Art Market: Preview.
It is a rare treat to come upon a collection like that of the late Howard and Saretta Barnet. These New York collectors were highly unusual in interesting themselves in an extraordinarily wide range of works of art, but restricting their acquisitions to only the very best examples. Perhaps inspired by the likes of the Alastair Bradley Martins' legendary and civilisation-spanning Guennol collection, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969, or the classical antiquities and Old Master drawings Walter Baker bequeathed to the institution in 1972, they concerned themselves with everything from Pre-Columbian and African, Oceanic, and Native American art to antiquities, drawings, and contemporary American paintings. Of all these groups, however, the largest comprised master drawings.
Thirty or so sheets now come to auction at Sotheby's New York on 31 January, and their quality is as remarkable as their breadth. The earliest is a delicate pen and brown ink view of Fiesole of around 1500 by Fra Bartolommeo, one of the earliest landscape drawings in Western art ($600,000-$800,000); the latest, dated 1989, a bold charcoal portrait of Balthus by Lucian Freud ($70,000-$90,000). There are the likes of a thrilling double-sided sheet of figure sketches and musical notes by Parmigianino ($300,000-$500,000); a delectable Watteau of actors, executed in lively touches of red, black and white chalks ($500,000-$700,000); and a gloriously fresh and richly nuanced ink and wash landscape by Claude Lorrain. This evocative panorama, incorporating the ruins of one of the ancient aqueducts of the Roman Campagna, the Aqua Anio Novus, has a drawn margin and must have been conceived as a work of art in its own right ($600,000-$800,000).
Goya's No Ilenas tanto la cesta (Don't fill the basket so full) bears the largest estimate ($1m-$1.5m). From Album E (the so-called 'Black Border Album') of around 1816-20, it is a deceptively simple image of a toothless old crone hunched over her basket of eggs, but in its very self-containment speaks volumes about the frailty and isolation of old age (Fig. 1). Another tour de force is Samuel Palmer's A Church with a Boat and Sheep. One of his intensely atmospheric tonal brush drawings made around 1831 in Shoreham, his 'valley of vision', the drawing explores the mysteriousness of the nocturnal landscape ($250,000-$350,000). Bearing the same estimate is Ingres' typically refined graphite portrait of Alexis Rene Le Go, distinctive for the sympathy and understanding with which he depicts a close friend and confidant.
Sotheby's Old Master paintings sales spill over into February this year, but on 31 January there will be a sale of works from the stock and private collection of Otto Naumann who is leaving his Manhattan gallery space to allow his son to develop Ambrose Naumann Fine Arts. The 39 Old Master and 19th-century paintings on offer reveal Naumann senior's penchant for unfinished paintings--think headless bodies and disembodied heads and for works on unusual supports, from not-so-rare copper to marble, slate and glass.
Particularly rare is a reverse painting on glass by Giacomo Ceruti, the North Italian artist most admired for his unusually objective yet dignified treatment of the humblest members of society going about their daily activities. This keen portrait is of a fresh-complexioned young peasant woman (Fig. 3), a model he used in at least three other paintings, and it dates to the late 1720s or early 1730s and his last years of activity in Brescia.
This challenging technique requires working backwards, as it were, with the artist starting with the details and highlights. It may well have appealed to the artist because such a portrait seen through glass becomes particularly vivid and lifelike ($200,000-$300,000).
Alongside the Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory (19-28 January; see pp. 76-77) and part of Americana Week, Christie's New York offers a dedicated auction of Outsider and Vernacular Art. This 19 January offering includes New Jerusalem ($15,000-$30,000), a dynamic example in paint and graphite of a subject favoured by the African-American evangelical preacher, musician and self-taught artist, Sister Gertrude Morgan (Fig. 2). One of Sister Gertrude's many revelations from God urged her to paint, and in 1956 she began to make didactic images that were hung on the walls of her Everlasting Gospel Mission in New Orleans. The Book of Revelation was a common source, with the prophesied city of New Jerusalem 'coming down from God out of heaven', conceived as a multistorey apartment building surrounded by a heavenly choir of angels. Andy Warhol was a fan. Outsider art also takes a bow this month in London, with Sotheby's offering works for the charity Outside In (11-19 January).
A strong line-up for Phillips' Editions sale on 25 January includes a mighty contingent of British art. Lucian Freud is represented by five etchings, consigned by one of his favourite models (and the widow of another), Nicola Bowery. The 1993 etching of her husband, Leigh, Large Head (25,000 [pounds sterling]-35,000 [pounds sterling]), is dedicated 'nicola from L.F.', while the artist gave her Head of Bruce Bernard after she salvaged it from a rubbish bin (5,000 [pounds sterling]-7,000 [pounds sterling]). The thickly encrusted palette that Freud used for the Bowerys' double portrait, And the Bridegroom, complete with an imprint of his thumb, had been similarly discarded among the studio rags (6,000 [pounds sterling]-8,000 [pounds sterling]).
Dominating the sale, however, are two monumental aquatints by Howard Hodgkin, As Time Goes By, in red and blue (2009). These are the largest and most complex prints that Hodgkin created, and are indeed among the largest any artist has ever made. Each version is printed on five hand-torn sheets of Moulin du Gue--heavy cotton paper--and worked on with a combination of aquatint, carborundum embossing and painting in acrylic. The exuberant, explosive colours were printed using several etching plates, while the carborundum relief process added a distinctive three-dimensional quality to the image while also ensuring a depth of hue and a dense velvety surface. Both are just over six metres wide. The Phillips Collection in Washington staged the artist's first US one-man show in 1984, and exhibited another pair of these prints to launch its 90th anniversary celebrations in 2011. They are expected to fetch 40,000 [pounds sterling]-60,000 [pounds sterling] each.
Caption: Fig. 1. No Ilenas tanto la cesta, 1816-20, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), Indian ink and wash, 25.9x 17.5cm. Sotheby's New York ($1m-$1.5m)
Caption: Fig. 2. New Jerusalem, Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-80), paint and graphite on paper. Christie's New York ($15,000-$30,000)
Caption: Fig. 3. Portrait of a Young Countrywoman, Half Length, late 1720s, Giacomo Ceruti, called Pitocchetto (1698-1767), oil on glass, 66.4x46.4cm. Sotheby's New York ($200,000-$300,000)