Chronology : 19th Century 1880-1889 1890-1899 1913 1914 1915 1919 1931 2000-2009
1885-1887 The Tilted Plate
2019 SOLD for £ 21M including premium
Painting is the only possible medium for his interpretation of life, because it allows color harmonies. The laws of the perspective itself are not untouchable. Impressionism does not go far enough.
Emile Zola has certainly appreciated the depth of Cézanne's theories and his difficulties in sharing them. In his novel L'Oeuvre published in 1886, he stages a misunderstood painter whose idealistic passion leads to failure. A later letter from Cézanne to Zola, recently found, contradicts the legend of their breakup. Cézanne was obviously too soaked in his research to be indignant at the concern of his college friend.
On February 27 in London, Christie's sells as lot 6 a still life of fruit, oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in the mid 1880s. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The theme is modest and the composition is minimalist. On a rustic table without any ornament in a slightly plunging perspective, a plate contains five peaches and a pear. Another pear is placed to the right of the plate. The subtle variety of fruit color is not however the main subject of this experiment.
If the plate is placed flat on the table, its perfect circle is impossible. It is therefore inclined, at the limit of the imbalance of the fruit pyramid. Cézanne knew that realism does not exist in painting : nature is too complex to be imitated and the surface of the canvas does not allow an illusion of real space.
A probably later work gives the key to the enigma : now viewed in profile, the plate is actually tilted. This 28 x 40 cm oil on canvas was sold for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's on November 14, 2017.
Many years later, Matisse tries an axiom according to which Cézanne was too perfectionist to make a mistake. He thus discovers the de-construction of perspective in the most seemingly simplistic still lifes by Cézanne, an artist too far ahead of his own time.
Highlights from the most important single owner collection of Impressionist and Modern art offered for sale in London for a decade, featuring works by #Monet, #Renoir, #Cézanne, #VanGogh, #Bonnard, #Matisse and more... https://t.co/PZ3OpFMU7M pic.twitter.com/dhAJXW9NF5— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) November 27, 2018
1888-1890 The Movements of the Tablecloth
2019 SOLD for $ 59M including premium
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 including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 1999. This painting is listed as lot 18A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The press release of March 27 announces an estimate in the region of $ 40M. Please watch the very short video shared by the auction house.
Painted in 1893 with a similar inspiration, Rideau, cruchon et compotier, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm, was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The fruit bowl is not placed on the table.
1889-1890 Cézanne playing with Apples
2013 SOLD 42 M$ including premium
Cézanne plays with apples like an infant with cubes. Fruits are grouped within small uneven piles in which their variety of colors brings an additional appeal. Sometimes a group is interrupted by the frame as if the model was unlimited.
If we consider that the real subject is the painting itself and not the peaceful fruit, Cézanne's apples anticipate abstract art. It puzzles the viewer by its original composition, as if it tried to tell a story or to evoke a feeling, like Kandinsky and Miro later. Each individual element is however realistic like an image by Chardin.
The group of apples for sale at Sotheby's on May 7 in New York is both simple and bold. This oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm painted in 1889-1890 is estimated $ 25M. Here is the link to the catalog.
Sold for $ 60M including premium at Sotheby's on May 10, 1999, another composition, 60 x 73 cm, painted four years later is more ambitious. The folds of the white tablecloth generate a complex interplay of fruit, the pitcher is the referee and the curtain states that the still lifes of Cézanne are indeed dramas.
POST SALE COMMENT
Cezanne's still lifes are the most remarkable modernist advances of their time. This painting was sold $ 42M including premium.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1890 Wild Flowers for Dr Gachet
2014 SOLD for $ 62M including premium
In May 1890 Vincent moved into a room at the local inn in Auvers. He did not have a studio and regularly attended the home of Gachet, a friend of the Impressionists and Cézanne.
Since he is sick, Vincent is terrorized by the idea of failure and by the risk of a new crisis of dementia. With the energy of despair, he gives a new impetus to his old ambition to become the best painter of all time, the only one capable of a synthesis of all genres. Gachet has a painting by Cézanne showing a bouquet of flowers. Vincent wants to do better.
Spring brings forth the flowers into the fields. On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 66 x 50 cm painted by Vincent on 16 and 17 June 1890, lot 17 estimated $ 30M. Executed in the clear intention to thank Gachet for his help, this artwork shows a vase filled with daisies and poppies.
The composition is powerful and the colors are gorgeous, dominated in the center by the fiery red poppies. The groups of flowers shine like some characters within the ultimate tragedy of Vincent.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1893-1894 Rideau, cruchon et compotier by Cézanne
1999 SOLD 60 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
1902-1906 Nature morte au melon vert, watercolor and pencil by Cézanne
2007 SOLD 25.5 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
1911 Les Coucous, tapis bleu et rose by Matisse
2009 SOLD for € 36M including premium by Christie's
1913 Violon et Guitare by Juan Gris
2010 SOLD 28.6 M$ including premium by Christie's
1914 Invention of the Mixed Media
2018 SOLD for $ 32M including premium
This hermetic art does not satisfy its own inventor Picasso. In 1912 he sticks real ordinary materials in a composition : ropes and oilcloth. Curiously he does not exhibit this first experience that nevertheless launches the cubist collages. Braque, Picasso himself and Gris continue this exploration of a new artistic language conducive to show the everyday surroundings of table settings and still lifes.
The collage of newspaper clippings is a basic element of the new compositions. Easy to simulate also with the brush, the piece does not break the coherence of the work. It draws the attention of the viewer who seeks some meaning to the words in the context of the image, long before the Dada and Merz revolutions. It is also a fun method to date an artwork.
From December 1913 Juan Gris is the champion of this new evolution of cubism which finally retrieves perspective and color while respecting the primary objective of assimilating the represented object and its support. In the following months Malevich reaches the most extreme abstract art : the uselessness of the image in its support is another seminal advance of modernism.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 2 La table de musicien, oil, gouache, pencil and collage of paper on canvas 82 x 60 cm made by Gris in May 2014.
The table is the support of the arrangement. It is shown at an angle in an aerial view. In a subtle balance the collages participate in three different ways : the newspaper on the table, the wall paper and the stylized musical staves drawn on a white paper. The perspective effect allows the drawings of bottle and violin to overlap the painted and glued areas. Transparency effects disrupt the surfaces.
Executed in the following month in a similar technique, a 46 x 27 cm artwork titled Tabac, journal et bouteille de vin rosé was sold for $ 8.8M including premium by Sotheby's on November 6, 2013.
The war stops this playful phase when Kahnweiler with whom Gris was in contract in Paris is obliged to leave for Switzerland. In the following year Gris gives up his mixed technique and returns to oil on canvas with brilliantly colored compositions that imitate his collages. Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux, 116 x 90 cm, was sold for £ 35M including premium by Christie's on February 4, 2014.
1915 Inventory on a Checked Tablecloth
2014 SOLD 35 M£ including premium
In 1915, the art of Gris suddenly separates from Picasso and Braque. Gris gathers the objects of his everyday life. Arranged on the table, they make up his universe. Outside, in Paris, it is war. His objects are playing to constitute a new theater, like Cézanne's apples or Arcimboldo's vegetables.
In this sense, Gris is a precursor of surrealism. Painted in March 1915, Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux is a complex and colored composition, where the arrangement in a triangle forms a mask over the comforting support of the tabletop. This oil on canvas 116 x 90 cm, is estimated £ 12M, for sale by Christie's in London on February 4.
1915 is the year of the highest creativity for Gris. Staging a lesser variety of objects, two less dreamlike paintings had been discussed earlier in this column.
Livre, pipe et verres, 73 x 91 cm, was sold for $ 21M including premium at Christie's on November 6, 2008. Le Livre, 73 x 60 cm, was sold for £ 10.3 million including premium at Christie's on February 7, 2012 .
POST SALE COMMENT
By its bold composition and vivid colors, this painting is a masterpiece of Cubism. It was sold for £ 35M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's announcing the still life painting of the 2014 sale. The image is shared by Wilimedia.
1919 Floral Firework by Matisse
2010 SOLD 28.6 M$ including premium
On July 14, French national (Bastille) day, he unleashes his hopes on a canvas 116 x 89 cm. A bouquet springs from a vase in an explosion of colors that immediately calls to fireworks and mingles with the more neutral wallpaper background. The image of this painting is shared by BBC News.
The subject and composition are typical of the still lifes of the master. The patriotic inspiration and the joy of colors make it an exceptional painting, estimated $ 18 million by Sotheby's. The sale takes place in New York on May 5.
Matisse fans are lucky: his Nude with blue cushion, which I discussed earlier in this group, is for sale the day before by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
The flowers showed in Matisse's colors are masterpieces of the early twentieth century art. The price recorded by Sotheby's, $ 28.6 million including premium, is excellent.
This lot could not compete with the cuckoos from the Yves Saint Laurent collection, sold last year € 35.9 million including premium by Christie's. Indeed, the cuckoos were dated 1911, one of the greatest periods of transformation in the history of art.
1931 The Forbidden Portrait
2018 SOLD for $ 30M including premium
While he waited to stabilize his situation, we can imagine the feverishness of the artist. La Lampe, oil on canvas 162 x 130 cm, is dated January 21, 1931 and June 8, 1931. It is estimated $ 25M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 11, lot 22 A.
The theme of the artwork is not the young woman but her bust in white plaster, seen in profile. The stems and leaves of the philodendron create a pattern like a church window which makes even less easy the identification of the model. The oil lamp hanging from an invisible ceiling provides a moon shaped golden light that can be interpreted as the model's ponytail.
In the months that follow, Picasso is emboldened. On March 8, 1932 Marie-Thérèse introduces herself as a nude sleeper amidst the same statue and plant. The profile of the head becomes recognizable. This painting was sold for $ 106M including premium by Christie's on May 4, 2010.
The next day, March 9, 1932, Picasso painted the same sleeper in the Nu au Fauteuil Noir. The philodendron, symbol of vitality, is still there. The bust has been removed : it is no longer useful beside the real model. This painting was sold for $ 45M including premium by Christie's on November 9, 1999.
1944 Study of a Tomato Plant
2017 SOLD for £ 17M including premium
Liberation is approaching and violence is increasing. In early August 1944 Pablo left his studio in the Quartier Latin which had become too dangerous and spent several days in the apartment of the Ile Saint-Louis occupied by his former mistress Marie-Thérèse with their daughter Maya.
Pablo has no heart to pleasure. He looks at a tomato plant in front of the window. Easy to grow with little soil, water and sunlight, the tomato offers a limited complement of food in addition to the strict rationing. It mostly offers an illusion of initiative and freedom in this stifling time.
Pablo painted a simultaneous series of oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm on that theme. The more or less ripe tomatoes and the rich or weak foliage are not a naturalistic picture of Marie-Thérèse's plant but express the feelings of the Parisians at that time of undecided future. A gloomy version dated August 10 was sold for $ 13.5M including premium by Christie's on November 8, 2006.
On March 1 in London, Sotheby's sells the optimistic version, dated 6 August 1944. The heavy fruits soon to be picked bend the branches in a harmoniously centered composition. This painting is estimated £ 10M, lot 8.
2004 Three Tons of Tulips by Koons
2012 SOLD 33.7 M$ including premium
The earliest were also the first to be auctioned: balloon flower, hanging heart, diamond. These works of monumental dimensions in stainless steel with a finish of pure color interact with their environment through an intense mirror effect for which the artist seeks perfection. Each model is produced in five variants, each variant in a different color.
Then we saw at auction the Easter eggs with their ribbons. On November 14 in New York, Christie's sells a copy of Tulips, which is an even more complex step in the development of the art of Koons.
The subject, a bouquet of seven flowers placed on a surface, is simple and universally recognizable, like all other themes in the Celebrations. The artwork, completed in 2004, can not go unnoticed: 203 x 457 x 520 cm. It weighs 3 tons. Here is the link to the catalog.
The tulips within the bouquet are of different colors, so that the interaction of their reflections covers the entire spectrum of light. The work was carried out in five copies with different arrangements of colors, extrapolating the logics of the previous Celebrations, and the reflection of the surroundings and of the public remains an essential element of the exhibition of the artwork.
I invite you to play the video featured by Christie's, in which Koons himself introduces this artwork.
POST SALE COMMENT
Koons's art is easy to see, but highly complex to implement. This technological feat was sold $ 33.7 million including premium.