1876 Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir
1990 SOLD for $ 78 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Their temperaments are different. They are young and tempted by the good life of dancing balls. While Monet is overtaken by his wife, Renoir expresses the carefree joie de vivre of the groups to which he applies the impressionist style. Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 and Le Déjeuner des Canotiers, exhibited in 1882, are among the most important masterpieces of painting.
Renoir painted two identical versions of the Moulin de la Galette. The largest, 131 x 175 cm, became the property of the French State through the Caillebotte bequest and is currently at the Musée d'Orsay.
The other version is an oil on canvas 78 x 114 cm damaged by folding. Coming from the Whitney collection, it was sold for $ 78M including premium by Sotheby's on May 17, 1990. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The buyer was a Japanese collector named Ryoei Saito, who had acquired the Portrait of Dr Gachet by Van Gogh two days earlier at Christies for $ 82M including premium. Saito creates some terror in the art world by announcing that at his death he will be cremated with the two paintings to avoid that enormous inheritance rights are required to his heirs.
Saito died in 1996. His threat was not carried out because his wealth had turned down and the artworks were sequestered by his creditors, but the two paintings were never seen again. The Van Gogh was reportedly located in 2007 in the collection of an Austrian financier who has since gone bankrupt.
1881 The Flower-Woman in Manet's Seasons
2014 SOLD for $ 65M including premium
Everything begins to change in 1881. His old friend Antonin Proust, close to Gambetta, suggests Manet to produce a series of allegorical paintings on the theme of the four seasons. Manet soaks carefully and slowly within this project.
The first paintings, Spring (Le Printemps) and Autumn, are made within that year. In the following year, studies of amazones show how Manet wanted to express Summer, but he died in 1883 without having worked on Winter. In 1882, Le Printemps and Un Bar aux Folies-Bergères finally provide Manet with a triumph in the Salon.
Spring is a time for renewal, hope and flowers. Manet was inspired by the ideal of the flower-woman played by the very young actress Jeanne Demarsy nicely dressed in flowery clothes in an environment of rhododendrons. Jeanne is seen in profile in the style of the Renaissance but proudly expresses the autonomy of the new woman.
Le Printemps, oil on canvas 74 x 52 cm, is for sale on November 5 by Christie's in New York, lot 16 estimated $ 25M.
This artwork is the subject of a video shared by Christie's (see below). The image is shared by Wikimedia:
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.
1889 The Field beyond the Window
2017 SOLD for $ 81M including premium
On June 18, Vincent paints La Nuit étoilée in which the stars are transformed into whirlwinds of fire. Anxious about the loss of control of his mental health, Vincent believes being appeased by the energy of his hallucination. Doctors fear another major crisis. They are right : it happens in mid-July.
Supervised by the doctors, Vincent does not paint during his crises. He takes his brushes again in the last days of August. The window of his room looks to the east. The sun rising above the wheat field is blinding and hypnotic, and also reveals the bright colors that constitute the soil. The colors are intermingled like swirls, scars and tongues of fire with an extreme violence.
This oil on canvas 50 x 65 cm is titled Laboureur dans un champ. The man, the horse and the plow in mid-distance against the light offer a new opus of the favorite theme of Vincent's career, a result of his lifelong empathy with the soil workers.
Healing through hard work that released his impulses was only an illusion but it produced unprecedented masterpieces. The next crisis comes in December.
Laboureur dans un champ will be sold as lot 28 A by Christie's in New York on November 13. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Portrait de l'Artiste sans Barbe by Van Gogh
1998 SOLD for $ 71M including premium by Christie's
1889 Threats on Arles
2015 SOLD for $ 54M including premium
His mental health had always been fragile. The tension in his relationship with Gauguin rushed his delirious crises requiring his internment in psychiatric hospitals. His anguished questioning about the unknown cause of his illness worsens his condition. He cannot work during his crises.
On November 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé, oil on canvas 60 x 74 cm, lot 14 estimated $ 50M. This artwork was made in mid-April 1889 within a very short period of lull that allowed him again to paint outdoors. This insignificant countryside surrounding Arles cannot be located with more accuracy.
That new spring looked very different to him from that of the previous year. The flowery meadow that occupies the foreground is not welcoming although a little character is coming to pick flowers. It is well lit but not sunny. The trees are twisted off by the wind.
The clouds are processed in a thick impasto involving all shades of gray, with a great violence that anticipates the whirlpools in the starry sky of the following months. This tormented painting is already attesting the fatal drift of his genius into dementia.
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.
1889-1890 Cézanne playing with Apples
2013 SOLD 42 M$ including premium
Cézanne plays with apples like an infant with cubes. Fruits are grouped within small uneven piles in which their variety of colors brings an additional appeal. Sometimes a group is interrupted by the frame as if the model was unlimited.
If we consider that the real subject is the painting itself and not the peaceful fruit, Cézanne's apples anticipate abstract art. It puzzles the viewer by its original composition, as if it tried to tell a story or to evoke a feeling, like Kandinsky and Miro later. Each individual element is however realistic like an image by Chardin.
The group of apples for sale at Sotheby's on May 7 in New York is both simple and bold. This oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in 1889-1890 is estimated $ 25M. Here is the link to the catalog.
Sold for $ 60M including premium at Sotheby's on May 10, 1999, another composition, 60 x 73 cm, painted four years later is more ambitious. The folds of the white tablecloth generate a complex interplay of fruit, the pitcher is the referee and the curtain states that the still lifes of Cézanne are indeed dramas.
POST SALE COMMENT
Cezanne's still lifes are the most remarkable modernist advances of their time. This painting was sold $ 42M including premium.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1890 Between Harvest and Snow
2019 SOLD for $ 110M including premium
Monet loves this theme that is typical of country life without the need to add humans or birds. He begins with five landscapes in which two haystacks are distant from each other.
According to the sequence established by Wildenstein, the next sub-series is composed of two oil paintings on canvas 73 x 93 cm executed during the autumn of 1890. The alignment of two haystacks leads to the tall trees on the horizon, against the light in the last rays of sunset. For the first time the rest of the image is minimized. The predominance of the expression of colors over theme and form opens the way to modern art.
The second of these pictures, W1273, goes even further by managing to avoid the shadows of the two stacks. All that remains is the light that plays with the contours of stacks and trees and reveals the shimmering colors of the field. It was dated 1891 by the artist, certainly by reference to the year of the first public exhibition of the series, in the gallery of Durand-Ruel.
W1273 will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on May 14, lot 8. The March 15 press release announces an estimate in excess of $ 55M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The deep nature of a landscape can no longer be expressed by a single snapshot. In this series which ends in January 1891 and totals 25 paintings, Monet has captured 25 moments of light of a wide variety : morning, evening, full sun, snow, mist. In the last pictures the color also comes to sublimate the perspective with the reduction of the theme to a single haystack. Also taken at sunset, W1290 was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on November 16, 2016.
An enduring symbol of Impressionism from Claude Monet's iconic Haystacks series will lead an important private collection of 8 Impressionist works on offer in #SothebysImpMod Evening Sale on 14 May in #NYC. Learn more: https://t.co/B4xVl8QWFA pic.twitter.com/SMDorfOowE— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) March 15, 2019
1890 Portrait du Dr Gachet by Van Gogh
1990 SOLD for 82.5 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Gachet, 62, is a doctor, a psychiatrist and a friend of the artists. The subject of his doctoral thesis had been a study on melancholy. He advised several members of the Impressionist group on their health problems and had attempted to assist the engraver Charles Méryon in the final phase of his internment.
Vincent is surprised by their first meeting, during which he considers that Gachet is crazier than him. However, the doctor is skillful : in two days he gains the confidence of this hypersensitive artist.
For his art, Vincent seeks to express the deepest psychological aspects. He is still and always passionate about the examples of his predecessors, to better overcome them. He admires the expression of madness in the imaginary portrait by Delacroix of the poet Torquato Tasso in the madhouse of Ferrara.
The Portrait of Dr Gachet is an oil on canvas 67 x 56 cm painted in June 1890. Vincent commented on this work in a letter to his sister. He wanted to display the melancholy of his new friend while recognizing that his expression can be considered a grimace. He sums up his qualities in four words : Sad but gentle and yet clear and intelligent.
Gachet has his head resting on his right hand, allowing a diagonal composition of great expressive force. The face is drawn with the hard lines of the best works of Vincent. On the table, two bright yellow books balance the composition. A branch of digitalis, a medicinal herb, symbolizes Gachet's main activity.
The Portrait of Dr Gachet was sold for $ 82.5M including premium by Christie's on May 15, 1990. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1890 Wild Flowers for Dr Gachet
2014 SOLD for $ 62M including premium
In May 1890 Vincent moved into a room at the local inn in Auvers. He did not have a studio and regularly attended the home of Gachet, a friend of the Impressionists and Cézanne.
Since he is sick, Vincent is terrorized by the idea of failure and by the risk of a new crisis of dementia. With the energy of despair, he gives a new impetus to his old ambition to become the best painter of all time, the only one capable of a synthesis of all genres. Gachet has a painting by Cézanne showing a bouquet of flowers. Vincent wants to do better.
Spring brings forth the flowers into the fields. On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 66 x 50 cm painted by Vincent on 16 and 17 June 1890, lot 17 estimated $ 30M. Executed in the clear intention to thank Gachet for his help, this artwork shows a vase filled with daisies and poppies.
The composition is powerful and the colors are gorgeous, dominated in the center by the fiery red poppies. The groups of flowers shine like some characters within the ultimate tragedy of Vincent.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1891 A Stack in Winter
2016 SOLD for $ 81M including premium
He had been very active throughout that period. His paintings of the Gare St Lazare in 1877 constituted a series that displayed the variations in color depending on the intensity of sunlight and on the thickness of smoke from the trains. His solitary travel in Normandy in 1882 for comforting after the death of Camille is very important : Monet demonstrates to himself that lighting is better than topography for expressing a mood.
When comes the end of summer 1890 Monet is ready for a new experience. The vegetation will disappear with winter. As for every year the grain stacks will remain alone in the middle of the fields until the wheat threshing of the spring. They will be the perfect support for Monet to perform his observations of colors through all weather conditions and at all moments of time. This series totaled 25 paintings.
Three of them have been specifically grouped as a ultimate achievement of the Meules in the catalogue raisonné prepared by Daniel Wildenstein. Only one stack is visible in front of a retracted landscape. It is truncated either from top or from one side. The color emotion is not challenged by that figurative feature reduced to nothing more than a bulky triangle. In 1896, in front of one of these paintings, Kandinsky was dazzled.
Another Meule from that group of three, oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm painted in 1891, reference Wildenstein 1290, was sold for $ 12M including premium by Sotheby's on 11 May 1999. It is now for sale by Christie's in New York on November 16, lot 9 B. The targeted price was disclosed at around $ 45M by the specialized press.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1895 The Scream of Nature
2012 SOLD 120 M$ including premium
The artist, exalted by the meaning of life, is constantly navigating the limits of a morbid insanity. In 1889, during the Exposition Universelle in Paris, he is fascinated by the intensity of emotions expressed by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec.
In early 1892, Munch lives his own road to Damascus. He sees the sky ablaze at sunset, like an indomitable force of nature which has invaded the fjord in a terrible explosion of colors. He writes in his notebook a short poem stating that the happening had generated an intense fatigue to him.
No doubt he will be mesmerized by this vision for over a year, before daring to translate the memory of his anxiety as a painting and a pastel with a title evocating his inspiration: the Scream of Nature.
It took him another two years to exorcise his anxiety. In 1895, he made a second pastel, 79 x 59 cm, to be sold by Sotheby's in New York on May 2. Now conscious of having created a masterpiece, he prepares on the same year the first lithography. The fourth and last version of Munch's Scream is much later.
The pastel of 1895 is exceptional, and Sotheby's expects $ 80M. This is the only version where the artist has included the poem, hand painted into the frame. The two friends are still there in the distance, but are not any more interested in the scene, leaving the main character lonely struggling with his own dehumanization.
This is the only one of the four artworks to be still in private hands, and it had been little seen outside Norway. It is illustrated on Sotheby's page announcing the sale.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's International Realty.
POST SALE COMMENT
Ite missa est. In a few words, everything is told: world record for a work of art, $ 120M including premium.
Rarely a record has been so deserved: last original in private hands, this pastel also marks the top of the emotional maturity of the artist on this theme, with dazzling colors.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.