See also : Top 10 The Woman Nude France Cézanne Seurat and Signac Van Gogh Landscape Midi Self portrait Self portrait II Tabletop
1881 Le Printemps by Manet
2014 SOLD for $ 65M by Christie's
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, was sold for $ 65M from a lower estimate of $ 25M on November 5, 2014 by Christie's, lot 16. Please watch the video shared by Christie's The image is shared by Wikimedia :
1883-1885 L'Estaque by Cézanne
2021 SOLD for $ 55M by Christie's
L'Estaque is one of his first choices, prompted by memories from his youth when his mother had rented a cottage for summer holidays. From the top of the hill and beyond the houses, the bay and the islands of Marseille offer a vast and sumptuous panorama.
In the early 1880s Cézanne rents a small house in L'Estaque, away from his family left to live in Aix. He works outdoor like the Impressionnistes, but his synthetic and cloisonné analysis of shapes and colors is paving the way for the 20th century art. He is already meticulously in quest of the perfection of colors in their whole range. He manages to provide to the viewer a sensation instead of a mere copy of the landscape.
Painted in that early phase between 1883 and 1885, L'Estaque aux toits rouges is a significant demonstrator of these fertile experiments. In this panoramic view from the top of the hill, the contrast is striking between the geometric pattern of sun bathed houses with no shadow and the blue hues of sky and sea.
This oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm was sold for $ 55M from a lower estimate of $ 35M by Christie's on November 11, 2021, lot 10C. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
A view boldly enclosing the same panorama in a vertical format, oil on canvas 73 x 60 cm painted in 1885, was sold for £ 13.5M by Christie's on February 4, 2015, lot 8.
These pictures had a direct influence on the development of the Cubisme by Braque.
1884 Une Baignade à Asnières by Seurat
He wants his demonstrations to be perfect. His achieved paintings are very rare. The very long preparation phases include drawings and oil sketches. In 1884 he exhibits at the Salon des Indépendants his first major work, Une Baignade à Asnières, oil on canvas 2 x 3 m.The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1886 Un Dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte by Seurat
Art Institute of Chicago
Three oil sketches on canvas are started in parallel in May 1884. One of them is a Paysage empty of any character, 65 x 79 cm, on which he sets up the theoretical elements of its composition. The second is a full version 70 x 104 cm, scaled as one third of the size of the final work. The other sketch is a study for the couple in the foreground.
Unlike the Bathing in Asnières, the colors are dull, with too much space provided to the shadows in the foreground. Signac will succeed in convincing Seurat that the brightest lights bring a much better effect to the divisionist technique, but for Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte, which will be finished in 1886, it is already too late. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1888 Les Poseuses by Seurat
2022 SOLD for $ 150M by Christie's
His first masterpiece is Une baignade à Asnières, oil on canvas 200 x 300 cm, exhibited in 1884 at the first Salon des Indépendants. The 24 year old artist revealed his indirect approach of color inspired by the theories of vision forwarded by Chevreul. The colors of Une baignade reach a softness by other methods than the impressionniste brushstroke or the pastel. The new art is named post-impressionnisme by Fénéon in 1886.
The second masterpiece, Un dimanche d'été à l'île de la Grande Jatte, of similar size, is exhibited in 1886 at the eight and final Exposition des Impressionnistes where it generates a discord between the historical impressionists supported by Degas and the post impressionists supported by Pissarro. Impressionnisme as a group was dead.
La Grande Jatte reuses the pointillism but in dull colors. Seurat had preferred composing a complex anti-bourgeois narration including humor and symbols. The work was too advanced when Seurat influenced by Signac appreciated that its cold colors were a mistake.
Galvanized by this legitimate misunderstanding of the public, Seurat started a new project in bright pointillist colors, Les Poseuses. This time the anti-bourgeois mood is replaced by subtle references to art history including himself.
The scene is staged in Seurat's studio. The left wall is covered by a truncated and slightly modified version of La Grande Jatte. The three drawings hanging on the back wall are a reference to Seurat's painstaking creative process.
Les poseuses are three positions of a model in full nudity, reminding the Three Graces. The standing figure in the center is a Venus pudica. The two side figures are seated, one from the back like Ingres's Grande baigneuse while the other in profile removes a stocking in the attitude of the Spinario.
The 200 x 250 cm canvas was exhibited in spring 1888 at the Salon des Indépendants. This painting also broke a taboo by revealing that women in painting were indeed staged by professional models.
Les Poseuses, Ensemble (petite version) was painted in 1888, arguably as a replica. Its small size, 39 x 50 cm, enabled larger dots for a vibrant color rendering. Being beside Cézanne's Montagne Sainte-Victoire a cornerstone of the Paul G. Allen collection, this oil on canvas was sold for $ 150M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 8. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, had been appealed by pointillism as a precursor to digital imagery.
1888-1890 Montagne Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne
2022 SOLD for $ 138M by Christie's
The view on the Montagne Sainte-Victoire is magnificent from his new home. The mountain is standing out alone in a nearly symmetrical shape on the horizon. Desiring now to develop his art conceptions in seclusion, Paul takes it as a regular theme, sometimes framed by a large pine in the foreground.
New pictorial experiments are beginning. Cézanne manages to give up the optical truth of the Impressionnistes. The landscape becomes an orderly construction of geometrical shapes, providing the emotional sensation of another reality.
An oil on canvas 65 x 80 cm painted in 1888 or slightly later displays the dominating Montagne is all its purity, surrounded by the countryside without its real foreground of olive trees, roads and houses.
The flattened geometric mountain is colored in a range of soft blues, lilacs and white in an unprecedented balance of myriads of brush strokes. The underlined horizon are resolutely geometrical. Indeed impressionism and photography could not display such a powerful effect.
This painting was sold for $ 38.5M by Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg on May 7, 2001, lot 5, and for $ 138M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 14. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The reality of the canceled foreground disturbed the artist. From 1902 his workshop at Les Lauves provides every morning to the aging artist the global view of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire as he had dreamed it in the 1880s, nevertheless with a loss in the symmetry of the peak..
1888-1890 Bouilloire et Fruits by Cézanne
2019 SOLD for $ 59M by Christie's
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 by Sotheby's on December 7, 1999 and for $ 59M by Christie's on May 13, 2019, lot 18A. Please watch the very short video shared by Christie's.
Painted in 1893 with a similar inspiration, Rideau, cruchon et compotier, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm, was sold for $ 60M by Sotheby's in 1999. The fruit bowl is not placed on the table.
April 1888 Verger
2022 SOLD for $ 117M by Christie's
In February the sunlight on the snow was wonderful but spring is still better. Nature awakens. All over the area in the orchards, pink and white blossoms dazzle under the Provençal sun. Desiring to express a tremendous gaiety, Vincent is very prolific with 14 paintings in five weeks from March 25 of the peach, apricot, plum, pear, cherry and almond trees, in a fury to process that wonderful theme before the spring colors are over.
The trees are single or in groups, with no human presence. His brush is in full freedom with no preconceived process from impasto to uncovered canvas.
On November 9, 2022, Christie's sold for $ 117M a Verger of pink peach trees, lot 22. This oil on canvas painted in April 1888 was consigned to his brother Theo in the next month in his first supply from Arles. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The composition of this panoramic format 65 x 80 cm is very harmonious, with the dark horizon of cypress trees that does not overlap the delicate tones of the orchard. The dotted sky mingles with the blooming branches, arguably inspired from the brushstroke of Seurat whom Vincent had visited in February just before leaving Paris.
On May 1, 1888, Vincent rents some rooms in the Maison Jaune in order to install his studio and share his enthusiasm with other artists.
November 1888 Les Alyscamps
2015 SOLD for $ 66M by Sotheby's
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, 2015, Sotheby's sold for $ 66M a view of the Alyscamps painted on November 1, 1888, oil on canvas 92 x 74 cm, lot 18. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's. Its image is also shared by Wikimedia.
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.
September 2, 1889 Laboureur dans un Champ
2017 SOLD for $ 81M by Christie's
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 was sold as lot 28 A for $ 81M by Christie's on November 13, 2017. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
September 1889 Portrait de l'Artiste sans Barbe
1998 SOLD for $ 71.5M by Christie's
The crisis is severe. Vincent does not go out any more and cannot resume his brushes before the end of August. Through the window, he sees a free man, the only free man who passes in his angle of vision, a peasant with his horse and his plow. Laboureur dans un champ was sold for $ 81M by Christie's in 2017.
Once again he feels a frantic urge to paint, as an antidote to his illness. Concerned also by the visible signs of madness on his face, he makes three self-portraits in bust, from the left side to hide the right ear.
On two of them, he is bearded. The background is decorated with swirls in his new signature style. On the portrait which is preserved in the Museum of Oslo, perhaps the earliest in this small series, the biased gaze is incontestably psychotic. About the painting that is currently in the Musée d'Orsay, he writes to Theo with a remarkable lucidity that his face is calm but that some distress remains in his gaze.
The other self-portrait is different. He painted it to make a birthday present to his mother, who turns 70 on September 10, 1889. To appear still young and healthy, the face is without beard, which does not mean that it corresponded to reality : a beardless man was not in the fashion of the time. He also wanted to make his caregivers and Theo believe that he felt cured.
This Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe, oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm, was sold for $ 71.5M by Christie's on November 19, 1998 from a lower estimate of $ 20M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
October 1889 Cabanes de Bois
2021 SOLD for $ 71M by Christie's
Indeed Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès is an opposition between the quietness of the rural scenery and the furious desire of the artist to survive while he is still a resident in the asylum at Saint-Rémy.
The composition is simple, centered on the group of two huts. The expression is provided by the mingling of the full range of bright colors of the fall, from the incandescent soil to the purple mountains and the turquoise blue sky though the green and gray foliages, the red roofs and the violet shadows.
Cabanes, oil on canvas 45 x 60 cm, was sold for $ 71M by Christie's on November 11, 2021, lot 4C.
Christie's is honored to announce The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism, one of the greatest American collections to ever appear in the auction market, featuring masterpieces by Caillebotte, Cézanne and Van Gogh. https://t.co/mbwxiH4FIc pic.twitter.com/D3w0IP4gyU— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) July 29, 2021