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Christie's record-breaking Impressionist & Modern Art sale in New York in November was an impossibly hard act to follow. Its London Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on February 6 is much more modest. But like the parallel sale at Sotheby's London, it incorporates a section dedicated to The Art of the Surreal and features fine works from the seminal masters of Impressionism, Modern, Surrealist, German and Austrian art.
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The evening sale at Sotheby's London on February 5 features an even more dazzling collection of German and Austrian art. A Jawlensky 1910 oil of Murnau (a little Bavarian town made famous by Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Muntner) is amazingly modern in its use of color (GBP250,000-GBP350,000). So is his slightly earlier head of Resi (GBP800,000-GBP1.2m.). Jawlensky's Still Life of 1913 is another colorist delight (may reach GBP700,000). Emil Nolde's vibrant Waves of 1930 outdoes Courbet and may also top GBP1m.
Not far from Murnau is the Upper Bavarian town of Weilheim, where Kandinsky painted the facades of the Marienplatz in 1909, the coloring typical of his Murnau period (GBP1.5m.-GBP2m.).
One of several nudes by Egon Schiele, a kneeling blonde, is a tour de force (GBP2.2m.-GBP3.2m., lot 16). And a dramatic expressionist self-portrait by Ludwig Meidner is one of his very best oils (GBP500,000-GBP800,000).
The cover lot of Sotheby's evening sale is a superb gestural portrait, Man with a Red Kerchief, 1921, an incredibly lively masterwork by Chaim Soutine (GBP3.5m.-GBP5m.). There are two wonderful landscapes by Edvard Munch; I liked best the one from 1916, lot 67 (GBP600,000-GBP800,000).
Renoir, Caillebotte, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Sisley, Picasso, Van Dongen and Chagall are all well represented in this sale.
LEADING THE German & Austrian section at Christie's is Egon Schiele's (1890-1918) Prozession, 1911 (GBP5m.-GBP7m.), one of a series of quasi-religious paintings that Schiele produced during a fit of mystical revelation between 1910 and early 1912. Common to all of these is the oppressive atmosphere of death and decay. Who could live with them?
Schiele's early self-portrait, the Klimt-like Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern (GBP4m.-GBP6m.), was painted in 1909, the year of his breakthrough to artistic maturity. Schiele's colorful 1911 study of his youngest sister sleeping in Die Tr umende (Gerti Schiele), 1911 (GBP1.2m.-GBP1.8m.), is a bold design. His Bildnis einer Frau mit schwarzem Haar, 1914, is sexy but a bit cheap (GBP750,000-GBP950,000).
There are less than great portraits by Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941): Blasse Bl ten, 1911 (GBP1.2m.-GBP1.6m.), shows a woman, her eyes almost closed and her head bowed; and Kopf einer Italienerin mit schwarzem Haar von vorne, circa 1910 (GBP1m.-GBP1.5m.), is an overdramatized if striking colorist depiction.
Leading three works by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Diagonale, the sole abstraction in the sale, was painted in May 1930 (GBP850,000-GBP1.2m.) at the height of his involvement with the Bauhaus.
Fr ulein Mulino von Kluck was the very first of Christian Schad's portraits of the 1930s (GBP450,000-GBP600,000). She was an aspiring film star and the 18-year-old daughter of a Prussian general. Schad's Frau aus Pozzuoli (GBP500,000-GBP700,000) depicts an unknown woman from Naples. Also offered is Emil Nolde's Junges Paar, 1918 (GBP700,000-GBP1.m.)
Leading the Impressionist & Modern Art section of the Christie's sale is the beautiful pastel by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), L' pine, circa 1883-1885 which captures a nude examining her toe; a classical pose, it was drawn over a monotype and should top GBP1m. Another hit is Modigliani's portrait of a young girl from 1918, which should reach GBP4m. A fine Leger originally purchased by Kahnweiler may go for a bit less.
There are two oils of Notre Dame painted from the same window by Albert Marquet in 1908. The bigger one is in Christie's evening sale, but I love the mysterious smaller one offered in the day sale, which renders the cathedral as a dark near-silhouette. It has a lower estimate too: GBP120,000-GBP180,000.
Pissarro, Fantin-Latour, Severini, Morisot, Gauguin, Cezanne, Boudin and Picasso are all well represented in this Christie's sale. Christie's hopes to sell in the region of GBP75m.
CHRISTIE'S SALE in London on February 8 of works on paper features a superb collection of 73 very early Chagall drawings from the estate of the artist's only son, David McNeil, possibly left him by his mother, Virgina Haggard McNeil, who bolted Chagall after less than a decade of living with a celebrity (the couple visited Israel together half a century ago). All of the paintings are lively and often fascinating.
CHRISTIE'S POST-WAR and Contemporary Evening Sale in London on February 8 has an outstanding selection of 87 works spanning all the established canons of post-war art. The sale is led by the most significant painting by Francis Bacon ever to appear at auction, and an outstanding selection of works by Warhol - none of them to my taste. There are two very fine abstractions by the late Serge Poliakoff (up to GBP300,000). The offers include works from The Tettamanti Collection from Italy with lots by Twombly, Lichtenstein, Polke and Richter. The sale is estimated to fetch in excess of GBP40m.