Wednesday, February 4, 2009


René François Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) painted this Souvenir de Voyage (actually the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Italy). It is an oil on canvas measuring 40 by 30cm and painted in 1958. Harry Torczyner, a native of Antwerp and a lawer in Belgium before fleeing the Nazis and coming to the United States, commissioned it from the artist and it was later acquired from the above in 1962 by the Bodely Gallery in New York.

Magritte was a
Belgian surrealist artist and became well-known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images.

In 1912, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Sambre. Magritte was present when her body was retrieved from the water. The image of his mother floating, her dress obscuring her face, influenced a series of paintings of people with cloth obscuring their faces, including
Les Amants, but Magritte obviously disliked this explanation.

In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey (Le jockey perdu), and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became friends with André Breton, and became involved in the surrealist group. Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 and was interred in Schaarbeek Cemetery, Brussels.

This picture reached at auction on the 3rd of February 2009 the sum of 746,850 GBP ($1,07 million) vs. an estimate of 400,000—600,000 GBP (price with Buyer's Premium).


This painting by Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) was made in 1929 and it is an oil on canvas representing the port of Istanbul (Turkey). It measures 31.6 x 43.6 in. / 80.3 x 110.8 cm and was acquired from the artist in 1930 by the Galerie Paul Cassirer, Berlin, then transferred to N. V. Amsterdamsche Kunsthandel Paul Cassirer & Co., Amsterdam in April 1931.

Oskar Federer , director general of the Vitkovice iron and mining company, from Ostrava (Czechoslovakia) acquired it from the above through Neue Galerie, Vienna, in 1933. In 1939, he managed to leave the Nazi-held Czechoslovakia when his wife and children already were safely in Canada. However, he could smuggle out only four of his favourite paintings, leaving behind a precious collection of works by European masters.

Istanbul I was Seized by the Nazis in 1939 as "entartete kunst" (degenerate art) and sold to the Galerie Vytvarného Umenì, Ostrava, in November 1943. Federer grandson, Andrew, a Toronto-based banker who works for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, failed to regain the paintings that remained in the Czech Republic in the 1990s because legislation at that time allowed only restitution of property confiscated after the 1948 Communist takeover. A new law, passed in 2000, allowed for art stolen by the Nazis to be claimed by the original owners or their heirs. It was restituted to the heirs of Oskar Federer in 2007.

Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 1886 – 22 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright, best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes and his passionate affair with Alma Schindler, widow of composer Gustav Mahler and ex-wife of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus.

Kokoschka became a British citizen in 1946 and only in 1978 would regain Austrian citizenship. He travelled briefly to the United States in 1947 before settling in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life.

Kokoschka had much in common with his contemporary Max Beckmann. Both maintained their independence from German Expressionism, yet they are now regarded as its supreme masters, who delved deeply into the art of past masters to develop unique individual styles.

Estimated by Sotheby's between 1,200,000—1,800,000 GBP, it sold with Buyer's Premium for 1,49 million GBP ($2,15 million) on 3rd of February 2009.


This Tête d'homme barbu signed 'Picasso' (upper left), dated '5.6.65.II' (on the reverse) is an oil on canvas measuring 18 1/8 x 15 in. (46 x 38.1 cm).

It was last sold in June 2007 by Christie's for 423,200 GBP in London (839,206 dollars at the time) but it reached yesterday 3rd of February 612,450 GBP (884,000 dollars at current exchange price)in an auction sale by Sotheby's. American and European investors can clinch very good deal given the current situation of the British Pound vs. the dollar and the Euro.

Sotheby's had conservatively estimated the picture between 350,000 and 450,000 GBP. Picasso (1881-1973) painted several bearded men. One of the few men that Picasso regularly saw in his final years was his chauffeur Maurice Bresnu, who joined the Picasso household with his wife in early 1965. He served Picasso to the end of the artist's life and assisted his widow Jacqueline thereafter.

Tête d'homme barbu belongs to a series of paintings of busts and heads executed in Mougins in late May and June 1965, several of which share the same Bresnu-like characteristics of the beard and tight black curls. Picasso's overriding preoccupation in this series seems to be the simplification of form, and his ability to portray both features and the individual with a few choice brushstrokes is superbly conveyed. Or maybe it is just that his talent was weaning out, his patience for hard work slowing down or his appetite for quick money unrelenting.


This painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) that Sotheby’s was selling on the 3rd of February 2009 — “Street Scene,” from 1913 — was last publicly seen at Sotheby’s London 11 years ago as part of a group of Fauve and German Expressionist works that were sold by Charles Tabachnick, a Toronto collector.

It is an oil on canvas measuring
70 by 51cm. (27 1/2 by 20in) and it fetched $3.3 million, a record price at the time. That buyer, whom Sotheby’s refused to identify, was selling the Berlin scene today in London and the auctioneer sold it off for 5.41 million GBP ($ 7.81 million) vs. an estimate ranging between 5 and 7 million GBP. A little disappointment for both the seller and the vendor.

Kirchner’s Berlin street scenes are among his most celebrated images. The artist, from Dresden, first visited Berlin in 1910 and moved there in 1911. From 1913 to 1915 he produced 11 street scenes. Except for one that Kirchner began in 1911 and repainted in 1922 and that Christie’s sold in London in 2006 for $3.8 million, this is the only remaining street scene in private hands. The rest are in museums around the world. In New York in November 2006, Christie’s sold another Berlin street scene from 1913-14 for a record $38 million. The buyer, who had the help of an anonymous friend, was Ronald S. Lauder, heir of the cosmetic conglomerate and founder of the Neue Galerie in Manhattan. The painting, of an urban crowd with a prostitute in a bright red dress, has been on and off the walls of the Neue Galerie ever since.

Ernst L. Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and printmaker and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke or "The Bridge", a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. He volunteered for army service in the First World War, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged. In 1933, his work was branded as "degenerate" by the Nazis and in 1937 over 600 of his works were sold or destroyed. In 1938 he committed suicide.


The important & iconic sculpture Petite danseuse de quatorze ans by impressionist artist Edgar Degas was offered for sale in Sotheby’s Art Evening Auction of Impressionist and Modern Art in London on the 3rd of February 2009.

La Petite danseuse is one of the most ambitious and iconic of Degas’s works and a groundbreaking sculpture from the Impressionist period. The bronze cast to be offered at Sotheby’s is one of only a handful of casts remaining in private hands.

Created in wax circa 1879-81, Petite danseuse was the only sculpture to have been exhibited during the artist’s lifetime. Using a wire armature for the body and hemp for the arms and hands, Degas worked in modelling wax, dressing the figure in real silk, tulle and gauze. The wig came from Madame Cusset, supplier of ‘hair for puppets and dolls’. The wax sculpture was found in Degas’s studio following his death in 1917 and cast in bronze in from 1922.

His model was Marie van Goethem, the daughter of a Belgian tailor and laundress, who was a ballet student at the Opéra and among the dancers of the Opéra who were of particular interest to Degas at this time.

Estimated at 9-12 millions GBP, the Danseuse reached 13,25 millions including buyer's premium. Since 2001 the Degas price index rise 67%. Morale of the sale : the Danseuse is kidding the current crisis.