Specialist Shares Insight on Impressionist & Surreal Art with Great Works From Picasso and Magritte

Sometimes, like many people, I have found Impressionist and surreal art incomprehensible if there is no background information or guidance to different interpretations. Christie's London is holding two evening sales on 27 Feb, offering works from Pablo Picasso, René Magritte and Marc Chagall. We invited Elaine Holt, Senior Vice President and Senior Director of Impressionist & Modern Art, Christie's, to throw light on appreciating several highlights of the sale.

Elaine Holt, Senior Vice President and Senior Director of Impressionist & Modern Art, Christie's

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme se coiffant

Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art
Lot no.: 9
Size: 81.2 x 65.3 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (no. 07162). 
  • Galeria Maison Bernard, Caracas. 
  • Ruth & Mauricio Kramer, New York; sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 16 November 1989, lot 348.
  • Acquired at the above sale; sale Christie’s, New York, 19 November 1998, lot 347. 
  • Private collection, United States, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie’s, New York, 2 May 2006, lot 45. 
  • Acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent.

Estimate: £2,500,000 - 3,500,000

Elaine: It was created by Picasso in 1956. As we all know, Picasso had many muses and the one painted here is Jacqueline, his second wife.

Picasso and Jacqueline

Elaine: In 1956, he had been with Jacqueline for two years and they moved into a studio in France. The painting depicts Jacqueline sitting on a sofa, combing her hair. We can tell they were in a good relationship.

Jacqueline was an important muse to Picasso

Q: Is the painting depicting Jacqueline combing her hair or the two lovers kissing each other?

Elaine: The painting is titled “Woman Combing her Hair”. It’s also like a painting of the two lovers kissing each other. It was a typical technique used by the artist in the 50s. Jacqueline was an important muse to Picasso and she was painted the most out of all models painted by the artist.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Le Coq Saigné

Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art
Lot no.: 8
Size: 81 x 99.9 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (no. 011105). 
  • Sala Gaspar, Barcelona, by 1968.
  • Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, by whom acquired from the above, and thence by descent to the present owner.

Estimate: £2,200,000 - 2,800,000

Elaine: The painting behind me was created by Picasso in 1948. It is one of the “still life” paintings that he created in the 40s. He started taking a modern approach, which used more black lines. 

Q: Why did he use a cock as the subject matter?

Elaine: The cock symbolizes himself, which is strong. I like the colours in the painting, so special. The graphic is simple and succinct whereas the colours that he used are representational

Q: Why did he title the painting “The Bled Cock”?

Elaine: It is possible that he saw a cock at that time. It could be a subject matter for his “still life” paintings or he slaughtered a cock for a meal. He never explained it but it is commonly seen in his works.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Hommage aupassé

Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art
Lot no.: 25
Size: 71.3 x 75.9 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1948.
  • Dr J.J. Mayers, New York.
  • Van Diemen-Lilienfeld Galleries, New York.
  • Feigl Gallery, New York.
  • The Frederick & Helen Serger Collection, New York, by 1954.
  • Mr & Mrs Ludwig Neugass, New York, by 1956 until at least 1965.
  • Private collection, Australia, by 1986; sale, Christie's, London, 7 February 2012, lot 43.
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner. 

Estimate: £1,400,000 - 2,500,000

Elaine: It was created by Marc Chagall in 1944. It shows the typical method Chagall used to show his love towards his lover. He originally lived in France and moved to the US with his wife Bella in 1941 because of World War II.

Elaine: Bella died in 1944. This work is a remembrance of his wife. At the center is his wife, the upper right corner is a tomb. The lower right corner is a village in Russia. Russia often occurs in his works because Chagall was a Russian.

Q: What's that painted at the bottom of the painting?

Elaine: There are some recurring elements can be found in Chagall’s works such as the moon, house, chicken, or a lamb, like the one shown in the painting. They are all elements representing Russian village and commonly seen in Chagall’s works.

René Magritte (1898-1967), La recherche de l'absolu

Sale: The Art of Surreal
Lot no.: 113
Size: 45.7 x 35.5 cm

  • Alexander Iolas, New York.
  • William Copley, Los Angeles & New York.
  • Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles.
  • Alan Auslander Gallery, New York.
  • Robert M. & Helen W. Benjamin, New York, by whom acquired from the above in 1965; her sale, Sotheby's, New York, 2 May 1996, lot 260. 
  • Gana Art Gallery, Seoul.

Estimate: £1,000,000 - 1,500,000

Elaine: René Magritte was a surrealist artist. He incorporated some basic elements from our daily life to his paintings. It is also his signature style. He put some classic themes into a special environment his constructed.

Q: How special is that?

Elaine: Take this painting as an example. He turned the sky into a wood panel and the tree is in a shape of a leaf. It depicts scenery outside but at the same time, it is like everything put together on stage, creating a surreal atmosphere.

Q: What about the materials he worked with?

Elaine: This work is wash on paper but you can see the details clearly. It is like oil on painting. Magritte’s works are increasingly popular in the market, with a drastic rise in prices as well. Since this work is only estimated at £1m - 1.5m, many clients have found it very reasonable. It is very likely to be sold with a good price.

Auction details

Auction house: Christie's London
Auction date: 2018/2/27
Auction time: 7pm