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Buoyancy of 20th century art market evident in auction results

A collection of Old Masters art and sculptures, including the oil on canvas titled ‘Baigneuses’, or Bathers, by Henri Lebasque, sold more than $34,300, during an auction at Rosebery's in London.
Bathers Lebasque

‘Baigneuses’, or Bathers, by the French post-impressionist painter Henri Lebasque, claimed top lot $37,149. (All photos courtesy Roseberys)

LONDON – Roseberys’ September 8 Fine Art auction of Paintings and Modern Sculpture saw a collection of old masters, modern art by French artists and sculptures achieve top prices.

“We were very pleased with the response to our recent auction and in particular the quality of the paintings by French artists seemed to be recognized by buyers, both trade and private, who are keen to invest in works that are skilfully produced by academically well trained artists," said Rosberys Director and Head of Painting Marcus Grey. "The market remains buoyant for 20th century paintings especially those of the Post-Impressionist and Post-War schools but we were also pleased with the response to the French and Belgian 19th century works featured in this sale, showing that well-crafted and sympathetically understood studies regardless of style hold well in the current market.”

The highest achieving lot was the stunning oil on canvas painting entitled ‘Baigneuses’, or Bathers, by the French post-impressionist painter Henri Lebasque. After studying in Paris at the prestigious art school Ecole des Beaux Arts from 1885, Lebasque joined Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat’s art studio, Bonnat was a respected and established artist. Through this budding friendship Lebasque enjoyed the company of Neo- Impressionist and Nabis artists such as Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse. Matisse’s artistic influence can be seen in Lebasque’s earlier work, together in 1903 they founded an annual art exhibition, held in Paris titled the Salon d’Automne. This artistic event allowed for creative collaborations and friendships to blossom. It was here Lebasque became friends with Henri Manguin, who in 1906 introduced him to his beloved South of France where Lebasque would explore until settling in the French Riviera in 1924.

His time spent in the South of France led to a transformation in his painterly style, his figures and colours softened. This stylistic change took place during the assumed time ‘Baigneuses’ was created and thus is an example of his artistic development. His work was widely exhibited in French galleries and museums such as, Angers, Geneva (Petit Palais), Nantes and in the Musee d’Orsay, and his iconic romantic depiction of families and relaxing scenes became well-known. After fierce bidding from both international and British parties via internet, the telephone and in the room it was sold on the telephone to a private European collector. The painting sold for $37,149

Another French artist whose work enjoyed healthy interest during the auction was Albert Marquet.

Marquet oil

This 1926 oil on canvas entitled “Le Lac de Tunis” by Albert Marquet realized $17,886.

The Fauvist painter studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs under celebrated Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau and exhibited in 1905 at the Parisian art fair Salon d’Automne. The life-long friend of Henri Matisse, Marquet’s approach to the Fauvist style was more muted with a pastel colour palette, complimenting his favoured naturalistic subject matters. His featured 1926 oil on canvas entitled “Le Lac de Tunis” is testament to his artistic expression.

His love of naturalistic landscapes took Marques on a tour of the European coast and Africa. His desired destinations alternated between the lagoon views of Venice and Naples and the seascapes of Tunisia and Algeria. It was during these excursions that “Le Lac de Tunis” was inspired by the natural lagoon between the capital city of Tunisia, Tunis and the Gulf of Tunis which borders the Mediterranean Sea. The painting was sold on the telephone to a French collector for $17,886.

Notable French cityscape artist Antoine Blanchard, born Marcel Masson enjoyed fierce interest during the auction with nine telephone bidders expressing interest in his Parisian boulevard scene, a typical example from the artist. In 1932 after attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Blanchard’s love affair with the French capital city truly took hold, dominating his art. He would spend months documenting his beloved city with rich colours and swift brush strokes, his work echoing Edouard Leon Cortes who also depicted Parisian street scenes. The 1950’s saw Blanchard receive popularity in the United States which prompted him to adopt his artist pseudonym. After 20 years of growing popularity, galleries throughout the United States and Canada bought and sold his art. Blanchard died in 1988 in Paris, the city which inspired him. The oil on canvas sold over estimate on the telephone to a European gallery for $10,319.

Further French success came from the Abstract painter Marcel Mouly. Mouly began painting after taking night classes at the French Academies, the Cours Montparnasse 80 where he would remain until completing military duty during the Second World War. After France’s defeat to Germany in 1940 Mouly became a civilian and opened a studio in Auteuil with his artist friend Bernard la Fourcade. During a trip to Normandy in 1942 they were stopped and imprisoned by German officials believing them to be spies. It was during his confinement that Mouly decided to dedicate his life to art.

Shortly after Mouly’s realization in prison he was released and along with artist Vichy Edouard Pignon rented the Boulogne studio of the celebrated modernist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz. Lipchitz taught Mouly the style of cubism and by the mid-1940s Mouly’s abstract art was gaining recognition from fellow artists and collectors. In 1945 he also exhibited alongside Matisse in the Salon d’Automne in Paris. The following year he moved to La Ruche where he became friends with artistic icons Chagall and Picasso who helped influence his abstract style, embracing deep bold tones similar to the colours used in Matisse’s fauvist works and the cubist style of Picasso. Mouly’s art has been exhibited all over the world in multiple group and solo exhibitions. The oil on canvas sold over estimate to a private European collector for $5,503.

Kumalo sculpture

Sydney Alex K Kumalo’s bronze sculpture entitled ‘Mythological Rider II’ commanded $19,950

The Modern Sculpture section of the auction saw vast interest for celebrated South African artist Sydney Alex K Kumalo’s bronze sculpture entitled ‘Mythological Rider II’. Kumalo studied at the Polly Street Art Centre in Johannesburg in 1952 where he would then work under Cecil Skotnes until 1957. In 1958 and 1959 Kumalo’s individual style began to take shape, he was mentored by Eduardo Villa, a Modernist sculpture who taught him the art of bronze casting and introduced him to his own influences such as Henry Moore and Marino Marini. During this time Villa also introduced Kumalo to the African primitive exploration in European modernism which has maintained a steady theme throughout his career.

In 1960 Kumalo himself became an art instructor at the Polly Street Art Centre and at the Jubilee Social Centre until 1964, helping to advise and inspire future generations of artists, comparable to how he was enthused by Skotnes and Villa. Kumalo’s bronze sculpture ‘Mythological Rider II’ presents its viewer with the merging of his modernist and African flair that his followers have come to expect and admire. After energetic bidding from the internet and the telephone the sculpture sold to a private collector for $19,950.

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