Zurich last evening sold a major landscape by the celebrated Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler - Genfersee von Chexbres aus (Lake Geneva from Chexbres) for CHF 7,138,500 (5,784,660). A new world auction record for a work by Albert Anker was also established when Strickendes Mädchen, Kleinkind in der Wiege hütend achieved CHF 6,130,500 (4,967,830). Estimated in excess of CHF 11 million, tonights auction realised CHF 17,410,500 (14,108,540), bringing the total of Swiss Art sold by Sothebys Zurich in 2011 to CHF 26,864,000 (21,839,139).
Commenting on the sales results, Urs Lanter, Head of Sothebys Swiss Art Department said: Since the launch of the Swiss Art sale in 1979, Sothebys Zurich has sold some of Ferdinand Hodlers most important landscapes to have come to auction*. Genfersee von Chexbres aus is a major work by the internationally acclaimed Swiss Master and it fully deserves the price achieved tonight. We are also delighted by the world auction record achieved for a work by Albert Anker, confirming the artists success on the auction art market. The solid CHF 26,864,000 totalled by Sothebys Zurich Swiss Art sales in 2011 demonstrates the resilience of this market and the continuous demand for rare and high quality works which are fresh to the market and come from prestigious collections.
The star lot of the evening - Genfersee von Chexbres aus - sold to an anonymous buyer on the phone for CHF 7,138,500 (5,784,660) (lot 47, est. CHF 3-5 million/2.420.000-4.030.000). The view of Lake Geneva from Chexbres inspired many landscapes by Hodler (1853-1918) between 1895 and 1911. The artist, however, painted only two landscapes from the vantage point featured in this iconic work. Dating from circa May 1904, this oil on canvas was probably executed shortly before a very similar canvas which is now part of the collection of the Musée dArt et dHistoire in Geneva. It reflects the stylistic direction taken by Hodler in the early 1900s. In 1904, the artist took part in the Vienna Secession and the influence of the Jugenstil movement is clearly mirrored in the ornamentation, curves and lines of the painting. Testament to Hodlers style are also the compositions parallel design, the depiction of forms as large spreads of colour and the dominance of the colour blue, symbol of transcendence for the artist. Coming from an important private collection, Genfersee von Chexbres aus appeared tonight for the first time on the market since 1963.
Tonight Sothebys Zurich set a new world auction record for a work by Albert Anker when it sold Strickendes Mädchen, Kleinkind in der Wiege hütend for CHF 6,130,500 (4,967,830), more than doubling the pre-sale low estimate (lot 17, est. CHF 3-5 million/ 2.420.000-4.030.000). Painted in 1885, this oil portrait representing a knitting girl watching a toddler in a cradle reflects a recurring theme in Ankers portraits: childhood.
Another favourite subject of Anker is old age, often associated with wisdom and the decline in physical capabilities. Alter Mann beim Znüni (Gyp) (Old Man Taking A Rest), a work from 1901 made CHF 1,762,500 (1,428,236), well above the pre-sale estimate of CHF 700.000-900.000/ 565.000-730.000. Painted shortly before the painters stroke in September 1901, this oil on canvas represents the Old Johner who posed several times for Anker, and Gyp, the artists dog, to which the artist dedicated a portrait.
Another highlight this evening was Gemüsestillleben mit Mäusen und Kaninchen, a still life with vegetables, mice and rabbits painted in 1928 by Adolf Dietrich (1877-1957), a key figure of Naïve art, which set a world auction record for a still life by the artist in achieving CHF 362,500 (293,751) in excess of its pre-sale estimate (lot 50, est. CHF 300.000-350.000/ 242.000-282.000).
Reflecting the importance of light in the oeuvre of the master of Swiss impressionism, Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933), Grevasalvas doubled its low estimate to sell for CHF 362,500 (293,751) (lot 62, est. CHF 300.000- 500.000 / 242.000-403.000). Painted in 1927 andreviously unknown, this oil on canvas representing the Sils Lake region is innovative in the use of the violet, a colour scarcely used at the time.
Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) - another celebrated artist of the Swiss avant-garde - was represented by Le Bain (The Bath), a nude painted in 1905 which realised CHF 242,500 (196,509) (lot 51, est. CHF 220.000-280.000/ 178.000-226.000).
Strong prices were also achieved for two works by Ernest Biéler (18631948): the portrait of an old man made CHF 158,500 ( 128,440) (lot 31, CHF 60,000-80,000/ 48,400 - 64,500), while Vieille Valaisanne (Old Woman from the Valais) realised in 1940 sold for CHF 74,500 (60,371) (lot 32, est. CHF 60,000-80,000/ 48,400 - 64,500).