Impressionist and Post Modern Sales (New York)

Nature and gardening feature heavily in the November Impressionist sales at Christies and Sotheby’s this week in New York.

Our Sotheby’s highlight on 4 November is a Van Gogh still life of flowers. This was painted in June 1890 and has a top end estimate of 50,000,000 dollars. Depicting cornfield flowers collected from the fields around Auvers, it is richly coloured and was painted at the height of his mania during the weeks before his tragic end, whilst living with Dr. Gachet. This painting is very emotive.

The painting was in Germany until the 1920’s and then travelled to the USA where, when sold to the Goodyear family in 1928, it became the first Van Gogh to be sold in the States.

Also featuring as one of Sotheby’s highlights is “Alice Hoschede au jardin”, where Alice is seen reclining luxuriantly in Monet’s garden at Vetheuil in his 1881 painting of her. She appears cosseted by the trees and content. She was indeed, her affair had just started, although it would be a further eleven years until she became the second Mrs. Monet. The colours are vivid and the play of light and shadow fantastic. Monet was at his most ambitious during this period. These years gave us ice flows on the Seine and compositionally sophisticated landscapes along the river valley. The top end estimate for this 81 by 65cm canvas is 35,000,000 dollars.

Sculpture will be the biggest news with Alberto Giacometti’s “Chariot” cast in 1951/2 set to topple records, in excess of 100,000,000 dollars.

A Modigliani head takes centre stage. This piece carved in 1911/12 is a gem. A rare piece, the stone for which the sculptor scavenged from Parisian building sites, it is of museum quality. At the London highlights it shone out amongst Rothko’s but here in New York it has been given a dedicated space and it glows. At a top end of 45,000,000 dollars it will be making the news.

Christies star lot at their evening sale on the 5 November is Edouard Manet’s “Le Printemps,” from 1881, what was to have been one of a four seasons series. Manet at the time was the most famous living artist and at the height of his powers. Only Spring was painted, she is a beautiful portrait, and a top end estimate of 35,000,000 dollars demonstrates this.

For me personally an early Miro, 1918 of the “Tuilerie a Mont-roig” when he was painting his Spanish landscapes is so evocative of his early works.

On November 11 and 12 the sale rooms turn their attention to postwar and contemporary work. The sales are dominated by Warhol; a triple Elvis, four Marlon Brando’s and an early coloured Liz, she is expected to top 50,000,000 dollars. These are joined by a Francis Bacon portrait, last year Christies set a record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold. The Bacon triptych of Freud.

Next week Sotheby’s have also tucked in a gem of an auction series. Over 3,800 items from Mrs. Paul Mellon’s estate come under the hammer. Paintings, furniture and her personal jewellery shine in the sale of the decade from the homes of one of the big names in American collecting. Herself a keen gardener and plantswoman, she designed the famous rose garden at the White House for Mrs. Kennedy.  Her jewel like paintings sit alongside her extensive ceramic collection and reflect her interest in nature.

Her principal home at Oak Spring Farms, Virginia, where she died in March at 103, yields some amazing paintings.

Alongside the Rothko’s and Diebenkorn’s sit two jewels from Antwerp’s old masters. A tiny still life from 1606/8 by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder with tulips, primroses and insects, shines out next to a yellow and orange Rothko of 1955. A Jan van Kessel the Elder still life of insects on a rosemary sprig from 1653 is a gem.

These Bunny Mellon had propped up around her homes on chairs or tables, some unframed in a casual informal style so redolent of New England taste.



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