GENEVA.- The forthcoming Sothebys auction of Swiss art will be held in Zurich, Talstrasse 83, on Wednesday, 26th November 2008, at 6pm. Urs Lanter, Head of Swiss Art, and his team have once again brought together a magnificent collection of works signed by 69 artists, among them Ferdinand Hodler, Félix Vallotton, Giovanni Giacometti, Gottardo Segantini, Cuno Amiet and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. This autumn sale comprises 135 lots spanning more than 200 years of Swiss artistic creativity.
Prior to the auction, a selection of the works will be on view from 15th to 17th November 2008 in Geneva, after which all the lots can be viewed in Zurich from 22nd to 25th November 2008.
One of the auction highlights is Ferdinand Holders Der Mäher (The Mower, 1910). This oil on canvas representing a man scything a meadow is estimated at CHF 1.5-2 million (950,0001,270,000 ). Hodler started on this subject in the autumn of 1908, in response to an assignment from the Swiss National Bank for the design of future banknotes. The theme of the series was work on the land, for which Hodler developed a number of rural subjects such as the woodcutter (Holzfäller) or the mower (Mäher). Working on these new characters gave his art renewed power, movement and rhythm. The symbolic power of these new characters had an important impact on Hodlers work. The version of Der Mäher offered at auction is characterized in particular by the very marked dynamism of the character portrayed.
One of Giacomettis paintings in the sale is Frühsommerlandschaft im Oberengadin, a view of the region of Maloja in the Upper Engadin in early summer, showing the Val Fex against the craggy profile of the Piz Tremoggia (estimate: CHF 500,000-700,000 / 320,000445,000). Landscapes occupy a major place in Giacomettis work, either as poetic decor for his characters or as the main subject of a colour composition at the limits of abstraction. In Frühsommerlandschaft im Oberengadin, a region that was to inspire Giacometti throughout his life, the artist contrasts the eternal snows in the background with a mountain stream.
A highly characteristic example of the final creative period of Giacomettis life is his Winter bei Capolago, painted in 1930. Here the snow-covered Piz Longhin is transformed by the light, the sole trace of human occupation in this vast landscape being the ski tracks in the snow (estimate: CHF 1.2-1.8 million / 765,000-1,145,000).
A further highlight is Félix Vallottons La jetée de Honfleur (The Dyke at Honfleur), an oil on canvas painted in 1920 and estimated at CHF 500,000-700,000 ( 320,000-445,000). The subject of this quiet painting is the beach at the popular tourist resort of Honfleur, with the Hospice lighthouse at the end of the east jetty, in which Vallotton plays on the contrasts between the mass of the jetty and the tiny figures on the beach, the splashes of colour of the sky and the pointillist rendering of the sand. Or again between the dark tones of the jetty and seated figures and the whiteness of the lighthouse, the ochres of the beach and the touches of light on some of the people. Although no sketch for La jetée de Honfleur has been found to this day, there can be no doubt that this work is a composition painted in the artists studio with the help of such a sketch.
By the same artiste is Femme aux coussins (Woman on Pillows, 1897), an oil on cardboard estimated at CHF 200,000-300,000 ( 125,000191,500). Worked in a palette of ochres and greys with a variety of prints, the pile of cushions strongly recalls the black and white motifs of his wellknown woodcut La paresse (Laziness) of the previous year.
Petites baigneuses, an oil on wood painted around 1897 (estimate: CHF 250,000-350,000 / 160,000225,000) is another work of Vallottons on offer at the auction. The subject of women bathing was dear to Vallotton, emerging in two distinct periods of his work. The first, between 1892 and 1899, to which the present Petites baigneuses belongs, corresponds to the decade during which the artist was a member of the Nabis group of artists. Full of rich humour, Vallottons Petites baigneuses is a fine representative of his Nabi style, where the decorative effect takes precedence over true-to-life recording of reality.
Another highlight is Cuno Amiets Weiblicher Akt mit Blumen (Die Wahrheit), an oil on canvas dated 1913 and estimated at CHF 800,000-1,200,000 ( 510,000765,000). The choice of subject and the formality of its execution are redolent of Ferdinand Hodlers Die Wahrheit (Truth), exhibited at the Kunsthaus, Zurich, with the difference that Amiet treats the subject as an optimistic evocation of man and nature, whereas Hodler uses it to portray strong elements of psychological introspection.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Also included in the auction is Drei Bauern (Three Farmers), this oil on canvas painted by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in 1922 is estimated at CHF 700,000-900,000 / 445,000575,000). The late development of Kirchners expressionist style occurred between 1921 and 1923, rendering his compositions more monumental without losing the intimate quality of his earlier work. Gradually withdrawing from the linear style of painting, Kirchner was to increasingly concentrate on a decorative approach. Drei Bauern is a perfect illustration of this new concept combining simplicity with monumental design, highlighted by the strong contrasts of light and dark.
The Engadin region was also dear to the heart of Gottardo Segantini, who immortalized it in a number of his works. Blick ins Oberengadin (View into Upper Engadin) is a scene bathed in sunshine (estimate: CHF 400,000-600,000 / 255,000385,000).