19th Century European Art including Orientalist Paintings – London, 12 June 2012


London – Christie’s is pleased to present four masterpieces by Joaquín Sorolla Y Bastida (1863-1923), from private collections; forming an exceptional group of highly-desirable works, these paintings are expected to realise a combined total in the region of £2 million and will lead the 19th Century European Art including Orientalist Paintings sale on 12 June 2012.

Alexandra McMorrow, Senior Director, International Department Head, 19th Century European Art:
“It is rare to be able to offer four paintings of such quality by Sorolla together at auction. These works, which condense sun, sea
and sand into radically modern canvases, epitomize the qualities for which the artist is best known in terms of subject and
technique. They were all executed during a narrow time-frame between late 1907 and 1910, with a view to their exhibition in
the United States, where Sorolla’s international fame was sealed.”


Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) is best known for the works that he painted on the beach of his native
Valencia. One such work is Pescadores. Barca varadas, which is dedicated to its first owner, King Alfonso XIII
of Spain. The dedication is a testament both to the artist’s pride in this painting as well as his esteem for one
of his most illustrious patrons. This painting bears all the hallmarks for which the artist’s many depictions of
fishing boats on the beach of Valencia are most famed (estimate: £500,000-800,000), illustrated page 1. Closely
cropped, and with the picture plane thrust forward towards the viewer, this painting has an extraordinary
immediacy. The shadow in the bottom left hand corner hints at the artist’s own presence in the painting,
reminding us that it was, like the vast majority of Sorolla’s paintings, executed sur le motif.

Leading the group is a charming scene depicting the daily life of the
Valencian seashore, A la Orilla del Mar, which is expected to realise
between £700,000 and £1 million, illustrated right. In this tender portrait a
fishwife is shown entertaining her young son by the shore as they wait
for the return of the fishing boats. The painting bears all the
characteristics of Sorolla’s mature style: a brilliant palette, fluid
spontaneity and broad brushstrokes. The theme of mother and child was
close to Sorolla’s heart. He painted his own family frequently, often in
poignant images which avoid any hint of sentimentality. A la Orilla del
Mar was exhibited in New York at Sorolla’s inaugural exhibition at the
Hispanic Society of America in 1909, and later travelled to Buffalo and
Boston. The show was a huge success for Sorolla, who sold nearly 200 of
the 356 canvases he had sent and it was attended by 160,000 people in
New York alone.

Also on offer is a work which highlights Sorolla’s mastery of light
and atmosphere; Pescador de quisquillas is an extraodinarily
expressive painting which was once part of a larger composition
(estimate: £400,000-600,000), illustrated left. The painting would
appear to depict its subject in the waning light of the afternoon:
the chromatic contrasts are muted compared to many of the
artist’s other works, although the brighter whites reflecting off
the waves light hint clearly that the sun has not yet set. The
composition is typically daring: ignoring classical conventions,
Sorolla has eschewed a horizon line altogether, compressing
together the different planes of figure, sea and sand.

El Tio Pancha is an unusually modern painting; it could be
described as a symphony of white, which manages to
simultaneously combine abstraction with realism. Just as in
the Pescador de quisquillas, the painting also derives great power
from the figure’s tanned, weatherbeaten face, and the contrast
between his black hat and surrounding whites. Framed by the
doorway, Pancha exudes wisdom and age; rooted to the spot
like an old tree, he stares out into the low winter sun towards
the environment that has shaped him.


Comprising 100 lots, the sale is expected to realise a total in the
region of £7 million. Further highlights include an important
watercolour by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), St.George and the
Dragon (estimate: £120,000-180,000, illustrated left). This work was
completed twenty years before the oil version of the same subject
which now hangs in the National Gallery London. This work is
characteristic of the artist’s eclectic iconography, which combined
myth, religion and classical history, with a vibrant, jewel-like palette
which, in the artist’s watercolours, results in images that have the
intensity of a devotional painting. Also in a mythical vein is Eugène
Delacroix’s Apollo Slays Python, a rare preparatory oil sketch for his
famous ceiling decoration in the Louvre (estimate: £300,000 –
£500,000. Alongside these French paintings, works by the most
important landscape painter of the Dutch Romantic period, Barend
Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1882), will also be offered: A River
Landscape in Holland at Sunset (estimate: £180,000-220,000), A View of
Cleves (estimate: £100,000-150,000) and A forest with figures on a path in
a hilly landscape (estimate: £200,000-300,000).


A strong Orientalist category is led by works from the Sursock collection, which includes paintings and
watercolours by artists such as John Frederick Lewis, David Roberts and, in particular, three canvases by the
leading American artist in this genre, Edwin Lord Weeks (1849 – 1903). These works were influenced by
Weeks’ travels across the Indian sub-continent; painted in a realist style, they highlight the artist’s interest in
the minutiae of modern life as he encountered it on his travels, resulting in a sense of light and painterly
realism unparalleled among his orientalist contemporaries. A Street in Jodphur, India, illustrated below left, is
estimated at £80,000-120,000, The Fort of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, illustrated below centre, is estimated at
£200,000-300,000 and Persian Horse Dealer, Bombay, illustrated below right, is estimated at £150,000-200,000.


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