Auctions: From Gauguin, with love

A late Gauguin of two young Marquesan women, worth up to $20 million, leads a remarkable series of lots at Sotheby's London sales of Impressionist and Modern Art on February 7 and 8.

By MEIR RONNEN
January 19, 2006 08:15
3 minute read.
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Next month's London sales of impressionist, expressionist and modern art at Sotheby's and Christie's are replete with dramatic lots, many of them major museum-level paintings. A late Gauguin of two young Marquesan women, worth up to $20 million, leads a remarkable series of lots at Sotheby's London sales of Impressionist and Modern Art on February 7 and 8. Deux Femmes, 1902, by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), has an estimate of GBP11m. - GBP14m. The young ladies in this extraordinary composition are seated indoors, but a glimpse of the outdoors with a dog and a distant horse and rider offer depth via size. This richly mature Gauguin may well exceed its best estimate. The biggest group of works by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) ever to appear at auction are from the collection assembled by Thomas Olsen, the artist's patron. Munch studied in Oslo and Paris, where he was influenced by the Symbolists, Van Gogh, the Fauvists and Gauguin. Throughout the 1890s he spent time in Berlin developing his recurrent themes of illness, jealousy and madness, all of which feature in the Olsen Collection. Munch's bold Self-portrait in front of a bright green and yellow background, 1904, was undoubtedly influenced by the Fauvists and is estimated at GBP2m.-GBP3m. ($3.5m.-$5.25m.). Also from 1904 is the intense Summer Day, perhaps the most important Munch on offer since Sotheby's sold the brilliant Girls on a Bridge in New York in 1996 for the record price of $7.7m., but it is not in the same class. Summer Day draws on the celebrated Frieze of Life that Munch had exhibited at the Berlin Secession, and was commissioned by Max Linde for his children's nursery in L beck. Unsurprisingly, Linde thought it unsuitable for his children's room and it remained with the artist. It is estimated at GBP2.5m.-GBP3.5m. ($4.4m.-$6.1m.). Later works in the Olsen Collection include Self-Portrait recovering from Spanish Flu from 1918, which marks Munch's recovery from the epidemic that had killed more than two million people, including Egon Schiele and Klimt (GBP750,000-GBP1m.). Munch's The Wave, 1919, is an extraordinary abstraction of reality and may well exceed its estimate of GBP700,000-GBP900,000. Munch was one of 112 artists whose work fell into the Nazis' category of "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art). Over 16,000 works were confiscated from public collections in Germany, 82 by Munch. Desperate to save his pictures from destruction, Munch turned to his patron, shipping tycoon Thomas Olsen. After the works were brought back to Norway, the country was invaded in April 1940. Olsen rushed the paintings to safety at Sandbu, the family mountain farm, near the village of Vaagaa. In the meantime, Summer Day had caught the eye of Hermann Goering, who kept it for himself. The evening of sales will start at 7 p.m. with German and Austrian paintings, including a group of erotic color drawings made by Egon Schiele when he was barely 20. One has a top estimate of GBP1m. There are two lively landscapes by Erich Heckel on each side of a single canvas and several rich beds of flowers painted by Emil Nolde in exile from the Nazis he so admired. There is also a delightful and carefully composed flower piece by Max Beckmann. Then Miro's monumental L'Oiseau au plumage d ploy vole vers l'arbre argente has the symbolic birds, trees, sun and moon typical of his paintings of the 1950s (GBP4.5m.-GBP6.5m. - $8m.-$12m.). Another fine lot, Waterloo Bridge by Claude Monet (1840-1926), belongs to his series of views of London and the Thames (GBP2.5m.-GBP3.5m.). Maurice de Vlaminck's (1876-1958) Le Pont de Chatou, one of his favorite subjects, focuses on the shimmering effect of light on water, rendered in overlapping strokes of white and blue, juxtaposed with reflections of the buildings and boats in dabs of bright red and yellow pigment (GBP800,000-1.2m.). The striking Picasso Homme a la pipe is actually one of his musketeers, a key subject of his late oeuvre. A disguised portrait of Picasso himself, it has an estimate of GBP2.8m.-GBP3.8m. There is also the delightful Scene de plage Trouville, an early Boudin beach scene (GBP800,000-GBP1.2m.), among many other fine lots.

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