New auction records were set at the first art evening sales this year in London. P. Cézanne, P. Signac, R. Magritte got the highest prices and lead Christie’s Imp-Mod and Surrealist Evening Sale - $28.1 mln, $25.8 mln, and $24.3 mln respectively.

Christie’s notched £165.7 million ($219.5 million) over the course of its Impressionist and modern art evening auctions in London on 27 February. At the first evening sale of Christie’s in 2019, two world records were set at once - for the paintings of impressionist Gustave Caillebotte and pointillist Paul Signac. And the leader of the evening was the still life of Paul Cézanne, sold for 21.2 million pounds (28.1 million US dollars).

Paul Cezanne. Nature morte de pêches et poires
Nature morte de pêches et poires
1887, 38×46.3 cm

"Nature morte de pêches et poires" is a still-life showing Cézanne’s desire to shift away from Impressionism in favour of ‘something solid and enduring, like the art in museums.' Here the fruits stand for Cézanne’s most profound, sublimated emotions at the moment of personal flux and creative discovery. All but a single pear, once again, are closely clustered within the protective embrace of the round plate.
The painting was once owned by the Impressionist art dealer Ambroise Vollard, and it was the first time at auction during last 40 years.

The Cézanne was offered in the “Hidden Treasures” section, which saw a number of works fail to sell, including Claude Monet’s Saule pleureur et bassin aux nymphéas (1916–19) and Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait de femme: buste, profil gauche (1885). Other passes included Claude Monet’s Iris (1924–25) and Kees van Dongen’s Madame veuve rose (1911–42).

1.1. Claude Monet. Saule pleureur et bassin aux nympheas, 1916-1919. Unpublished estimate: £40 mln. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
1.2. Vincent van Gogh. Portrait de femme: buste, profil gauche (1885). Estimate: £8,000,000 - £12,000,000. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
Edgar Degas. Three dancers in the rehearsal room
Three dancers in the rehearsal room
1873, 27.5×22.7 cm
The Impressionist and modern art section of the sale began with an Edgar Degas portrait of perhaps his most famed subject, ballerinas in studio. Titled "Danseuses dans une salle d’exercice (Trois Danseuses)" (1873), the work went for £4.18 million ($5.6 million) against a low estimate of £800,000. It's a small painting, depicted trio of ballet dancers rehearse their steps, illuminated by light flooding through the windows behind them.

Left: Edgar Degas. Danseuses dans une salle d’exercice (Three dancers at a dance class)", 1873. 

Another major collection on offer that evening was “An Adventurous Spirit: Masterpieces From an Important Private Collection Sold to Benefit a Charitable Foundation.” The owner, however, can be identified as the Canadian cable-TV billionaire David Graham, who owned properties from St. Barts to St. Tropez and from London to Toronto, and who died in 2017.

The highlights of this collection were Paul Signac’s 1892 painting Le Port au soleil couchant, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez), which sold  for the hammer price of £19.5 million ($25.9 million), and Gustave Caillebotte’s Chemin montant (1881), which went for £16.6 million ($22 million.). The artworks produced new world auction records for Paul Signac that had stood since 2007 and Gustave Caillebotte with the previous mark set in 2011.

1.1. Paul Signac. Le Port au soleil couchant, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez), 1892.
1.2. Gustave Caillebotte. Chemin montant, 1881.

We also remind you that the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin will host the "Gustave Caillebotte. Painter and Patron of the Impressionists" exhibition from 15 May till 15 September 2019. The highlight of the exhibition will be the artist's painting "Paris Street; Rainy Day", one of the showpieces of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the painter’s most important work. Because of its imposing size, it has rarely travelled to Europe, and hasn’t visited Europe at all since its comprehensive restoration in 2013.

The Impressionists are often associated with their dazzling depictions of light on water. Yet two in particular — Paul Signac and Gustave Caillebotte — ‘were equally at home at the helm of a yacht and in front of their easels’, says specialist Keith Gill

René Magritte. Le Lieu Commun
Le Lieu Commun
1964, 100×81 cm
The third auction of the evening was The Art of the Surrealism
Surrealism (Fr. surréalisme) is an avant-garde art movement of the first half of the twentieth century characterized by the fusion of reality with something else, but not oppositional. Surrealism is a dream which is neither real, nor surreal. The style is characterized by allusions and a paradoxical combination of forms, visual deception. In the paintings of the Surrealists hard objects and rocks often melt, and the water, on the contrary, hardens. Read more
sale. Seven works by René Magritte were offered, including Le lieu commun, never previously offered at auction,  the most important painting of a bowler-hatted man by the artist to come to market since 1998.

Monet and Cézanne have been market stalwarts for decades, but the Belgian Surrealist fond of painting men in bowler hats is having a bit of a moment. The work, which was painted in 1964, offers a unique vision of this wandering icon. It shows him both full-face and hidden behind a column in an ambiguous landscape; simultaneously appearing and disappearing.

"Le lieu commun", being in Asian private collections for decade, with estimation price between £15 million and £25 million ($19.6 million and $32.6 million), was sold for £18.3 million ($21.2 million), anticipating a new record for the artist.

Left: René Magritte. "Le lieu commun", 1964. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Magritte’s "Le Principe du Plaisir" (1937) broke an artist’s record when it sold for $26.8 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2018, and now "Le lieu commun" is within striking distance of a new high mark just few months later. Other artist's painting "Le pain quotidien", 1942 (estimation price at £2 million-£3 million) was sold for £3.3 million ($4.5 million) and "La belle captive", 1946 went for £2.1 million ($2.9 million).

The most anticipated evening auctions continue in London with 20th-century, postwar, and contemporary sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips.
Stay tuned!

Based on materials from, Christie's official site.

Title illustation: Paul Signac’s Le Port au soleil couchant, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez) (1892). Image courtesy of Christie’s.