1927 Petite Danseuse de 14 ans by Degas (posthumous)
2022 SOLD for $ 42M by Christie's
In 1879, Marie draws the attention of the artist. Aged 14, this "petit rat d'Opéra" is an ungrateful teenager, far from physiological maturity, with awkward gestures, but already attracted to her future career as a dancer (which ended before it was to start when she was fired from the dance school for repeated absences).
Degas was a painter, draftsman, sculptor, photographer, printer, but his great art was oil and pastel. He used drawing and sculpture like sketches.
On his first sculpture of Marie, 74 cm high, the girl is naked. This makes sense since the artist wants to study the movements of her body. This is not enough for him. He realized another larger statue in painted wax, a little over 1 m, in the same position, with the unconventional idea to equip it with a dancing dress in cloth and real hair. By its realism that does not reject some ugliness, this portrait of an adolescent girl is indeed a key work of modern sculpture.
As in his many pastels of ballerinas, Degas captures a moment of life which is neither from the performance nor relaxed, which may be a reverie or an exhaustion.
After much hesitation, he shows his Petite danseuse de quatorze ans at the Impressionist exhibition of 1881. After this unique event and until his death in 1917, no sculpture of the master will be exhibited.
Degas had considered that his waxes were too fragile for preparing bronze casts. In 1918 his heirs contracted Adrien Hébrard to produce limited bronze editions of all seventy-four wax sculptures found during the posthumous inventory.
Hébrard worked often on request from collectors. The first complete set of bronzes was finished in 1921. This activity made the founder busy up to 1938 including a total 29 casts of the Petite Danseuse.
Petite danseuse de quatorze ans was edited by Hébrard in bronze with muslin skirt and satin hair ribbon.
A bronze 103 cm high not including the wooden base was sold for $ 42M from a lower estimate of $ 20M for sale by Christie's on May 12, 2022, lot 2C.
This copy with brown patina was cast in 1927 by Hébrard in commission from a US collector. It is fitted with the usual muslin skirt and satin hair ribbon of that model.
A copy with a provenance history beginning in the 1930s was sold for £ 13.3M by Sotheby's on February 3, 2009, lot 8.
Another example with no reference on the possible date was sold by Sotheby's for £ 15.8M on June 24, 2015, lot 14. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1927 The Blue Period of Joan Miro
2012 SOLD 23.5 M£ including premium
Painted in 1927, Peinture (étoile bleue), is typical and can rightly be considered as an outstanding work of the artist. It is for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 19. Here is the link to the catalog.
Never a visible star was blue, but the universe of Miro is completely dreamlike. The artwork, an oil on canvas 115 x 89 cm, is actually azure dark blue, anticipating over thirty years Klein's IKB.
The vertical format invites to gravity, but the opposite occurs. The forms that sail in this space are completely free and far between, like galaxies in the sky, preceding by 70 years the shelters for aliens by Cai Guo-Qiang.
Forgotten for 40 years in the estate of a great collector, Peinture (étoile bleue) got a nice media success when it reappeared in Paris. It was sold € 11.6 million including premium by Aguttes on December 21, 2007. Certainly this is a masterpiece by Miro, but its new estimate, £ 15M, is ambitious.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's.
POST SALE COMMENT
In 2007, the Parisian observers rightly considered Peinture (étoile bleue) as a masterpiece of Miro. The result, quoted above, was then the highest price recorded for the artist at auction.
And in 2012, Sotheby's has largely won their challenge: £ 23.5 million including premium.
This artist always original and often difficult enters the short list of the most outstanding painters of the twentieth century.
1927 The Dream Woman of Joan Miro
2020 SOLD for £ 22.3M including premium
This phase culminates in 1927 with the blue period. The background is an opaque sky blue, azul in Spanish. This too saturated but very bright color had traditionally discouraged artists but could evoke a spirituality. It will inspire Klein's transcendental IKB.
The artist's graphic technique is unprecedented. The image approaches a very schematic reality, by the spots of vivid colors that dot its surface. The dream is a very narrow black line which complements the previous forms and often contradicts them. He will reuse this opposition with high virtuosity in his war series of the Constellations.
This graphic duality is present in Peinture (Etoile bleue), which derives its subtitle from a cobalt blue star. The figuration is a tiny tightrope walker in a spinning movement. This oil on canvas 115 x 89 cm was sold for £ 23.5M including premium by Sotheby's on June 19, 2012.
On July 28 in London, Sotheby's sells Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge), oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm, lot 17 estimated £ 20M. This work attests to the influence of Miro on Calder who managed to acquire it in 1966. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Invited by the subtitle, the observer quickly finds the spot that represents the hat. The image of the woman is gradually created from top to bottom, with the golden neckline, the black corset and the large white apron that flies in the wind. The black line could have underlined the torso if it did not protrude above the hat. In the lower part of the image, it forms a sort of crinoline on the left of the apron.
From 1923 the calla lily becomes her favorite theme, and before the end of the decade her friends take fun in assimilating the woman and the plant. Both are wild, vigorous, sensual, authoritarian, independent.
In New York Georgia is surrounded by the group of photographers led by Stieglitz. It is interesting to note that at the same time in California, Imogen Cunningham enters the heart of flowers with her camera after selecting magnolia and calla.
Georgia revolves around her flower to get perspectives of the widest variety. The friends find sex symbols that Georgia will not seek to deny or confirm.
White Rose with Larkspur
2022 SOLD for $ 26.7M by Christie's
It was not enough for Georgia to be Stieglitz's wife and model. She finds a small paradise in the grasslands around Lake George in upstate New York. Nature knows how to create perfect shapes much better than an artist can do. She watches the flowering of the weeds.
Georgia was an artist, and such a creative environment transformed her approach. She showed in her paintings some details of nature and also landscape shapes coming close to abstraction, like Weston, like Cunningham. Like them, she wanted to share what she saw.
In 1924, she began a series of oils on canvas on the theme of petunia flowers. The painting allowed a larger, and therefore more spectacular, size than the usual photos of the time.
An oil on canvas 76 x 91 cm painted in 1926 features two flowers of petunia. One is purple and almost black, and the other is pinkish and almost white. This opposition irresistibly evokes the positive negative duality of photography. It was sold for $ 4.1M by Sotheby's on May 19, 2010, lot 32. In the same year Man Ray, who knew Stieglitz, realized his famous photo "Noire et Blanche" (Black and White), showing a white woman's head next to a black African mask.
Georgia expresses the beauty of white flowers in a variety of viewpoints that reveal their sublime geometries in the process of their outbreak.
White rose with larkspur No. 1, oil on canvas 91 x 73 cm painted in 1927, was sold for $ 26.7M from a lower estimate of $ 6M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 9. It had been kept by the artist until she presented it to a friend in 1946.
The pale flesh colored rose is displayed in a surrounding of blue and purple larkspur blooms and green leaves that fills the whole surface. The No. 2 of the same title hang until 1980 in Georgia's bedroom at Abiquiu. In this 1927 series the artist comes back once again to the relation between flower and abstraction, or in some tentative interpretation between flower and female human sex.
In a very different theme, another study of a pale tone, 61 x 91 cm painted in 1930, was sold for $ 3.4M by Sotheby's on May 19, 2010. Closer to the geometric abstraction, it features the mollusk that lives inside a clam shell.
2022 SOLD for $ 15.3M by Christie's
Entered into the circle of the avant-garde New York photographers, she married Stieglitz in 1924. She moved to the brand new tallest residential building in New York City, while keeping in touch with nature in long walks in the hills near Lake George in upstate New York where her husband had an estate.
1926 was a year of great creativity, including her first cityscapes. She continued her series of petunia flowers, started two years earlier, inspired by the in depth photographic close up vision.
An oil on canvas 51 x 23 cm painted in 1926 is another step forward in her research of forms. This piece titled Autumn leaf with white flower stages a tobacco flower centered on its full frontal leaf, in a bold departure to a strict botanical combination.
Some slight departure in the symmetry remind the reality of nature, similarly as the dissymmetry in her views of New York skyscrapers. The contrast is striking between the bright star-shaped flower over the dark leaf and the soft background. The seasonal change is featured through the rare mauve and moss green hues which embellish that fallen leaf.
O'Keeffe enjoyed her own researches. She had temporarily reacquired this painting in 1950. It was sold for $ 4.95M from a lower estimate of $ 3M by Christie's on May 18, 2021, lot 7.
Autumn Leaves N° 2, oil on canvas 81 x 53 cm painted in 1927, goes closer to abstraction. In that fully filled and nearly symmetrical flattened composition, the decorative flower of the example above has been removed and the green leaf is surrounded by the vibrant colors of the fall. Small gaps at the lower edge of the oak leaf may be interpreted as a memento mori.
It was sold for $ 4.3M by Sotheby's on November 29, 2012, lot 10 and for $ 15.3M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 45.
1927 Composition with Yellow, Red and Blue by Mondrian
2021 SOLD for $ 26M by Christie"s
Three basic rules are published by Mondrian in 1926. The figure is only made of horizontal and vertical straight lines, with no curve and no oblique. In addition to the non-colors which are grey, black and white, only three pure colors are used : blue, red and yellow, in flat separated areas, never mingled. The composition must be balanced with no symmetry.
In his studio in Montparnasse, Mondrian manages to apply his own rules. His final goal is to define a new style of interior decoration, including furnishings, suited to modern conditions of life.
The path is narrow between art and a mere decoration. Also in 1926, Mondrian observes that his compositions have been too complex and must be reduced.
Komposition II with Red, oil on canvas 50 x 51 cm, is only featuring four lines and one color, in an area limited by a light grey line. One of the vertical lines is adjacent to the right edge and interrupted. The single red fills an evanescent area in the bottom left corner, between the lower horizontal and the lower edge. The non-color is white. This opus was sold for $ 9.3M by Christie's on May 11, 2015, lot 11 A.
In 1927 a come back to two or three of his basic colors is necessary. The surfaces are again placed within an outer rectangular light grey line, meaning that the border areas are designed for achieving the balance and not to offer an escape to the outside world.
Composition with Red, Blue and Grey excludes the yellow and the white. This blue has a single narrow area at the same place as the red in the 1926 example above. This oil on canvas 68 x 53 cm was sold for £ 15.2M by Sotheby's on June 23, 2014, lot 14.
Composition with Yellow, Red and Blue, No. II from the 1927 nomenclature, displays the three basic Mondrian colors, each one in a single flat area. The single vertical black line is not exactly centered, so imperceptibly meeting the basic non-symmetry rule of the artist. The blue at the bottom left is extremely narrow. The other areas are white.
That No. II, oil on canvas 50 x 35 cm, was sold for $ 26M by Christie's on May 13, 2021, lot 19 B.
In period it was indeed not the sort of work that the public considered as art. After a one-day solo exhibition of 18 paintings in Paris, Mondrian was shocked to retrieve his canvases including No. II being prepared for the laundry by the local staff. He was able to repaint them within one month.
The simplification achieved by Mondrian in that phase inspired Calder, Perriand and Saint Laurent.
Piet Mondrian's 'Composition: No II, With Yellow, Red and Blue' will highlight our 20th Century Evening Sale in NY.— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 9, 2021
Painted in 1927, the painting encapsulates the purity, elegance, and extreme rigor of the Dutch painter's unique aesthetic. pic.twitter.com/GmhZC3UFk4
1927 The Neo-Plasticism of Mondrian
2014 SOLD 15.2 M£ including premium
Around 1922 pure colors fill some rectangles. Executed on a gray background, the composition with blue, red, yellow and black from the Saint-Laurent collection, oil on canvas 80 x 50 cm, was sold for € 21.5 million including premium by Christie's on 23 February 2009.
The inevitable edge of the canvas disrupts the will of the artist to reach infinity. He seeks a solution by a diamond position of the canvas.
In 1926, Mondrian develops and publishes his neo-plasticist theory. The black lines are more sparse. The rectangles of pure colors are limited to two or three, but their presence near the edge, already in place in 1922, now takes the major role by creating the illusion that they are the starting point of an unlimited area. Therefore the overall size of the canvas is not significant. It again becomes rectangular.
On June 23 in London, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 66 x 50 cm painted in 1927, lot 14 estimated £ 13M. The rectangles are grey excepted one red which is stuck between two horizontal lines and the very small blue escaping to infinity from the bottom left.
White background responds better than gray to Mondrian's quest for purity. Painted in the same year, a small composition with three colors 38 x 35 cm was sold for £ 9.3 million including premium by Sotheby's on June 19, 2013.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.
POST SALE COMMENT
This abstract painting from one of the best periods of Mondrian was sold for £ 15.2 million including premium.
1927 Le Petit Pâtissier by Soutine
2013 SOLD for $ 18M by Christie's
One of the first versions astonishes Paul Guillaume and Dr. Barnes, ensuring the lasting fame of the artist, a fame of which he so rarely profited because of his ever dissatisfied nature.
On May 8, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 18M the sixth and final portrait of pastry cooks, painted circa 1927. This oil on canvas, 76 x 70 cm, is extraordinary for its emotional intensity and technical quality.
The malaise of the boy is visible from his sickly eye, pouting mouth and clumsy hands clutching the hips.
The artwork is at the intersection of Modigliani's ideal compositions, Picasso's pauperism in the blue period and Monet's chromatic subtlety within the white, and of course the nervousness of the brushwork is proper to Soutine.
1927 La Tunique Rose by Lempicka
2019 SOLD for $ 13.4M by Sotheby's
Her husband's name is Tadeusz Lempicki. Some of Tamara's early paintings are signed T. de Lempitzki, probably to mark her manly tendencies. She looks for the most beautiful women and invites them to pose on her couch, naked or dressed.
Tamara meets Rafaëla at the Bois de Boulogne. She will tell later that she had seen how passers-by stared at the young woman. Rafaëla is pretty and chubby, with her hair styled in the fashion of Louise Brooks. Her portraits by Tamara are carnal, in the signature neat lines of the artist, revealing a love empathy between the two women.
Le Rêve, oil on canvas 81 x 59 cm painted in 1927, is also titled Rafaëla sur fond vert. The shirtless model sits with her arms crossed over her chest and her head resting on the back of the sofa. Like the best nudes of Modigliani, she waits peacefully for the artist's instructions. It was sold for $ 8.5M including premium by Sotheby's on November 2, 2011.
On November 12 in New York, Sotheby's sells La Tunique rose, oil on canvas 73 x 116 cm painted in the same year, lot 43 estimated $ 6M. Reclining on the same green sofa, Rafaëla wears a little dress no more covering than a night suit. The expression is nice, with a contrast between the shadow on the eyes and the light on the red mouth.
1927 The Sublime Austerity of Piet Mondrian
2013 SOLD 9.3 M£ including premium
Without desiring it, Piet Mondrian is a distant successor to the Iconoclasts. This mystic finds inspiration in theosophy.The artist can express the mystery of the world by abandoning completely the figuration.
Unlike Miro, Mondrian does not invite the viewer to interpret. He seeks his own way, which is as unresolved and endless as that of Kafka's surveyor.
Malevich had understood that the quintessence of art is pure white. Mondrian adds strictly horizontal and vertical thick black lines. Their meetings can generate an interrupt, but the strictly orthogonal angles attract no fantasy.
The world is not made up of black and white but of colors. The three basic pure colors are enough to announce all its diversity. Red, yellow and blue each one fills a dedicated area bounded by black lines.
Here comes finally the diversity. Mondrian is not a geometer and his progress is empirical. His quest to the sublimeleads him to vary the position and size of the colored areas from one artwork to another.
A small oil on canvas, 38 x 35 cm, painted in 1927 is estimated £ 4.5 million, for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 19.
Of same size, yellow and red are on the left of the same vertical. The violent and haunting red escapes by two sides, top and left. The lower line prevents the yellow to reach the bottom edge but allows the intrusion of the long blue stripe. Twenty years before Pollock, the impressions offered in Mondrian's art have already no limitations.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was too shy for this typical painting of the most famous Mondrian style. It was sold for £ 9.3 million including premium.