Bidders representing more than 30 countries have contributed to the success of the New York Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s on May 8.  $158,505,000 was realised and top results for blue-chip artists including Picasso, Miró, Modigliani and Schiele were achieved. With all but three works sold, the evening’s strong sell-through rates of 94% by lot and 90% by value signaled buyers’ enthusiasm and confidence in this educated marketplace. Of the 49 works offered, 4 lots sold for over $10 million, 10 for over $5 million and 36 for over $1 million.

The top lot of the sale was Soutine’s Le petit pâtissier, a masterpiece from circa 1927 which sold on the phone for $18,043,750 and set a new world auction record for the artist. Several lots drew competitive bidding and soared above pre-sale expectations, including Schiele’s monumental Selbstbildnis mit Modell, 1913 which exceeded its $5-7 million estimate to achieve $11,323,750, and Chagall’s magical circus painting, Les trois acrobates, 1924 which sold for $13,003,750 (estimate $6-9 million). Exceptional prices were also achieved for classic Impressionist landscapes by Monet, Pissarro and Sisley.

Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) was a School of Paris painter best known for his, portraits and still life carcases. Born in Smilovitchi, a village near Minsk in Lithuania, son of a poor Jewish mender. Studied at the School of Fine Arts in Vilno 1910-13, his fellow pupils including Kikoine and Kremegne. In 1913 moved to Paris and studied briefly in Cormon’s studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Met Modigliani, Laurens, Pascin, Lipchitz and Zadkine. In 1919-22 worked mainly at Ceret, where his work reached its most expressionistic extreme and where he executed a series of wildly distorted landscapes with convulsive rhythms. The purchase by Dr Albert C. Barnes of a number of his pictures in 1923 was his first big success after years of poverty. Afterwards divided his time between Paris and Lèves, the Riviera, the Pyrenees, the Beauce, Touraine and the Indre. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Bing, Paris, 1927. Besides landscapes and portraits, his later work included still lifes of carcasses of beef or dead poultry, studies of valets, choir boys and communicants, and a few pictures inspired by works by Rembrandt and Courbet. Lived in Champigny-sur-Veude in Touraine 1941-3, during the German Occupation; died in Paris after being rushed there for an operation.

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