1913 The Analysis of Rhythm
2017 SOLD for $ 70M including premium
Léger admires the advances made by Cézanne while wanting to escape his theories. Geometric construction is indeed no more than a technique. The introduction of movement in painting by the Futurists is promising but remains anecdotal. Painting needs nothing else than displaying pure lines, shapes and colors which will capture the interest of the viewer by their own rhythm.
Like Kandinsky in Murnau, Léger conducts in parallel his pictorial trials and his theoretical research. His Femme en Bleu painted in 1912 is the switch into abstraction of a cubist work based on a classic theme. Balancing on this border between narrative and abstraction, Léger manages immediately afterward a reverted move in which the forms of the woman reappear. This oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on May 7, 2008.
Léger goes much further than Kandinsky and precedes Mondrian and Malevich : art can be abstract without any need to rely on a figurative sketch. In 1913 and 1914 he achieves about fourteen abstract paintings under the generic title Contraste de Formes. A contract with Kahnweiler brings him stability in his living conditions. The support by this merchant also slows down his habit of destroying his own works when the artistic effect does not respond to his perfectionist desire.
On November 13 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 14A a Contraste de Formes painted in 1913, oil on burlap 92 x 73 cm.
The progress made by Léger is decisive but soon interrupted by the stupid war that will annihilate Apollinaire. He will give up abstraction, no doubt because the effort to reach his own target for perfection was too exhausting. After this ephemeral momentum towards pure painting he will become an original image maker of modern life.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1913 Tilting the Perspective
2017 SOLD for £ 33M including premium
The anecdote that Kandinsky did not recognize one of his own paintings because it was turned on another side is often considered the founding act of abstract art. Reported much later by the artist this story is mainly symbolic and is not really dated. It marks the awareness by Kandinsky that the identification of the theme undermines the aesthetic appreciation of an artwork.
After 1909 Kandinsky suppressed the classical perspective in favor of tilted sceneries for which his preparatory sketches were figurative. He copies the positions, the proportions and the masses from the sketch into the final work. The figurative details disappear and the title suggests that it was an abstract conception from the beginning. The loss of the perspective gives the artist the opportunity to reinforce the musicalist interpretation of the colors. The balance of the masses becomes a symphony.
On June 21 in London, Sotheby's sells at lot 53 Bild mit weissen Linien, oil on canvas 120 x 110 cm painted in 1913. The press release of May 29 announces an estimate in excess of US $ 35M.
A sketch in watercolor and ink for this work is known, dated from the same year. The towers of a Russian city are clearly visible along with a red bridge over the river and two harnessed horses. The comparison is obvious when we watch simultaneously the sketch and the painting. When we only see the ultimate image it is a brilliantly colored amalgam forming an oblique mass.
After his return to Russia, Kandinsky continues to proceed with a similar method. In 1916 Moskau I is a tilted sketch where some features of the big city are recognizable. Moskau II is closer to abstraction and requires an effort of interpretation. This oil on canvas 53 x 38 cm was sold for £ 6.3M including premium by Sotheby's on February 3, 2015.
1913 La Femme en Bleu by Léger
2008 SOLD for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Fernand Léger is a rebel. In 1910 he wanted to push further than Cézanne the construction of a composition in geometric elements. The sly critics refer to him as a tubiste. He has to find something else. He does not follow the futurism because the expression of a motion is not matching his desire for pure painting.
The analytical cubism by Picasso and Braque reduces the legibility of the figuration in an attempt to promote an emotion. From 1911 to 1913, Léger prepares three major works inspired by this trend : les Fumeurs, la Femme en bleu, le Modèle nu dans l'atelier.
La Femme en bleu is a series of three oils on canvas. The first, 131 x 99 cm, dated 1912, is titled Esquisse pour La Femme en bleu. According to the principles of analytical cubism, the elements constituting a seated woman are recognizable. The novelty from this style is the large bright blue surface of the garment. La Femme en bleu proper, dated in the same year, is an enlargement to 193 x 130 cm with a significant loss of readability.
In 1913 Kandinsky, Kupka and Mondrian also cross over the boundaries of figuration, each of them with another motivation. Léger is the first cubist to attempt a total abstraction based on the rhythm of colors, with his Contrastes de formes. An oil on burlap from this series was sold for $ 70M including premium by Christie's on November 13, 2017.
He reconsiders his Femme en bleu in these circumstances. The third opus, also titled Esquisse pour la Femme en bleu, is not dated 1913 but 12-13 to mark the date of the initial conception. The facial features and the toothbrush glass next to the sink, similar to the first Esquisse, anticipate the definitive come back by Léger to figuration. This ultimate version, 130 x 97 cm, was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on May 7, 2008, lot 16.
1913 Gustav Klimt is on Holidays
2010 SOLD 26.9 M£ including premium
His oil on canvas shows many houses clustered on the slopes of the hill, along with the church and cypresses. The square format, 110 x 110 cm, is the best to convey the serenity of the place, according to the theories of the artist. The structured forms attest to the influence of expressionism and cubism. The angle of view includes the lake shore, but does not rise up to the horizon line.
I found the image of this painting in the Wikipedia. Even a small picture seen on the screen gives an idea of the quality of light of the work.
Klimt's paintings are rare at auction. Most of his other landscapes show the Attersee in Salzkammergut. Sotheby's will sell the Cassone on February 3 in London. The conservative estimate of £ 12 million should attract customers.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was conservative. The result, thankfully, is in line with the quality of the work and with the reputation of the artist: £ 26.9 million including premium.
1913 Violon et Guitare by Juan Gris
2010 SOLD 28.6 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Juan can now devote himself to his art with a freer spirit. He stays in Céret from August to November 1913, without crossing the border because he had escaped his military service and was considered a deserter in his native country.
The choice of Céret is not by chance : Picasso conceived Cubism in that village with Braque in 1911 and was staying there for the third consecutive summer. Juan declares himself as a disciple of Pablo and tries to claim to anyone all the secrets of Cubism. Very annoyed, Picasso avoids this overly enthusiastic young man.
Yet Juan is also an innovator. His works painted in Céret offer the transition between analytical cubism, defined as a flattening of forms, and synthetic cubism, by which objects receive again identifiable contours and bright colors.
On November 3, 2010, Christie's sold for $ 28.6M including premium Violon et Guitare, oil on canvas 100 x 65 cm painted by Juan Gris in Céret in September 1913, lot 23.
Kahnweiler is satisfied with Gris's progress and Picasso can no longer ignore his rival, while maintaining his unilateral animosity. Picasso wanted to be seen as the leader of this cubism which indeed could only appeal the theorists. Shortly afterward Picasso, Braque and Gris will try simultaneously but in vain to save the analytical cubism by inserting on their canvases some newspaper clippings, ultimate avatars of the destruction of perspective.
1913 Spiritual Colors of Kandinsky
2018 SOLD for $ 23M including premium
In 1911 in Munich, Kandinsky and Marc create the group Der Blaue Reiter. Marc seeks to establish a symbolic code of colors that he applies to figurative forms without respecting the original colors of his models. Kandinsky wants to take into account the relationship perceived by humans between colors and emotions.
In this tendency the figurative gradually loses its preponderance. Lines and colors come to be organized as force fields around anchor points. The verticals are replaced by an oblique composition that directs the gaze towards the top right. Colors provide their emotions and their music around two mute values, white and black, which also express the two extremes of hope.
In seeking the spiritual with such considerations, Kandinsky increasingly approaches abstraction. His writings provide him a lead over all his competitors. When abstract art becomes one of the major elements of painting, he will have the necessary arguments to claim its invention, although the reality may be a little more complex.
The prophet of art must have mystical references. As early as 1910 Kandinsky tries the theme of the Last Judgment, very well adapted to his purpose by its depersonalized story.
On November 12 in New York, Sotheby's sells Zum Thema Jüngstes Gericht, oil and mixed media on canvas 47 x 52 cm painted by Kandinsky in 1913, lot 8 estimated $ 22M.
This composition is not really abstract. By comparison with other works, we recognize steeples that surmount the horizon of the cities and the background is a group of mountains under a very tight flow of lightnings. The object of the judgment is the ultimate confrontation of good and evil that will open a new era. The anchors of the forces are the many oval shapes of various colors spread across that battlefield.
'The Triumph of Color: Important Works from a Private European Collection' today represents one of the finest assemblages of post-Impressionist & Modern Art in private hands. Preview the collection, which will highlight our marquee sales this Nov in #NYC: https://t.co/ct5KgUwp4L pic.twitter.com/WBKjsjAiZL— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) October 4, 2018
1913 Pond and Rose Arches
2015 SOLD for $ 20.4M including premium
After his long stay in Venice in 1908, he does not leave Giverny. He exerts his gardening skill with the same care as his painting, but sometimes nature takes over, as in the 1910 floods.
On May 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 73 x 100 cm painted in 1913, lot 47 estimated $ 18M.
The composition is divided into two equal parts. The upper image shows the rose arches. The sky, so often missing in his series of Nymphéas, reappears. The absence of the tall trees confirms that the garden is the main theme of this view. The foreground shows the usual groups of water lilies playing with the reflections from the arches.
This garden is the pride of Monet. The colors that swirl in the heat of summer remind the small size landscapes of the Midi made by Renoir in his later career.
1913 Danaïde by Brancusi
2002 SOLD for $ 18M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The baronne Frachon was his muse from 1908 to 1910. Brancusi then met Margit Pogany, a Hungarian student recognizable by her round head, bulging eyes, thick eyebrows and austere bun. He invites her to come and see his recent works in his studio in Montparnasse. She recognizes her own gaze in a face that was not hers.
Pogany agrees to pose for the artist in December 1910 and January 1911. Brancusi observes his visitor and then destroys his own clay sketches : a portrait taken from life is not his business. Pogany leaves Paris shortly after.
The artist begins in parallel two series of heads, which are added to the Muses inspired by Frachon. One of them, with bulging eyes, is titled Mlle Pogany. The other, titled Danaïde, shows an arcature of the eyes that reminds the pure geometry of the best African masks. For several decades, he produces variants from this catalog of heads. Danaïde, which is a reference to the fifty daughters of Danaos, is an incentive to create multiples.
On May 7, 2002, Christie's sold a Danaïde for $ 18M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 8M, lot 27. This 28 cm high bronze was designed in 1913, cast by Valsuani with a dark brown patina, and the face has been leaf gilded. Six other bronzes are known, only one of which is gilded.
1913 The Truth about Ariadne
2020 SOLD for $ 16M including premium
In 1910 Giorgio de Chirico conceives that painting can display the indistinguishable and the revelation. In 1912 and 1913, he devotes eight works to Ariadne's final sleep in Naxos, when she did not yet know that Theseus had fled.
The piazza is huge and deserted. Ariadne is a recumbent in marble symbolizing loneliness, but the position of the arms evokes sleep and life. The late afternoon brings the mysterious threat of shadows. The piazza is closed by an antique brick tomb but personal symbols of the artist, the train and the boat, are still beyond.
Il Pomeriggio di Arianna, painted in 1913, is the dreamlike culmination of the series. Ariadne is almost androgynous. The brick tower, as vertiginous as a skyscraper, is flanked by a broken column of similar height. This oil on canvas 135 x 65 cm is estimated $ 10M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on October 28, lot 115.
De Chirico brought a metaphysical dimension to symbolism. His Ariadne series anticipates surrealism in substance, through recourse to the psyche, and in form, through deliberately contradictory elements. Especially in Il Pomeriggio, the inverted perspective of the stele reminds the foreshortening of the Dead Christ by Mantegna.
1913 Balla in the Fourth Dimension
2013 SOLD 11.5 M$ including premium
In 1912, Giacomo Balla had already transposed in painting the experiments of chronophotography, but too softly in the opinion of his futurist fellows. This is also in the same year that Duchamp painted his Nu descendant un escalier.
Automobile in corsa , oil and ink on paper 74 x 104 cm, throws him in full speed in 1913 into the new trend at such a point that he is now signing Futur Balla.
The car is essentially limited to the unlimited vortex of the successive positions of the wheels. The ghost vehicle moves in an open space whose characteristic is to have multiple vanishing points. The purpose of the composition is to show the strength of the motion in a kind of fourth dimension.
As spontaneous as a drawing, this work in black, gray and white is also a tribute to photography, which had been the first art that dared breaking the motion.
Automobile in corsa is estimated $ 12M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 6. Here is the link to the catalog.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's on Balla's Futurism.
POST SALE COMMENT
This artwork on paper is a beautiful and rare witness of the boldness of the avant-gardes at the dawn of modern art. It was sold for $ 11.5 million including premium.