Chronology : 19th century 1889 1890-1899 1907 1911 1919 1928 1929 1932 1952 2000-2009
1882 The Modern Language of Flowers
2018 SOLD for $ 13M including premium
Manet has many friends who visit him. He has always enjoyed to meet women. After they leave, he likes to paint the bouquets they have brought. The choice of flowers nicely reflects the visitor's personality. This joyous freshness certainly soothes the sufferings of the artist.
These ultimate still lifes display roses, peonies or lilacs on a neutral background. The language of flowers is very effective in its simplicity of brush strokes and colors. The stems and the meniscus appear through the glass vase.
On June 22, 2010, Sotheby's sold a Bouquet de pivoines 55 x 42 cm for £ 7.7M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 4M.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells Lilas et roses, oil on canvas 32 x 25 cm, lot 7 estimated $ 7M.
Manet had presented this floral still life to the daughter of his doctor in November 1882. In her enthusiastic gratitude, the young woman commented that such flowers will never fade. Acquired in 1938 by Abby and John D. Jr, this very elegant small painting adorned the apartments of two generations of the Rockefeller family.
#LiveLikeARockefeller ‘Lilas et roses’ by #EdouardManet has brought joy to 2 generations of the Rockefeller family. “I remember very clearly this small...picture hanging in Mother’s sitting room,” David Rockefeller recalled. “It is...a painting that gives ongoing pleasure.” pic.twitter.com/FIUWrXlDTP— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 11, 2018
1889 The Sunflowers by Van Gogh
1987 SOLD for £ 24.7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Made in August, the four paintings are different one another by the number and arrangement of the flowers in the vase and by the color of the background. Gauguin begins his stay in October. He is dazzled : for him, the sunflower is in a way the signature of van Gogh's know-how.
The altercation followed by the mutilation of the ear takes place in December. The two artists will not see each other again, especially in prudence regarding Vincent's mental health.
In January 1889, when he is back in the Maison Jaune, Vincent works again on his sunflowers. He paints three replicas, copying with new colors the drawings of two paintings from August 1888. He also conceives a decorative triptych in which the wings are the same original paintings from August 1888 and the center La Berceuse, a portrait of Madame Roulin pulling the strings of a cradle.
Such fierceness on this theme is certainly obsessive. Vincent regretted Gauguin's departure and wanted to regain his admiration. No intervention by Gauguin in the design and execution of this series has been demonstrated.
Listed in the estate of van Gogh, one of the three replicas is bought by Schuffenecker in 1894. Its format is enlarged to 100 x 76 cm at an undetermined date by adding stripes of canvas, possibly to match the dimensions of a frame but more probably to obtain a less tight composition. The assumption that this painting is a copy made by Schuffenecker is unlikely.
This replica was listed by Christie's in their sale in London on March 30, 1987, with a pre-sale estimate in excess of US $ 16M which was enough to exceed by 50% the highest price recorded for any work of art at auction. The Sunflowers were sold to a Japanese bidder for £ 24.7M including premium worth US $ 40M at that time.
Please watch the video shared by Thames News including a footage in the auction room and the memorable hammering at £ 22.5M before fees. 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 :
(1886) 1893-1895 Vase of Flowers by Gauguin
2018 SOLD for $ 19.4M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The 2006 catalog clearly explained that this work could not have been painted before Gauguin's first departure for Tahiti, in 1891 : the bright red flowers looking like poinsettias which dominate this bouquet are Polynesian.
An inconsistency is a handicap for a work on the art market. This still life returned to the same auction room on May 8, 2018 in the dispersion of the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection. The catalog included a complex but coherent scenario. It was sold for $ 19.4M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 5M, lot 14. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Here is a probable sequence of the transformations of this artwork :
Gauguin started this painting in 1886. He sought to exploit the best in the avant-garde pictorial techniques and wanted to imitate the Still Life with the Fruit Dish by Cézanne, which he owned. In the following year, on his return from Martinique, he added a very small figure of a West Indian woman standing on a column along the right edge of the image.
In 1893 the return from Polynesia goes very badly. Gauguin is forgotten except by a few friends, and the state of his finances is catastrophic. At one point during this tragic stay in France, which lasted until 1895, he wanted to bring together on a painting his most recent conceptions of still life. Times are hard. Rather than using a new canvas, he paints over his original work.
Gauguin was a fervent admirer of Van Gogh's sunflowers. At Arles in 1888. he had painted a portrait of Van Gogh in front of his easel, busy painting these specific flowers.
The inclusion of the poinsettias is perhaps inspired by the very bright colors of Van Gogh's sunflowers. Originally the back wall was dark : traces of blue pigment have been found under the yellow layer. Several shades of yellow had been used by Van Gogh for the background of his Arles sunflowers. The tablecloth also was too dull for his new Polynesian sensibility : he redid it in orange and pink. The incongruous Martinican figure and the obsolete date remained intact.
1907 Peonies in Collioure
2012 SOLD 19 M$ including premium
These new colorists immediately seek to vary the subjects, and flowers are ideal for their research. The vases, tablecloths and wallpapers complement unprecedented color balances.
On May 1 in New York, Christie's sells an oil on canvas, 65 x 55 cm, painted by Matisse in Collioure in 1907, estimated $ 8M. This work showing a vase with peonies was admired by Félix Féneon who was the effective promoter of Fauvism.
The bouquets painted by Matisse at that time are highly appreciated on the art market. One of them, 81 x 66 cm, dated 1911, showing coucou flowers in an elegant vase on a table mat with blue and pink patterns close to abstraction, was sold € 36M including premium in February 2009 by Christie's and Pierre Bergé. This bid is memorable: it was the highest price in the famous Saint-Laurent - Bergé auction sales.
I invite you to see these peonies on the video shared by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was too conservative for this nice painting, made in the period of one of the deepest changes in the history of art. It was sold $ 19M including premium.
1911 Les Coucous, tapis bleu et rose by Matisse
2009 SOLD for € 36M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Fauvism is a short but decisive phase during which he experiences the power of pure colors. Seeking exotic solutions, he travels to Algeria in 1906 and spends two months in Spain in 1910 studying Moorish art. At that time, collectors ahead of their time like Shchukin no longer support the traditional separation between art and decoration.
In 1910 in Madrid, Matisse bought in an antique shop a two-tone rug in fairly poor condition, whose arabesques were naturalistic without being identifiable. He was seduced by the expressive force of this anonymous textile, close by chance to the new style that he had developed for La Danse in 1909.
By varying the colors, he uses his rug as a decorative element in several paintings. In L'Atelier rose, oil on canvas 180 x 221 cm painted for Shchukin in 1911, it is spread over the large screen.
Les coucous - tapis bleu et rose, oil on canvas 81 x 66 cm painted in spring 1911, appears as a preparatory work for L'Atelier rose. On the table, the vase of primroses (coucous) is the pretext for this image, but the rug used as a tablecloth is indeed the main theme by its invitation to abstraction. The turquoise wall at the back is enhanced with pink reflections.
Yves Saint-Laurent saw in the image of this fabric a precursor to his own work. This painting which offers a link between two great designers went to be the most expensive lot of the sale of his collection by Christie's on February 23, 2009 : it was sold for € 36M including premium over a lower estimate of € 12M, lot 55.
1919 Floral Firework by Matisse
2010 SOLD 28.6 M$ including premium
On July 14, French national (Bastille) day, he unleashes his hopes on a canvas 116 x 89 cm. A bouquet springs from a vase in an explosion of colors that immediately calls to fireworks and mingles with the more neutral wallpaper background. The image of this painting is shared by BBC News.
The subject and composition are typical of the still lifes of the master. The patriotic inspiration and the joy of colors make it an exceptional painting, estimated $ 18 million by Sotheby's. The sale takes place in New York on May 5.
Matisse fans are lucky: his Nude with blue cushion, which I discussed earlier in this group, is for sale the day before by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
The flowers showed in Matisse's colors are masterpieces of the early twentieth century art. The price recorded by Sotheby's, $ 28.6 million including premium, is excellent.
This lot could not compete with the cuckoos from the Yves Saint Laurent collection, sold last year € 35.9 million including premium by Christie's. Indeed, the cuckoos were dated 1911, one of the greatest periods of transformation in the history of art.
1928 Still Life with Lilac by Petrov-Vodkin
2019 SOLD for £ 9.3M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
He is influenced by Matisse's La Danse, with its pure colors and also with the suppression of the perspective which creates a new poetry by eliminating the information of the dimension of the subject and its distance. After the October Revolution, he is one of the main organizers of art education in the Soviet Union.
Cézanne and Matisse had used still life to experiment with bold staging. Petrov-Vodkin chose as early as 1918 to display his tabletops in an almost vertical angle.
His works are very rare in private hands. On June 3, 2019, Christie's sold for £ 9.3M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 1M a Still Life with Lilac, lot 84. This painting had been bought around 1932 by an Italian art critic.
This oil on canvas 80 x 65 cm painted in 1928 is a synthesis of the artist's studies on this theme. The angle is bold and only the primary colors are used. The freshly cut branch of lilac is placed in a transparent glass, and the absence of perspective allows a lush vision on its blossoms. The rest of the composition is populated by various objects that are symbols of the artist's personal life.
At the end of 1928 Petrov-Vodkin is infected with tuberculosis. He considerably slows down his work as a painter for medical reasons and begins to write his memoirs. He will not give up teaching and becomes in 1932 the very first president of the Leningrad Association of Painters, just created to put a termination to all previous literary and artistic groups of the post-revolutionary period.
1928 Under the Romantic Protection of the Eiffel Tower
2016 SOLD for £ 7M including premium
The following years were very hard, but his return to Paris in 1923 with his wife Bella opens to this hypersensitive artist the happiest period of his life. His little family now lives in comfort thanks to a contract with the dealer Bernheim-Jeune and to the projects of illustrations undertaken with Vollard.
Few figurative artists managed to express a perfect happiness. On February 2 in London, Christie's sells Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel, oil on canvas 90 x 117 cm painted in 1928, lot 24 estimated £ 4.8M.
The title is nice. Marc had married his muse thirteen years earlier but their couple in the lower right of the image retains the freshness of tenderly embraced newlyweds. Both gaze out towards the viewer while their daughter Ida aged 12 flies with her angel wings through a window to present to her parents a big bouquet of flowers.
Paris provided them the happiness and the colors are joyous. The Eiffel Tower is viewed beyond the gently animated green lawn of the Champ de Mars. The surrealism in the manner of Chagall is included : behind the Tower, trees float like clouds, bringing an additional lightness to this romantic composition.
1929 The White Pitchers of Sanyu
2015 SOLD for HK$ 59M including premium
Encouraged by his new sponsor, Sanyu is experimenting the possibilities of artistic expression of the oil painting, which will open his eyes beyond his favorite theme of the drawings of women for fashion and in the nude.
Sanyu becomes a painter of flowers, but with a great originality in which some try to see the influence of Chinese art. The theme of his research is not only the flowers but especially the white pitcher in which they are arranged. This stylized vase disappearing before a white background or in total contrast to a black background opens a new artistic language based on the opposition of simple shapes.
The oil on canvas 73 x 50 cm for sale by Poly Auction in Hong Kong on October 5, lot 133, is dated from that first experimental year. It is highlighted in the press release announcing all the sessions of the auction.
This white pot is placed on a white surface in front of a black background. It contains some roses as flowers or buds, painted in pink. The stems and the skeletons leaves painted close to white add to the illusion that this work without perspective effect and without texture detail could almost be a radiograph.
The artist continues his creative exploration. An oil on canvas painted in 1930 in a similar size shows a colored vase but the vanishing contrasts affect the plant against its black background. This painting that had belonged to Roché was sold for € 4.1 million including premium by Aguttes on June 2, 2015.
In 1931, the white vase against a white background becomes almost invisible. It is still present but does not attract any more the attention of the viewer. The flower becomes logically the focus of the picture. A composition with two pink hydrangeas was sold by Aguttes in the same sale as above and at the same price.
Soon after, the quarrel between Sanyu and Roché marks the end of this first period of great creativity of the artist.
1932 Marie-Thérèse mingled with her Statue
2012 SOLD 41.5 M$ including premium
On March 2, he paints an oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm, entitled Nature morte aux tulipes (Still life with tulips). Pablo remembers that he is a sculptor. The figure of this painting is an indistinguishable mixture of flesh and statue telling us that Picasso is a great Surrealist.
The expressively distorted face retains the features of the blonde and pops up from the head on a pedestal. The woman wears on her lap a vase of flowers along with three fruits that may be her breasts and buttocks. The contrast of light is one of the brightest in the art of Picasso.
Nature morte aux tulipes was sold $ 28.6 million including premium at Christie's on May 9, 2000. It is estimated $ 35M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 5.
Here is now what followed, further demonstrating the importance of this lot. Less than one week later, on March 8, Picasso undresses the woman and separates her from the statue. This "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" is one of the masterpieces of Picasso, sold $ 106M including premium at Christie's on May 4, 2010.
POST SALE COMMENT
When it comes to Marie-Thérèse, Pablo's creativity has no limits. This amazing surrealist composition has been sold $ 41.5 million including premium.
1952 Floral Abstraction by Nicolas de Staël
2018 SOLD for € 8.3M including premium
In his abstract period his painting is laid with a knife in thicknesses that accumulate until the desired effect is achieved. This masonry effect pleases the fans of the Ecole de Paris. De Staël defies this sympathizing public when he suddenly renounces pure abstraction by stating that painting must be neither abstract nor figurative.
This hypersensitive artist is now looking for all the themes that can dazzle him. The outbreak of this new phase of his art is a football match on March 26, 1952 at the Parc des Princes, one of the first to be played by night under floodlight. In the rest of his short career he will look everywhere for the brightest colors that he will often associate with musical rhythms.
De Staël wants to see again the beautiful sunlight of Provence : he spends the summer of 1952 in a cabin in the Lubéron. He is inspired by a vase of roses by van Gogh for looking at the flowers.
On June 7 in Paris, Christie's sells a still life of flowers, oil on canvas 147 x 98 cm painted by De Staël in 1952, which is his largest format on this theme and indeed the culmination of his search for floral expression in that summer. It is estimated € 3.5M, lot 28.
1966 Smiles over Vitebsk
2016 SOLD for $ 7.6M including premium
Aged 79, the artist digs within his happy memories that are repetitive throughout his art. He is aware of it and admits not without pride that he assembles his symbols like a poet using the letters of the alphabet to create new words.
L'Hiver stages four flying figures in the night over a city that can only be Vitebsk which he had left 44 years earlier. Despite the density of the scene, the composition is much balanced thanks to a skillful staggering of the distances.
At the closest a young woman holds a large bridal bouquet. Behind her the bridegroom is a goat. The other two offer a serenade : a rooster headed man is charming the beauty with his flute while the cellist riding the goat plays his instrument with energy.
Chagall had not an easy life but in his dreamlike approach to surrealism he ever sought to express and communicate happiness. Humans and beasts are smiling.
2004 Three Tons of Tulips by Koons
2012 SOLD 33.7 M$ including premium
The earliest were also the first to be auctioned: balloon flower, hanging heart, diamond. These works of monumental dimensions in stainless steel with a finish of pure color interact with their environment through an intense mirror effect for which the artist seeks perfection. Each model is produced in five variants, each variant in a different color.
Then we saw at auction the Easter eggs with their ribbons. On November 14 in New York, Christie's sells a copy of Tulips, which is an even more complex step in the development of the art of Koons.
The subject, a bouquet of seven flowers placed on a surface, is simple and universally recognizable, like all other themes in the Celebrations. The artwork, completed in 2004, can not go unnoticed: 203 x 457 x 520 cm. It weighs 3 tons. Here is the link to the catalog.
The tulips within the bouquet are of different colors, so that the interaction of their reflections covers the entire spectrum of light. The work was carried out in five copies with different arrangements of colors, extrapolating the logics of the previous Celebrations, and the reflection of the surroundings and of the public remains an essential element of the exhibition of the artwork.
I invite you to play the video featured by Christie's, in which Koons himself introduces this artwork.
POST SALE COMMENT
Koons's art is easy to see, but highly complex to implement. This technological feat was sold $ 33.7 million including premium.