From Rembrandt to Warhol, is a veritable roll call of leading artists taking the stage at Sotheby’s London sale of Prints & Multiples on 17 March 2015, with estimates ranging from £3,000 upwards to £200,000. The auction opens with a particularly strong selection of Old Master prints, led by Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses, considered one of the masterpieces of printmaking. Key artists of the twentieth century, such as Picasso, Munch, Chagall and Warhol, among the most important printmakers in the graphic medium’s history, are represented.
REMBRANDT: Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves: ‘The Three Crosses’. Drypoint, 1653 is a fine impression of the fourth state (of five), estimate: £200,000-300,000. The Three Crosses by Rembrandt has long been considered one of the masterpieces of printmaking. Working entirely in drypoint, Rembrandt has captured the mystery and terror of the subject through simple but powerful lines. The individual strokes resemble those of a reed pen, but the overall effect is one that could only have been achieved through a printed medium. Realising the fragility of the drypoint technique, Rembrandt printed a small edition and took as great care in the printing as he did in the creation of the plate. He experimented with inking effects to achieve different tonalities and moods, so that each impression is unique.
Bust of a Man Wearing a High Cap, Three-Quarters Right: The Artist’s Father (?). Etching and drypoint, 1630, a very fine impression of the extremely rare first state (of two). Estimate: £15,000-20,000. Self-Portrait (?) with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre – etching and engraving, 1634, a fine impression of the third (final) state is estimated at: £7,000-9,000.
Old Man with a Divided Fur Cap, an etching and drypoint, 1640, a very fine impression of the second (final) state: estimate: £8,000-12,000. The sale also includes etched landscapes from two moments in Rembrandt’s career when he focused on this genre: in the 1640s and a decade later. Although in most cases Rembrandt’s landscapes were composed in his studio from drawings made in the countryside around Amsterdam, Clump of Trees with a vista and The Windmill appear to have been created outside in nature. Their exuberant, sketch-like qualities give an insight to the artist at work. Clump of Trees with a vista. Drypoint, 1652, a fine impression of this extremely rare print, the second (final) state: estimate: £50,000-80,000. The Windmill Etching and drypoint, 1641, a superb impression of the only state: estimate: £20,000-25,000
MARC CHAGALL: The auction includes a selection of books and portfolios created by Marc Chagall, from a Private German Collection.
These media remained an enduring preoccupation for the artist; the collection offered for sale represents almost 60 years of Chagall’s oeuvre and comprises the majority of the artist’s most significant and sought after books.
Daphnis & Chloé. The complete portfolio, comprising 42 lithographs printed in colours, with text by Longus, 1961, signed in black ink on the justification, numbered 39, from the total edition of 270, loose (as issued), contained in the original paper-covered boards and slipcase. Estimate: £130,000-180,000. The story of Daphnis and Chloé has inspired artists throughout history, however, no artist has produced such a magnificent series of works as Marc Chagall. This outstanding set of lithographs, with its unrestricted use of colour and romantic symbolism, is considered by many to be the artist’s most important graphic achievement.
The famous pastoral romance of Daphnis & Chloé was written by Longus, the ancient Greek author, and the Greek island of Lesbos provides the setting for the story. The history of these lithographs originated with the suggestion by the publisher, Tériade, in 1952 that the artist should illustrate Longus’ work. Chagall, excited by the idea, decided that he wanted to see Greece first, in order to give him inspiration for the project. From 1957 to 1960, the artist worked on the lithographs for Daphnis & Chloé, basing them on the paintings that he had executed in Greece. The set of 42 lithographs was published as a two-volume portfolio in an edition of 270 in 1961 by Tériade in Paris.
EDVARD MUNCH: Madonna, is a lithograph printed in black, blue, red and olive-green, 1895-1902 and estimated at: £100,000-150,000. The beautiful and complex image of the Madonna is a brilliant example of Munch’s unique and creative work as a printmaker. Madonna is one of Munch’s most famous and challenging works and has caused much controversy ever since it was first seen by the public. It illustrates his fascination with life and death, desire and fear. Munch used tissue-thin paper for these prints.
This particular impression is remarkable for its well-preserved condition; the sheet appears un-touched, the inks still fresh and rich. Munch created various painted and drawn versions of Madonna from as early as 1893. An etching with the same title from 1894 is his first translation of the subject into a print medium and it was then further developed in 1895 into a black and white lithograph. Munch developed the image even further in 1902 when he created colour stones at a printer’s workshop in Berlin. In this fourth state, Munch adds a light olive-green tone for the torso.
PABLO PICASSO is universally heralded for his indefatigable drive to create a visual vocabulary in multiple media. With his printmaking, he demonstrated a proficiency in etching, lithography and linocut. The prints here give a comprehensive view, from his early etchings for the Saltimbanque Suite, through the Cubist period, to the late linocuts. Many of the subjects pay homage to the women in his life, from his ‘golden muse’ Marie-Thérèse Walter, to Françoise Gilot, widely known as the only woman who dared to love Picasso and to leave him, and Jacqueline Roque, his second wife.
Le repas frugal, Etching, 1904, from la suite des Saltimbanques, is estimated at: £60,000-90,000, This is Picasso’s earliest print, astonishingly accomplished and daring in its size and complexity. It marks the beginning of the artist’s lifelong experimentation and fascination with printmaking. Le repas frugal is only print linked to Picasso’s Blue Period, recognisable by the pervasive melancholy and poverty the image depicts. The print links Picasso’s Spanish past to his French future, and is the first print the artist made after moving to Paris for good.The woman is a portrait of the enigmatic Madeleine, Picasso’s lover at the time. Tête d’homme à la pipe, Etching, 1912, estimated at: £6,000-8,000, Visage de Marie-Thérèse, Lithograph, 1928, Estimate: £12,000-18,000, Femme au corsage à fleurs, Lithograph, 1958, estimated at: £15,000-25,000, Femme assise au chignon, Linoleum cut printed in colours, 1962, estimated at: £20,000-30,000
ANDY WARHOL: Car Crash. Unique screenprint, 1978 is estimated at: £130,000-180,000. Warhol’s Car Crash is among the most powerful, challenging and provocative works made by any artist in the Post-War era. Adding to its rarity, Car Crash is an intimate and personal work because Warhol gave unique impressions to friends, colleagues and clients. The subject shows Warhol’s ability to turn from common commercial objects, such as Campbell’s Soup, to a darker side of American culture. Based on an unidentified press photograph, this image belongs to what is arguably the most extraordinary, strange and disturbing source image of all those used in Warhol’s famous and seminal Death and Disaster series which he commenced in 1962.
The sale features eight lots by Warhol of prints in colour combinations unique from the published editions, including: Moonwalk, is a screenprint in a unique combination of colours, 1987, and estimated at: £50,000-70,000. Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, the complete portfolio, comprising ten screenprints in unique colour combinations, 1980, with the original cardboard box is estimated at: £100,000-200,000. Satyric Festival Song, screenprint in colours, 1986, from Martha Graham, a trial proof, printed in a unique combination of colours is estimated at: £15,000-20,000.
FRANCIS BACON: Miroir de la Tauromachie. The complete portfolio, that Sotheby’s states is comprised of four lithographs printed in colours, with text by Michel Leiris, 1990 – is estimated at: £40,000-60,000. This portfolio combines two of Bacon’s most desirable subjects for his prints – the bullfight and his psychologically probing portraits (here, the portrait is of Michel Leiris, Bacon’s collaborator and author for the portfolio).
KEITH HARING: Totem is a carved plywood painted with enamel in colours, 1988, and is estimated at: £50,000-70,000. This dazzlingly vibrant multiple by Haring showcases the graphic symmetry and kinetic gestural motion exemplary of the American artist’s most beloved compositions, employing his instantly recognisable pictorial language of bold contoured lines and boisterously mobile stick figures. Haring was one of the most celebrated artists working in New York during the 1980s, admired for tapping into the zeitgeist of the decade.