NEW YORK, NY.-
A superb offering of Surrealist works in Sothebys
Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on 2 May 2012 will be led by Salvador Dalí's Printemps nécrophilique from 1936. Painted at the height of the artists most creative years in Paris, the canvas exemplifies his unique aesthetic at its most refined and sensational. Printemps nécrophilique has not appeared on the market in nearly 15 years and is estimated to sell for $8/12 million*. The May auction will also include important works by other Surrealist giants including Max Ernst, René Magritte and Paul Delvaux. A select group, including Printemps nécrophilique, will be shown in London from 13-18 April before exhibition and sale in New York.
Surrealism is the last great movement of 20th century modernism to be fully appreciated in the marketplace, and a number of new benchmarks have been set just over the course of the last year, commented Simon Shaw, Head of Sothebys Impressionist & Modern Art Department in New York. In February 2011, Sothebys set a new record for a Surrealist work of art at auction when Salvador Dalís Portrait de Paul Eluard sold for $21.7 million. That same sale saw a new record for a work on paper by René Magritte set when his Le Maître dÉcole brought just over $4 million. Just three months later, Sothebys set a new record for Paul Delvaux when his Les Cariatides achieved $9 million. Surrealism continues to present exciting opportunities for collectors given the wide range of material available at varying price points literature, works on paper, paintings, sculpture and objects and the fact that great masterworks remain in private hands. Additionally, given that the roots of much recent art lie in Surrealism, it crosses over well with collections of Contemporary art.
By the time Dalí painted Printemps nécrophilique in 1936, he had established the style and the personal iconography that characterizes his most successful compositions. The eerie infusion of dreamscape with hyper-real figural elements is a hallmark of the artists approach. In the present work, Dalí depicts two figures
that offer a confounding combination of anonymity and specificity. He envelops the figures in a wide expanse of plains and sky, reminiscent of the endless landscape of his native Catalonia. The lithe and graceful male figure at left recalls the artist's own profile, which will appear again in the artist's masterpiece painted the next year, Métamorphose de Narcisse. The flower-headed dominant female figure is one of the artist's most memorable characters, appearing in significant compositions such as Femmes aux têtes de fleurs retrouvant sur la plage la dépouille d'un piano à queue and staged in London for the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition. The canvas was originally owned by Elsa Schiaparelli, the couterière active in Paris during the first half of the 20th century. She staged momentous events in Paris and occasionally collaborated with Dalí - their work together is explored in detail in a current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.
Replete with some of the artist's most iconic motifs, Le canapé bleu embodies Delvaux's aesthetic magnificently (est. $3.5/5 million). Luxuriating nudes play out an ambiguous narrative in the foreground while the background provides an ineffable sense of place. The setting seems to oscillate between a cinematic stage set, a domestic space and a train station. The train - an element that appears in many of Delvaux's works - is only hinted at through the tunnel and red light at the upper left corner of the composition. The viewer is left with an eerie feeling of erotic anticipation and excitement - a sensibility that pervades many of his earlier compositions as well, including Les cariatides from 1946, sold by Sothebys in May 2011.
Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington had a legendary love affair in France at the onset of World War II, and Ernsts Leonora in the Morning Light is a rare decalcomania masterpiece by the artist that immortalizes their passionate relationship (est. $3/5 million). The two met in London in 1937, and, having fallen in love on first site, Carrington decided that year to move to Paris to be with Ernst. Ernst left his wife of ten years to move with Carrington to a farmhouse outside the city in Saint-Martin dArdèche, where they set up a Surrealist haven. However, the two were torn apart by the coming war, and were separated from 1939 to 1942 while Ernst was interned multiple times as a German national, and Carrington suffered a dramatic breakdown in his absence. During this time, Ernst produced a number of works with Carrington as his subject, including Leonora in the Morning Light a mysterious portrait gifted to Leonora, who emerges from the jungle along with the light of dawn.
While Ernst escaped war-torn Europe and moved to New York with Peggy Guggenheim, Carrington fled to Mexico in late 1942. There, she joined other European Surrealist émigrés who had settled in Mexico, becoming a major figure in the artistic scene there. Having been unable to find a local gallery that would exhibit her works, she staged her own show in 1950 in a furniture store in Mexico City, which included La Artista Viaje de Incognito (est. $400/600,000). Wanting to look nothing like herself as the title suggests Carrington adds a second body to her own, concealed by a number of objects with personal significance.
The May sale is further supported by a fantastic group of five gouaches by René Magritte from a private European collector that have been in the same collection since 1967. They encompass some of the artists best-known themes and together are estimated to sell for $2.7/3.8 million. Chief among them is Le Viol, a very rare and famous image in the artists oeuvre (est. $700,000/1 million). Also included is La
Voix du sang, which typifies the elaborate treachery of the artists images (est. $600/800,000).