Renoir, Matisse and more at $20m art sale

Christie's will present a number of offerings from the leading masters of the Impressionist and Modern periods in its upcoming Works on Paper and Day sales today (November 4).

Offering a combined 234 works in total, this season features an expanded selection of works on paper from a number of superb private collections, including the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse, the Estate of Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr., and the Collection of Mr. And Mrs. Montgomery Fisher, among others.

Der neue Mensch, 1921, by George Grosz
Grosz's Der neue Mensch, 1921

The combined sales are expected to achieve in excess of $20 million.

Leading the morning sale of Works on Paper is Der neue Mensch, 1921 by George Grosz (1883-1959), estimated at $300,000-500,000, an important work from a remarkable but short-lived series that the artist referred to as "my new pictures".

Layered within these works is Grosz's response to the social and political upheaval of the post-World War One years in the fledgling Weimar Republic when, as a member of the communist party, he attempted to formulate a new expression for his utopian ideals.

His "New Man" of the painting's title is a robotic figure engaged in the design of a piston-driven, engine-like machine of the future - a pictorial concept that echoes the machine paintings of his contemporaries, including Fernand Léger and Francis Picabia.

For Grosz, this series of idealised and nearly abstract paintings from 1920-22 were unique in his oeuvre, and remain exceedingly rare on the international auction market.

Also highlighting the morning's sale is a select group of works on paper by Henri Matisse, Balthus, Victor Brauner and Yves Tanguy from the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse, grandson of Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

The works come from an extraordinary collection Pierre-Noël Matisse inherited from his father, the prominent art dealer Pierre Matisse, and his mother Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp, who later married the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp.

Among the exceptional drawings by Henri Matisse in the group is Odalisque etendue II of 1927, an outstanding example of the artist's skill in draughtsmanship (estimated at $200,000-300,000).

Mattisse's Odalisque etendue II of 1927
Mattisse's Odalisque etendue II of 1927 (estimated at $200,000-300,000)

Here, Matisse employs a combination of pure, unadorned line and cross-hatching to portray his model in sumptuous style, lounging against a striped cushion and Turkish rug in a room ornamented with patterned wall hangings.

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) remains one of the most sought-after artists for collectors of works on paper.

This season, Christie's is pleased to offer two works by Schiele from the distinguished Serge and Vally Sabarsky Collection, Sitzender Akt mit roten Strümpfen from 1910 ($250,000-350,000) and Liegender männlicher Akt from 1911 ($200,000-300,000).

De Chirico's L’amore del mondo
De Chirico's L’amore del mondo

Rounding out the selection of Modern highlights is Air, fer et eau, étude, a lyrical work by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) that encapsulates the energy and innovative spirit of a rapidly modernising Paris in the 1930s ($200,000-300,000).

And Hommage à Alphonse Allais by René Magritte (1898-1967), a humorous play on the proverbial notion of a "fish out of water" that the artist created in tribute to the French writer and humorist Allais ($300,000-500,000).

Leading the Day Sale is L'amore del mondo by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), one of the great paintings in a series of metaphysical works by the artist ($500,000-700,000).

Painted in 1960, it is a re-working of an earlier painting entitled Le mauvais génie d'un roithat is now in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The two paintings are identical, save for the addition of a half-hidden mannequin at the left of L'amore delmondo, a faceless figure de Chirico referred to as "the troubadour".

This figural motif would later become an important hallmark of de Chirico's compositions. Here, the troubadour inhabits a tilted plane of buildings, spheres and cylindrical objects with unknown meaning - an arrangement that suggests an alternate reality informed by the artist's subconscious mind.

Sous la lampe by Juan Gris
Sous la lampe by Juan Gris

Among the Impressionist highlights of the Day sale is a selection of eight paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir(1841-1919) including a sketch or esquisse for Renoir's Jugement de Paris ($400,000-600,000) and a lush still life from circa 1890 entitled Compotier de fruits ($250,000-350,000).

From the Collection of Mr and Mrs Montgomery Fisher comes a trio of intimate Renoir paintings not seen on the market for over 25 years: Femme en blouse blanche of 1907 ($200,000-300,000), Portrait de Georges Rivière painted in Cagnes in 1909 ($100,000-150,000), and Pommes, a vibrant, closely-cropped still life painted in 1919 ($80,000-120,000).

Rounding out the selection of Modern highlights is Berglandschaft mit Häusern by Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941), also from the Serge and Vally Sabarsky Collection.

Painted in 1912, this luminous depiction of a Bavarian village encapsulates Jawlensky's bold technique of using intense swathes of pure colour to create a compelling visual environment that hovers halfway between figuration and abstraction ($200,000-300,000).

Elsewhere in the sale is Sous la lampe by Juan Gris (1887-1927), a glowing lamp-lit still life painted in 1925 during a period of intense productivity that pre-dated the artist's final tragic illness and death in 1927 at age forty ($300,000-500,000).

The Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale is today (November 4) at 2pm, at Christie's in New York.

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