Midi de la France
Chronology : 19th century 1880-1889 1888 1889 1970-1979 1972
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.
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 Montagne Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne
2001 SOLD for $ 38.5M by Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg
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. 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 an emotional impression of the reality.
An oil on canvas 65 x 80 cm painted in 1888 or slightly later is possibly the last one in private hands from that theme and decade. It displays the powerful Montagne is all its purity, surrounded by the countryside without a foreground. Some elements including the underlined horizon are resolutely geometrical. The colors are clear and bright.
This painting was old for $ 38.5M by Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg on May 7, 2001, lot 5. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1888 Le Pont de Trinquetaille by van Gogh
2021 SOLD for $ 37.4M by Christie's
At the beginning of June, Vincent goes by stagecoach to Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer for a five-day stay. On June 17, he paints an animated view of the banks of the Rhône with the iron bridge of Trinquetaille which links the Camargue to the city.
The unlimited embankment on the left side of the painting may remind some views by Monet in Argenteuil but is most probably inspired by the Japanese style. The sky and the reflections in the water are greenish-yellow, the color of absinthe according to the artist's avowal. The quiet attitude of the anonymous figures are in the follow of his Montmartre views from the previous year.
This oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm oil was sold three times by Christie's : for $ 15.4M on November 8, 1999, for $ 11.2M on November 3, 2004, lot 41., and for $ 37.4M on May 13, 2021, lot 29 B. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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 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 The Superb Fall
2019 SOLD for $ 40M including premium
La Nuit étoilée, oil on canvas painted in June 1889 at the asylum of St-Rémy, is unprecedented in the history of art. Vincent first wanted to paint the colors of the night. In order for them to be clearly visible, he oversized the Moon and the stars which have become swirls of colors.
La Nuit étoilée is also a landscape with the village of St-Rémy and the Alpilles. It is dominated in the foreground by an isolated floating tree, disproportionate and asymmetrical. With its longevity and its evergreen leaves, the cypress is the symbol of eternal life and the tree of the graveyards.
In October 1889 nature offers a satisfaction to Vincent : that autumn is superb. The artist paints the colors of the garden. With a texture of violent lines, the brushstroke has integrated the style of the Starry Night. In the foreground two or three thin trunks twist. The only vertical reference in this unbalanced universe is the tall cypress, in the distance, with the same asymmetry as the tree of the Starry Night.
A view in St. Paul's Hospital Garden, oil on canvas 67 x 52 cm, was sold for £ 9M including premium by Christie's on June 23, 2010.
Painted in vibrant colors, Trees in the Garden of the Asylum, oil on canvas 42 x 34 cm, will be sold as lot 15A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The March 27 press release announces an estimate in the region of $ 25M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
October 1889 Cabanes de Bois by van Gogh
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
1972 A Nest for Two Boys
2018 SOLD for $ 90M including premium
David sees by chance on the floor of his studio the conjunction of two photographs that can constitute a scene : a swimmer under water and a standing boy watching something in the distance. The relationship between two men has always been one of his favorite themes. He has just found a way to express his affair with Peter.
It is not so easy for this hypersensitive artist. He destroys a first version. The sudden break between the lovers occurs around that time. In the spring of 1972 David leaves with two assistants to take photographs in a house of director Tony Richardson named Le Nid du Duc in the countryside above Saint-Tropez. During the summer of 1969 David and Peter had spent a few happy days at that place.
A photograph of the swimmer suits him. It will not be a self-portrait in the picture. For the properly dressed observer who will be standing up by the pool, he finds in his archives some photographs of the real Peter, as if David now agreed to entrust Peter to an unidentifiable swimmer.
The acrylic on canvas 213 x 305 cm painted in 1972 is titled Portrait of an Artist and subtitled Pool with Two Figures. The swimmer is under water and Peter is at the edge of the pool. Although Peter's gaze is directed towards the swimmer, communication between them is impossible.
In 1974 a biopic titled A Bigger Splash tells the story of the breaking up of David and Peter. David plays his own role. The film incorporates sequences that had been shot during the preparation of the Portrait of an Artist. The mix of emotion and real intimacy makes A Bigger Splash a cult film of the gay communities, to the point of shocking David himself. He will change his mind later.
This painting will be sold by Christie's in New York on November 15 as lot 9 C. The press release of September 13 announces an estimate in the region of $ 80M. Please watch the video prepared by the auction house including sequences from the movie.
The low resolution image is shared by Wikimedia for fair use.