Big name artists dominate market

Original works by leading artists continue to dominate the print market, says New York’s Swann Auction Galleries following its recent sale.

Familiar names such as Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Edward Hopper were among those whose works attracted healthy five-figure sums in the 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings Auction of more than 600 lots that totaled over $2m. Buyers were split equally between collectors and the trade.

Director Todd Weyman said, “This sale saw increasingly competitive bidding for original works by influential printmakers, ranging from Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac to Salvador Dalí and George Grosz, underscoring consistently strong results for important prints.” Categories that did especially well included works by Latin American artists and 20th century urban scenes.

The top lot of the sale was a pencil drawing by Fernand Léger titled La Lecture, 1924. The work sold for $125,000. Each of the 11 terre de faience ceramics by Pablo Picasso offered in the sale sold after fierce competition between bidders on the phone and online. Two vases depicting human faces led the run: Laughing-eyed Face, 1969, fetched $42,000, while Bearded Man, 1953, went for $25,000.

Gritty scenes of early 20th-century New York City by Hopper, Martin Lewis and Stow Wengenroth performed well, the majority selling within or above their estimates. Martin Lewis in particular received a lot of attention, achieving three of the top prices in the sale, crowned by a richly inked drypoint titled Relics (Speakeasy Corner), which sold to a collector for $52,500. Swann Galleries holds the auction record for a print by Lewis with Wet Night, Route 6, drypoint, selling for $72,500 on November 3, 2015.

Dalí’s ink and wash drawing Landscape with a Surrealist Head and Standing Figure, from 1960 attracted a great deal of pre-sale attention, having come from the Albaretto collection in Turin, which had acquired it direct from the artist. Here it took $45,000.

A Dalí portfolio of 80 heliogravures from Goya etchings, Les Caprices de Goya, with letters confirming their authenticity, fetched $37,500.

A 1922 Picasso etching, Les trois femmes, made $40,000. From a deluxe edition of 40 on Japan paper, it formed part of a larger edition of 100. His Portrait de Jacqueline en Carmen (LEspagnole) a linocut in colour from 1962, signed and numbered 30/50, took $37,500. Also performing well was Profil de Femme, a simple lithograph from 1947, again signed and numbered 49/50, which went for $25,000.

Selling for $47,500 was a classic view by Renoir. Le Chapeau Épinglé (2e planche), a colour lithograph on paper dating to an edition of 200 from 1898, showed a bonneted girl dressing the hat of another with flowers.

Paul Cézanne’s Les Baigneurs (grande planche) a highly graphic colour lithograph on cream paper from around 1896-98, was based on the artist’s 1875-76 painting Baigneurs en repos and took $25,000.

From much earlier in the 19th century came Etudes de Chevaux by Théodore Géricault, a collection of 30 lithographs dating to 1822 and a further 16 created in collaboration with the artist, which fetched $32,500.

Mary Cassatt’s Under the Horse Chestnut Tree
Mary Cassatt’s ‘Under the Horse Chestnut Tree’

Mary Cassatt’s view of a woman holding up her naked child in Under the Horse Chestnut Tree was an 1896-97 colour aquatint and drypoint on cream laid paper. A fine example of the American-born artist’s work from her time in Paris, it had once been in the Colnaghi collection and here sold for $35,000.

20th century masters dominated the rest of the top prices, with Matisse commanding $40,000 for Nu au cousin bleu, a 1924 lithograph, one of 10 numbered artist’s proofs from an edition of 50.

Miró’s Serie III, a typical Surrealist abstract etching and aquatint, with hand colouring in watercolour on parchment, dated to 1952-53. From a deluxe edition of only 13, it was signed and numbered VIII/XIII and sold for $37,500.

Thomas Hart Benton’s beautifully fluid 1942 lithograph, The Race, is based on a painting of the same title and shows a horse under a cloudy, moonlit sky, racing a train, the flowing mane and tail a recurring motif echoed in the cloud, its reflection in a pond and the smoke plume from the steam engine. The successful bid was $32,500.

A funeral scene, Grablegung (He was a great provider), was a 1930 gouache, ink and ink wash on paper view of mourners by an open grave by George Grosz that sold for $26,000.

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