Christie’s London successfully kicked of this season’s Impressionist and Modern Art sales at 7pm last night (28th February 2017) by offering exceptional quality artworks by Gauguin, Picasso, Rodin and Renoir, setting the tone and bar for this week’s series of sales.

With a sale total that evening of £94,306,000 including the buyer’s premium, this was an exciting sale with the mood of the room being one of keen interest and participation by a number of different competing bidders.

The 51 lot sale consisted of works largely of artworks from the ‘Personal collection of Barbara Lambrecht’ and ‘Le Corbusier: Important works from the Heidi Weber Museum’.

The sale of Lambrecht’s personal collection was to raise proceeds to benefit a highly prestigious artists’ prize, called the Rubens Prize in the Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen of which Mrs. Lambrecht was a leading patron.

Mrs Lambrecht, a philanthropist and patron of the arts, had collected works across the major Impressionist period and also there were some extraordinary quality modern works. Defining features were the classic Impressionist periods and strong daring Fauvist works. Lambrecht’s eye and taste made this a truly special sale.

All of the works in the sale were highly attractive pieces. She had collected mostly the best periods in each of the artists’ oeuvres, so the works were extremely interesting from an art historical point of view. Consequently, there was a lot of interest in this sale and a high demand for the works, as throughout the evening there were often several bidders competing for these blue-chip works.

The highlights in the evening sale for me were as follows:

Picasso’s ‘Joueur de Flûte et Femme Nue’. The estimate was £6,500,000-£8,500,000. This sensual work, characteristic of his late work, infused with eroticism, is of a female nude being serenaded by a bearded flute-player. It was painted in 1970 and depicts Picasso’s great love Jacqueline Roque, his wife and the last of his muses. She was first seen in his work in 1954. The price realised was £4,645,000.

‘Canotage à Bougival’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, is a beautiful landscape scene, depicting a lady in a boat and farm house in the distance.

It is thought that this painting was painted in the spring of 1881 after Renoir returned from his first trip overseas. He had travelled to Algeria and it was during his travels the artist turned his focus completely to the genre of landscape painting. After his return to France, the transition was marked and he continued to paint landscapes in the plein-air style that had come to define Impressionist works. This work has a significant provenance, as it was acquired in the 1920 by Dr Albert C Barnes, one of the most important collectors of 20th century art. The price realised was £4,197,000.

‘Le Baiser’ ( The Kiss), perhaps one of the most iconic works by Auguste Rodin, as two young lovers kiss in a sensual embrace, had an estimate of £4 million – £6 million but failed to meet it’s reserve.

‘Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet’ (1944), is a wonderfully vibrant Matisse portrait of Annelies Nelck (a young artist), set against a violet background, the foreground dominated by stunning arrays of anemones flowers, and that was a hot sale item. This is one of three portraits of this lady and the other two reside in museum collections.

The estimate was £5 million – £7 million and the work sold for £8,453,000 (the second highest price for a work the night).

The jewel of the night was Paul Gauguin ‘Te Fare’ (La Maison) painted in 1892. According to Christie’s it is one of the most richly coloured of his Tahitian landscapes and was painted on the artist’s first trip to the island, a year in which he produced some of his greatest masterpieces.

‘It is really life in the open – an intimate life all the same, among the thickets and the shaded brooks; these women whispering in an immense palace which Nature herself has decorated with all the riches that Tahiti holds. Hence the fabulous colours, this fery, yet soft and muted air.’ – Paul Gauguin

The colour in this work is breathtaking, as a rich luminescent lime green landscape populated with three small Tahitian female figures, draws you towards a wooden hut that is thought to have been the home Gauguin rented in Mataiea.

There was strong demand for this work and it quickly reached the upper estimate selling of £18 million and realised £20,325,000, achieving the highest lot price for the night.

Throughout the evening the auctioneer expertly guided the bidders along reaching excellent results for star pieces in the sale.

Other significant works in the sale were two works by Claude Monet, a portrait by Paul Cézanne and two works by Berthe Morisot, Fauvist artists Kees van Dongen and Raoul Duffy and works by Egon Schiele and Henry Moore and Giocometti.

The three Le Corbusier works offered by the Heider Weber Museum Collection were very quickly snapped up, one work achieving just under £3 million and the other two works realised figures above £3 million, all three surpassing their high estimates.

After a short break the auction sale resumed with the surrealist sale including some fine works by René Magritte, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Jean (Hans) Arp, Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Francis Picabia and Paul Delvaux. Again very good results were gained with a sale total of £43,415,250 including buyer’s premium.

The star piece was René Magritte’s La Corde sensible, painted in 1960, which sold for £14,441,348.  According to Christie’s this almost doubled the previous world auction record for the artist set in February 2014 and also a second work by Magritte in the sale called ‘La domain d’Arnheim, also easily overtook the artist’s previous auction record and sold for £10,245,000.

Brexit or no Brexit – if tonight’s sale is anything to go by – one of London’s top auction houses demonstrated the art market is buoyant, as  collectors and dealers snapped up the works and very few works went “passed” – not reaching reserves and most of the artworks met or exceeded the estimates.

This proved to be an exciting and very interesting first night that has set the mood for the next big Impressionist and Modern painting sale at Sotheby’s tonight (on 1st March) in London.

At Vitruvian Arts Consultancy Ltd, our specialist art consultants provide independent advice on buying and selling high value art. We also assist clients with private sales, sales by private treaty and sales in auction. For more details please visit our services page here.