Little gems for under £50,000
In the latest instalment of our regular series, we take another deep dive into the world of miniature masterpieces and the stories behind them — all offered in our Impressionist & Modern Works on Paper sale on 1 March in London
Born in 1871, Georges Rouault apprenticed as a glass painter and restorer. He turned to fine art at the age of 20, enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts. There he became a favourite pupil of Gustave Moreau, and befriended Henri Matisse.
The subject of this portrait is Maria Lani, who was painted by both Rouault and Matisse. An aspiring film actress, Lani arrived in Paris from Poland in 1928 and quickly established herself as a popular artist’s model. In addition to Rouault and Matisse, Lani’s likeness was reproduced in paintings and sculpture by more than 50 artists, including Bonnard, Chagall, Cocteau and Derain.
Reclining nude in landscape, 1980
Famed for his semi-abstract sculptures, Moore’s drawings were a pivotal starting point for his designs. ‘My drawings are done mainly as a help towards making sculpture… as a way of sorting out ideas and developing them,’ he once said.
Moore was born in Yorkshire, and his reclining figures were influenced by the rolling hills surrounding his home town of Castleford. Nature and the female form were themes he returned to repeatedly, and clear connections can be seen between the body and landscape. This drawing was executed in the last few years of Moore’s life. Although weakened by arthritis and diabetes and confined to a wheelchair, he continued to produce drawings and small sculptures, and held annual exhibits around the world.
Portrait de Clémentine, c. 1895
Albert Marquet’s intimate drawing of his cousin reflects a unique period of experimentation in the artist’s career. Five years earlier, Marquet had moved to Paris from Bordeaux to attend the École des Arts Décoratifs, where he met Henri Matisse. Matisse was a huge influence on Marquet, and the bold blues and oranges in this portrait underscore his shift toward Fauvism.
Taken from The Personal Collection of Barbara Lambrecht, this portrait of Clémentine also marked the start of a significant but short-lived period devoted to portraits and nudes, which Marquet abandoned in 1914. He would spend the rest of his career painting naturalistic landscapes.
The subject of this drawing, which features in The Personal Collection of Barbara Lambrecht, is Lydia Delectorskaya, a young Russian orphan whom Matisse met in 1934. Hired as a companion for Matisse’s ailing wife, Amélie, Delectorskaya quickly became the artist’s studio assistant, model and muse, sitting for him hundreds of times over the next five years.
In 1939, Amélie could no longer contain her jealous rage, and fired Delectorskaya. Distraught, the latter shot herself in the chest — but miraculously survived. The Matisses separated that year, and Delectorskaya returned to live with Matisse as his secretary, model and caretaker. She remained with him until his death in 1954.
In 1916, the 20-year-old Filippo De Pisis was introduced to metaphysical painting by the movement’s founding fathers, Giorgio de Chirico, Umberto Savinio and Carlo Carrà. Later that year he produced four compositions — including this one — for Tristan Tzara to publish in Dada magazine. But World War I prevented their delivery, and the works never reached Tzara.
De Pisis entrusted the compositions to his sister Ernesta Tibertelli, who kept them in the family. In 2011 they were offered for sale at Christie’s after almost a century in private hands.
Best known for his architecture, Le Corbusier (born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) was also a prolific artist. In 1918, he and Amédée Ozenfant founded Purism as a backlash against Cubism. Believing that Cubism had become entirely decorative, Purism set out to represent objects in their most basic form, emphasising technology and machinery.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier’s friendship broke down in 1925, putting an end to Purism. But the style continued to influence Le Corbusier’s art, as can be seen in this 1926 still life characterised by stripped-down lines and subtle shading. The architect-artist would go on to produce several oil paintings of this composition, including one that now hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. This work is taken from The Heidi Weber Museum Collection.
Centauresse dit le sphinx, c. 1880
This curious little work, measuring just 19.4 cm x 12.6 cm, shows two figures in a passionate embrace or intimate conversation. Rodin was fascinated by the wild, lustful behaviour of centaurs, and these mythical creatures featured prominently in his work during this period. In 1880, the year in which this work was created, Rodin also received his famous but ultimately unexecuted commission, The Gates of Hell — an early version of his design included a troop of centaurs framing the central panels.
Sketching played a key role in Rodin’s design process, and he produced some 10,000 drawings in his lifetime. This drawing, with its black ink wash and white highlights, is a typical example of his ‘black’ drawing period.
In this watercolour, four dancers perform a ‘stepptanz’, a jig-style tap dance that originated in New York in the 19th century. Kirchner’s rapid pencil lines and watercolour wash reflect the energy of the dancers’ movements.
Dance was one of Kirchner’s favourite themes, and was a through-line in his oeuvre. He went to as many performances as possible, from the circus, cabarets and music halls of Berlin to the local farmers’ dances in Switzerland.
Greeting Card for Marie Czihaczek, 1907
The year 1907 was a particularly significant one for Schiele: he moved out of his family home to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, rented his first studio, and met Gustav Klimt. The influence of Klimt and the Vienna Secession is evident in this drawing’s flowing lines, decorative motifs and stylised font.
The card was gifted to Schiele’s maternal aunt, Marie Czihaczek, on her name day. Marie and her husband Leopold supported Schiele’s family after the death of the artist’s father. Although Leopold originally wanted Schiele to study engineering, he eventually acknowledged his nephew’s artistic talents and aided him financially. The Czihaczeks safeguarded the card, and passed it to Schiele’s younger sister Gertrude after the artist died. It remained in her family for many years.
Fracht – Dampfer, 1928
Born in 1871 in New York, Feininger studied in Hamburg, Liege and Paris before settling in Berlin in 1893 as a cartoonist and illustrator. From 1908 he devoted himself to fine art, going on to exhibit with Der Blaue Reiter group and to teach at the Bauhaus.
This watercolour, pen and ink study of a freight steamer was executed during Feininger’s stay at West Deep on the Baltic Coast, from 1924 to 1935. The steamboat was a common subject in Feininger’s prints and paintings; other frequent themes included the sea, village views, landscapes and architecture.