Art Auctions/CHRISTIES

Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale June 2016

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Personal Insights into the Life & Work of Titans of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s in June 2016
* A Day in the Life of Pablo Picasso: from Morning to Night *
* The Bauhaus & Beyond – The Great Friendship of Kandinsky & Klee *
* The Birthplace of Impressionism: Monet’s L’Ancienne rue de la Chaussée, Argenteuil *


London – A much anticipated highlight in the two weeks of 20th Century auctions this summer (20 June to 30 June), Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale will take place on Wednesday 22 June. The sale includes 36 lots, providing personal insights into the life and work of titans such as Monet, Modigliani, Picasso, Kandinsky and Klee. The sale is led by a portrait of Madame Hanka Zborowska, 1917, by Amedeo Modigliani (estimate: £5-7 million, illustrated above left), which appears at auction for the first time, and a plein-air masterpiece by Claude Monet, painted in Argenteuil during the lead up to the landmark first Impressionist exhibition (estimate: £4.5-6.5 million, illustrated above right). A remarkable private Swiss collection of seven works by Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, many dating from their time working together at the Bauhaus, provide an abstract conversation illustrating one of the most fruitful and lasting friendships in modern art and including the first work by Kandinsky acquired by Solomon R. Guggenheim (estimates from £200,000 to £3 million, including Mit und Gegen (estimate: £2-3 million, illustrated above centre). Two still lifes by Pablo Picasso from 29 December 1946 capture a single day in the life of the artist (each with an estimate of £2-3 million).
This sale opens a week of five Impressionist & Modern art sales at Christie’s King Street, South Kensington and online. With estimates starting from £500 up to £7 million, the auctions provide collectors at every price level with a wealth of opportunities to acquire captivating and important works by masters of the period.


Providing a remarkable glimpse into Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) everyday life in Paris, Nature morte and Nature morte aux volets verts were both painted on a single day: 29th December 1946 (each with an estimate of £2-3 million). Simplified to an interlocking arrangement of geometric lines, forms and flattened planes of colour, they demonstrate Picasso’s supreme mastery and handling of form. With a deft economy of means, he has conjured two contrasting, yet highly abstracted scenes of quotidian life. In many ways, 1946 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the artist’s career; a new wave of creativity burst forth as he experimented with new media and styles, and a heady sense of joie de vivre filled his art. The bunch of blossoming flowers – a motif almost completely absent in works from the war years – appears as a jubilant symbol of new life. They radiate from the darkness in Nature morte aux volets verts, like a beacon of light and hope against the dark night sky. In Nature morte, the group of abstracted, simplified objects are positioned in front of an open window, its vibrant green shutters thrown open, casting bright radiant light across one half of the scene, while the other appears to be plunged into dark shadow.



For over thirty years Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Paul Klee (1879-1940) enjoyed one of the most fruitful and lasting friendships in modern art, working, exhibiting and living alongside one another during some of the most ground-breaking years of their careers. Throughout their relationship, they engaged in a lively artistic dialogue, and traces of the influence they exerted on each other’s working practices remain visible to this day. The artists often exchanged works, not just as markers of their friendship but as part of their ongoing artistic conversation with one another, as they pursued similar motifs, themes, and experimental techniques. They both taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau in the 1920s where they fell into an easy routine, working and teaching alongside one another, regularly socialising together with their wives, and taking long walks in the valley of the Elbe River. Although separated when war broke out in Europe on both occasions, they would remain close until Klee’s death in 1940. This captivating friendship is reflected through seven exceptional works offered from a private Swiss collection, selectively acquired with an unerring eye for quality over a period spanning more than 20 years. These include Mit und Gegen, 1929, the first work by Kandinsky that was acquired by Solomon R. Guggenheim (estimate: £2-3 million, illustrated page one, centre), presented alongside Kandinsky’s Esquisse pour Autour du cercle, 1940 (estimate: £1.5-2.5 million, illustrated page two, right) and Verschleiertes Glühen, 1928 (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000) as well as Paul Klee’s Silbermondegeläute, 1922 (£500,000-700,000, illustrated page two, left).

Amedeo Modigliani's portrait of Hanka Zborowska

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Madame Hanka Zborowska

signed ‘Modigliani’ (upper right)

oil on canvas

21 5/8 x 15 1/8 in. (55 x 38.3 cm.)

Painted in 1917

Estimate: £5-7 million


Madame Hanka Zborowska, 1917, by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) depicts one of the artist’s favourite and most frequent sitters: the beautiful, dark-featured Hanka or Anna Zborowska, wife of the artist’s dealer and supporter Léopold Zborowski (estimate: £5-7 million). Offered at auction for the first time, having been in the same collection since 1937, this portrait perfectly exemplifies Modigliani’s mature style; a work of calligraphic elegance that captures the innate beauty and poise for which Hanka Zborowska was renowned. Modigliani translated the sitter’s likeness into his own highly distinctive and stylised pictorial idiom, having assimilated a wide range of sources, from African and Oceanic art, to works of the early Italian Renaissance and the contemporaneous avant-garde. He created a figural style that was both startlingly modern yet steeped in tradition. This sublime work has been on long term loan to the Birmingham City art Gallery since 1978.

uil, 1872


Claude Monet (1840-1926)

L’Ancienne rue de la Chaussée, Argenteuil

signed ‘Claude Monet’ (lower right)

oil on canvas

18 1/4 x 25 7/8 in. (46.3 x 65.7 cm.)

Painted in 1872

Estimate: £4.5-6.5 million



On the market for the first time since 1977, L’Ancienne rue de la Chaussée, Argenteuil, 1872, by Claude Monet (1840-1926) exemplifies his revolutionary plein-air technique and was painted in the lead up to the watershed first Impressionist Exhibition in the spring of 1874 (estimate: £4.5-6.5 million). Sensitive to the changing landscape as the powers of progress re-shaped France, Argenteuil was a paradise for Monet. The body of work that he produced there has since become a touchstone for the development of modern visual culture. He took pains in his rendering of the rue de la Chaussée to emphasise the lane’s rustic qualities, imbuing the scene with a sense of reassuring timelessness and tranquillity. Notably, the same view also inspired Alfred Sisley the very same year; Sisley’s canvas is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The present work’s first owner was François Fayette, headmaster of the École Préparatoire des Arts et Métiers in Argenteuil, who received the canvas from Monet in January 1877 in partial payment of a debt for his son Jean’s education, reflecting the artist’s changing financial struggles as his transformative stay at Argenteuil came to an end.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Blaue Artisten, 1914(1)




Blaue Artisten

signed ‘E L Kirchner’ (upper left)

pastel on paper

26æ x 20 in. (68 x 50.8 cm.)

Executed in 1914




Blaue Artisten is an outstanding pastel by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) from 1914, when he was at the absolute pinnacle of his creative power and fully engaged in depicting the unique drama and vitality of modern life in the big city (estimate: £700,000-1,000,000). This picture, which led to a major oil painting of the same subject in 1914, depicts four female trapeze artists standing like elongated goddesses in blue costumes against a vibrant yellow background of radiant light. Like all of Kirchner’s most sophisticated works from this period shortly before the First World War, it plays with bold forms, a distorted space and a complex game of looking. The dynamic and highly original compositional structure also derives from Kirchner’s renderings of figures on the Berlin street. His masterful command of the work’s sharp downward perspective, angular rhomboid grouping of the figures and the spontaneity and immediacy in the execution of the medium itself makes Blaue Artisten one of the finest and most accomplished pastels in all of Kirchner’s oeuvre.


Painted on 21 May 1967, Mousquetaire et fillette by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) presents a rare variation of one of the most prominent and successful themes of his late oeuvre: the musketeer (estimate: £2.8-4.8 million). In this exuberant, boldly coloured painting, Picasso has depicted the dashing figure of a musketeer seated next to a young girl, the handsome figure’s arm is protectively wrapped round her as they gaze frontally out of the picture plane. This pairing rarely features in Picasso’s work of this time and creates a striking visual contrast, the two figures serving as archetypes of age and youth, innocence and experience, masculinity and femininity. Painted at a time of recuperation in the artist’s life, these musketeers served as an emphatic symbol of life, masculinity and above all virility – because of this, they are often considered to be the alter ego of the artist himself. The figure also had a wealth of varied art-historical origins: from Hals and Rembrandt, to Meissonier, El Greco and Goya, demonstrating Picasso’s strong sense of lineage and continuity.

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Aksel Ritenis

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