Modern Art on Paper
Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1890-1899 1903 1905 1912 1940-1949 1948 1949 1959
1879 Danseuse au Repos, pastel by Degas
2008 SOLD 37 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
The "petits rats" are of great interest to him. These very young women do not have that need for sexual activity which masks the psychological authenticity of the prostitutes. Their lives are exhausting, in training and on stage, but the glory may reward their efforts.
Degas did not rule out any technique. In 1875 he was seduced by the use of pastel enhanced with gouache on paper. Unlike oil and watercolor, this opaque material very easily allows the many reworks desired by the artist throughout the execution of an artwork.
In 1880 at the 5th impressionist exhibition, Degas displays a pastel and gouache 46 x 67 cm titled Deux danseuses, probably made in 1879. After an exhausting exercise, two ballerinas in tutu are seated side by side on a bench. They ignore each other, only trying to catch their breath, the body leaning forward.
The artist painted in the same technique another work, 59 x 64 cm, titled Danseuse au repos. It was sold for $ 37M including premium by Sotheby's on November 3, 2008, lot 14.
The girl on the right side in Deux Danseuses is in exactly the same attitude as before, with the left hand massaging the painful ankle and the other hand resting on the other knee. With her frail limbs and her upturned nose, this young woman has a resemblance to Marie, the model of the sculpture titled Petite danseuse de quatorze ans made by Degas around the same time. In a bold composition as Degas liked, her partner is almost entirely out of field
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.
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.
1902-1906 Watercolor Still Life by Cézanne
2020 SOLD for $ 28.7M by Christie's
He is a perfectionist of geometric projection. The paper is flat but the fruits are volumes that the light reaches through their middle. Breakfast utensils, such as a teapot or sugar bowl, are also convex.
The work begins with a drawing of the outlines on a sheet of paper. Each surface is filled with colors that reflect the lighting zones without overlapping. This phase should be intermediate but Cézanne is never satisfied : the finished product, which is oil on canvas, becomes scarce. His rare visitors, like Emile Bernard, are disconcerted by the complexity and slowness of his creative process. His reinterpretation of nature is so innovative that he creates modern art.
On October 6, 2020, Christie's sold as lot 13 for $ 28.7M a still life in watercolor and gouache made in the largest paper size used by the artist, 48 x 62 cm. The focal point is the green melon, with its bright color and its central position in the image. It is however placed on the other side of the table, partially hidden by the milk jug and the sugar bowl.
'The greatest Cézanne watercolour to be offered in decades' — #Cézanne's Nature morte avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier from the collection of Edsel & Eleanor Ford House will be offered in the 20th Century Evening Sale on 6 October in New York: https://t.co/gJGcA3KMtr pic.twitter.com/Ss3mrhbAH9— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) August 30, 2020
1902-1906 Nature morte au melon vert
2007 SOLD for $ 25.5M by Sotheby's
This watercolor and pencil 32 x 48 cm was sold for $ 25.5M by Sotheby's on May 8, 2007 from a lower estimate of $ 14M, lot 8.
1905 Acrobate et Jeune Arlequin by Picasso
1988 SOLD for £ 21M (worth $ 38.5M at that time) including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2021
The 1901 beginning of his Parisian glory is already far away. A friend gives him a place at the Bateau-Lavoir, a dwelling for artists on the slopes of the Butte Montmartre. There he finds emigrant artists, Italian and Spanish, who cannot escape poverty and earn a few cents by selling their works to second-hand dealers.
He has the will to get out of it. This miserable workshop becomes his pied-à-terre from where he makes new friends, including Max Jacob. He wants to have fun and goes to nightclubs and the Medrano circus. His new muse, Fernande, replaces Germaine, the femme fatale who had repelled Casagemas and whose direct influence on Pablo has not been disclosed.
Tragic art is not a lasting solution for this return of ambitions. Picasso observes that clowns, entrusted for entertaining the public, have the same hungry lives as the unknown artists. Acrobats and saltimbanques take the place of the prostitutes from the blue period in Pablo's world. By an optimism which is undoubtedly forced, he adds the children who still believe in the future pleasures of their life.
In February 1905, Picasso prepares an exhibition of several works on the theme of the circus, which followed the edition of the Repas Frugal. A watercolor features an adult acrobat and a teenage harlequin, both costumed to take the stage. They are serious and bony. The warm colors announce the entry into the pink period.
This artwork was sold by Christie's on November 28, 1988 for £ 21M, worth at the time $ 38.5M, including premium, from a lower estimate of £ 10M. It is illustrated in the post sale article by Judd Tully, the Washington Post art critic.
1940 Poetry of the Constellations
2017 SOLD for £ 24.5M including premium
Varengeville is one of the prettiest villages on the Normandy coast. Braque has his workshop and spends summers there. Calder is a frequent visitor. In this small land's end Miro calms his anxieties by contemplating the immensity of the night sky.
The personalization of the groupings of stars is one of the oldest poetic themes of our civilizations. Miro is not an astrologer but he is a poet. With the exceptional freedom of his imagination he superimposes on the sky the images of his fantasy.
In January 1940 Miro begins a series of artworks on the theme of the Constellations. They will all be on paper in the same size, 38 x 46 cm. The background is prepared by splashes of gouache and oil paint, more or less dark. The crescent moon and a few stars are the spectacular elements in bright colors accompanied by floating symbolic or abstract forms. The constellation, woman or bird, is a figure in thin lines surrounded by scrolls, scarcely more visible than a watermark.
The artist conceived from the outset this series as a coherent whole. The use of a a small and light format was premonitory. When he fled France to return to Spain in May 1940 he could take in his luggage the entire set : ten finished works and the pieces of paper that he will be use for the thirteen subsequent works.
The series of Constellations was completed in September 1941. Miro kept the secret until an exhibition in New York in 1945. Pollock was convinced by a possible non-figurative artistic transposition of an observable reality. With the Constellations of Miro modern art has just crossed the Atlantic.
On June 21 in London, Sotheby's sells as lot 45 the eighth opus of Miro's Constellations, dated 13 April 1940. Its unusually simple title, Femme et Oiseaux, prefigures the favorite themes of the artist for the rest of his career. In this sky that calls for peace, Joan Miro is not calmed : the woman howls.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1948 The Organic Abstraction of Jackson Pollock
2013 SOLD 58 M$ including premium
He did not consider himself as an abstract artist. In the first months after his arrival in Long Island, he developed two series of paintings titled 'Sounds in the grass' and 'Accabonac Creek', reflecting his desire to commune with the earth for expressing its richness.
He then invented his own style so well known today but then so different from anything that existed before him. The surface to be painted is placed on the ground and not on an easel. He leaves his brushes to directly throw the liquid paint. There is no horizon and no framing even when the work is small, and there is also no longer a figuration.
The lines of pure colors of various widths form infinite and meticulous tangles. Sometimes, the start of the work is figurative before being hidden, but it is not the most important. The regularity of the final mesh is spectacular without being total, so that certain areas are breathing or vibrating such as an organic matter. Only Richter's rake will be able to generate similar effects.
On May 15 in New York, Christie's sells Number 19, 1948. This oil and enamel on paper mounted on canvas is small, 78 x 57 cm, but the fineness of the line is prodigious. Such a technical and artistic achievement deserves an estimate of $ 25M.
I invite you to watch the exciting video shared by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
Despite its small size, Number 19-1948 is a masterpiece of Pollock by the extreme care of its realization. This painting was sold $ 58M including premium.
1949 Dances around the Image
2018 SOLD for $ 34M including premium
This experience will give him the idea of placing his canvas or paper flat on the floor of his workshop for a better precision of his dissemination of colors. Executing his gestural dance around the work as it goes along, he realizes Malevich's old dream of a re-orientable image in all directions that also gives the illusion of spreading beyond its own limits.
While canceling the figurative, Malevich also wanted to highlight the material. Pollock manages a similar approach. After the very large paintings of early 1948 he tries several techniques on small sizes.
The works on paper prepared with a white primer are promising and the small formats make it more possible to obtain in a lesser time a full covering of the surface with the desirable entangled lines of high density. Painted with pours and drips of oil and enamel paints, Number 19, 1948, a 78 x 57 cm paper mounted on canvas, was sold for $ 58M including premium by Christie's on May 15, 2013.
The use of aluminum paint for the white lines brings an additional brilliance. In the same size as the Number 19, 1948 described above, Number 32, 1949 was mounted on masonite. In a nice freshness thanks to a parsimonious use in exhibitions, this painting on paper is estimated $ 30M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 16, lot 14. Please watch the short video and the full video shared by the auction house.
1949 Modern Art on Paper
2013 SOLD for $ 32.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
With these favorable circumstances, Jack can devote himself to his art, which he has always understood as the expression of his subconscious. The laudatory comments from some art critics don't surprise him : he tells Lee that there is no other example of creativity in their country except for the Bebop by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
He has detractors, who consider that his creative gesture is random and therefore meaningless. Motivated by this opposition, he is preparing a series of paintings which will be exhibited together at the end of the year by Betty Parsons to demonstrate the diversity of his pictorial effects in a unique format.
He chooses oil and enamel on paper, which does not alter the colors of the pigments, adding on some works a phosphorescence effect with aluminum paint. The paper format, 78 x 57 cm, is not comparable to the gigantic canvases of the previous year, but it has an operational advantage : the jerky movement of the wrist is sufficient to perform a dripping of great precision without resorting to a gesticulatory dance all around the work.
This set of 16 works mounted on masonite is exhibited in November 1949 by Betty Parsons alongside unsold items from the previous show.
Number 32, 1949, is one of the 8 examples that used aluminum. This lot, which was narrated before its sale in this column, was sold for $ 34M including premium by Sotheby's on May 16, 2018.
The numbers 12, 16 and 17 appear as nets entangling the black and colored lines over an ocher background. This centered pattern which hardly reaches the edge of the image gives up the effect of infinite field, which was therefore not essential in Pollock's creativity, while maintaining the total absence of a third dimension.
De-accessed from MoMA, Number 12 was sold for $ 11.7M by Christie's on May 11, 2004, lot 17. Number 16 was sold for $ 32.6M by Christie's on November 12, 2013, lot 39. Number 17, 57 x 72 cm, was sold for $ 23M by Sotheby's on November 11, 2015, lot 9. These results include the premium.
1959 Poems to the Sea by Cy Twombly
2013 SOLD for $ 21.7M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Without apparent link with the Achromes, he inscribes his gestures on white surfaces. Sometimes this false writing aggregates and forms an almost imperceptible word. Sunset, a canvas painted in 1957 with house paint plus various pencils, generates the word Morte (death, in Italian) which is an encounter with a past. This 142 x 180 cm artwork was sold for $ 27.3M including premium by Christie's on November 15, 2017.
In April 1959 in New York, Twombly marries Tatiana, whose family is Italian. They spend the summer in Sperlonga, a fishing village between Rome and Naples.
The Emperor Tiberius had his summer residence in Sperlonga. His villa included a seaside grotto. Two years before Cy and Tatiana's stay, a one of a kind collection of monumental statues on the theme of the legend of Odysseus had been discovered. The cave had collapsed in 27 CE, forcing the emperor to leave for Capri, and the collection had been forgotten. The three artists identified on one of the sculptures had formed according to Pliny the Elder the team of the Laocoon group.
This direct link with mythical emotions is reinforced by the best symbol of the future : the young wife is pregnant. In a crisis of creativity, Twombly paints in a single day in July 1959 in Sperlonga a set of 24 papers of unequal dimensions, between 30 x 31 and 35 x 31 cm, which he calls Poems to the Sea.
As in the example above, the technique is a mixed media on a white ground. The very sparse words and numbers are buried like palimpsests among the lines of an oil painting crushed at the exit of the tube. The most significant hidden word is 'Sappho'. This 24-page abstract pictorial poem was sold for $ 21.7M including premium by Sotheby's on November 13, 2013 over a lower estimate of $ 6M, lot 20.