Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction this May will showcase four masterworks from the collection of Ambroise Vollard, a prominent Parisian art dealer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who played a vital role in the development of Modern Art.
This sale will mark the first major auction of works from Vollard’s collection in over ten years. Among the collection, one of the most significant works to appear at auction is a major still life by Paul Gauguin, which was recently restituted to Vollard’s descendants after almost four decades on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Ambroise Vollard, an instrumental figure in the careers of significant artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Vincent van Gogh, among others, not only staged their first solo exhibitions but also supported their careers by publishing prints and illustrated books of their work and placing their works in major institutional and private collections.
Masterwork by Paul Gauguin: Nature morte avec pivoines de chine et mandoline
The highlight of the group is a masterpiece by Paul Gauguin titled Nature morte avec pivoines de chine et mandoline.
This still life, executed in 1885, is one of the finest examples of the artist’s work in this genre to appear at auction. This painting was created during a significant period in Gauguin’s career when he started pursuing art full-time, moving away from the naturalism of the Impressionist movement and beginning to experiment with vivid colour.
The work features rich hues, striking tonal contrasts, and an emphasis on blue, a rarity in Gauguin’s palette. It is heavily inspired by Paul Cézanne, with whom the artist had spent extensive time several years prior.
The work’s slightly skewed perspective, the use of diagonal brushstrokes, and the outlines defining the shapes of flowers and leaves are all indicative of Cézanne’s influence on Gauguin’s style. This work also dates to the period in which Vincent Van Gogh began to notice Gauguin’s visionary new style, enthusiastically inviting him to join him in Arles a few years later.
Elsewhere in the Collection
The collection also includes a dynamic landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir titled Paysage de bord de mer, painted circa 1884. This work effortlessly captures the harmony of light and colour with a vitality seen in Renoir’s finest Impressionist works while also rendering the rocky landscape with firmness and a sense of volume.
In addition, the collection includes a red chalk by Renoir titled Le Jugement de Pâris from circa 1915, depicting the Judgement of Paris, and a watercolour and pencil work on paper by Paul Cézanne titled Sous-bois from circa 1882-84.
Ambroise Vollard: The Man at the Center of Impressionism
Ambroise Vollard, arriving in Paris from the French island colony La Réunion in 1887 with the intention of studying law, discovered work by Paul Cézanne in the famed shop of Père Tanguy.
This encounter transformed his life, leading him to surround himself with art and dedicate his life to furthering the work of his artists. He would go on to sell more than two-thirds of Cézanne’s oeuvre, generating enormous wealth and clout for the artist.
Vollard’s breakthrough as an art dealer came in 1895 when he staged one of his most significant exhibitions, a retrospective of works by Cézanne, followed later that year by one devoted to Vincent van Gogh, who was virtually unknown in Paris at the time.
Despite Vollard’s untimely death in 1939, his contributions to the development of Impressionist and Modern art history remain unparalleled. In 2010, a trove of 140 works belonging to Vollard, including paintings, prints, books, and drawings, were discovered in a storage box in the bank vault of the Société Générale in Paris.
After an 11-year legal dispute over the vault’s ownership, the works were auctioned by Sotheby’s in Paris and London, making headlines worldwide and selling for over 20 million euros.
The inclusion of the rare Gauguin still life in Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction from Vollard’s collection marks a significant moment in the art world’s history.
The sale provides art enthusiasts with the opportunity to own a masterpiece that has played a crucial role in the development of Impressionist and Modern art.
With the auction of works from Vollard’s collection, Sotheby’s continues to uphold its reputation as a leading auction house, showcasing some of the most significant works of art in the world.