Monday, June 19, 2017

Picasso: Encounters

Clark Art Institute 
June 4–August 27, 2017

Picasso: Encounters, on view at the Clark Art Institute June 4–August 27, investigates how Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) creative collaborations fueled and strengthened his art, challenging the notion of Picasso as an artist alone with his craft. The exhibition addresses his full stylistic range, the narrative themes that drove his creative process, the often-neglected issue of the collaboration inherent in print production, and the muses that inspired him, including Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque.

Organized by the Clark with the exceptional support of the Musée national Picasso–Paris, Picasso: Encounters is comprised of thirty-five large-scale prints from private and public collections and three paintings including his seminal

Self-Portrait (end of 1901)

and the renowned Portrait of Dora Maar (1937),

both on loan from the Musée national Picasso–Paris.

The exhibition begins with a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904). Self-Portrait embodies the despair, isolation, and poverty that marked images created during this period. Following this, visitors encounter

The Frugal Repast (1904) which was the artist’s first foray into large-scale printmaking, and was created at the end of the Blue Period. Picasso was living with his lover Fernande Olivier in Montmartre, a bohemian section of Paris, creating art that depicted individuals at the margins of society, such as the poor. The impression shown in this exhibition ––one of only two works by Picasso in the Clark’s permanent collection ––was printed by Eugène Delâtre (1864–1938), an artist and printer known to add his own creative touches to other artists’ prints. Delâtre’s hand is evident in this printing in the inky areas of tone on the plate, which gave texture and depth absent in later printings. Picasso did not utilize Delâtre when the publisher Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939) re-issued the print, perhaps indicating his displeasure with the printer’s interpretation.
While still living in Montmartre, Picasso worked with the French artist Georges Braque to co-invent Cubism. Picasso created a handful of Cubist prints, the most important being

Still-Life with Bottle of Marc (1912). The composition includes fragments of a bottle, as well as drinking glasses and cards. The playing cards at the bottom half of the print, including the ace of hearts, have been said to signify Picasso’s new lover, Eva Gouel. The print was commissioned by the German dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, probably as a way to market Picasso to a wider audience through the dissemination of prints.
Following World War I, Picasso became involved in theater design. It was through this interest that he met his first wife, the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, who performed in the corps of the Ballets Russes. The couple moved to a fashionable neighborhood in Paris where they began to entertain and mingle with the elite, a changed atmosphere from Picasso’s earlier bohemian circles. The artist’s upward mobility, both in the art market and in the sophisticated lifestyle he shared with Khokhlova, began to appear in his art. The drypoint

Portrait of Olga in a Fur Collar (1923) depicts Olga dressed in the height of fashion, serenely turning her head to the side.
Marie-Thérèse Walter and The Minotaur
In 1927, Picasso met one of the most iconic muses of his artistic career, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Walter would become both an erotic and visual preoccupation for Picasso during an immensely productive time in his life. Her youth and classical beauty are evident in

Visage (Face of Marie-Thérèse) (1928), which was created for a monograph on the artist by the Parisian collector and critic André Level.
The numerous manifestations of Walter in other Picasso prints of the 1930s are less portrait-like than Visage; she frequently appears as a thematic inspiration. During this time, Picasso’s imagery focused on classical mythology and bullfighting.

Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite at the British Museum

In The Vollard Suite, printed by Picasso’s frequent collaborator Roger Lacourière (1892–1966), male minotaurs, fauns, and bulls enact creative or sexual fantasies with the objects of their desire—female mythical creatures or humans.

In Minotauromachia (1935), the minotaur charges at a horse carrying a likeness of Marie-Thérèse Walter. Above the scene, two female spectators who resemble Walter peer out from the arched window of a tower with a dove perched on the sill. A young girl below them holds a candle. Her innocence, demonstrated by the purity of light, blinds the minotaur and halts him in his quest.
Dora Maar and The Weeping Woman
After Walter gave birth to their daughter Maya, and while Picasso was still married to but separated from Khokhlova, he began a relationship with the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar. Picasso’s new muse began to appear frequently in his work, including the iconic painting  

Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), on loan to the exhibition from the Musée national Picasso–Paris. The physiological elements in the painting, including sharp fingernails and coiffed black hair, also appear in one of Picasso’s most powerful graphic statements, the large-scale print

The Weeping Woman, I (1937).
Picasso undertook a series of drawings, paintings, and prints depicting the subject of the “weeping woman.” In the large-scale print, which was printed by Lacourière, as in the two smaller manifestations of the subject— 

The Weeping Woman, III (1937)

and The Weeping Woman, IV (1937), printed by Jacques Frélaut (1913–1997)—the figure is distorted in a silent shriek of pain. The woman, who resembles Dora Maar, raises a scissor-like hand to wipe away the spiked tears that incise the overlapping planes of her contorted face.
Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque
In the 1940s Picasso became involved in politics, creating works including

The Dove (1949)

for anti-war causes such as the First International Peace Conference.

By this time, his relationship with Maar had deteriorated and another muse, Françoise Gilot, had taken her place. The pair had two children, Claude and Paloma. In

Paloma and Her Doll on Black Background (1952) Picasso exercised a stylistic restraint reserved for his offspring whom, according to Gilot, he spent hours drawing and painting.
Two of Picasso’s last printed depictions of Gilot— 

Woman at the Window (1952)

and The Egyptian Woman (1953)

—were large-scale tours de force, prints made with Lacourière using a newly invented process known as sugar-lift aquatint. The immediacy of the process, which allowed tonal areas to be directly painted on a plate, appealed to the impatient Picasso.
The final muse in Picasso’s life was his second wife and companion of twenty years, Jacqueline Roque. He met Roque in the summer of 1952 while she was working at the Madoura pottery works, during the same time that his relationship with Gilot was falling apart.

Roque was a constant presence in his life and in his artistic production. Her dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, and aquiline nose are seen in the grisaille painting

Jacqueline Knitting (1954), which reveals her Mediterranean beauty. Jacqueline is depicted knitting, with her hands, body, hair, knitting needles, and yarn broken into crystalline forms. Her large hooded eye, high cheekbone, and nose are rendered in a more naturalistic manner.
Engaging with Old Masters
In the 1950s and 1960s Picasso frequently looked to the work of artists who preceded him. His interpretations of Lucas Cranach, Rembrandt van Rijn, Eugène Delacroix, and others number in the thousands. These creative copies, or as Picasso called them, his “dialogues,” were made in many media: paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. Picasso: Encounters includes several examples of linoleum cuts created in collaboration with printer Hidalgo Arnéra (1922–2007).
Picasso found the process of using different linoleum blocks for each color cumbersome, so he collaborated with Arnéra to adopt a process known as the reduction linocut. In this process Picasso successively cut more and more away from one or two linoleum blocks. Arnéra printed proofs of each color for Picasso to approve, and the printer then created the final image. This reduction method required an extraordinary feat of visualization. Picasso had to picture the final image with precision, as each step was definitive and could not be changed or reworked later.
Picasso: Encounters includes a series of four unpublished linocut trial proofs modeled after Édouard Manet’s 1863 painting, Luncheon on the Grass, offering a unique perspective on the artist’s and printer’s process. The four proofs on view were eventually combined to create the final linocut, which is also shown in the exhibition.
Picasso: Encounters is organized by the Clark Art Institute, with the exceptional support of the Musée national Picasso–Paris.

A 136-page, fully illustrated catalogue containing essays by exhibition curator Jay A. Clarke and Picasso expert Marilyn is distributed by the Clark and Yale University Press. This book features thirty-five of Picasso’s most important prints that showcase the artistic exchange vital to his process. It includes his first major etching from 1904, portraits of his lovers and family members, and prints that transform motifs by Rembrandt, Manet, and other earlier artists, such as an interpretation of Rembrandt’s Ecce Homo from 1970. Picasso | Encounters considers the artist’s major statements in printmaking throughout his career.

Christie’s, Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June: Max Beckmann, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele and Vincent van Gogh.

The Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June, part of 20th Century at Christie’s, a series of sales that take place from 17 to 30 June 2017,  will be led by a group of masterpiece paintings by Max Beckmann, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele and Vincent van Gogh. 

Claude Monet’s Saule pleureur (1918-19, estimate: £15,000,000-25,000,000) is arguably one of the best of a series of ten works depicting the weeping willows surrounding Monet’s famous lily pond at Giverny, five of which reside in museum collections. Stripped of water and sky and painted with a heavily impastoed surface, the abstraction of Monet’s late works was a powerful influence on a generation of American abstract expressionist artists. 

Painted between 1918 and 1919, Saule pleureur is one of a series of ten monumental and powerfully emotive paintings, each of which depict one of the majestic weeping willow trees that lined Monet’s famed waterlily pond at his home in Giverny. Following the death of the artist’s eldest son, in 1914, Monet had been working with a fearsome resolve on what came to be known as his Grandes décorations. Born from an earlier idea to create an immersive decorative scheme based on his waterlily paintings, this ambitious, all-consuming and ground-breaking project consisted of paintings on a scale never before seen in the artist’s career. The formidable verticality of the weeping willow series has come to represent the artist’s resolve and patriotic fervour at the conclusion of the First World War.

A visionary approach is also seen in the allegory of Max Beckmann’s political masterpiece Birds’ Hell (Hölle der Vögel) (1937-1938, estimate on request), a searing indictment of the Nazi Party and a personal outpouring of anguish akin to 

Picasso’s Guernica (1937).

Birds’ Hell (Hölle der Vögel) is ‘an allegory of Nazi Germany. It is a direct attack on the cruelty and conformity that the National Socialist seizure of power brought to Beckmann’s homeland. Its place in Beckmann’s oeuvre corresponds to that occupied by Guernica in Picasso’s artistic development. It is an outcry as loud and as strident as an artistic Weltanschauung would permit. Not since his graphic attacks in 


and City Night 

in the early twenties had Beckmann resorted to such directness, such undisguised social criticism. Birds’ Hell is Beckmann’s J’accuse’ (S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, New York, 1977, p. 130). 

Max Beckmann’s Bird’s Hell (1938, estimate on request) will lead 20th Century at Christie’s, a series of sales that take place from 17 to 30 June 2017, in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June 2017, when it will be offered at auction for the first time. One of the most powerful paintings that Beckmann created while in exile in Amsterdam it presents a searing and unforgettable vision of hell and is poised to set a world record price for the artist at auction. Begun in Amsterdam and completed in Paris at the end of 1938, this work ranks amongst the clearest and most important anti-Nazi statements that the artist ever made, mirroring the escalating violence, oppression and terror of the National Socialist regime. 

Painted with vigorous, almost gestural brushstrokes and bold, garish colours, Bird’s Hell envelops the viewer in a sinister underworld in which monstrous bird-like creatures are engaged in an evil ritual of torture. Presiding over the scene is a multi-breasted bird who emerges from a pink egg in the centre of the composition. To her right, a crouching black and yellow bird looms over golden coins spread before him, while behind the central figure, a group of naked women stand huddled together. Heightening the sense of hysteria is the group of figures standing within a glowing, blood red doorway to the left of the composition. Guarded by another knife-wielding bird, they return the bird-woman’s gesture, their right arms raised in unison in the same furious salute. At the front of the scene, a naked man – the symbol of innocence within this reign of terror – is shackled to a table, held down by another bird that is slashing his back in careful, horizontal lines.

Continuing the Germanic tradition of the depiction of hell, this painting echoes the gruesome allegorical scenes of Hieronymus Bosch’s famed The Garden of Earthly Delights, while at the same time, takes aspects of Classicism and mythology to turn reality into a timeless evocation of human suffering. In this way, Bird’s Hell, like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica or

Max Ernst’s Fireside Angel of the same period, transcends the time and the political situation in which it was made to become a universal and singular symbol of humanity.

Egon Schiele’s Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) (1915, estimate: £20,000,000-30,000,000) is a cityscape used to convey human emotion, expressing the duality of life and decay, nature and humanity. 

Schiele created landscapes filled with melancholy, charging the natural world with a deeper spiritual meaning. The autumnal setting of Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) can be seen as a metaphor for mortality; the crumbling facades of the townscape and surrounding trees used as an alternate physical expression of the elemental forces of growth, death and decay. 

Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) is one of the finest of Egon Schiele’s great series of psychological landscapes painted in 1915. Depicting an isolated group of distinctly weather-worn houses huddled together against a bleak, open landscape, the painting is one of a magnificent series of landscape visions that articulate a mood of existential melancholy and rank amongst the very best of Schiele’s works.

As with almost all of Schiele’s townscapes, the buildings in Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) appear to represent his mother’s hometown, Krumau, a medieval Bohemian town on the Moldau River, known today as Český Krumlov on the Vltava in the Czech Republic. Schiele painted Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) on the reverse of a fragment of an older picture known as Monk I that dates from 1913. It is believed to have formed part of one of his largest attempted projects, Bekehrung (‘Conversion’), and is linked to the two monumental allegories that he produced the same year, of which only fragments, sketches and photographic evidence are now known.  

Vincent van Gogh’s Le moissonneur (1889, estimate £12,500,000-16,500,000) is one of a series of ten works executed after Jean-François Millet’s Les travaux des champs – seven of which are in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – described by his brother Theo as “perhaps the finest things you’ve done.”

Painted at Saint-Rémy in September 1889 at a critical moment in the penultimate year of Vincent van Gogh’s life, Le moissonneur (d’après Millet) pays homage to the artist whom he most admired and respected: Jean-François Millet. Charged with intense colour and electrifying brushwork, this painting dates from the beginning of one of the most prolific periods of Van Gogh’s career, a stage that saw an almost miraculous outpouring of work in the midst of the artist’s episodic yet ever-increasing mental breakdowns that punctuated the final years of his life. 

Le Moissonneur (d’après Millet) is one of ten paintings that Van Gogh made after a series of drawings by Jean-François Millet entitled Les Travaux des Champs (1852), seven of which now reside in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, with the other two in private hands. The work of Millet became a major focus for Van Gogh during this period, following the gift of a set of engravings of Millet’s Les Travaux des Champs by Jacques-Adrien Lavielle that was sent to Van Gogh from his brother Theo van Gogh the same year. Le Moissonneur (d’après Millet), employs the composition of Millet but is filled with Van Gogh’s own dramatic and intense use of colour. With his back to the viewer, bent over as he works the fields, the male figure is illuminated against the deep blue sky and golden yellow fields.

Pablo Picasso’s Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) (1934, estimate: £25,000,000-40,000,000) completes the group of masterpieces from the June sale and is a radiant and intimate portrait that epitomises one of the finest periods of the artist’s career. It represents the pinnacle of the artist’s portrayals of one of his most celebrated muses.

Painted on 26 March 1934, Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) dates from the pinnacle of Marie-Thérèse’s supreme reign in Picasso’s art. 1934 was a particularly prolific year for Picasso and was the final period that the pair spent wrapped in the uninterrupted bliss of their love. While Marie-Thérèse most often appears as a sensuously reclining, somnolent nude or a stylised vision enthroned in a chair, a passive object of adoration, in the present work Picasso has depicted her in an upright, active state, engaged in the act of writing a letter – a common form of exchange that Marie-Thérèse and the artist used to express their affection amidst the secrecy of their relationship.

 See complete discussion of this work here.

Further highlights include Modigliani’s Cariatide (1913, estimate: £6,000,000-9,000,000), which stands as an intriguing crossover work, straddling the boundary between Modigliani’s two principal creative impulses of painting and sculpture. 

Executed in 1913, Cariatide is a rare example of Amedeo Modigliani’s painterly practice during this early period of his artistic career, in which he focused primarily on sculpture. One of only a handful of oil paintings which explore the form of a sculpted caryatid, the present work illustrates the complex working process that lay behind each of the artist’s three-dimensional projects in stone. Creating countless drawings and sketches before ever taking his hammer to a block, these studies offered Modigliani a forum in which to experiment and visualise the ideas that swirled around his head, before translating them into sculptural form.

Following the success of February’s sale of works from the Heidi Weber Museum Collection by Le Corbusier, Mains croisées sur la tête (1939-40, estimate: £1,200,000-2,000,000) is a painting that has a strong dialogue with the symbolic portraiture of Picasso. 

Painted in 1939 and completed a year later, Le Corbusier’s Mains croisées sur la tête marked a new direction in the artist’s plastic oeuvre. Standing at a metre high, this large painting presents a glorious kaleidoscopic array of bright, radiant colours in the middle of which a heavily stylised mask-like face emerges. This is the first of a series of works in which Le Corbusier explored both the physiognomy of the human face as well as the complex psychological nuances that lay behind his conception of the human form.

Hannah Höch’s Frau und Saturn (1922, estimate: £400,000-600,000) is an intimate autobiographical work, created during a period of intense turmoil and upheaval in the artist’s personal life and is one of the most significant works by Höch to come up at auction. 

 Painted in 1922, Frau und Saturn focuses on a trio of otherworldly, mystical figures, and may be seen as a personal reflection on the tumultuous romance Hannah Höch shared with fellow Dada artist, Raoul Hausmann, which had ended the same year as the painting’s creation. Höch took the difficult decision to terminate two pregnancies during their time together and it is this internal conflict, this unfulfilled wish to have a child, which shapes Frau und Saturn. At the heart of the composition sits the glowing, red figure of a woman cradling a young child, an imaginary self-portrait of the artist, caught in a moment of intimacy as she touches her cheek against the baby’s head, while behind her the menacing figure of Hausmann emerges glowering from the dark shadows of the background.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Frederic Remington at The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
July 3, 2017–January 2, 2018 

The artist Frederic Remington (1861–1909)—chronicler par excellence of the American West—has long been celebrated for his achievements as an illustrator, a painter, a sculptor, and a writer. Opening July 3 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition Frederic Remington at The Met will present the artist's legacy through some 20 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and illustrated books from the late 1880s until his death.

Although he lived and worked on the East Coast, Remington traveled extensively. His insightful depictions of trappers, Native Americans, cavalry, scouts, and, above all, his archetypal cowboys are some of the most iconic images of the Old West. The works that will be on view come primarily from The Met's singular collection, including several sculptures purchased directly from the artist. Drawings related to Remington's illustration work, on loan from The Rockwell Museum and the Frederic Remington Art Museum, will also be shown. Through juxtaposing works representative of each area of endeavor, the exhibition will highlight the unifying threads in the artist's creative process.

Frederic Sackrider Remington was just 20 years old when he undertook his first trip to the western states and territories in 1881. His earliest published sketch—of a Wyoming cowboy—was printed in the eminent pictorial magazine Harper's Weekly the following year. Over the next quarter century, Remington's illustrations appeared in 41 periodicals; he illustrated books by such noted authors as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Owen Wister, and Theodore Roosevelt;

 Burgess Finding a Ford (illustration from Frederic Remington's Pony Tracks, 1895)

and he wrote and illustrated his own books and articles.

In addition, during the Spanish-American War, Remington served as a foreign correspondent in Cuba, producing not only writings, but illustrations and paintings.

Having attained early recognition for his talent as an illustrator, Remington nonetheless still sought—and during the 1890s gained—critical and commercial recognition as a painter. After the turn of the 20th century, he produced evocative paintings that experimented with impressionistic brushwork and light effects, as evident in

On the Southern Plains, presented to The Met in 1911.

An informal introduction to the basics of clay modeling led Remington to create some of the most memorable sculptural depictions of the American West, beginning in 1895 with his first effort, The Broncho Buster, a cowboy astride a bucking horse. Delighting in experimentation, Remington accomplished seemingly impossible technical feats and textural effects in his bronze statuettes, which were eagerly collected both during and after his lifetime.

The exhibition is organized by Thayer Tolles, the Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Painting and Sculpture, The American Wing.

The Cheyenne

The Mountain Man

The Bronco Buster

Coming Through the Rye

Additional paintings and sculpture by Remington are on view in the permanent-collection installation, The West, 1860–1920, in The Joan Whitney Payson Galleries, Gallery 765, located on the American Wing's second floor.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale London, 21 June 2017

Wassily Kandinsky’s Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus
An Expressionist Masterpiece by the Pioneer of Abstract Art

Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus, oil on board, 1909 (est. £15-25 million)
Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: 

Kandinsky’s major early work Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus is a blazing celebration of colour that captures the moment of transition in the artist’s career when he is on the cusp of moving from figuration to abstraction. Many of his important paintings from this highly sought-after period are housed in major museums, so this work surfacing from a private collection after almost a century represents a tremendously appealing opportunity for collectors worldwide.” 

Kandinsky was at the forefront of the momentous changes that were to transform the face of art history and it was in the critical year of 1909 that the artist took his first steps along the path towards creating something radically new. Works from this transformative expressionist year are rare to the market, attracting strong interest whenever they appear (in 2012, another painting from 1909 made $23 million to establish a record for the artist that was only recently eclipsed). This summer, Sotheby’s will bring to the market one of the finest early works by Kandinsky left in private hands. Having remained in the private collection of the same family since the 1920s, Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus will appear at auction for the first time with an estimate of £15-25 million. 

In the summer of 1908 Kandinsky and his companion Gabriele Münter, together with artist friends including Jawlensky, summered in the Bavarian mountain village of Murnau. The surrounding dramatic mountain landscapes with their bucolic atmosphere and picturesque viewpoints were to inform his move into Abstraction. Kandinsky pioneered a style of Expressionism that was fuelled by an explosion of pure colour, applied in brushstrokes of thick paint. The artist was deeply impacted by the Fauve invention of a vibrant modern palette, by Paul Cézanne’s breaking up of form and structure as well as by Vincent van Gogh’s transformation of the landscape. In this richly-coloured and dynamic painting, Kandinsky embraces and fuses these three revolutionary approaches to painting and transforms these elements to create an intensely expressive style that was ground-breaking. 

Kandinsky’s use of colour was essentially fuelled by a belief in a spiritual reality that could only be discovered through the evocative possibilities of music and colour on the senses. The blue in this painting has a strong dominating presence and was in many ways the most important colour to the artist – the most spiritual of all. 

Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus was first exhibited at The Royal Albert Hall in 1910, when it was chosen to represent the artist at The London Salon of the Allied Artists' Association. The AAA was founded by Frank Rutter, an art critic of The Sunday Times newspaper, with the aim of providing a platform for the promotion of modernist art in Britain. This firmly placed Kandinsky at the forefront of the contemporary art scene in Europe, with his works deeply resonating with those of the Bloomsbury Group. Following this, in 1912 it was exhibited at Herwarth Walden’s revolutionary gallery Der Sturm in his first major retrospective. 

This early exhibition history places the painting at the very heart of Kandinsky’s critical importance. Just under a century later, the painting returned to London as part of a landmark show at the Tate Modern in 2006. A sensation in the art world and the public alike, the exhibition followed Kandinsky’s intriguing journey from figurative landscape painter to master of abstraction. The painting has for many years been on loan to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with a smaller-scale study of it in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. 

Joan Miró’s Femme et oiseaux 

A mesmerising example of Joan Miró’s celebrated lyricism and freedom of expression during the Second World War, Femme et oiseaux is the eighth in the extraordinary series of twenty-three Constellations that are considered the masterpieces of his prolific oeuvre. At the time of painting, Miró was deeply anguished about the political situation in both Spain and France and profoundly concerned about both countries’ future. In this work, a number of vibrant forms join together in frenzied activity to create a united cosmic vision and it was in this otherworldly subject-matter that the artist found a much needed escape. The painting does not even hint at the relentless progress of the forces of oppression, instead the artist looks to the beauty and poetry of the world that still prevailed. Appearing on the market for the first time in thirty years, the masterful Femme et oiseaux will lead Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 21 June in London.

Thomas Bompard, Head of Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sales, said: “It’s tempting to reference the stars aligning this season, with the rarity of offering a painting from a body of work that has such as mythical status. The universal appreciation for Miro’s Constellation series - not only as Miro’s greatest achievement but also as one of the most groundbreaking and celebrated bodies of work by any 20th century artist - comes into sharp focus when standing in front of Femme et oiseaux. We have no doubt that in the minds of collectors from around the world this is an exceptional opportunity – the last time one of the Constellations was sold at auction was at Sotheby’s in 2001.” 

Over the course of almost two years, from January 1940 to September 1941, Miró worked on the Constellations with a seamless devotion and unrelenting concentration that distracted him from the hostile political climate of war-torn France and later Spain. Femme et oiseaux is one of the first ten compositions the artist executed during his exile in France following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Miró was living in the village of Varengeville on the coast of Normandy, where he could work in tranquil seclusion whilst also being inspired by the dramatic cliffs and constantly changing sky and seascape.

In May 1940, only weeks after Miró executed this work, Germany invaded Paris and the artist fled to Spain. In a letter to Roland Penrose, the artist wrote about the tumultuous journey through war-torn France that interrupted the execution of the series: taking the last train, his wife held the hand of his young daughter, “while I carried under my arm the satchel with a series of already-finished Constellations and the sheets of paper which would be used for the complete series”. Barely managing to leave France, Miró settled in his wife’s town of Palma de Mallorca, where he completed the next set of Constellations. The small size of the works is an indication that Miró knew that he might have to be on the move at any moment, and so the series was all portable.

The delicate technique that Miró used was to brush, scrape, polish, moisten and rub the ground of the paper, creating the gradated and textured pockets of light and dark that convey the celestial boundlessness in which the objects float. Interspersed amidst the crescent moon, suns, comets and stars are pseudo-sexual amoeboid shapes and fragmented body parts. The picture is then enlivened with swirling lines that shape and direct the flow of energy. Jacques Dupin wrote of the Constellations, “never before has his ‘touch’ been so delicate or so subtle in the sensual animation of pigments”.


The works were an example of resistance – expressing a ‘spirit of revolt’ through the unconstrained freedom of the composition. The French poet André Breton, considered the founder of Surrealism, wrote about the series that “a great stroke of fortune decreed that, shortly after the allied landing, Miró’s Constellations comprised the first message relating to art to reach America from Europe since the beginning of the war. It would be impossible to overestimate the depth of the gap that this message filled”.

Throughout this time, Miró was aware that he was producing something special – writing, “I feel that it is one of the most important things I have done” – yet the series was hidden away until 1944 when he began making arrangements for the group to be revealed in public. First intended for The Museum of Modern Art in New York, twenty-two of the works arrived in the United States in July 1944 – with one having been kept for the artist’s wife. However, once they arrived, MoMA was not able to cover the significant cost of shipping in the context of the war, Miró’s New York dealer Pierre Matisse took responsibility for the entire group. The resulting exhibition in January – February 1945 caused a sensation in New York and was universally praised. Reviewing the show for the New York Sun, a critic wrote that “it is impossible to pick out the best picture in the display because all of the twenty-two pictures are the best”.

The legacy of Miró’s Constellations in art is profound, particularly his impact on American art. The artist set a precedent for Jackson Pollock and his use of a starry sky as a subject for avantgarde abstract expressionist paintings, with Pollock’s own Constellation painted in 1946. Although they were separated from each other by geography and war, Miró was also on a parallel course with Alexander Calder – who, at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, had introduced a new category of work Constellaciónes in 1943.

‘After the Nazi invasion of France and Franco’s victory, I was sure they wouldn’t let me go on painting, that I would only be able to go to the beach and draw in the sand or draw figures with the smoke from my cigarette. When I was painting the Constellations I had the genuine feeling that I was working in secret, but it was a liberation for me in that I ceased thinking about the tragedy all around me. While I was working, my suffering stopped… I gave the paintings very poetic titles because that was the line I had chosen to take and because the only thing left for me in the world then was poetry’--Joan Miró

Sotheby’s London sale of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Arton 13 July

In July this year, Sotheby’s will offer the only version of one of the most iconic works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to remain in private hands. A celebration of the beauty of the artist’s first mistress, Fanny Cornforth, and a pictorial hymn to her glorious corn-gold hair, 

Lady Lilith comes to auction for the first time in thirty years. 

The work was painted during Rossetti’s most innovative period in the 1860s, when he created the cult of the Pre-Raphaelite beauty, or ‘Stunner’ as he called them, whose physical qualities were embodied by Fanny Cornforth. Two other paintings of Lady Lilith were produced by Rossetti during this decade and they now hang in museums in the US. 

The rediscovered picture will be offered at Sotheby’s London sale of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Arton 13 July with an estimate of £400,000-600,000.2LadyLilith(Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington)Fanny CornforthSimon Toll, Sotheby’s Victorian Art Specialist, said: 

“Rossetti’s work is a great passion of mine and I have been lucky enough to bring to auctionseveral important examples by him in recent years, breaking the world record for a watercolour, a drawing and an oil painting. ‘Lady Lilith’ has always been one of my favourites but Ihad never seen this particular picture‘in the flesh’. It was a moment of genuine excitement when I first saw itbeing unwrapped from the packing case in which it had been sent from Japan, its home for the last thirty years. Not only is the work in wonderful condition, it’s also in Rossetti’s original frame and with the artist’s hand-written poem attached to the backing-board. To find a picture in such an untouched conditionis exceptionally rare.”
Rossetti met Fanny Cornforth (1835-1906) during the summer of 1856, apparently at a procession celebrating the return of soldiersfrom the Crimean war. In one of the many stories concerning their first meeting, Rossetti ‘accidently’ undid her hair in a restaurant –a gesture both provocative and intimate. Based upon the evidence of his paintings of Fanny alone, there can be little doubt of the physical nature of their relationship. Pairing the subject of Lilith with Fanny was no coincidence: Fanny was most likely the first woman that Rossetti slept with and Lilith was the first woman, created from the same earth as Adam before the creation of Eve. 

Rossetti described Lilith as being ‘the first gold’, and it seems that this is how he regarded Fanny.The daughter of a Sussex blacksmith, Fanny Cornforthwas born Sarah Cox. Though coarse, ill-educated and light-fingered, Fanny had a deep well of affection, a wonderful sense of humour and an open-mindedness which must have been refreshing to Rossetti. With her sensuality, her sense of fun and a mass of golden hair that reached the ground, she offered him an energetic antidote to the ailing fragility of his future wife Lizzie Siddal, from whom he was separated at the time he met Fanny. 

During the ten years of the artist’s protracted engagement with Lizzie, it is thought that their relationship was never consummated. After Lizzie’s suicide in 1862, Fanny moved into Rossetti’sstudio to be his ‘housekeeper’. Though he developed infatuations for other women as Fanny’s golden beauty faded, Rossetti never abandoned her, even remaining close through her two marriages and supporting her with money and possessions during times of financial difficulty. In 1882, Rossetti wrote to Fanny pleading for her to come to his death-bed. His circle of friends cruelly chose not to deliver his pleas and she was only told of Rossetti’s death days after his funeral.Rossetti began the first version of 

Lady Lilith, 1866-68 (altered 1872-73)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)
Oil on canvas, 38 x 33 1/2 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935

Lady Lilith (Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington), a large oil on canvas, in 1864 as the first commission for Frederick Richards Leyland, who would become the artist’s greatest patron. Leyland disliked the way Rossetti had painted Lilith’s face and asked him to scrape it out and repaint it with a different model –an event that many scholars consider one of the greatest Pre-Raphaelite travesties. 

Fortunately Rossetti had made two watercolour replicas of Lady Lilith before the repainting was undertaken, both of them in 1867, the year the oil was completed in its original form. 

One of these, made for the collector William Coltart, hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, whilst the other, made for Alexander Stevenson, is the version to be offered for sale.

Fanny was devastated when she learnt that her face had been obliterated from the oil version in 1872, to be replaced by the face of a professional model named Alexa Wilding, whose flame-red beauty ignited her jealousy. Rossetti tried to keep the news of what he had done to Lady Lilithfrom Fanny, knowing that she would be upset by having the celebration of her beauty destroyed in such a way. Fanny claimed that when he had removed her face from the picture, he sat down and wept “until the tears ran through his fingers, and said ‘I can’t do it over again, and you are not what you were!’”[letterfrom Fanny to the American art collector Samuel Bancroft, 18 August 1908]. 

Though prone to exaggeration, there may be some truth to Fanny’s remarks –by the 1870s, her youthful buxom charm had been replaced by a more expansively matronly heaviness. Fanny did not pose for another painting by Rossetti, although she did eventually forgive him for his slight. Rossetti perhaps felt guilty about acquiescing to his patron’s wishes and altering a picture so drastically. 

In a letter to Ford Madox Brown he wrote,‘he [Leyland] has every reason to be pleased with the way I have worked for him lately... I have often said that to be an artist is just the same thing as being a whore, as far as dependence on the whims and fancies of individuals is concerned.’

The subject of Lilith can be found in Babylonian mythology from the 3rd and 4th centuries and was retold in Hebrew scripture. In a variation of her story from the 13th century, Lilith had refused to be subservient to Adam, abandoned the Garden of Eden, and coupled with the archangel Samael. By the 19th century the name Lilith had become synonymous with powerful female independence and primordial sexual allure –the original femme fatale. 

In a letter to his doctor dated 21 April 1870, Rossetti made it clear that his intention had been to paint a picture that ‘represents a Modern Lilith combing out her abundant golden hair and gazing on herself in the glass with that self-absorption by whose strange fascination such natures draw others within their circle.’

In Lady Lilith, Rossetti presents a remarkably intimate depiction of a woman only partially dressed in her night-gown or under-dress with her hair loose on her shoulders. In the 19th century, such frank observations of the bedroom activities that would only be witnessed by a lover would have been considered shockingly modern. Even the flowers in the picture are laden with symbolism and erotic suggestion –the roses have an almost fleshy voluptuousness and whilst their colour suggests purity, their showy exuberance seems to be more indicative of fulfillment. The red flower in the foreground –possibly a poppy –plucked and contained in a vase may represent the de-flowered ‘kept woman’. The only allusion to Lilith’s malignancy is the poison digitalis on her dresser beside a pot of hair oil and a mirror that reflects the view of the Garden of Eden.

Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale 27 June 2017

Pablo Picasso, Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) (1934, estimate: £25,000,000-40,000,000), © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017
Pablo Picasso’s tender portrait Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) (1934, estimate: £25,000,000-40,000,000) will be a leading highlight of Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, in London on 27 June 2017 as part of 20th Century at Christie’s, a series of sales that take place from 17 to 30 June 2017.

Painted on 26 March 1934, Pablo Picasso’s Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) is a joyous, colour-filled and deeply personal portrayal of Marie-Thérèse Walter, the young, blond-haired woman who, when she entered the artist’s life in January 1927, influenced the course of his art in an unprecedented manner. Femme écrivant is one of the greatest portraits of Marie-Thérèse, a radiant and intimate depiction of Picasso’s lover, which, along with the preceding paintings of the early 1930s, epitomises one of the finest phases in the artist’s career. The painting will be on view in Hong Kong from 5 to 9 of June 2017 before being exhibited in London from 17 to 27 June 2017.
Marie-Thérèse’s presence in Picasso’s life aroused a creative explosion; her youthful innocence, vitality, devotion and love was responsible for a renaissance in every area of his artistic production. By the beginning of 1931, her image began to saturate his sculpture and painting in radiant, euphoric form. Enthroned in an ornate brown leather studded chair, pictured in the midst of writing a letter, in Femme écrivant, Marie-Thérèse is seated in front of what appears to be a window, the daylight and pale blue sky of the outside world flooding into the secluded room in which she writes and illuminating her delicate features.
Picasso painted Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) in Boisgeloup, the secluded and picturesque château situated near Gisors, a small Normandy village northwest of Paris that he had bought in the summer of 1930. It was here that Picasso painted what are now recognised as the greatest depictions of Marie-Thérèse;

works such as the 1932 Le Rêve (Private Collection; Zervos VII, no. 364 sold at Christie’s, New York, 10 November 1997 for a record $48,402,500),  

Femme nue, feuilles et buste (sold at Christie’s, New York, 4 May 2010 for a record $106,482,500)

and Femme nue dans un fauteuil rouge (Tate Gallery, London; Zervos VII, no. 395).
Giovanna Bertazzoni, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Christie’s: 

 Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) was created in 1934 at the height of Picasso’s admiration for his youthful and captivating muse Marie Thérèse. The impact she had on his creative process began when they first met but truly took hold of his heart and hand in the portraits he executed in his studio in Boisgeloup. This portrait remained in the artist’s collection until 1961, demonstrating the deep affection he held towards Marie Thérèse and the emotional significance it had for the artist. Picasso’s portraits of his muses capture the imagination and attention of collectors worldwide, now more than ever. Picasso represents a truly global phenomenon in the present art market, attracting buyers from Europe, America and Asia. Mainland Chinese collectors are, in particular, very aware of the power of his revolutionary style, and the significant role he occupies in the canon of modern Western Art. It’s an exciting time to offer such a strong, iconic and private painting by Picasso on the open market, and we are eager to see how it will touch and move collectors around the world in the forthcoming weeks ahead of the auction.”