Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Defining Gesture: Modern Masters from the Eppler Family CollectionAcross their more than sixty years together, Heinz and Ruthe Eppler were devoted partners in family, philanthropy, and a shared love of art and culture. Born in Germany, Heinz Eppler (d. 2012) escaped the looming Nazi threat to begin a new life in the United States. With great business acumen, Heinz co-founded a housewares distributing business that later acquired The Miller-Wohl Company, and built the firm into a national chain. At the same time, the Epplers created a lasting legacy in art, education, healthcare, and Jewish causes. As president and chair of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Heinz provided a strength of leadership that impacted countless lives around the globe, notably in Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Ethiopia. The Epplers’ philanthropic focus also extended to the arts. The Epplers decided to build their own collection in the early 1980s, and began a friendship with Edward B. Henning (d. 1993), the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Chief Curator of Modern Art. The many correspondences between Henning and Heinz Eppler, often funny and personal, reveal an ongoing dialogue on family, the history of art, and the evolution of the Eppler Family Collection. Henning became a trusted advisor, relating his enthusiasm or hesitation on potential acquisitions. “Once again, let me simply state that when I see things that I think are very good I will mention them to you,” Henning wrote in 1981, “and depend on you to see whatever you think might be of interest to you.” The Epplers, for their part, were inquisitive and deliberate in their purchases. “Ruthe and I are very patient collectors,” Heinz Eppler explained to Henning in 1982, “and are not impulsive with respect to acquiring a specific rare work from an existing collection.” Rather than following the heady Contemporary fashions of the art world in the eighties, the Epplers turned to the artists that had spoken to them more directly in their formative adult years. What motivated the Epplers was the thrill of finding works of visual and intellectual resonance—paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by such legendary figures of Modernism as Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Lee Krasner, Arshile Gorky, David Smith, Milton Avery, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse. Like Heinz, many of the artists were also emigres who found their voice and freedom in America.Throughout the 1980s, Henning was not only an important advisor, but he and the Epplers developed a close friendship and a shared vision about collecting. “When you have an important collection, no matter how large or small,” the curator wrote, “it is a serious responsibility as well as a great pleasure.” Of Motherwell’s Je t’aime No. III with Loaf of Bread, he noted, “My feeling is that it is very important as well as being beautiful,” and he lauded the collectors for having chosen a “superb” painting by William Baziotes. Henning went to great lengths to commend the art historical significance of Abstract Expressionists such as Motherwell, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock. Upon hearing that the Epplers had purchased Kline’s Light Mechanic in 1985—a work Henning had suggested some two years earlier—the curator wrote to express his congratulations. “You now have an excellent, representative collection of American Abstract Expressionist art,” he enthused, “and that is the most important art of the twentieth century and the most important of all American art.” The Epplers’ connection with Henning is indicative of their personal, heartfelt approach toward art—one that culminated in an inspired collection of works extending across the twentieth century. As Henning observed to the couple in December 1986: “For the past four years, each year I have thought that your collecting might be coming to a conclusion, and each year I’m surprised when we find something important.” Ultimately, the Epplers collected art that they loved to live with and share with others, both through loans to exhibitions and by opening their home to museum groups and fellow collectors. In 1986, the Epplers were asked to loan works to the Cleveland Museum exhibition The Art of Collecting Modern Art: An Exhibition of Works from the Collections of Clevelanders. As Henning wrote, “Collecting art intelligently involves much more than having enough money. Collecting art successfully requires knowledge, taste and judgement. It may not require the same skills used to create works of art, but it does depend on a comparable level of taste and judgement.” The Eppler Family Collection is an enduring testament to the personal vision and discernment with which Heinz and Ruthe carefully built their collection. The Defining Gesture: Modern Masters from the Eppler Family Collection
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Le combat des centaures

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Le combat des centaures
signed 'Picasso' (lower left) and dated and numbered '24 aout 46 V' (upper left)
pen and India ink on paper
20 x 25 7/8 in. (50.5 x 66 cm.)
Drawn on 24 August 1946
Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne.
Herbert Einstein, London.
Sir Edward and Lady Hulton, London (1957).
Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, June 1981.
E. Tériade, Verve, vol. V, nos. 19-20, April 1948 (illustrated prior to signature).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1965, vol. 15, no. 4 (illustrated prior to signature, pl. 2).
Kunst und Museumsverein Wuppertal; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beunigen; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall; Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum; Lunds Konsthall; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Helsinki, Amos Anderson Konstmuseum; Goteborge Kunstmuseum and Kunsthaus Zürich, Sammlung Sir Edward und Lady Hulton London, September 1964-January 1968, no. 47.
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Lot Essay

In the summer of 1946, Picasso fell in love with a new young muse, Françoise Gilot, whom he had met in 1943. In early August, they traveled to the home of Louis Fort at Golfe Juan. It was there, in August 1946, that Picasso met Romuald Dor de la Souchère, curator of the Antibes museum, located in the Grimaldi palace. He offered Picasso space in the museum for painting, but Picasso instead decided to decorate the museum itself. He intensively worked for two months and decorated the walls with twenty-two panels. The wall decoration, featuring Arcadian themes, became known as the antipolis series after the ancient Greek name for Antibes. Shortly afterward, the museum was renamed the Musée Picasso.
The subject matter of Arcadia and its inhabitants (fauns, satyrs, centaurs), embodies Picasso's exhilaration and excitement about his new love, impending fatherhood (Gilot became pregnant in August) and, most importantly, his regained freedom after years of war. Picasso's pictures and works on paper from this period thus combine the classical Mediterranean tradition with a new vision, both childlike and complex.
The present work, although titled Le combat des centaures (The Fight between Centaurs), features the battle between a faun and a centaur, and belongs to a series of drawings on this theme, executed between 21-26 August 1946. The series evolves from drawings which depict the faun and centaur facing one another, to the centaur approaching the faun from the right, spear in hand, followed by drawings like the present work which depict the centaur turned away from the faun, in an attempt to flee before the faun shoots his arrow. The next work in the series shows the wounded centaur, collapsed to the ground with the faun’s arrow through its chest, and the final two works depict the death of the centaur.
Michael FitzGerald has written about this series: “Through the remainder of 1946, Picasso elaborated the imagined and real confrontations between himself and Françoise, but, increasingly, their personal relationship became absorbed into larger themes. In August he made a series of drawings that show a pitched battle between a faun and a centaur and end with the faun standing in mourning over his foe. Yet Picasso immediately proposed an alternative: the series resumes with the centaur’s resurrection, now as a beautiful woman, whose dance is joined by the joyous faun [fig. 1]. The woman bears Françoise’s features, and Françoise’s birth sign of Sagittarius links her with the centaur as well” (“A Triangle of Ambitions: Art, Politics, and Family during the Postwar Years with Françoise Gilot,” Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 424).

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