Midi de la France
Chronology : 19th century 1880-1889 1885 1888 1889 1890-1899 1895 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.
1888-1890 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..
April 1888 Verger by van Gogh
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.
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.
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.
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
November 1889 Champs près des Alpilles
2022 SOLD for $ 52M by Christie's
His art was definitely not a copy of the nature but an emotional interpretation through carefully selected colors which he felt instrumental to his survival. A viral form of modern art was being developed in that asylum by that mentally disabled man in the time span of a few months.
Champs près des Alpilles is a winter landscape view taken from outside the entrance of the asylum. It displays the lilac rocky scenery of the Alpilles hills behind a winter field centered by a single leafless almond tree, tentatively an expression of the artist's loneliness unless it is a mere copy from a print by Hokusai.
Vincent presented this painting as an adieu to his former neighbor in Arles and supporting friend the facteur Roulin. At that time he was hoping to leave Provence. He reported that gift to his brother Theo in January 1890.
This oil on canvas 46 x 55 cm was sold for $ 52M by Christie's on May 12, 2022, lot 23C.
Following last November’s blow-out sale of works by Vincent van Gogh ($160 million in only four works by the artist were sold in the New York sales), Christie’s has announced a $45m landscape for the May sales.@ChristiesInc https://t.co/s8CwnKCNV5 pic.twitter.com/MNOLoLgONK— LiveArt (@artmarket) February 25, 2022
1895 Clairière by Cézanne
2022 SOLD for $ 42M by Sotheby's
As for landscapes he tirelessly revisited the same themes : the wide open scenery of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire and the closed views of woods and glades.
This phase reached its culmination in large formats around 1895 in an unusually reductive palette of blue, green and ochre in various intensities.
Clairière, oil on canvas 100 x 81 cm, flattens the perspective. De-accessioned from the Toledo Museum of Art, it was sold for $ 42M from a lower estimate of $ 30M by Sotheby's on May 17, 2022, lot 16. The image is shared by Wikimedia. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
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.