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Shimmering Monet, unique Schiele, meditative Kandinsky, transparent Picabia: Impressionist and Modern Art sales in London

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Sotheby’s two-day sale series of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist Art achieved a combined total of $143.7 million, above the low estimate of $105 million. These sales on 26 and 27 February in London mark the start of the auction calendar year, for which many art lovers have high expectations.

Claude Monet

Le Palais Ducal (1908)
Sold for $36.2 million — Auction Record for a Venice View

Top lot became Monet's shimmering view of the spectacular Doge’s Palace. This artwork has been in the same family collection since it was acquired in 1926, and has never been at auction before. It was estimated to sell for £20 million to £30 million ($26.1 million to $39.1 million), making it a significant part of the house’s total sales.
Claude Monet. Le Palais Ducal
Le Palais Ducal
1908, 81×93 cm
Monet’s spectacular view of the Doge’s Palace on the Grand Canal belongs to the extraordinary series he created in Venice in the autumn of 1908. Painted from a moored boat, the scene depicts a close view of Palazzo Ducale, with its Byzantine fenestrations adorning the facade. Monet painted two other views from the same vantage point — one of which is now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum in New York. During this trip with his wife in 1908, Monet painted thirty-seven canvases on a variety of Venetian subject.

Half of Monet’s Venetian views are in museum collections, and though not quite as breathtaking as many of those, this one has been sold for the highest price for a Venetian painting yet.

Egon Schiele

Triestiner Fischerboot (1912)
Sold for $14,2 million

The second lot is an atypical for artist boat painting, offered at auction also for the first time. Having been in a private collection since 1962, Triestiner Fischerboot holds a unique position in Schiele's oeuvre, as the artist transforms a simple fishing boat into an avant-garde pictorial marvel. The square-format painting sailed to an above-estimate $14 million, with strong interest from Asia.
This unusual square canvas was painted just after the artist had done a stint in prison in Neulengbach, thanks to his bohemian lifestyle and use of childhood models ruffling feathers in a small country town. Hence, a shift to more uncontroversial subject matter—what could be more harmless than a fishing boat, albeit with a sensuous purple ripple or two around its hull.
Buyers from Japan also purchased works by Alberto Giacometti, among those "Annette" (portrait of the artist’s wife), going estimate for £3.2 million ($4.3 million), works by Chagall and Kandinsky. Also notable in the sale: a brushy, brightly colored picture by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner that was deaccessioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which made £3.84 million ($5.08 million), just edging out its high estimate of £3.8 million ($5.04 million) once premium was added. In keeping with industry practice, MoMA will use proceeds from the sale to fund new acquisitions.

Meanwhile, Camille Pissarro‘s romantic painting of a young girl in a flower garden was contested by a bidder from Japan before selling to someone in Taiwan for £1.7 million.
Alberto Giacometti. Tête de femme (Annette), 1959
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Mädchen auf dem Diwan (Girl on a divan, 1906)
Camille Pissarro. Jeanne Pissarro Dite Minette, Assise Au Jardin, Pontoise
Marc Chagall. Vase with roses
1929, 52.5×68 cm

Wassily Kandinsky

"Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse)"
Sold for $8,1 million

The third top lot was 1928 abstract oil painting by Wassily Kandinsky, acquired in November 2015 by the Nahmad family of art dealers for $6.4 million. Now back with a £5.5−7.5 million estimate ($7,2−9.8 million), was sold for £6.1 million ($8.1 million).
Wassily Kandinsky. Vertiefte Regung (Deepened Impulse), 1928. Courtesy of Sotheby’s
Painted while Kandinsky was teaching at the Bauhaus in Dessau, it is a meditation on the power of circles, which he considered to be crucial to his works. The painting of colourful spheres seemingly in orbit against a black, cosmic background once hung in the exotic living room of the Dessau Bauhaus quarters he shared with Klee, next to an entirely gilded wall.

One more exciting artist, who is arguably associated with the Bauhaus style, is Oscar Schlemmer. His rare and great work of that period "Tischgesellschaft" became a highlight in this section, being sold for a hammer price £2.6 million ($3.4 million), including the buyer’s premium.

He is credited with continuously reinventing the figurative tradition of western art and his striking painting Tischgesellschaft (Group at Table), depicts figures in perspectival space rendered in geometric shapes, and is considered to be extremely rare.

Left: Oskar Schlemmer’s Tischgesellschaft (Group at Table), which has an estimate of £1m-1.5m. Photograph: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The Surrealist art evening sale brought a total of £13.8 million ($18 million), despite five unsold lots. But, however, works by René Magritte and Francis Picabia sold at or above their high estimates.

René Magritte

L’Etoile du matin (1938)
Sold for £4.5m (£5.3m with fees)

Surrealist art evening sale was led by Magritte's a double portrait of the artists’s wife Georgette juxtaposed with a Native American, which made its first appearance at auction. It was bought in 1939 by a Belgian couple and had remained in the same collection ever since (for 80 years!).

Painted during one of Magritte’s most innovative periods, when he produced some of his most important works, including the record-breaking Le principe du Plaisir, L'Étoile du Matin sold for for a top-estimate £5.3 mln ($7 million) to a bidder on the phone with Benjamin Doller, Christie’s chairman of the Americas.
But the star of the night was Francis Picabia‘s Atrata (1929), a zany painting from the artist’s transparencies series which he made in the 1920s and '30s, so named because of the transparent layers in which he executed the paintings that predominantly feature attractive women with beseeching eyes.

The painting had been with the same family since it was bought in Paris in 1974 for 108,000 Francs (£10,800). Large-scale oil and pencil artwork at auction for the first time and attracted seven bidders, many from Asia, before selling for a double estimate £3.7 million ($4.9 million). It was also a record for a Picabia’s Transparencies series from the 1920s and 30s.

Francis Picabia. ATRATA
ATRATA
1929, 149.5×95 cm
Led by Théo van Rysselberghe's À l’ombre des pins (Agay) or Sous les pins (Agay) from 1905, Sotheby’s February 2019 Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, with a sale total $28.4 million, presented a number of important examples of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gustave Loiseau, Pierre Bonnard and Paul Elie Ranson among others.

Théo van Rysselberghe’s

À l’ombre des pins (1905)
Sold for $1.3 million

Effortlessly conveying the blissful light and colours of the Mediterranean seaside, this vibrant painting by Van Rysselberghe met with a flurry of bids to sell for over $1 million, doubling its pre-sale estimate and leading the Day Sale. The bucolic work showcases a harmonious combination of the landscape, which dominated the artist’s earlier work, with the female nude, a motif he passionately began to undertake around the turn of the century, inspired by the work of Botticelli.

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Based on materials from Artsy.net, theArtnewspaper, Artnews, Sotheby’s and Christies' official site.

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