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LONDON.– Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 3rd February 2015 is characterised by its breadth of range within this collecting category, combined with an outstanding level of quality across the board. Encompassing works of the highest order by the most sought-after artists including Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Rodin, and Wassily Kandinsky, to name but a few, the 53 lots in the Evening Sale are estimated to fetch a combined total in excess of £124,200,000 / $199,676,340 million / €145,226,550 million.

In November 2014, Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York totalled a record $422.1million, marking the fourth consecutive year as the leading auction house in this field. This February, the group of works presented for sale comprises a selection of paintings and sculpture that will appeal to the most discerning of collectors, offering access to pieces from prestigious private collections and works with exceptional provenance that have been internationally admired and exhibited at the most celebrated museums and galleries.

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide says: “We are extremely excited to be launching the first auction season of 2015 with an Evening Sale that presents a combination of outstanding and museum-quality works by the leading names in the field – including five major works by Claude Monet – and exquisite paintings by sought-after artists whose works appear only rarely on the market – such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Gino Severini.”

In 2014 we saw growth of more than 20 per cent in sales of Impressionist & Modern Art at Sotheby’s, marking our fourth consecutive year as global leader in this field. This reflects the strength of the market and the wealth of extraordinary Impressionist & Modern works that we have sourced, and we are honoured to have been entrusted with such outstanding works as those featured in our forthcoming sale.”

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Les Peupliers à Giverny, signed Claude Monet (lower left), oil on canvas, 74 by 92.7cm. 29 1/8 by 36 1/2 in. Painted in 1887. Est. £9 – 12 million / $13.8 – 18.4 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

The cover lot of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is Claude Monet’s exquisite painting Les Peupliers à Giverny of 1887 which comes to sale from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and will be sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund. The painting marks a highpoint in Monet’s mastery of the evanescent impressions of light and colour that had been his preoccupation over the previous two decades. It represents a pivotal moment in the artist’s career, because Les Peupliers à Giverny also looks forward to his great series paintings of the 1890s, one of the most important of which featured these same poplar trees.

Les Peupliers à Giverny has a long and distinguished provenance, having adorned not one but two of the greatest museum collections in America – both The Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. In its early years in France Les Peupliers à Giverny was acquired by the writer and politician Denys Cochin from Boussod, Valloton et Cie. in 1892. Durand-Ruel acquired it from Cochin’s collection, and exhibited it extensively throughout Europe and in the United States following which it was purchased by Martin A. Ryerson, the Chicago-based industrialist and philanthropist. Upon his death in 1932 the painting joined the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago at Ryerson’s bequest. It remained there for sixteen years when it was acquired by William B. Jaffe and his widow Evelyn (née Annenberg), who in 1951 donated the work to The Museum of Modern Art, where the painting has remained until today.

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Le Grand Canal, signed Claude Monet and dated 1908 (lower right), oil on canvas, 73 by 92cm. 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 in. Painted in 1908. Est. £20 – 30 million/ $30.6 – 45.9 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

A highlight of the Evening sale is an exceptionally rare and important view of Venice by Claude Monet, Le Grand Canal of 1908, estimated at £20 – 30 million. Reflecting the outstanding quality and beauty of the work, Le Grand Canal was displayed for the last eight years at The National Gallery, London. Painted during a three-month trip to Venice in 1908, such works depicting Venice are highly sought after by collectors as they represent the peak of Monet’s career.

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), L’Embarcadère, signed Claude Monet (lower right), oil on canvas, 54 by 73.5cm. 21 1/4 by 29in. Painted in 1871. Est. £7.5 – 10 million / $11.5 – 15.3 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

L’Embarcadère was painted by Monet in Zaandam in Holland, where the artist lived with his family for four months over the summer of 1871. He produced a series of 25 pictures that explored several areas surrounding Zaandam, focussing his attention upon the architectural motifs of the Dutch landscape, canals, mills, and boats. Within a strong compositional framework and in a boldly inventive style, Monet’s use of colour and the areas of lively brushwork represent his attempts to evoke the atmosphere of the scene, and he includes subtle, but evocative, signifiers of the weather in the full sails of the river-boats, glistening yellow painted houses and the cool relief of the shaded river-bank.

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Antibes vue de la Salis, signed Claude Monet and dated 88 (lower right), oil on canvas, 65.5 by 91cm. 25 3/4 by 35 7/8 in. Painted in 1888. Est. £5 – 7 million / $7.7 – 10.7 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Monet’s dazzling view of the south coast of France, Antibes vue de la Salis, is one of his most accomplished and brightly hued compositions of the 1880s. He was transfixed by the brilliance of the light he found in Antibes and completed four paintings of this view shown at different times of the day, placing a particular emphasis on the tonal contrast between the olive trees in the foreground and this distant shoreline. This painting represents dawn, and is perhaps the most successful juxtaposition of light and shade in the group. The canvases resulting from his trip to Antibes in 1888 are testament to Monet’s masterful reconciliation of his earlier Impressionist manner with the Mediterranean conditions of the South. Antibes vue de la Salis is one of a remarkable series of works unique within Monet’s oeuvre, and the paintings received an enthusiastic reception when they were first exhibited shortly after the artist’s return to Paris.

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Vase de pivoines, signed Claude Monet (lower right), oil on canvas, 100 by 81cm. 39 3/8 by 31 7/8 in. Painted in late spring 1882. Est. £1.2 – 1.8 million / $1.8 – 2.8 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Monet’s approach to still life was as innovative as his painting of landscapes and he returned to painting still-lifes periodically throughout his career, executing an array of traditional subjects, the most compelling of which are his vibrant pictures of flowers, of which Vase de pivoines is an outstanding example.

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Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), Odalisque au fauteuil noir, signed Henri Matisse and dated 1/42 (lower left), oil on canvas, 38 by 46cm. 15 by 18 1/8 in. Painted in January 1942. Est. £9 – 12 million / $13.8 – 18.4 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Offered from a distinguished American collection, together with a further eight works that include outstanding examples by Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, is an exquisite portrait depicting Princess Nézy-Hamidé Chawkat, the great granddaughter of the last Sultan of Turkey. Odalisque au fauteuil noir is one of Henri Matisse’s finest paintings from his famed ‘Odalisque’ series, with which he created one of the most recognisable emblems of eroticism in Modern art. Princess Nézy had moved to Nice to live with her grandmother after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic and was spotted in the street by Matisse in 1940, who was drawn to her striking dark looks. A dazzling composition of pattern and colour, Odalisque au fauteuil noir reflects Matisse’s interest in Orientalism, which he had first explored in the 1920s and drew on his attraction to the vibrant colours, fabric and patterns that were so evocative of the Orient.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901), Au lit: le baiser, signed H. T. Lautrec (lower right), peinture à l’essence on board, 39 by 58cm. 15 1/4 by 22 3/4 in. Painted in 1892. Est. £9 – 12 million / $13.8 – 18.4 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Celebrated as the principal artist to have recorded fin de siècle bohemian Paris, ToulouseLautrec’s images of the maisons closes are considered to be his greatest accomplishments. Au lit: le baiser is an especially beautiful and vibrant example of these important works and paintings of museum quality such as this seldom appear on the market. Painted in 1892, Au lit: le baiser dates to an extremely sought-after period of the artist’s career which is considered to be a central date to Toulouse-Lautrec’s greatest works. The work is one of a series of four compositions in which Lautrec depicts a moment of tender intimacy, one of which is held in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. For the present work Lautrec chose a viewpoint almost unique in his oeuvre, and certainly unique among the other works of this group. The two young women are pictured in a loving embrace, with their bodies foreshortened so that all that is visible of them are their intertwined arms and their two closely interlocked faces. The result is a painting of extraordinary intimacy, and among Lautrec’s most psychologically insightful works.

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Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), Quatre Danseuses, signed Degas (lower left), pastel on paper, 84 by 73cm. 33 by 28 3/4 in. Executed circa 1903. Est. £3 – 5 million / $4.6 – 7.7 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Executed shortly after the turn of the century, Edgar Degas’ highly expressive Quatre Danseuses depicts one of the artist’s favourite subjects – ballet dancers preparing for a performance. Throughout his career, Degas’ treatment of this subject underwent a radical metamorphosis, and in his later years he developed a highly expressive use of materials. In Quatre Danseuses the artist’s vibrant markings, applied in coat after coat of coloured chalk, achieve an effect that appears to be painted. By the end of his career Degas had become a modern artist whose expressive techniques influenced many more of the greatest colourists that followed.

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Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Moskau II (Moscow II), oil on canvas, 52.8 by 38cm. 20 3/4 by 15in. Painted in 1916. Est. £6 – 8 million / $9.2 – 12.2 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Moskau II, painted in 1916, is one of the finest canvases from Kandinsky’s Russian period in private hands. The tumultuous events that led Kandinsky back to his birthplace precipitated a revival of the artist’s deep-seated love of the city of his birth, Moscow. This kaleidoscopic composition, with its dazzling energy and rich colouration, depicts the city as a place of dynamic beauty, as spiritually enriching as the mountains of Murnau which had informed his development of abstraction in the first years of the twentieth century. In the painting Kandinsky has created a celebration of his vibrant home city which does not derive its character from specific references to the place that inspired it, but rather is a symphonic arrangement of its essential character.

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Gino Severini (1883 – 1966), Ritmo Astratto di Madame M.S., signed G. Severini (lower right); signed Gino Severini twice, inscribed « Portrait » de Madame S., 1912, Réplique faite par moi avec variente on the reverse, oil on canvas, 92 by 65.5cm. 36 1/4 by 25 3/4 in. Painted in 1915. Est. £5 – 7 million / $7.7 – 10.7 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Appearing at auction for the first time, having been acquired directly from the artist in 1961 and remained in the same family collection ever since, Ritmo astratto di Madame M.S. of 1915 is an exceptional and highly important Futurist portrait by Gino Severini. The artist first painted Madame M.S. in 1912 and produced a number of studies in pastel between the first version executed in oil and this work. The variations represent the finest and most complete exploration of portraiture within the artist’s œuvre. Although the Futurists executed only a few portraits, both Severini and Boccioni considered them to be an important part of their work. Portraiture enabled the artists to further explore the deconstruction of form and animation which formed the basis for their work; as Severini explained: ‘One should consider that the research into movement and the dynamic perception of the world does not at all demand paintings exclusively of racing automobiles or dancers moving in space, for a seated person, or any object, apparently static, can be considered dynamic and suggest dynamic forms. I give for an example the Portrait of Madame M-S’. Severini was evidently attached to this painting, for it remained in his possession until his death and he produced several versions of it. The painting was exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, while on loan from 1984-1993.

Sculpture

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Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973), Tête, iron and steel, height: 105cm. 41 1/4 in. Executed in Mougins in 1962-64. Est. £5 – 7 million / $7.7 – 10.7 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center) is one of two iron and sheet-metal maquettes that Picasso developed between 1962 and 1964. One of these was sent to the United States as the model for the large-scale sculpture planned for the Chicago Civic Center (later renamed the Richard J. Daley Center) which, standing at twenty metres high and completely dominating the surrounding environment, represented Picasso’s paramount achievement in monumental sculpture. The design of Tête is a continuation of Picasso’s explorations of the female physique that began with his earliest cubist experiments. This experimentation was particularly pronounced in his sheet metal sculptures of the 1950s and early 1960s, where the medium allowed him to focus on building the face out of separate planes and opening up the body to reveal the space within. One of the two original maquettes was presented by the artist as a gift to the Arts Institute of Chicago, and Picasso chose to keep the present work in his own collection where it remained until his death in 1973, after which it passed to his granddaughter Marina Picasso. The work comes to auction from the estate of Jan Krugier.

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Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973), La chouette, signed Picasso; signed Picasso and dated 5.1.53. on the underside, hand-painted terracotta, height: 34.5cm. 13 1/2 in. Conceived on 25th December 1950, and cast in a small edition of hand-painted terracottas in 1953. An edition of six bronzes was also cast from the same model in 1950. Est. £350,000 – 450,000 / $540,000 – 690,000. Photo Sotheby’s.

The owl interested Picasso greatly, and alongside the horse and the bull, it was a subject he returned to frequently. Owls appeared in a number of paintings and at least two lithographs, as well as a number of ceramics. However, it was this terracotta model that was subject to the greatest attention. The maquette for La chouette was created in plaster on Christmas Day 1949. A couple of years later Picasso returned to the model and created a small edition of terracotta casts. Picasso treated these casts individually, painting them in a variety of ways, some with the dazzling monochromatic pattern found on this particular work, others using colour and anthropomorphic features. A few examples of this model remained with the artist until his death and feature in numerous photographs of the artist’s studios. Two of the painted terracotta casts from Picasso’s own collection are now in the Musée National Picasso in Paris and another is in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. This cast was inherited by his granddaughter, Marina Picasso, and was exhibited alongside the rest of her celebrated collection at a series of shows held in the early 1980s. The work comes to the market from the estate of celebrated gallerist Jan Krugier.

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Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), Le Penseur, Taille de la Porte, dit Moyen Modèle, inscribed A. Rodin; inscribed with the foundry mark Alexis Rudier fondeur Paris and with the raised signature A. Rodin, bronze, height: 71.5cm. 28 1/8 in. Conceived in 1880, and cast in bronze between 1919 and 1925. Est. £3 – 4 million / $4.6 – 6.1 million. Photo Sotheby’s.

Rodin’s Le Penseur has become one of the most recognisable sculptures in the history of art, a true masterpiece that continues to transfix contemporary society. The Alexis Rudier foundry, known for having created some of the most desirable casts of Rodin’s oeuvre, executed approximately 30 casts of Le Penseur in this scale beginning in 1902. Other casts from this edition hold positions in prominent museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University; the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia; The Montreal Museum of Art and the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. The first owner of this particular cast was likely to have been The Prince Takamatsu (Takamatsu-no-miya Nobuhito Shinnō), the younger brother of Emperor Shōwa – better known as Hirohito. A further work by Auguste Rodin to feature in the sale, Éternel printemps, one of Rodin’s most celebrated sculptures of the 1880s (pictured right, Conceived in 1884 and cast in bronze during the artist’s lifetime, probably between 1887 and 1894) and is estimated at £1.8 – 2.5 million / $2.8 – 3.8 million.

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