1910 (<1913) The Ovoid Muse
2017 SOLD for $ 57M including premium
He learns with Rodin that the human figure can be reduced to a single element. A head lying on a ground symbolizes the serenity. He appreciates from Gauguin that Oceanic tribal art can influence the modern universal art through its extreme simplification of forms. The skilled bearded strongman chooses the direct cut contrary to the practice of his time. He will influence Modigliani.
Brancusi began in 1907 to conceive his series of masterpieces. In Le Baiser he is the first artist who suggests a development of Cubism in sculpture.
In 1909 he creates the prototype of La Muse endormie in white marble. The lying head is an egg in which the facial features and the hair are only lightly incised. The nape of the neck is used as a support. Despite the stylization it is unquestionably a portrait of his model the baronne Frachon. The artist succeeded in the impossible synthesis between geometry and portraiture.
In 1910 Brancusi produces three plasters and six bronzes from his first Muse endormie. The bronzes are cast by Valsuani but the patina different in each of the bronzes is executed by the artist himself with a painstaking care.
On May 15 in New York, Christie's sells one of the six bronzes, 27 cm long, lot 32 A estimated $ 20M. This specimen has an exceptional matte and warm patina enhanced in places with gold leaf which is perfectly suited to the illusion of serenity desired by the artist. Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1911-1912 Woman and Caryatid
2014 SOLD for $ 71M including premium
Brancusi is one of the greatest innovators of sculpture. Reacting against the realistic details of clay and bronze, he is the first to seek beauty through basic and simplified forms that will lead him up to abstraction.
Brancusi and Modigliani find inspiration for their new styles in the antique and African arts. In 1910, Modi draws women topped with a tablette in reference to the Caryatids of the Erechtheion. His series of busts made in 1911 and 1912 will be his temple of art.
Modi is not yet famous. He uses limestone blocks taken from construction sites and carries them in a wheelbarrow to his modest studio in Montparnasse. His heads of women create around him a crowd of pure and stylized faces with the intense force of a tribal ceremony.
On June 14, 2010, a caryatid bust 64 cm high including the cubic base was sold for € 43,2M including premium by Christie's.
On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells a bust, 73 cm high including the base, lot 8. The press release of October 3 is announcing an estimate in excess of $ 45M.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1911-1912 Modigliani sculpted the Timeless Woman
2010 SOLD 43.2 M€ including premium
His female heads are a synthesis of all ages and all civilizations. They are simple as the Cycladic idols, noble as queens of Egypt, Mannerist as a Botticelli, mysterious as African masks, serene as deities, geometric like the art of his friend Brancusi. They are designed to be viewed as a group, such as the Cariatides of a Greek temple.
Made in a very limited quantity, they were dispersed. Only the artist in his small studio in Montparnasse, or some friends at an exhibition in 1911 or 1912, could breathe the mystical atmosphere of the whole.
One of these statues, made of Parisian limestone, 64 cm high including the cubic base, is on sale at Christie's in Paris on June 14. It is obvious that this lot, estimated € 4 million, is exceptional. It is shared in an article in French by Le Figaro.
Modigliani carved the stone in direct cut. In 1914, he had to give up his vocation as a sculptor for reasons of health and money. His brush was as clever as his chisel to express the purity of the curves, and he became the best portrait painter of his time.
POST SALE COMMENT
The information provided by Christie's did not leave any possibility for doubt: this sculpture is a masterpiece. Result: € 43.2 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Christie's :
1912 Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Klimt
2006 SOLD 88 M$ including premium by Christie's
1913 The Analysis of Rhythm
2017 SOLD for $ 70M including premium
Léger admires the advances made by Cézanne while wanting to escape his theories. Geometric construction is indeed no more than a technique. The introduction of movement in painting by the Futurists is promising but remains anecdotal. Painting needs nothing else than displaying pure lines, shapes and colors which will capture the interest of the viewer by their own rhythm.
Like Kandinsky in Murnau, Léger conducts in parallel his pictorial trials and his theoretical research. His Femme en Bleu painted in 1912 is the switch into abstraction of a cubist work based on a classic theme. Balancing on this border between narrative and abstraction, Léger manages immediately afterward a reverted move in which the forms of the woman reappear. This oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on May 7, 2008.
Léger goes much further than Kandinsky and precedes Mondrian and Malevich : art can be abstract without any need to rely on a figurative sketch. In 1913 and 1914 he achieves about fourteen abstract paintings under the generic title Contraste de Formes. A contract with Kahnweiler brings him stability in his living conditions. The support by this merchant also slows down his habit of destroying his own works when the artistic effect does not respond to his perfectionist desire.
On November 13 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 14A a Contraste de Formes painted in 1913, oil on burlap 92 x 73 cm.
The progress made by Léger is decisive but soon interrupted by the stupid war that will annihilate Apollinaire. He will give up abstraction, no doubt because the effort to reach his own target for perfection was too exhausting. After this ephemeral momentum towards pure painting he will become an original image maker of modern life.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1914-1917 The New Water Lilies
2018 SOLD for $ 85M including premium
Based in Giverny since 1883 the artist wants to create a water garden. In 1894 he purchases from Latour-Marliac plants from 32 different species including a yellow Nymphaea created in 1888 and a pink Nymphaea created in 1892. His interest in these hybrids is not immediate but his curiosity increases.
These new water lilies will become the stars of his garden. Monet paints his first Nymphéas in 1895, displaying the plants on the water in close-up with a botanical accuracy on canvases less than 1 m wide.
The artist is delighted by his garden. In 1904 the nymphéa pond becomes one of his favorite themes. The water lilies float in a cohort, bringing in conjunction with the reflections a vision of the surface of the water. In the same year he buys four other hybrids to Latour-Marliac
1914 is a terrible year. His son Jean dies in February, less than three years after Alice. International relations are desperate. Fortunately his friend Georges Clemenceau pushes him back to work by suggesting the project of the Grandes Décorations.
This new phase includes a major modification in Monet's art, the use of large formats of canvas. He looks more closely at the details of the flowers in his garden. A group of giant iris at water's edge 200 x 100 cm was sold for £ 10.8M including premium by Christie's on June 23, 2015.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 10 Nymphéas en fleur, oil on canvas 140 x 180 cm painted in his signature style of 1914-1917. The large size enables here a synthesis of the two visions of the artist. Nine big flowers in five groups have retrieved the details of the earliest series while the leaves and reflections are positioning the surface of the water on the whole of this image with no horizon.
#LiveLikeARockefeller: ‘The closer you get to the canvas, the more you feel like you’re inside it. The rest of the world vanishes,’ says Rebecca Wei, our President of Christie’s Asia, of the Rockefellers’ ‘Nymphéas en fleur’ by Claude #Monet.https://t.co/mT8EnKHNAN pic.twitter.com/LrOsMEJU7F— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 24, 2018
1916 Purified Art by Malevich
2018 SOLD for $ 86M including premium
The second exhibition of his group, from mid-December 1915 to mid-January 1916, includes his Black Square on White Background, the first great shock from this new art. Malevich's aim is aesthetic. He finds for this new approach the designation of Suprematism.
The Black Square is his first flagship but it is not enough. The emotion must not be brought only by the freedom of the elements but also by the colors. Painted in 1915, the 18th Composition is a stack of almost rectangular non-transparent shapes in various colors. This artwork already invites to rotate the canvas for an observation in the four possible orientations. It was sold for £ 21.5M including premium by Sotheby's on June 24, 2015.
After the closing of the exhibition 0.10 in January 1916, Malevich restarts his search for the ultimate expression of colors. Suprematist Composition, oil on canvas 89 x 71 cm painted in 1916, was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on November 3, 2008, lot 6. It will be sold by Christie's in New York on May 15, lot 12 A.
I described and commented it as follows in 2008:
The painting for sale no longer produces an illusion : it is a composition based on about fifty colored beams spread over a white background. The size, the proportions and the colors are varied. The angular positions show an opposition between the big purple beam and most of the others.
Malevich has succeeded here in his approach to an art that completely escapes nature and feeling, to retain only the aesthetics of color and geometry. He wanted his art to be understandable in the same way in all countries.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1917 A Portrait for Fifteen Francs
2018 SOLD for $ 157M including premium
Modigliani was a prolific draftsman. He had learned during his artistic training to draw quickly. Close to the conceptions of the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where he will soon meet Jeanne, he knows how to carry out speedy studies of female nudes in poses where the natural prevails over the conventional.
Zbo organizes paintings of nudes by Modi. He chooses pretty women whom he leads into an apartment-workshop where he has installed Modigliani. The artist is paid 15 francs a day and the model 5 francs for the session.
The rest is easy to imagine. The woman has won her 5 francs and is in a hurry to leave. The artist has little time. His painting is based on a drawing that brings to his best images a great spontaneity. The bare skin partitioned by the lines is painted in a warm color. The woman is lying or sitting on the bed, very simply, without decoration and without narrative effect.
A Nu couché sur le côté, oil on canvas 90 x 147 cm painted in 1917, was sold for $ 27M including premium by Christie's on November 4, 2003. It will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on May 14, lot 18. The press release announces an estimate in excess of $ 150M. It is the largest painting in this series and the only reclining nude by Modigliani to be displayed in all the extent of her arms and legs.
The attitude is not very erotic. The woman is seen from behind. The head turned for looking at the artist and the firmly sealed mouth reveal some impatience.
On November 9, 2015, Christie's sold a 60 x 92 cm Nudo Rosso for $ 170M including premium. This nude reclining on her back dated 1917-1918 seems indeed later by its softer line, an even warmer color and also a friendly attitude of this model who exhibits all her charms in full front.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1917 A Nude Woman sitting for Modigliani
2010 SOLD 69 M$ including premium
In 1917, having abandoned the sculpture, Modigliani focuses on the painting of the nude to express his vision of the ideal woman. Sometimes the model is standing or lying, but the woman sitting naked on a couch, known as La Belle Romaine, is undoubtedly one of the best.
This oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm, shows a woman happy to be watched, confident, intimate. The painter is quite successful, with a purity of line and a warm tone of flesh which is the top of his art. It is illustrated on the press release shared by Artdaily.
Paris was quite prudish at that time, having probably already forgotten the friend women of Toulouse-Lautrec, and the exhibition of Modigliani's nudes at the Galerie Berthe Weill was forbidden for indecency at its opening. Our painting was perhaps one of them. Modigliani, a true great artist, had not deigned considering the academic decorum.
On 20 November 1987, the Parisian art market suddenly started to rise with the fabulous Georges Renand collection. La Belle Romaine, sold 41 MF, tripled the French auction record and leaved for Asia. At the same sale the other Modigliani owned by Renand, a Woman with Black Tie, was sold 34 million francs.
On November 11, 1999, la Belle Romaine is sold for $ 16.8 million including premium by Sotheby's in New York, world record at the time for a Modigliani.
It comes back on November 2 at Sotheby's in New York. The estimate is not published in the catalog but the press release told that it can fetch $ 40M.
POST SALE COMMENT
La Belle Romaine is a masterpiece that transcends all variations of the market. Whenever it appears on the market, its exceptional quality is confirmed. Its latest feat is at $ 69M including premium.
The file below is shared by Wikimedia :
1917-1918 The Ideal of Intimacy
2015 SOLD for $ 170M including premium
In 1917, he found that ideal in the nude. He has no money but that does not mind. His small workshop contains two chairs, a sofa and a bottle of cognac. He is alone with a girl paid by his dealer. Zborowski had a good perception : the girls are pretty. Around them is war. The time is not conducive to shameless exhibits. Modigliani's nudes are a scandal.
Amedeo is a nice guy. He establishes empathy with those anonymous visitors for a day. He expresses tenderness and intimacy better than any other artist. He obtained this effect by a subtle color work. Pink is not warm enough to express the skin: the artist creates rich colors tending to reddish or apricot.
On November 9 in New York, Christie's sells a Nudo Rosso, oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm painted in 1917 or 1918, lot 8A.
This reclining nude is a masterpiece of harmony, similar on that way as the Belle Romaine seated nude that was sold for $ 69M including premium by Sotheby's on November 2, 2010.
The voluptuous curves emphasizes the confidence of the model with her back slightly arched above the couch and her outstretched arms. Eyes without pupils are monochrome, enabling the viewer to better capture the quiet waiting of her gaze. The wild locks on the forehead indicate that this ideal woman is a character from real life and not a model prepared for art.
The press release of September 3 announced a hope beyond $ 100M. Let me add a comment: this superb painting is worth such an expectation.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's.
1919 The Last Hope of Amedeo
2016 SOLD for £ 38.5M including premium
Peace is back. In 1919, Amedeo Modigliani is again able to reveal the ideal woman, as in the time of his sculpted heads of 1911 and 1912. For a long time his weakened health prevents him from cutting the stone. The sensual nudes painted in 1917 and 1918 brought a sinuous outline of the women's body. Warm colors worked with an extreme care provide comfort and kindness that show to which extent the interpretation of that hypersensitive artist as a wild genius is wrong.
The portraits by Amedeo of his intimates are recognizable but they are not realistic because they must represent an absolute. Small in life, Jeanne is tall for Amedeo. Her green eyes become intensely blue to express innocence and fidelity. The arms become more elongated with gestures that are altogether expressive and quiet and above all typically feminine.
On June 21 in London, Sotheby's sells at lot 12 the portrait of Jeanne au foulard (with scarf), oil on canvas 92 x 54 cm painted by Amedeo in 1919. The press release of June 6 announced an expectation beyond £ 28M.
The muse does not laugh : her mouth is again sulky, as in her other portraits. The specificity of this artwork is in the eyes drawn with visible pupils, increasing the emotional presence of the young woman just as if Amedeo had just decided to abandon his signature uniformly blue eyes. This painting could be one of the last portraits of Jeanne.
1919 was a year of great creativity for Modigliani. Here are two results for less empathetic portraits with eyes full of sky : £ 27M including premium by Christie's on February 6, 2013 for Jeanne au chapeau with a protective gesture of the hand ; $ 43M including premium by Sotheby's on November 4, 2015 for Paulette in the stiff attitude of her 15 years old.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's (below).