Christie's sells $18m art of Hollywood legends Lew and Edie Wasserman

Christie's is offering Property from The Collection of Lew and Edie Wasserman as part of its major fall sales in New York City.

Assembled largely in the 1950s and 60s by the "king and queen of Hollywood," the collection includes several seldom-seen works by important artists such as Degas, Matisse, Vuillard and Soutine that have adorned the couple's Beverly Hills home for decades.



'King and queen of Hollywood':
Lew and Edie Wasserman

Over 30 items from this exceptional private collection will be offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Sales, beginning with seven pieces in Christie's major Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York on Tuesday, November 1.

Further works will be sold in Christie's Works on Paper and Day Sales on Wednesday, November 2. The total value of the collection is expected to exceed $18 million.

"We are delighted to have been entrusted with the sale of this jewel of a collection," said Conor Jordan, Head of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Department in New York.

"The Wassermans' collection includes important works by major artists, including a luminous Degas pastel of a woman bathing, a brilliant interior view from Matisse's mature period, and a captivating Vuillard self-portrait."

"As we saw last year with the success of the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody - another prominent Los Angeles connoisseur of Impressionist and Modern Art - whenever high-quality works by blue-chip artists come back into the market after nearly half a century, the global collecting community turns out in force," Jordan added.

"We anticipate the Wasserman Collection will spark similar interest worldwide."

Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

The Wassermans were highly selective in assembling their collection; seven works in particular stand out as exceptional opportunities for collectors of Impressionist and Modern Art and will be included in the Evening Sale.

One is a pastel by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Femme s'épongeant le dos, circa 1895 (estimate: $3,500,000-5,500,000), from his celebrated series of intimate studies of women bathing. Degas' constant experimentation and ongoing search for perfection found ideal expression through his mastery of pastel.


Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Femme s'épongeant le dos, circa 1895

He undertook the subject of bathers caught during their most intimate toilettes, seeking a naturally observed manner of depicting his models as they engaged in their private ablutions.

At the last Impressionist Exhibition in 1886, Degas exhibited ten similar pastels, of which the critic Felix Fénéon wrote at the time: "The skin acquired a strong, individual life of its own in M. Degas's works.

"His art is thoroughly realistic and… his colour is masterly in a highly personal way…His tonality now derives muted, one might say latent, effects from the reddish sheen of a strand of hair, the bluish folds of damp linen."

Another signature work in the collection is La robe violette, 1942 (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000), by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), which belongs to a series of paintings begun in Nice over the latter months of 1942 and continued into 1943 at Vence, where Matisse moved to escape wartime bombardment.


Degas's La Robe Violette, 1942 (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000)

The works at the beginning of the series, such as the present painting, point toward the increasing purity of Matisse's late style, with a limited palette of primary hues and reduced extraneous design. His return to painting after a serious illness and hospitalisation in 1941 prompted a dramatic simplification in his draftsmanship.

Commenting to a friend, Matisse observed: "What I did before this illness, before this operation, always has the feeling of too much effort; before this, I always lived with my belt tightened. What I created afterwards represents me myself: free and detached."

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