Auctions | August 13, 2013

Rare & Unique Prints by German Expressionists at Christie’s in September

London Christie’s is pleased to announce the sale of Modern and Contemporary Prints, at King Street on Wednesday, 18 September 2013. The auction showcases an array of works by some of the most fascinating printmakers, including Erich Heckel, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Giorgio Morandi. The sale will offer 203 lots and is expected to realise in the region of £4 million. The Prints season continues at Christie’s South Kensington on Thursday, 19 September with the sale of Prints and Multiples, which will include important works by leading Pop printmaker R.B. Kitaj from The Tony Reichardt Collection

Leading the Modern and Contemporary Prints sale is an outstanding group of German Expressionist prints, all belonging to private collections, including a veritable icon of the period, Erich Heckel’s Stehendes Kind, circa 1910-1911 (estimate: £100,000 - 150,000).

It is an unforgettable image and must have come as a shock to those who first saw it in 1911, both for the nudity and its sheer visual force” says Tim Schmelcher, Head of the Prints Department, King Street.  “The scene is pared down to its bare essentials and the printing process equally reduced: Heckel printed the woodcut from one block sawn into three parts, which were then inked separately in black, green and red, before the block was reassembled and printed in a single pass through the press. The result is a highly condensed image of a few simplified forms and intense contrasts of black and white, red and green.”  

Perhaps even more scandalous at the time was Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s very rare colour woodcut of a female nude, Modell, from 1911 (estimate: £250,000 - 350,000). While Heckel’s Stehendes Kind is an image of composure, Modell depicts a reclining nude roughly cut and bursting with ecstatic energy.

Altogether different in mood are two remarkable prints by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, completing this group of highly important woodcuts of the Brücke artist’s group: the Berlin street scene F?nf Kokottencirca 1914 (estimate: £150,000 - 200,000), and one of the artist’s largest and most haunting portraits, Blonder Maler Stirnercirca 1919 (estimate: £200,000 - 300,000). The impression offered is a unique impression of the first state - in total only eight examples of the subject are known.  

Following the recent success of the Old Master & Contemporary Prints sale at Christie’s, London, March 2013 - which set a new world record for a print by Edvard Munch, further examples by the artist will be offered in this sale. Munch’s two burnished colour aquatints Standing Nude (estimate: £220,000 - 280,000) and Nude Standing in an Interior (estimate: £300,000 - 500,000) are the artist’s very first forays into this most subtle and poetic of printmaking methods. Depicting a young naked woman with red hair standing in a dark room, these remarkable works represent some of the earliest manifestations of two motifs that Munch would revisit again and again over the course of his career: that of a vulnerable woman in an interior; and that of the red-haired temptress. Munch created only a small number of colour aquatints over a short period of time while working in Paris, and they are amongst the rarest of all his printed works.

Picasso is strongly represented in the Modern Master section of the sale, with a large variety of plates from his most famous series of etchings, the Suite Vollard, with estimates ranging from £3,000 to £70,000. The most remarkable single work by Picasso offered in the auction is Portrait de Jacqueline accoudéecirca 1963-64 (estimate: £50,000-70,000), a large and beautiful portrait of his muse and second wife Jacqueline Rocque. Picasso was a tireless experimenter and this print is the result of one of his strangest inventions, a technique entirely of his own devising: the linocut rincée.

Lucia Tro Santafé, Specialist in the Prints Department, explains this puzzling technique: “Just as Picasso seems to have explored and revolutionized the linocut method, he took it to another level of complication. ‘Rinsed linocuts’ were made by printing the block in creamy white ink, then brushing the image with Chinese ink. Once this had dried he would rinse the print with water. Where the ink sat on top of the printed surface it would be washed away, where the ink had been absorbed by the blank paper, it would remain. As we can observe in the present portrait of Jacqueline, the result is a delicate and light brushstroke image.”

Other insights into modern printmaking are offered by two collections of prints dedicated to two unique and solitary figures of Modern Art: the self-taught Italian master etcher Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) and the Chinese émigré Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013). While Morandi explored the mystery of everyday objects in his still-lives such as Natura morta in un tondo (estimate: £20,000-30,000) and in  quiet views of houses and trees, Zao Wou-ki developed an intriguing synthesis of Eastern tradition and Western modernism, over the years slowly moving from mythical, almost pictographic landscapes to complete abstraction.  Zao Wou-ki died earlier this year aged 93. Christie’s are honoured to offer a glimpse into Zao Wou-ki’s printed oeuvre, with a collection which includes some of his most poetic, rare and early works.

The contemporary section of the sale is led by three complete sets of Andy Warhol’s society portraits, ranging from international stars to African royalty: a series of ten portraits of Mick Jaggercirca 1975 (estimate: £200,000-300,000); four variations of Mohammed Alicirca 1975 (estimate: £50,000-70,000); and four colour variants of Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland, circa 1985 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). Warhol was interested in the relation between the industrial production of images and the creation of fame. Ed Ruscha, on the other side of the continent in California, was more interested in how places and words become the ‘stuff of dreams’. His early screen-print Hollywoodcirca 1968 (estimate: £50,000-70,000) is a sublime American landscape - and a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the ‘factory of dreams’.


The South Kensington Prints and Multiples sale on Thursday, 19 September 2013 will present a wide variety of prints and editions, with 307 lots on offer with estimates ranging from £500 to £20,000, providing exceptional buying opportunities for established and new collectors. The sale will be led by important works from the renowned collection of Tony Reichardt, one of the most pioneering British art dealers of the second half of the 20th century. Reichardt’s collection features 16 works by leading Pop printmaker R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007).  Kitaj was a key printmaker from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. During this time he concentrated on the production of screenprints and photo-screenprints made in collaboration with English print-maker Chris Prater. Highlights from the collection include Immortal Portraits (estimate: £2,000-3,000), Neil, from: In Our Time: Covers for a Small Library after the Life for the Most Part (estimate: £800-1,200) and Outlying London Districts I (estimate: £2,000-3,000) - all rare proofs printed on canvas.

A further feature of the sale is a complete set of four screenprints titled Nineteen Greys by British artist Bridget Riley (b. 1931). Presenting a repeated motif of oval forms, the four prints are executed in a contrasting mix of cool and warm tones that work together to create a fascinating optical illusion. Sold as a single lot, the set is expected to realise between £8,000 and 12,000.

The sale also includes a fine selection of German Expressionist prints, including works by Erich HeckelMax PechsteinGeorge Grosz and Emil Nolde.

The Post War & Contemporary section of the sale concludes with a group of Multiples by Claes Oldenburg, who is best known for his appropriation of objects from everyday life. Unusual pieces by Oldenburg offered in this section of the sale will include London Knees (estimate: £4,000-6,000), and Miniature Soft Drum (estimate: £3,000-5,000).