On 20 June, a total of £128,081,750 was achieved in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale at Christie’s in London. The auction was 96 per cent sold by value and 84 per cent sold by lot, with bidding from 31 countries. The Evening Sale was a highlight of the 20th Century Week series, which also included sales of Modern British Art and a dedicated online Picasso Ceramics sale.
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The top lot of the evening, Claude Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure, realised £24,983,750. Offered from The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, the work is one of a series of 12 canvases depicting the Gare Saint-Lazare that Monet executed between January and March 1877.
In this series Monet depicted the station from a variety of positions, at different times of day and in different atmospheric conditions — marking the first occasion on which he committed himself to the pursuit of a single subject through a sequence of variations. While this became a defining aspect of Monet’s practice for the rest of his career, the subject of the station would be Monet’s last artistic confrontation with modernity: not long after, he abandoned scenes of contemporary life and turned to pure landscape painting.
The second-highest price of the night was made by Pablo Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil, which sold for £19,358,750. Executed in April 1942 and held in Picasso’s personal collection until his death in 1973, Femme dans un fauteuil is among the most highly-worked portraits of Dora Maar, the Surrealist artist who inspired some of Picasso’s greatest paintings.
Only rarely exhibited, the work hails from a period when Picasso had begun to deconstruct Dora’s image with new levels of intensity, introducing extreme distortions that echoed the internal turmoil that was consuming both Dora and Picasso during this time of global conflict.
‘The secret to the success of tonight’s sale was really about offering our clients works that they have not seen before’ — Keith Gill
A further sale highlight, Kazimir Malevich’s Landscape, sold for £7,883,750, making a world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. Offered at auction for the first time in two generations, the monumental work from 1911 belongs to a group of works known as ‘The Red Series’. Characterised by gestural brushstrokes and an expressive use of colour, the group anticipates the artist’s move towards Suprematism.
Key results were also seen for works by German and Austrian artists. Franz Marc’s gouache on card Drei Pferde sold for £15,421,250 — the third-highest price of the evening — making a world record for the artist at auction. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s oil on canvasBildnis des Dichters Frank achieved £1,088,750, while Egon Schiele’s Kniendes Mädchen, sich den Rock über den Kopf ziehend sold for £1,568,750, more than double its high estimate.
Early on the night, Eva Gonzalès’s Le moineau also made a world auction record for a work on paper by the artist, selling for £248,750.
‘The secret to the success of tonight’s sale was really about offering our clients works that they have not seen before, or at least not for a very long time. Of the 44 lots tonight, 76 per cent have not been sold at auction in the past 20 years,’ said Keith Gill, Head of the Evening Sale.
The 20th Century Week auctions continued on 21 June with the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale and Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper sale, which made a combined total of £21,997,250. The top lot of the Day Sale was Pierre Bonnard’s Coin de jardin fleuri, which achieved £968,750. The Works on Paper sale was led by Edgar Degas’s Autoportrait, which sold for £3,128,750 — nine times its £350,000 estimate. This brought the running total for the week to £182,768,125, with the Picasso Ceramics online sale concluding on 22 June.
Earlier in the week, Christie’s realised its highest-ever total in the Modern British Art category, with a combined £32,689,125 achieved in the Modern British Art Evening and Day sales. Leading the Modern British Art Evening Sale was Henry Moore’s unique carving, Head, which achieved £4,621,250. The top lot of the Day Sale was Barbara Hepworth’s Turning form (Atlantic), which realised £260,750.
The London sales capped an exceptional season of Impressionist & Modern Art auctions at Christie’s. In two weeks in May, a total of $1.1 billion was achieved for the category in New York, across The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller and in dedicated sales.