The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale saw masterworks from the 19th and 20th centuries offered in Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries, where an enthusiastic crowd engaged in competitive bidding on a number of works fresh to the market. The star lot, Claude Monet’s 1908 tour de force, Nymphéas, reaffirmed the continued strength of the market for works by this unrivaled master, selling for £23,731,624 in its auction debut.
Monet’s famous lily pond in his garden at Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major later works, and their significance in forging the path for subsequent artists is now fully recognized. Monet’s legacy of experimental exploration can be considered as a precursor to the abstraction that came to prominence during the post-war years.
Nymphéas formed part of La Nouvelle Peinture: A Distinguished Family Collection, which also included Monet’s Printemps à Giverny, effet du matin, which sold for £3.1 million, alongside an exquisite landscape by Camille Pissarro.
The delicate yet assured brushstrokes of Les meules et le clocher de l’église à Eragny demonstrate Pissarro’s desire to innovate in the medium of painting. Considered one of artist’s finest landscapes from his period in Eragny, the painting found a new owner for £1.4 million.
Modigliani’s Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux hammer down at £18.4 million
Amedeo Modigliani’s transfixing portrait Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux, painted during the artist’s time on the French Riviera, saw three bidders drive the price to £18.4 million,proving portraits by Modigliani still command robust results. In 2018, Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche) became the most valuable work ever sold at Sotheby’s, hammering down at $157.2 million in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York in May 2018.
An exceptional example of Surrealist master René Magritte’s oeuvre — incorporating a female nude and his famous cloud motif — La magie noireperformed strongly, selling above its high estimate for £4.1 million. It was accompanied in the sale by another of Magritte’s dream-like compositions, Le grand matin which soared to £3 million.
An exceptional Henri Matisse still life from the collection of artist Enrico Donati sold for £4.3 million; Vase d’anémones — a vibrant, lyrical still life from the period shortly before the artist ceased painting due to ill-health; the forms in this work a precursor to the graphic style used in the paper cut-outs for which he would become widely celebrated in his later years.
Other highlights of the evening include Pablo Picasso’s Homme à la pipe, conceived on a grand scale and painted with energy and invention, found a new owner for £7.6 million, and Marc Chagall’s ethereal La calèche volante sold for £2.3 million. Also bringing the saleroom to life was Joan Miró’s playful yet political Peinture (L’Air), which rose to £12 million.
An exquisite restituted Parisian scene not seen on the market in over 70 years, Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journée, also by Camille Pissarro, and from the collection of Alfred and Gertrud Sommerguth achieved £7.1 million, double its pre-sale estimate. The sale achieved a total of £98.9 million.