Impressionist / Modern…


Last year I posted about art I would like to own (in a parallel and vastly richer universe) and this post is no exception, but excitingly this upcoming sale at Christies (again…!) contains a noteworthy Picasso which has been donated anonymously to the University of Sydney with specific instructions for the university to dispose of it and use the funds to invest in transformative healthcare research. Such a generous donation is newsworthy enough, but the painting in question is an exceptional piece not seen in public since being shown at MoMA in 1939. Jeune Fille Endormie (1935) was formerly owned by Walter P. Chrysler Jr, the American collector and philanthropist who knew Picasso personally and was a big collector of his work.

The auction house writes:

“Pablo Picasso’s lyrical portraits of Marie-Thèrése Walter from the first half of the 1930s are considered one of the greatest pinnacles of his career, and by extension, of modern art. Completed and signed on 3 February 1935, Jeune fille endormie shows Marie-Thèrése sleeping, the theme of the most intimate and lyrical of these portraits. That intimacy is driven home by the composition, which is tightly focussed on the sleeper’s head: it dominates the canvas, appearing only slightly larger than life size, giving a sense of the artist’s highly subjective perspective while gazing upon his sleeping lover. Picasso plunges his viewer into his own charmed world. The swooping, sinuous curves convey a rich sensuality, with the artist himself vicariously enjoying the curves of her body by extension, through the proxy of his paintbrush. This is lent all the more impact by the rich, glowing colours that suffuse this canvas, an incandescent palette that is itself celebratory.

If I were fortunate enough to be bidding in this sale, I would go for broke on this one knowing that the money I had spent was going to be used for such important and possibly revolutionary work in the field of healthcare. Who knows what discoveries await as a result of this funding.

However, I would be torn as for the money spent on the Picasso (£9m-£12m) I could easily get two absolute beauties by another favourite artist of mine, Fernand Leger. Both these paintings put me in mind of my all-time favourite painting, Le Moteur, which was included in the Rene Gaffe sale in 2001 to benefit UNICEF.

The first, Composition, was painted in 1928 and has been privately owned by a French collector since 1976. Coming to market with an estimate of £600,000-£900,000 it seems a bargain.

The second, Le Drapeau, dates from 1919, just after the first world war in which Leger fought. I especially love this work for its mechanical elegance and the colours of the tricolore. Estimated at £2.8m-£4m, this painting is going into my fantasy gallery for sure.

Christies Impressionist / Modern Evening Sale
21st June 2011

All images from


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