Posted: 21 June 2011 by Sarah Greenberg, RA Magazine Editor
Last chance to view: Top lots at Sotheby’s
public view of top lots from its summer sales has some real gems. Whether or not you are going to bid for them, it is worth popping into the showrooms to take a look - it may be your last chance to see these fabulous works before they vanish into private collections.
Egon Schiele, 'Häuser mit Wäsche (Vorstadt II)', 1914. Oil on canvas. 99 x 119cm/ 39 x 46 7/8 in.
Egon Schiele’s townscape ‘Häuser mit Wäsche (Vorstadt II)’, 1914, (est. £22m-30m) to be auctioned in London on 22 June, is a striking and enigmatic picture that seems at once to nod to the Vienna Secession past and look forward to a more modernist style. It depicts a town on a river with washing hanging out to dry, but while the colourful laundry line in the foreground is painted in a thick jewel-like polychrome reminiscent of Klimt’s decorative work, the houses behind are painted in a more linear grid of earthy, unpolished tones. The contrast between the two styles makes the painting intriguing and almost Janus-like. It is as though Schiele is nodding to his Viennese mentor Klimt, absorbing the influence of Cubism and moving on to develop his own style.
Helena Newman, a specialist in German and Austrian art and Chairman of Impressionist and Modern art for Sotheby’s Europe, explains how this painting reveals Schiele’s artistic evolution:
This painting comes from the Leopold Museum in Vienna, the world’s largest collection of works by Schiele. It is being sold in order to pay for a Holocaust restitution claim over the celebrated Schiele masterpiece ‘Portrait Wally’, which was famously seized when it was loaned to an exhibition in the US. After years of negotiations, the Leopold has recently had to buy the painting back for $19m from the heirs of the original owners, who were Holocaust victims. The Leopold chose to sell this particular landscape because it is one of several in their collection.
Francis Bacon, 'Crouching Nude', 1961. Oil on canvas, 198 x 145cm/ 78 x 57in.
Francis Bacon famously painted male nudes but this ‘Crouching Nude’, 1961, (est. £7,000,000-9,000,000), to be auctioned in London on 29 June, is one of twelve female nudes he painted between 1959-62, and it is a striking picture. The vivid green background composition and the animalistic face atop a sensuous figure stopped me in my tracks. Bacon’s bohemian friend Henrietta Moraes, is notionally the sitter, but, as Sotheby’s expert Oliver Barker explained to me, Bacon probably painted this from John Deakin’s photographs of her, rather than from life. With his famously magpie approach, Bacon likely drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the cowering nudes from ‘The Deluge’ in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and the work of Soutine and Rodin.
I asked Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist in Contemporary Art, about how Bacon painted such a picture, his influences, and recent world record prices for Bacon’s work: