Auction of Impressionist & Modern Art on November 15, 2017
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NEW YORK, NY – Doyle’s auction of Impressionist & Modern Art on November 15, 2017 showcased European and American paintings, drawings and sculpture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The offerings ranged from Academic and Barbizon art through Impressionism and Post-Impressionism to German Expressionism and early Modernism.
Guy Pène du Bois
Highlighting the sale was Bus Top [On Top of the Bus], painted in 1924 by Guy Pène du Bois (American, 1884-1958), which achieved $175,000, far surpassing its estimate of $80,000-120,000. The work was from the Collection of Willa Kim and William Pène du Bois, the artist’s son.
Guy Pène du Bois was a keen observer of urban life in the 1920s. Bus Top, with its striking composition of two young women riding on the upper tier of a double-decker bus, exemplifies the Art Deco elegance of his best work. Probably painted before the Pène du Bois family departed for France in December of 1924, Bus Top may reflect a level of confidence of which he writes in his journal on September 2 of that year: "I'm quite past worrying about lights now. I feel that I can manage to do what I like with the model before me. That is a tremendous step for me whom models have always hypnotized." [Pène du Bois journal, vol. 1, p. 265]
Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
A landscape by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875) was the object of competitive bidding that sent the work soaring past its estimate of $40,000-60,000 to achieve $106,250. Passeur en Barque a la Rive Boisee avec une Femme et ses Deux Enfants was executed circa 1860-65. It is a newly discovered work by the artist, and a fine example of his classic mature period. The landscape is closely related to a similar painting of the same period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work features the mysteriously reflective water and feathery trees that collectors of Corot’s of work particularly prize. It is also a striking composition that reads clearly across a room, but on closer examination presents the viewer a wealth of beautiful details.
A good example of the "mechanical" style of Cubism that flourished during the 1920s is Jean Metzinger's (1883-1956) Nature Morte (Still Life), painted around 1929. Consigned by the Estate of Elsie Adler, the work fetched $100,000 against an estimate of $80,000-100,000. The painting incorporates the bright colors and flat planes so characteristic Synthetic Cubism, but instead of building up a single image from smaller pieces, this work presents a group of discreet objects. Some of these are quintessentially mechanical: a wrench, a pair of pliers, a freestanding dial. Others are indirectly so: solid geometrical forms that appear to have been cut from sheet metal. These mechanistic pieces are shown with flowers, which at first seem to be an organic counterpoint to the tools and metallic shapes. Upon closer examination, however, they too have a mechanical appearance, as if bolted together from machined parts and coated with industrial paint. At the right, the bust of a woman, tinted in the same dark blue as the background, appears to be gazing impassively past this array. Like the flowers, the bust seems die-cut and spray-painted, another product of 20th-century industry. The viewer of this beautiful but enigmatic work is led to contemplate whether we are all, like this metallic woman, parts of the great machine of modern society, stamped out and colored by the hidden processes of contemporary life.
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