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 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.
1913 Winter Egg by Fabergé
2002 SOLD for $ 9.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The eggs supplied by Fabergé in 1913 are the Romanov Tercentenary egg for the tsarina and the Winter egg for the dowager empress Maria Feodorovna. Billed for 24,600 rubles, the Winter egg is the most expensive of all Fabergé eggs. By its theme, it is also one of the most delicate. It is the first imperial egg from a design by Alma Theresia Pihl, the niece of the head jeweler Albert Holmström who ensured its realization.
With a total height of 14.2 cm, the Winter egg is made of transparent rock crystal chiseled to symbolize frost or crushed ice. The actual egg, 10.2 cm high, is detachable from its base. It contains the surprise, a basket of white wood anemones with a total height of 8.2 cm. This early blossom is a symbol of the end of winter.
Of course, the richest materials were used. The basket is in platinum. On a gold moss, the flowers are in quartz centered by a garnet, with stem and stamens in gold. The leaves are in nephrite. The whole is paved with nearly 3,000 tiny diamonds.
The Winter egg was sold twice by Christie's : for CHF 7.3M including premium on November 16, 1994, lot 464, and for $ 9.6M including premium on April 19, 2002, lot 150. It was reported that the buyer was the Emir of Qatar. Please watch the video prepared by AP during the 2002 sale, shared on YouTube by AP Archive.
1913 San Geremia in Venice by John Singer Sargent
2018 SOLD for $ 9.1M including premium by Christie's
1913 Group of Nudes in the Woods
2017 SOLD for £ 5.5M including premium
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is the most active of the group. Residing in Berlin since 1911 he cannot adapt to the conditions of life in the big city. With his friends and their female companions, they spend much of summer in tents or huts and practice an integral nudity in daily occupations, recreational bathing, play and art, in accordance with the Freikörperkultur theories.
On March 1 in London, Sotheby's sells Vier Akte unter Bäumen, oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm painted in 1913, lot 14 estimated £ 3.5M.
The scene stages four nudes in the woods, three of them in full frontal position not hiding the sex. The man is a self-portrait. The three women around him display a varied maturity that unquestionably evokes the Judgment of Paris. In the freedom of the life that he desires, Ernst Ludwig will invite whoever woman he prefers. The youngest is nicely approaching from behind.
This painting is executed with thick lines and a wild color of the naked skins attesting to the influence of Matisse whose artistic advances were much appreciated by these young people. The simplified style of bodies and heads also evokes the stylization of tribal art six years after the breakthrough of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon.
1913 Expressionism in the Streets of Berlin
2009 SOLD 5.4 M£ including premium
1913. You know, it's one of my preferred periods of art history.
In Berlin, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted street scenes. Passers-by are there, but what are they looking for? Like Munch, but with vibrant colors, he does not show anything else than their anguish. Kirchner came from Dresden. His vision of Berlin is a terrible expression of the anonymity of people in large cities. At the next generation, Giacometti had the same kind of inspiration for his bronzes.
The best known painting by Kirchner on this topic, 120 x 91 cm, is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sotheby's said in its press release that another painting, 121 x 95 cm, was sold $ 38 million in 2006.
The oil on canvas that Sotheby's sells in London on February 3 is smaller, 70 x 51 cm, but it would be the last of this 1913 series still in private hands. Sotheby's already knew it: they sold it 1.9 million pounds in 1997. That was before the craze of buyers for expressionism, characterized by spectacular auction results also recorded on Jawlensky and Marc. Now this painting is estimated 5 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
The major lots still get buyers. The result, £ 5.4 million including premium, confirms my observation on the growing enthusiasm for expressionism.
1913 The Eliasberg Nickel
2018 SOLD for $ 4.6M including premium
This variant, not documented by the plant, is the consequence of the introduction for 1913 of the Buffalo Head figure replacing the Liberty Head for the 5-cent coin. It appears that when this decision was made in February 1913, a 1913 Liberty Head die was already available for the production line.
The population of the 1913 Liberty nickel is limited to a single group of five pieces exhibited together in 1920 by a former factory employee who had known about it and managed to get it in his hands. The five pieces had been struck with new tools, perhaps simply for a first test that would become obsolete with the change of design.
Eliasberg considered this group to be the total population. Indeed no other example has ever surfaced. His copy is the best, graded PR66 by PCGS, and the only one from these five with a glittering mirror surface.
When Eliasberg died in 1976, his collection was shared between his two children. It was then the subject of several auctions. The 1913 Eliasberg Liberty nickel becomes the first coin to cross the million-dollar threshold at auction, on May 21, 1996 by Bowers and Merena. Q. David Bowers' hammer falls at $ 1.35M, $ 1.485M including premium.
Its price has considerably risen in the next decade. It was sold for $ 1.84M including premium by Superior Galleries in March 2001. Two private transactions were revealed, at $ 4.15M in May 2005 and $ 5M in April 2007. It also passed at auction at Stack's in January 2007 .
The Eliasberg specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Philadelphia on August 15, lot 1096. The image shared by Wikimedia had been prepared for the 2001 auction.
1913 The Latest Liberty Nickels
2010 SOLD 3.7 M$ including premium
2014 SOLD 3.3 M$ including premium
A star of coin auctions is listed again: the Olsen specimen, which had been sold for $ 3.7 million including premium by Heritage on 7 January 2010. I paste below my text of that time, modified to include the information of the next sale:
In 1920, five coins are displayed by a man named Samuel Brown at the annual meeting of the American Numismatic Association. Marked 1913, they are not very old at that time. The surprising fact is that no similar sample has appeared afterwards. Thus began the mystery of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel.
At the end of 1912, officials of the US Mint had decided to abandon the Liberty design for the 5 cents coin, and to replace it with another one which is now known as Buffalo nickel. The five Brown copies are the only 1913 5 cents specimens on the Liberty model.
Nobody knows why these coins were manufactured or how Brown acquired them. There are two undisputed facts: In 1913, Brown was employed at the Philadelphia Mint. The five samples are from a new die, so that an expert was able to define in what order of precedence they were struck.
The 1913 Liberty Nickel, of which three units are still in private hands, is now considered as one of the rarest US coins. The Olsen specimen, so designated from one of its former owners, has even been featured in a television series in 1973, in which thieves were trying to appropriate it. To avoid damaging the precious object, it was replaced by a model in the turbulent scenes of the film, same as a featured character being doubled by a stuntman.
The Olsen specimen, which has always been handled with great care, is ranked second in the order of perfection of the five coins. It is for sale by Heritage in Orlando on January 9. In recent years, all commercial transactions concerning 1913 Liberty nickels were in the millions of dollars.
POST SALE COMMENT
The new price obtained by the Olsen specimen is $ 3.3 million including premium, a decrease compared to 2010. The balance is restored with respect to the Walton specimen, sold for $ 3.2 million including premium by Heritage in April 2013.
Its picture is shared by Heritage on Wikimedia : By Photo taken by Heritage Auctions (Provided by Heritage Auctions with permission) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons