by Christie's
This time, his subject is a close-up view of the stone staircase leading to the span. He had described this project along with a sketch in a letter to Theo on October 13, ten days before Gauguin's arrival.
Vincent shows in this painting the subtlety of the lights on a gray morning. The colors are brought by an almost blue sky, the clothes of passers-by and, truncated under an arch on the right edge of the image, the leaves yellowed by the autumn of a single plane tree.
This oil on canvas 93 x 74 cm was sold by Christie's on June 28, 1987 for £ 12.5M including premium then worth $ 20M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Vincent's breakthrough masterpiece La Nuit Etoilée, painted on October 17, is a night scenery of the same bridge.
1888 Signac facing the Sea
2018 SOLD for $ 13.8M including premium
Seurat finishes his Dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte in 1886. For the first time he had applied in large size his understanding of Chevreul's theories on the persistence of colors. The preparation was long and tedious and the dull result is mostly suitable for the hermetic social message of the artist.
During summers Signac and Seurat work in different villages without meeting each other. These sessions are however carefully prepared and when they come back in their workshops the comparison of their results confirms the consistency of their practices.
Signac pushes Seurat to an observation of bright lights. He paves that way, in 1886 in the Seine valley, in 1887 at Collioure and in 1888 in Brittany at Portrieux. During these three summers Signac improves his pointillism. At the same time his landscape becomes minimalist to better exploit the confrontation of colors.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 21 a view in Portrieux. This oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm may be considered as the culmination of the 1888 summer season by Signac, with a composition dominated throughout its lower part by the almost monochrome yellow expanse of the sandy beach, contrasting with the pointillist blue of the sea.
Signac will find in 1892 a brighter sun in Saint-Tropez. The view of the houses with their reflections in the sea, 47 x 55 cm, was sold for $ 10.7M including premium by Sotheby's on May 9, 2016.
Pointillism was not highly spectacular except in an extreme yellow or orange. Signac and van Rysselberghe are perhaps the only ones to have understood and briefly applied such observation.
1888 Monet in Antibes
2014 SOLD 8 M£ including premium
Their quests are opposite. Vincent finds the purity of light, but Monet for the first time is fairly short to transcribe all the subtle shades of color.
During three and a half months, Monet executes his usual approach of selecting some typical views and observing the variations by the hours of the day. But he is not in Normandy. When the sky is clear, the light is so beautiful that extreme hours become secondary. Monet does not find in Antibes that brutality which he loves so much in nature. His color studies however anticipate the series of Meules (haystacks), painted in 1890.
The shining light of Provence has won. The best paintings from his Antibes residence show a blazing sun, but in views that are as topographic as a Vernet. The sea is deep blue while the variations between sky and mountains create a wonderful atmosphere. The ground in full sunlight displays a harmony of rare colors.
On June 23 in London, Sotheby's sells one of the best views of Antibes by Monet. The pretty town is in bright light on the other side of the bay. There is virtually no shadow. This oil on canvas 65 x 92 cm is estimated £ 6M, lot 8.
POST SALE COMMENT
The bright landscape at Antibes was sold for £ 8M including premium.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's to introduce the Monet paintings from the Wilson collection.
1888 Vincent's Pen
2021 SOLD for $ 10.4M including premium
During the summer of 1888, Vincent considers the human figure to be just as interesting as the landscape. His second opus in this genre is the portrait of a young Arlésienne aged 12 to 14, which he titles La Mousmé, a neologism brought from Japan by Loti which is a synonym of Gamine.
At the same time, Vincent improves his drawing practice, which he considers as a major art. He manages to copy on paper several of his most recent paintings on various themes, and sends them in batches to Theo, Emile Bernard and John Russell, the Australian artist recently installed in Brittany.
The drawing of La Mousmé sent to Russell at the beginning of August is innovative in its technique. The goal of the artist is that the monochrome work in brown ink on paper has the same expressive quality as the painting on canvas. He uses for that purpose a reed pen, with which he obtains very fine contrasts by the delicacy of the line and by a delicate pointillism on the skin and on the background.
This 31 x 24 cm drawing is estimated $ 7M for sale by Christie's in New York on March 1, lot 5. One of the tweets shows a detail revealing the dot pattern.
#AuctionUpdate Vincent van Gogh's 'La Mousmé' (c.1888) achieved USD 10,436,000. Technically innovative with an astonishingly diverse range of strokes, lines, and dots, this portrait captures the very essence of its sitter: https://t.co/KxKVadS0MI pic.twitter.com/aItSGaTSmj— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 1, 2021
Wer ist die junge Dame, deren Porträt einen neuen Rekordpreis für eine Zeichnung von Vincent van Gogh erzielen könnte?— Barnebys.de (@Barnebysde) February 12, 2021