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:
1881 Alice in Vétheuil
2014 SOLD for $ 34M including premium
He leaves Argenteuil in 1878 due to financial difficulties and settles in a village further down the Seine, at Vétheuil, with his beloved wife Camille and a couple of friends, Ernest and Alice Hoschedé. The untimely death of Camille the following year rushes Alice into the arms of the artist.
In 1881, Monet paints Alice in the garden of Vétheuil. He remembers the time when the white dress of Camille was expressing purity. Alice is quietly sewing in a rich surrounding of foliage. The sunlight filtering through a large tree provides a continuity in texture between the green and the woman in light blue.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm is estimated $ 25M, for sale bySotheby's in New York on November 4, lot 29.
That year marks the peak and the end of the first impressionist period of Monet. He is watched by scandal when he can no longer hide his affair with Alice, a married woman. In the following year, his long lonesome trip in Normandy makes him wish to express the variations of light in the landscape at various times of the day.
Claude married Alice in 1892, after the death of Hoschedé.
1883 Antony and Cleopatra by Lawrence Alma Tadema
2011 SOLD 29 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
1885 A Summer with Seurat
2018 SOLD for $ 34M including prmium
Everything is important but everything is mingled. An image with rising lines and warm colors will look optimistic. The Grande Jatte will have to be chilling, with an invading shadow in the foreground and stiff figures symbolizing the aberrations of the bourgeoisie.
The young artist is receptive to ideas about the balance of colors. Chevreul's psychophysiological observations that the vision of a pure color is accompanied by the perception of a halo of its complementary color convince him that the composition of the colors of a painting must not slavishly follow the nature.
Seurat spends the summer 1885 at the seaside, in Grandcamp, on the advice of Signac who also invites him to take an interest in intense lights. Seurat then tests with marine views his interpretation of Chevreul's theories, developing his new technique of dividing colors by horizontal brush strokes that will soon become dots. He names that practice the chromo-luminarisme.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 18 La Rade de Grandcamp, oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm on the rather happy theme of a regatta of horizontally aligned white sails.
The achievement of the Grandcamp series pleases him. Back in his studio, he retouches the Grande Jatte by reducing chromatic variations and by introducing the pointillism. When this work is completed in 1886, it triggers the inevitable break with the Impressionnistes. Only Fénéon is convinced. In 1887 Fénéon coins the neo-Impressionist wording to try showing that Seurat's art is not an opposition to Impressionism but another step on the path to a new art.
Passionate about his theories, Seurat retouched his artworks. Rade de Grandcamp is perhaps the only example left in its original state from his very first experiences in complementary color techniques.
1885-1887 The Tilted Plate
2019 SOLD for £ 21M including premium
Painting is the only possible medium for his interpretation of life, because it allows color harmonies. The laws of the perspective itself are not untouchable. Impressionism does not go far enough.
Emile Zola has certainly appreciated the depth of Cézanne's theories and his difficulties in sharing them. In his novel L'Oeuvre published in 1886, he stages a misunderstood painter whose idealistic passion leads to failure. A later letter from Cézanne to Zola, recently found, contradicts the legend of their breakup. Cézanne was obviously too soaked in his research to be indignant at the concern of his college friend.
On February 27 in London, Christie's sells as lot 6 a still life of fruit, oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in the mid 1880s. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The theme is modest and the composition is minimalist. On a rustic table without any ornament in a slightly plunging perspective, a plate contains five peaches and a pear. Another pear is placed to the right of the plate. The subtle variety of fruit color is not however the main subject of this experiment.
If the plate is placed flat on the table, its perfect circle is impossible. It is therefore inclined, at the limit of the imbalance of the fruit pyramid. Cézanne knew that realism does not exist in painting : nature is too complex to be imitated and the surface of the canvas does not allow an illusion of real space.
A probably later work gives the key to the enigma : now viewed in profile, the plate is actually tilted. This 28 x 40 cm oil on canvas was sold for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's on November 14, 2017.
Many years later, Matisse tries an axiom according to which Cézanne was too perfectionist to make a mistake. He thus discovers the de-construction of perspective in the most seemingly simplistic still lifes by Cézanne, an artist too far ahead of his own time.
Highlights from the most important single owner collection of Impressionist and Modern art offered for sale in London for a decade, featuring works by #Monet, #Renoir, #Cézanne, #VanGogh, #Bonnard, #Matisse and more... https://t.co/PZ3OpFMU7M pic.twitter.com/dhAJXW9NF5— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) November 27, 2018
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.
1888 Study of the Iridescent Spectrum
2018 SOLD for $ 35M including premium
In January 1888 the artist quietly begins his second stay in Pont-Aven. He takes the time to walk on the Wild Coast and observes that the colors of the swell in heavy weather meet his theory.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 6 La Vague, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm painted by Gauguin in 1888. A strong wave hits a group of high rocks in the open sea. Two bathers flee the tide onto the vermilion beach.
This painting, unusual and perhaps even unique in Gauguin's art, was included in the 1891 auction set up by the artist to finance his departure for Oceania. Its title in the catalog, La Vague (arc-en-ciel), seems enigmatic but provides the key for the interpretation.
There is no sky or rain in this picture. Arc-en-ciel is here the bow-shaped iridescent spectrum on the sea, passing from pale violet to yellow when the prismatic depth of the water decreases while approaching the coast. With a surprising modernism the unreal color of the beach is the ultimate extension of that spectral decomposition.
Gauguin's Vague was purchased in that auction by a collector of Japanese prints probably attracted by the similarity of theme with The Wave by Hokusai. The comparison stops here because the view taken by Gauguin from the top of the cliff has no close-up.
Despite Gauguin's admiration for Degas, the completely off-center position of the two women is secondary in this composition. Their difference of scale in the face of the grandiose nature is however not without relation to the metaphysical questions of the artist.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
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 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.
1889 Iris by Van Gogh
1987 SOLD for $ 54M including premium by Sotheby's, sale canceled in 1990
1889 The Happiness of Outdoor Painting
2018 SOLD for $ 40M including premium
Laboureur dans un champ is a masterpiece of that new phase, composed from memory and from what he could see from the window. This oil on canvas 50 x 65 cm completed in September 2, 1889, was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on November 13, 2017.
Vue de l'asile et de la chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole à Saint-Rémy, oil on canvas 45 x 60 cm, was painted in mid-October. It was sold by Christie's from the deceased estate of Elizabeth Taylor on February 7, 2012 for £ 10.1M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 5M, lot 12.
I discussed it in this column at that time, commenting it as follows : This is an overview of the buildings of the asylum, in a gentle stylized realism. The swirling textures of the sky and trees open the way to the masterpieces of Auvers, and in the whole lower part of the image the tangle of colors of the field is already foreshadowing the colorists of the next century..
The importance of this view in Vincent's art has been re-evaluated. It appears now as being the only landscape in that fall that Vincent had painted outdoors throughout, under the close surveillance of an attendant.
In his signature line previously used in Laboureur, Vincent offers in this view a much quieter rendering. Feeling that he was on the way to recover, he was happy with his great control of his brushstroke and delighted with the automnal colors.
It is estimated $ 35M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 15, lot 24 A. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Vincent in the Fields
2017 SOLD for £ 24M including premium
Vincent's path to his artistic maturity is long and includes many copies from the masters. In 1889 his mental health becomes critical. For long periods in Arles or in the asylum at Saint-Rémy he can no longer go outdoors and has no more models. This interpreter of nature must now content himself with images. He undertakes a systematic copy of the two great series of wood engravings by Millet, the Quatre Heures du Jour and the ten Travaux des Champs.
The drawings made by Vincent are very similar to Millet's originals but the works are completely re-interpreted by the balance of the colors. The deep blue of the sky and the gold of the wheat fields are skilfully highlighted by the softer colors of the clothes.
The harvester by Millet was certainly one of Vincent's favorite themes. Seen from behind, this very tall peasant is bent to mow the corn. In the Christian tradition the scythe is the instrument of death, translated more positively by Vincent as a symbol of the position of the harvest in the inexorable cycle of life.
On June 27 in London, Christie's sells Le Moissonneur (d'après Millet), oil on canvas 43 x 24 cm painted by Vincent in September 1889, lot 6 estimated £ 12,5M. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.