London – The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale took place on the evening of 18 June at Christie’s London, realising £64,076,575/ $100,407,993/ €75,225,899 and selling 84% by lot and 87% by value. The auction had a pre-sale estimate of £52,830,000 to £75,800,000. The top price was paid for Wassily Kandinsky’s rare Expressionist masterpiece Studie zu Improvisation 3, 1909, which sold for £13,501,875/ $21,157,438 /€15,851,201 (estimate: £12-16 million, pictured above). In total, 18 works of art sold for over £1 million / 22 for over $1 million, and two artist records were set: for a work by Eugène Boudin and a record for a painting by Constantin Brancusi.

Jay Vincze, International Director and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s London:

“This evening’s auction saw solid results and the continuing strength of selling rates in the category at Christie’s in 2013. There was great depth of bidding on works of high quality at all price levels, with strong participation from many new and existing collectors from both traditional and growth markets, including Greater China and India. The global appeal and accessibility of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s was further highlighted by the auction of ‘Picasso Ceramics’ at South Kensington which was 100% sold by lot and also attracted new bidders from around the world. The week of sales continues with the Works on Paper and Day Sales at King Street on Wednesday and the South Kensington sale on Friday.”

The top price at the auction was paid for Studie zu Improvisation 3, 1909, by Wassily Kandinsky which sold for £13,501,875/ $21,157,438 /€15,851,201 (estimate: £12-16 million). The majority of works from Kandinsky’s ‘Improvisation’ series are in major institutions – including the final version of this work which is in the Centre George Pompidou, Paris. This auction follows Christie’s landmark sale of Studie für Improvisation 8, 1909, which set a record for the artist at auction in November 2012, selling for $23million. A work of great art historical importance, it belongs to Kandinsky’s revolutionary series of paintings, started earlier that year, known as ‘Improvisations’, which mark his first major forays into the realm of abstraction. These were the very first paintings intended to convey an inner emotional response to and understanding of the visual phenomena of the outer world, through spontaneously and unconsciously created near-autonomous coloured forms. They are among the first paintings in the history of art to mark the deliberate freeing of form and colour from their conventional pictorial duties towards the creation of non-material, non-objective and abstract art of the spirit.  

Further leading highlights of the sale:


  • Paul Guillaume, 1916, by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) is the only one of four portraits that the artist painted of the art dealer - who represented him between 1914 and 1916 – to have remained in private hands, it realised £6,781,875/ $10,627,198/ €7,961,921 (estimate: £5-7million). Modigliani’s portraits are celebrated in part for their combination of idealised beauty and apparent insight in to the character of the sitter. These qualities are evident in the present portrait of Paul Guillaume, which is the most intimate and least formal of the group of pictures showing the dealer.


  • Painted in December 1960, Femme assise dans un fauteuil by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) realised £6,109,875/ $9,574,174/ €7,172,993 (estimate: £4-6 million). It is one of a group of portraits of his partner Jacqueline Roque – painted only a few months before their marriage. Jacqueline proved to be the most enduring of Picasso’s loves, staying with him for almost two decades at the end of his life and becoming one of his most frequently-depicted Muses. Jacqueline sits in stately splendour, as though enthroned; there is a sense of calm, of poise and tranquility, which contrast the torments of his earlier depictions of women in armchairs, usually associated with Dora Maar. Picasso’s backwards glance at his own pictorial vocabulary may have been partially inspired by the important retrospective which he had been given in London that year at the Tate Gallery.


  • A colourist masterpiece, created through an explosion of neo-impressionist mosaic-like brushstrokes, Sainte-Anne (St. Tropez) by Paul Signac (1863-1935) realised £3,533,875/ $5,537,582/ €4,148,769 (estimate: £2.5-3.5 million). A hymn to the South of France where the artist made his home, it shows the evening light caressing the trees, buildings and distant hills. The importance of this work is reflected in its exhibition history and provenance, having featured in important early exhibitions of Signac’s work including his 1907 retrospective at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune; it was formerly in the collection of Gustave Fayet, one of the most important supporters of the avant garde in the early 20th century, as well as an early patron of Post-Impressionism and of Paul Gauguin in particular.


  • Tête d'homme by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) which dates from 1964, a turbulent year that combined angst with intense creativity for Picasso, realised £2,973,875/ $4,660,062/ €3,491,329 (estimate: £2-3 million). In this work Picasso has demonstrated a counter-intuitive use of near-calligraphic forms to depict the face, with areas of the canvas left in reserve and therefore made all the more luminous by their contrast with the thick paint elsewhere, sometimes applied in free brushstrokes replete with substance.


  •  Sainte-Adresse, 1873, by Claude Monet (1840-1926) realised £2,861,875/ $4,484,558/ €3,359,841 (estimate: £1-1.5 million). This view of the coast near the town of Le Havre dates from the pivotal year before the First Impressionist exhibition, in which Monet helped to launch the movement by showing pictures including some from the same painting campaign that resulted in Sainte-Adresse.


  • Auguste Rodin’s (1840-1917) smooth and tactile Eve après le péché, conceived in 1880-1881 and executed circa 1900-1915, realised £2,861,875/$4,484,558/€3,359,841 (estimate: £500,000-700,000). This marble sculpture presents one of the artist’s most iconic subjects.


  • Femme debout, a bronze by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), conceived in 1956, realised £2,637,875/$4,133,550/ €3,096,865 (estimate: £1.5-2.5 million).


  • Tête d'homme, 1969, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) realised £1,853,875/ $2,905,022/ €2,176,449 (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000). It is one of a string of pictures of fantastical pseudo historical figures that Picasso created from the mid-1960s onwards. Characters such as the man in Tête d'homme seem to have their feet firmly planted in the 17th century, a notion emphasised both by the hair and by the ruff of his clothing.


  • Buste d'homme à la pipe, 1969, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) realised £1,685,875/$2,641,766/€1,979,217 (estimate: £900,000-1,200,000). This was one of 8 works offered in this sale from The Collection of Simone and Jean Tiroche, which were 100% sold and realised £5,419,000/ $8,491,573/ €6,361,906. Further works from the collection will be sold across the Impressionist and Modern Art and Post War and Contemporary Art sale weeks, presenting the market with a fantastic array of important 19th and 20th century works. A bohemian couple from Tel Aviv, Jean Tiroche opened the city’s first art gallery in 1960 and went on to become an internationally respected dealer.

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