Modernist Works Within the American Scene Auction
Although advertised as the American Scene, our May auction also showcases a prominent group of 20th-century Modernist works made by international artists. One such example includes Henri de Toulouse Lautrec's (French, 1864-1901) lithograph of Yvette Guilbert
Toulouse-Lautrec is infamously known for frequenting the French nightclubs and bars of Montmartre, including Le Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir. Yvette Guilbert, an iconic singer in Montmartre and personal friend of Toulouse-Lautrec's, commissioned the artist to make a series of portraits for an upcoming album in 1894. However, Toulouse-Lautrec's crude and loose depiction of the woman resulted in a public outcry and negative reception by his patron. Although these prints are now considered to be worthy of museum viewing, the lithographs originally drew a highly volatile reception.
A second modernist example from the May sale features another print, a woodcut by Wassily Kandinsky (Russian 1866-1944), Improvisation I.
Kandinsky, known for his color theory that attributed a specific meaning to a given color, did a series of paintings and prints titled "Improvisation I", "Improvisation II", and so on. Hailed as both the father of abstraction and modern art, Kandinsky did a series of woodcuts from 1907 to 1912. Improvisation I was printed in the original first edition titled Klangë. Printed in Germany in 1913 and published as an edition of 345, Klangë featured Kandinsky's woodcuts alongside poetry written by the artist.
The sale also features an etching by Leonard Baskin (American, 1922-200), a portrait titled Munch. Baskin's portrait is of Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), a symbolist painter who was largely influential within the Expressionist movement. Baskin's dark and sketchy handling of Munch directly alludes to the active and visually engaging scenes painted by the earlier Expressionist painter.
Rufina Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991) also picks up on this dark color palette. However, he has succinctly accented a predominantly neutral color palette with the addition of the bright red pigment in Watermelons. Throughout his career, the watermelon was a reoccuring motif for Tamayo.