1909 The Cubist Deadlock
2016 SOLD for £ 43M including premium
The achievement of the Demoiselles encouraged Picasso to explore new styles of painting. After Cézanne, he desires to promote expression and structure. Cubism is not a style nor a school but a pioneering research, with its trials and errors.
In 1909 Pablo spends the summer with Fernande in a Catalan village named Horta, only accessible by mule track. During the same summer, Kandinsky gets himself isolated in Murnau with Gabriele. Independently of each other, these two artists become the theorists who are inventing the art of the twentieth century.
On June 21 in London, Sotheby's sells as lot 8 a portrait of Fernande by Pablo, oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm conceived and painted in Horta. The estimate is not published, probably because Cubist works by Picasso have become exceedingly rare in private hands. Sotheby's let however escape an expectation beyond £ 30M.
The fragmentation in blocks that gave its name to Cubism offers a similar processing for the three themes tested by Pablo in Horta: portrait, landscape and still life. The outlines of the subject are visible with a little effort leading to recognize the broad face of Fernande. The colors are subject to a similar mix : we are not in front of a portrait but of an image suggesting the features of a seated woman in the warm Catalan summer.
For several of its characteristics, Cubism is a dead end. In the following years, the trend to a dull monochrome increases the difficulty of interpreting the image without offering the puzzling breakthrough of abstraction. The loss of the three-dimensional effect generates the trials of collages which will not save the Cubism.
It does not matter, because every artist can now engage his own style in an original expressive quest. From Picasso, the modern art has become multifaceted.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1909 Blue Mountain and Green House
2017 SOLD for £ 21M including premium
After Cézanne and van Gogh he learns to shake the realism of the lines. After Gauguin, Matisse, the Fauvists and the post-Impressionists, he likes to exaggerate the colors and ceases to weaken them under a varnish. He follows his friend Jawlensky who was one of the first to systematically abandon the realism of colors. Attracted by mysticism, Kandinsky studies Goethe's theories on the psychological significance of colors.
Two summer stays at Murnau with Jawlensky and their companions Gabriele and Marianne are decisive for Kandinsky's career and for his role as a pioneer of modern art. In 1908 he experiments with new forms and new colors. In 1909 he revisits with blazing colors in thick layers his compositions of the previous year and prepares the theories of his new art.
Der blaue Berg is narrative. A group of riders travels in front of a mountain reduced to a triangular surface in an intense blue. Murnau - Studie zur Landschaft mit grünem Haus is an oil on board 33 x 45 cm painted in 1908.
Satisfied with the audacity of his study with the green house Kandinsky reuses the same composition in 1909 in a larger size with more saturated pure colors. Murnau - Landschaft mit grünem Haus, oil on board 70 x 96 cm, is estimated £ 15M for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 21, lot 47.
1909 Modigliani will be a Painter
2013 SOLD 26 M$ including premium
He also knows to be a painter, with a severe and uncompromising style inspired by Picasso in the following of the portrait of Gertrude Stein. His patron Paul Alexandre invited him in 1909 to paint the portrait of the young baronne de Hasse de Villers.
It is a real challenge for the young artist. Perfectionist, he is constantly reworking the line and the colors. Alcohol does not help his decisions. The Baroness is haughty and hurried, and no longer accepts the long sittings required by the young Italian immigrant.
The miracle of this painting is that it was completed. It seems that the Baroness did not recognize herself in this woman with dominant gaze and bony face in angles as sharp as a sculpture. Her horsewoman dressing and the hand firmly held on the hip are still strengthening the authoritarian attitude.
Paul Alexandre understood the power and modernism emanating from this strong image and kept this painting entitled L'Amazone in his collection for several years. This oil on canvas, 92 x 66 cm, is estimated $ 20M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 7. Here is the link to the catalog.
This is a very rare example of the beginning of the period when Modigliani considered to practise painting and sculpture altogether. Later obliged to choose for reason of poor health, he was to become the most gifted painter of his time.
POST SALE COMMENT
This portrait is important for understanding the early art of Modigliani. It was sold $ 26M including premium, in its range of estimates.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1909 The Prescient Improvisations of Wassily Kandinsky
2012 SOLD 23 M$ including premium
Far from imagining that he will define the abstract art a few months later, he identifies three themes for his personal art: impressions, improvisations, compositions. He starts immediately by "improvisations", which fascinated him.
In the eight improvisations realized in Murnau in 1909, color dominates the whole work. Some riders and heroes are clearly visible, but the narration is minimized so that the colors get the top role to guide interpretation and emotion.
The notion of improvisation usually involves spontaneity. For this theorist of great complexity, this is no longer true: the pseudo-improvisations are preceded by studies in oil, as if to demonstrate that this art is the culmination of an inner process.
At this stage, by leaving much place for an interpretation by the observer, Kandinsky is a powerful predecessor of Miro. Later, at the time of abstraction, his art becomes too semantic, with a reading difficulty that can repel the public.
Studie für Improvisation 8, 98 x 70 cm, is estimated $ 20M, for sale by Christie's in New York on November 7. This painting is illustrated in the article shared by Artdaily.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
The figurative works made by Kandinsky in Murnau constitute a rare example of a theoretician who actually managed to find new artistic paths. The importance of this study was confirmed: $ 23M including premium.
1909 The Conquest of Kandinsky
2013 SOLD 13.5 M£ including premium
In 2008, I was mostly interested in the comparison with the earlier landscapes painted by Kandinsky. I wrote:
"Kandinsky was a master of fauvist expressionism, did you know it? In 1909, he was pleased by the village of Murnau, south of Munich. He painted a view in strident colors. His research on forms and colors were already more important to him than the theme, and he titled his painting 'Studie zu Improvisation 3'. in the following year, he began to explore abstraction, with the success that we know."
This comment is not enough, of course, but it is not wrong. My mistake was to ignore the mystical rider who rushes to the fortress for an indecipherable reason. With this artwork, the landscape already does not matter any more to the artist, he is gone like a Don Quixote to conquer the mystical dimension of art. The fortress of the landscape is not in Murnau, it is already a product of the imagination of Kandinsky in his greatest year of creativity.
The key to the evolution of the art of Kandinsky in Murnau was given in the meantime by a painting of the same series and same year, Studie für Improvisation 8, sold for $ 23M including premium at Christie's on November 7, 2012.
The landscape and the horse are absent. The rider became a crusader in a urban context too stylized to be recognizable. The strength of his huge sword and the colors still more violent express the glory of the artist to lead the way to a new conception of art.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's introducing the Studie 3 for next sale.
POST SALE COMMENT
The previous sale had taken place at the beginning of the crisis in the art market. Sold for £ 13.5 million including premium, this Studie is now at its fair price, just below the Studie 8 sold last year.
1909 The Seer of the Beach
2014 SOLD 17.2 M$ including premium
The theme of 'Improvisations' is well recorded. Some images show a seer of modern art in the assault on the fortress of classicism, although Kandinsky did not himself propose such a definition. His 'Impressions' are more difficult to categorize because the artist has not assigned this title to actual artworks.
However Strandszene (beach scene), oil on board 53 x 67 cm, retroactively appears as one of the best demonstrators of the artistic revolution brought by Kandinsky's Impressions.
This painting was executed at the end of 1909, not before a preparatory drawing dated August 3 in his sketchbook. As in Improvisations, vertical references disappear and colors are violent and even threatening. Some characters are shown but the narrative aspect is absent or impossible to decode.
The non localized beach is of course not Murnau which is a village in the Bavarian mountains. The long white robe of a character classifies it as an Orientalist painting. Tunisia was a favorite theme of Kandinsky when he was still a Fauvist landscape artist.
The great novelty of this composition is that it relies exclusively on a memory of impressions of the artist, without recourse of any previous work or to a photograph, thus excluding almost totally the reality of shapes.
Wassily probably painted it for display in a the house newly purchased in Murnau by his companion Gabriele Münter. He then kept it for nearly thirty years. Yet it is one of the earliest precursors of the release of the forms from any figurative or narrative intention that will lead to the concept of abstract art.
Strandszene is estimated $ 16M, for sale by Christie's in New York on May 6. I invite you to play the video shared by the auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
Good result for this difficult Kandinsky painting which was from the best period: $ 17.2 million including premium.
1909 A Self Portrait in the Jugendstil
2016 SOLD for £ 7.2M including premium
The advances by Klimt in the artistic language are revolutionary and effective. Schiele is inspired by them but early seeks to express his own personality. A self-portrait 74 x 30 cm painted by Egon in late 1909 was sold for £ 4.5 million including premium by Christie's in London on 6 February 2007. It is now estimated £ 6M for sale in the same auction room on February 2, lot 31.
Working a portrait in a narrow vertical format is one of Klimt's innovations. Egon reuses this idea while limiting the figuration to the head in the top right and the hands at the lower end of the image, over a dark background.
The young artist is ambitious. The insertion of the head into a gold frame on two and a half sides is an adaptation from the gilded left and right edges of Klimt's Judith. The left edge of Egon's image is decorated with small variously colored rectangles that mark his temporary allegiance to the Wiener Werkstätte.
Schiele's personality is complex. He wants to be recognized and his lively gazes undertakes communication, but his face is heavily rouged. The fingers which are the tool of his growing fame are wide open in a hermetic symbolism that can be a proposal, an explanation or a mime.
1909 Portrait de Maurice Drouard by Modigliani
2020 SOLD for € 4.5M including premium by Christie's
1909 Jumbo Wagner
2016 SOLD for $ 3.2M including premium
Jumbo is a wording introduced around 1970 to designate stamps with larger margins than average while maintaining an excellent centering. Its unwanted origin is due to the uncertainty in positioning the perforating wheels. Philatelists love these pieces where the margins provided an additional protection of the image against accident and contamination while also increasing the visual appeal by a nicer framing.
Probably we will never know why a T206 Wagner got a Jumbo feature. The original printed sheet included adjacent images of other players. The perfectly parallel and sharp edges make implausible the hypothesis of a cutting hazard. I guess that a fan of Honus Wagner cut it with the focus to get a better framed image of his champion at the expense of the rest of the sheet. Wagner, unquestionably one of the greatest baseball players of the early twentieth century, will later be one of the first five elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This card has surfaced in the early 1970s in a collection where it was kept with other T206s by its first owner, reinforcing the hypothesis that its Jumbo cut was contemporary to its printing.
The one and unique Jumbo Wagner is graded EX5 (MC) by PSA. The general condition is excellent (EX) despite some rounding in the corners and a very slight oozing from the image below it at its bottom edge. The image of Honus Wagner remains in mint condition with perfect color (MC).
Prices are now significantly rising for the best American sports cards. The Jumbo Wagner was sold for $ 1.68M including premium by Mastro Auctions on August 1, 2008 and for $ 2.1M including premium by Goldin on 29 March 2013. It is now estimated $ 5M by Goldin in an online sale ending on October 1, lot 1.
In my discussion introducing the Jumbo Wagner in this column before its 2013 sale, I reported that the highest price recorded on a Wagner T206 in a private sale, $ 2.8 million, had been paid in 2007 on a card graded PSA 8 that was later believed to have been rebuilt.
<1909 Ida in the Empty Room
2015 SOLD for £ 2.05M including premium
The rooms are sparsely furnished and not decorated. The walls are white. His wife Ida is present, often from behind, always quiet and never inactive although her occupation is not often identifiable. The interior doors are opened or closed, the sun sometimes penetrates through the tall glass windows.
Vilhelm is shy and austere, and the idea of a recluse life does not disturb him. His sharp compositions inspired by the Dutch interiors of the seventeenth century oppose the trends of modern art that he yet knew. His questions about the society of his time resulted in a rejection. He is now considered as having been a precursor to Hopper.
The glossy paint has an unexpected effect. The viewer enters the Strandgade apartment as if the artwork was a mirror in a frame and the exhibition room had been cancelled.
This impression is at its best when the contrast between light and shade is important. An oil on canvas 51 x 56 cm painted late in the Strandgade period is estimated £ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in London on May 21, lot 12.
1909 T206 Wagner SGC Authentic
2021 SOLD for $ 2.5M including premium by Heritage
narrated post sale
The top of the scale consists of a few cards graded VG 3 and above. Among the cards graded by PSA, only 6 achieve such a distinction. For the population of lower ranks or ungraded, the T206 Wagner is such a treasure that collectors are no longer satisfied with the identification of the grade.
On February 28, 2021, Heritage sold the Garagiola Wagner. It is in such a pitiful condition that SGC had authenticated it without giving it a grade. Its provenance from the estate of a baseball broadcast commentator certainly did not influence the bidding.
Its margins had been trimmed by a collector to stick it in a scrapbook. The corners are rounded and the back is torn off for almost half of the surface. Its turpitudes ensured its glory because its conservation in the album preserved its colors. It fetched $ 2.5M including premium, lot 80001.
Ty Cobb recalled him as the one man he couldn't intimidate. The T206 Honus Wagner will always be the true king to us, and forever may he reign.⠀— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) February 16, 2021
February 27 - 28 Winter Platinum Night Sports Sale, No. 50038 #HASports #HonusWagner https://t.co/OAAWPY5C1o pic.twitter.com/1eC76MjtNJ