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 € 43M 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 :
1912 Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Klimt
2006 SOLD for 88 M$ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
At this time Gustav Klimt is introducing an unprecedented luxury into modern painting. Inspired by the mosaic of Empress Theodora in the Basilica of Ravenna, he offers a new vision of the ideal woman, sumptuously dressed in a patchwork of gold, silver and sometimes platinum leaves.
Adele serves as a model in 1901 for Judith, which is a pinnacle of eroticism in Klimt's art. The husband is not jealous. In 1903 he begins to buy paintings from Klimt and commissions a portrait of his wife. Klimt works for four years on this project. In his sublime style, the figuration does not reveal any nudity and the Bloch-Bauers can hang this painting 138 x 138 cm in their living room.
These tripartite relations remain excellent. Adele will be the only woman of whom Klimt has painted two portraits. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, which joins the previous opus in 1912 in the Bloch-Bauer living room, is an oil on canvas 190 x 120 cm. The standing Adele is dressed in gray and white in front of a richly colored background. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The Bloch-Bauer collection, also including three landscapes by Klimt, was plundered by the Nazis after the Anschluss. It was returned after a long trial in 2004 to the legitimate heiress, who dispersed it with the help of Christie's.
The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold in private sale to Ronald Lauder in June 2006 for $ 135M, the highest price known for a painting at that time. The other four works were sold separately at auction by Christie's on November 8, 2006.
The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was sold for $ 88M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 40M. The mediatization has certainly influenced such a high price. The lot escaped Lauder. It will be known later that it had been bought by Oprah Winfrey. It reached a new peak in 2016 when Oprah sold it in a private sale for $ 150M to a Chinese collector.
The three landscapes were sold respectively for $ 40M, $ 33M and $ 31.4M including premium over lower estimates of $ 20M, $ 15M and $ 18M.
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.
1917-1919 Le Bassin aux Nymphéas by Monet
2021 SOLD for $ 70M by Sotheby's
This piece is an oil of canvas 100 x 200 cm, a panoramic format used by Monet in the middle preparation phase of Les Grandes Décorations, from 1917 to 1919, after he completed a barn-like studio for the specific purpose of doubling the size of his pictures.
In conjunction with the complete removal of both shore and horizon, the large size of the flowers indeed brings the impression of a very close view of the pond. This immersion is enhanced by the reflections of green trees and blue sky in the interstices between the groups of floating plants.
The emotion and the presence are brought by the arrangement of the increasingly vibrant colors while the topographic depiction becomes unnecessary. This opus had probably been prepared at the end of the 1917-1919 period. It is indeed a forerunner of the trend to abstraction of the next phase of Monet's career.
1919 Bassins aux Nymphéas by Monet
2008 SOLD for £ 41M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
This decorative ambition led him in 1917 to test panoramic formats, around 130 x 200 cm, the largest dimension for which he is able to paint outdoors using a system of ropes and weights. He multiplies the sketches with, according to his signature habit, the greatest variety of colors expressing the different lights of the day.
Under the influence of Clémenceau, the project becomes a patriotic symbol, titled Les Grandes Décorations, which he completes in 1926.
From the start of the preparation phase, Monet attached the greatest importance to the coherence of the whole. Nevertheless in 1919 he paints for the trade four finished works with an especially high quality, which he sells in November of the same year to Bernheim-Jeune.
One of these paintings is in the Metropolitan Museum. Another one was sold by Christie's on November 11, 1992 for $ 12M including premium, a good result for that period of recession in the art market. The third was cut in half before 1944. The left side is in the Tel Aviv Museum. The right side was sold for $ 27M including premium by Christie's on May 12, 2016.
The fourth painting, oil on canvas 100 x 200 cm, was sold by Christie's on June 24, 2008 for £ 41M including premium worth at that date $ 80M, lot 16. The groups of leaves form a frame around the reflections of the trees in the blue water. The image is shared by Wikimedia.