A selection of works from Degas to Renoir, offered at entry-level prices from our Impressionist & Modern Art sales on 19 November
Looking at the scene depicted in Le monstre vert, it’s not difficult to imagine why Redon’s work is often considered a precursor to Surrealism. His style, though it borders abstraction, asserts its relationship to physical reality. The Japanese-inspired technique of this work, rendered in vivid watercolour, is typical of his work from the early 20th century, which blended surrealist and fantastical themes with traditional styles of painting.
Pechstein is known for the more than 900 prints he made using lithography and woodblocks between 1906 and 1923. During this period, he partook in pioneering art movements within the age of German Expressionism, working with other artists like Erich Heckel (1883-1970) in Die Brücke, and Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) in Arbeitsrat für Kunst.
Leaning more toward ‘crude’ drawings throughout his career, Pechstein eschewed pure abstraction in favour of communicating feeling and experience, as in the case of Lesende dame. Translated in English as ‘reading lady,’ it is neither fully abstract nor entirely realistic, a crystallisation of Pechstein’s lifelong aesthetic interest.
Degas’ work often focusses on scenes from dance and opera, with his Danseuses series from 1890-1900 serving as its most prominent examples. La chanteuse au gant, circa 1878, is an earlier work from when he was just beginning to explore the subject, but, like much of his oeuvre, it hints at narrative content while maintaining a characteristic subtlety like his Impressionist peers.
Degas did not consider himself an Impressionist. It was rare for him to paint en plein air, and his dedication to portraying café life and the arts put him in thematic opposition to other members of the movement, like Cezanne and Manet. This study, which captures the difficulty of portraying the singer’s mouth, was executed the same year as the final pastel version of the same subject, in the collection of the Fogg Museum at Harvard University. It is a rare look at the artist’s process and the meticulous detail he used in portraying his subjects’ most subtle characteristics.
The Danish-French Camille Pissarro began as a realist painter, depicting landscape scenes to be displayed in the Salon de Paris. As time went on, however, his connection with other artists like Cezanne began to feed a desire to create work outside of the academic traditions of painting. This would eventually result in his nickname, ‘The Father of Impressionism,’ as he worked with and served as a leading figure in the Impressionist group.
Executed at the end of the 19th century, Daphnis et Chloe was created after Pissaro's most revolutionary artistic years, when his experiments in Impressionism had given way to Post and Neo-Impressionist aesthetic ideas. Rendered in gouache and ink, this refined, subtle work is an example of his firm departure from realist painting. It depicts the second-century Ancient Greek work of the same name by the Roman writer, Longus, which by this time had been adapted to versions in both opera and theatre.
Morisot first exhibited her work in 1864, when two of her landscape paintings were accepted into the Salon de Paris. Like many artists in the latter part of the 19th century, she would eventually pivot to Impressionism, attracted by the brilliant colours and innovations in surface texture explored in the movement. Until 1873, she often exhibited in the Salon, but from 1874 onward, she joined the Impressionist exhibitions, in which she exhibited more often than both was exhibited there more often than both Monet and Renoir.
Many of Paul Gauguin’s most prized works come from after 1887, when he left France intending to live and work full time in Martinique and later in Tahiti. It was during this period that he drifted away from Impressionism into what is now called Synthetism, where he gave colour and form equal weight in his painting.
This resulted in the type of image portrayed at the top of the present work, Menu, Tête de Tahitienne. The menu, believed to be fictional, is rendered in a playful way, advertising gastronomic delicacies of the era.
In this 1929 work from Saint-Servan, a city in Brittany, one can see Signac’s lifelong interest in seafaring life. At 18, he saw an exhibition of Monet’s work and decided he wanted to pursue a career as a painter. He left his native city of Paris and boarded a ship to sail across the Mediterranean while subsequently painting a variety of coastal towns all around Southern Europe.
Saint-Servan is not part of this initial group, but rather from later in his life, when he revisited this theme in watercolour. At this point, he had, along with Seurat, already developed his characteristic pointillist style, applying it to landscape as well as figure painting.
Unlike his contemporaries Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille, Renoir showed little interest in painting still lifes at the beginning of his career. From the early 1880s onwards, however, the nature morte began to occupy an increasing position of importance in his oeuvre.
Though much of Renoir’s most notable work comes in the form of portraiture, his collection of still lifes are just as masterfully and delicately worked. Painted during his later years spent on the Mediterranean coast, Petite soupière demonstrates the artist’s technique as one of the finest painters of his era. His characteristic ethereal glow shines through, making even a small bowl appear full of life.
One of the great experimental painters of the 20th century, Jean Metzinger worked in Neo-Impressionism before eventually becoming a central figure in Cubism. As he further developed his personal style within the fledgling movement, he looked toward mathematics and hard sciences to develop works such as Paysage, maison toit rouge. Characterised by large, mosaic-like brushstrokes coming together to form a harmony of colour and form, it epitomises both his research and practice in unifying different formulas of composition.
Kees van Dongen was a leading figure in the school of Fauvist painting in the early part of the 20th century. Characterised by large, thick brushstrokes, the flowers in the present work are brought into the foreground literally, as they live on the surface of the canvas. Van Dongen would continue refining this bohemian aesthetic throughout the 20th century, even as he pivoted to more commercial art later in his career.