Van Gogh, Léger, Chagall

Marc Chagall, La Tour Eiffel, 1929. $6-9 million | Fernand Léger, Le grand déjeuner, 1921. $15-25 million

 On May 15, Christie’s Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art will be underscored by exceptional works by the market’s most sought after artists. Highlights will include paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Fernand Léger and Mark Chagall, all of whom experienced breakthrough results in November 2017.

Max Carter, Head of Department, Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s Americas, remarked:

“On the heels of record and near-record results for Léger, Chagall and Van Gogh in November we are thrilled to offer such fine examples by each artist this May. From Le grand déjeuner, among Léger’s most celebrated motifs, to Chagall’s pulsating 1920s La Tour Eiffel, entrusted to Christie’s by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and Van Gogh’s Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, for decades the crown jewel of Elizabeth Taylor’s art collection, these paintings represent the best of the category.”  

Among the sale’s leading works is Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, 1889, by Vincent van Gogh (estimate in the region of $35 million) – pictured left, formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor’s father, art dealer Francis Taylor, purchased the painting on her behalf in 1963 at auction for £92,000.

Approximately one month after depicting Laboureur dans un champ, which nearly eclipsed the artist’s record in November, Vincent painted Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy. Unlike the canvas of the ploughman, which had been rendered indoors and from memory, he painted the chapel en plein air.

This luminous painting was included in several of Van Gogh’s most important early exhibitions. These groundbreaking shows, including the 1905 retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, were instrumental in the formation of his posthumous reputation. Having seen this painting in the landmark 1905 Van Gogh retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Paul Cassirer, the leading German gallerist of the time, placed it immediately afterwards in his own traveling exhibition, which alerted the German public, art critics, historians, and contemporary painters alike to the achievement of an artist who was rapidly achieving legendary status.

In November 2017, Van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ, from the collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, realized $81.3 million against its original estimate of $50 million, just shy of the auction record for the artist.

Fernand Léger will be represented in part by Le grand déjeuner (estimate: $15-25 million), executed in 1921. Léger painted Le grand déjeuner as he pursued his aim during the early 1920s to radically recast the aesthetic conception of beauty in the art of his time. To this end, he combined elements drawn from classical traditions of the past with the increasingly mechanical realities of contemporary living, to create polished and gleaming visions of the essential forms that comprise the human presence in the modern world. More than ninety years later, in our present digital age, the style he forged then still appears strikingly futuristic. One of his two peaks from this period was Le grand déjeuner, which was the last and largest of three closely related canvases. The artist considered Le grand déjeuner to be one of the finest works of his career; it has indeed become an icon of the 20th century, an emblem of l’esprit nouveau in its own day, and no less definitive in our own. This will be Le grand déjeuner’s first appearance at auction since 1935.

Recent record: Fernand Léger, Contraste de formes, 1913. $70,062,496 | November 2017

Filled with an air of sensuous, passionate romance, Marc Chagall’s La Tour Eiffel (estimate: $6-9 million) encapsulates the wonderfully poetic style that emerged in his oeuvre during the 1920s and 1930s. It was during this period that he experienced unprecedented period of happiness, stability, comfort and professional success amidst the bustle and energy of Paris. Bursting with rich color and the artist’s unique symbolic vocabulary, this beautifully composed painting includes many of Chagall’s favorite themes, from love and memory, to music and fantasy, combining unexpected elements to create an otherworldly effect. La Tour Eiffel, which Christie’s is honored to handle on behalf of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, to benefit its acquisitions fund, is being offered for its’ first time at auction, following record-breaking results for Chagall in November.

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