Modern Art on Paper
Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1879 1888 1890-1899 1895 1902 1905 1912 1940-1949 1948 1949
1879 Danseuse au Repos by Degas
2008 SOLD for $ 37M by Sotheby's
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 by Sotheby's on November 3, 2008, lot 14. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
1888 Meules de Blé by van Gogh
2021 SOLD for $ 36M by Christie's
Vincent was born in rural Brabant to a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. The wheat fields and their laborers have for him a mystic meaning related to life through the cycle of the seasons.
In June 1888 both influences gather. Vincent discovers the wonderful colors of the wheat fields and stacks at harvest time under the midday sun of Provence. This vision reinforces his pictorial frenzy. He cannot any more be limited to a black pencil.
Canvas is not the good choice for working in the open fields under a frequent mistral wind. His images are created in pencil on paper before being colored with pen and brush in gouache, watercolor and black ink. Back in his studio, he reuses his compositions in oil on canvas. The flattened perspectives and colors are influenced by the Japanese prints.
On November 11, 2021, Christie's sold for $ 36M from a lower estimate of $ 20M one of these painted studies, lot 8C. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
This 48 x 60 cm work on paper is centered with an overwhelming flamboyant wheat stack that minimizes the laborers in the farmyard. Far away in the horizon, the farmhouses and the railroad bridge on the Rhône define the location.
Vincent immediately prepared the 73 x 92 cm final oil version of this specific composition. He sent its preparatory study in mid June to Theo as a demonstrator of that new opus. He was happy with this composition and later made pen copies for Emile Bernard and John Russell.
Van Gogh's Provençal Meules anticipate the 1889-1890 series of Meules by Monet in Normandy.
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.
Also from the last period of Cézanne, a Nature morte au melon vert is another close-up still life similarly focused on a green melon behind a goblet. 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.
'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
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 Number 19 by Pollock
2013 SOLD for $ 58M by Christie's
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.
Pollock improves his technique throughout 1946, and abandons his stylized figuration. Wanting to work on a hard surface, he uses the masonite. He begins to apply the pigment in impasto directly at the outlet of the tube and gradually gives up the brush. For convenience, he lays directly on the floor the surface to be painted instead of using an easel.
The use of sprayed or flowing liquid paint is made possible by that position of the support. His hand acquires an unprecedented freedom. Pollock's art conveys his subconscious energy, just as Chinese calligraphy is a direct transcription of an artist's emotion. Masson is referred with Miro among Pollock's surrealist influences, but it will be noted that Michaux's automatic drawings were influenced by Chinese calligraphy.
The very first work using dripping was painted at the end of 1946. The surface is bright red and the contributions are black and white. Named Free form, this 49 x 36 cm oil on canvas is kept at the MoMA. There is no horizon and no framing even when the work is small, and there is also no longer a figuration.
The next step is the diversification of colors. The lines of pure colors of various widths form infinite and meticulous tangles. The regularity of the final mesh is spectacular without being total, so that certain areas are breathing or vibrating such as an organic matter. Richter's squeegee will generate similar effects.
An oil on masonite 48 x 60 cm dated 1946 is painted in bright yellow, bright blue and black by dripping and splashing on a background of the same red. It was sold for $ 13M by Christie's on October 6, 2020, lot 5. Its first owner was Peggy Guggenheim. It is de-accessioned by the Everson Art Museum in Syracuse NY to refocus their collection on the fight against racial and sexual inequalities.
Pollock's musicalist dances around large-scale works came soon after.
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.
On May 15, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 58M from a lower estimate of $ 25M Number 19, 1948. This oil and enamel on paper mounted on canvas is small, 78 x 57 cm, but the fineness of the pours and drips is superb. Please watch the video prepared by Christie's.
1949 Oil and Enamel on Paper on Masonite by POLLOCK
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.
2022 SOLD for $ 54M by Christie's
79 x 57 cm painted in 1949, was sold for $ 54M by Christie's on May 12, 2022, lot 21C. It is in a great original condition with fresh colors.
The abstract swirls and stains densely occupy the whole surface of the paper in a vibrant arrangement of colors. It is one of the eight examples in that series which used drips of aluminum paint to increase the brightness. Brilliant red, emerald green, turquoise, yellow and orange offer a rainbow spectrum effect.
This piece demonstrating the full maturity of Pollock's dripping process was included in the second solo show at Betty Parsons Gallery in November and December 1949.
2018 SOLD for $ 34M by Sotheby's
In a nice freshness thanks to a parsimonious use in exhibitions, this oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on paper mounted on Masonite was sold for $ 34M by Sotheby's on May 16, 2018, lot 14. Please watch the short video and the full video shared by the auction house.
2013 SOLD for $ 32.6M by Christie's
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.
De-accessed from MoMA, Number 12 was sold for $ 11.7M by Christie's on May 11, 2004, lot 17.