Known best as the author of Paul Signac’s first catalog raisonné, Gaston Lévy was perhaps the most remarkable art collector in pre-war Paris. After the Nazi regime seized his properties and dispersed his paintings, masterpieces were thought to have been lost to the Lévy family forever.
However, This February Sotheby’s is proud to offer three recently restituted masterworks from the Lévy collection in our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. In this episode of Expert Voices, Sotheby’s Head of Restitution Lucian Simmons chronicles the story of Gaston Lévy’s collection and explores the extraordinary talent of Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro through their works Gelee Blache, Quai de Clichy and La Corne D’or.
‘The creation of new objects, the transformation of known objects; a change of substance in the case of certain objects: a wooden sky, for instance; the use of words in association with images; the misnaming of an object… the use of certain visions glimpsed between sleeping and waking, such in general were the means devised to force objects out of the ordinary, to become sensational, and so establish a profound link between consciousness and the external world.’
René François Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) was born in Lessines, Belgium. His father was a tailor and textile merchant; his mother committed suicide in 1912, drowning herself in the River Sambre.
From the 1930s, Magritte sought to find ‘solutions’ to particular ‘problems’ posed by different types of objects, a method that enabled him to challenge and reconfigure the most ubiquitous and commonplace elements of everyday life. These problems obsessed him until he was able to conceive of an image to solve them.
This philosophical method had come to him after waking from a dream in 1932. In his semi-conscious state, he looked over at a birdcage that was in his room but saw not the bird that inhabited the cage, but instead an egg. This ‘splendid misapprehension’ allowed him to grasp, in his own words, ‘a new and astonishing poetic secret.’
Carel Willink was a pioneer of Magic Realism, an avant-garde movement of Dutch modernism closely associated with Surrealism. In this episode of Anatomy of an Artwork, discover how a visit to Italy’s Bomarzo Gardens following the death of his wife inspired a series of paintings featuring monsters, see how Willink drew further inspiration from dream-like images and illusions, and learn how his near-photographic style exudes a sense of mystery and enchantment.
In this episode of Expert Voices, Otto Naumann explores their friendship and budding rivalry through Lievens’ masterwork Woman Embraced by a Man, Modelled by the Young Rembrandt. From the outset of his career, Lievens was at times bolder than Rembrandt, and the two constantly learned from one another during this critical period in their development.
In early 17th century Holland, a young Rembrandt spent his days studying and working with fellow artist Jan Lievens. After apprenticing together in Amsterdam, the two likely shared a studio in their hometown of Leiden and even depicted each other in their compositions.
This signature audacity is on full display in in Woman Embraced by a Man, which will be offered as a highlight of Sotheby’s Master Painting Evening Sale. (29 January | New York)
Artist Henri Rousseau painted The Dream in 1910, and it’s imagery of a woman lounging on a sofa in the middle of a jungle was as surreal then as it is today. What is it about this artwork that captivated audiences then and now?
Thanks to our Grandmasters of the Arts Tyler Calvert-Thompson, Divide by Zero Collection, David Golden, and Ernest Wolfe, and all of our patrons, especially Rich Clarey, Iain Eudaily, Frame Monster Design Laboratory, Patrick Hanna, Nichole Hicks, Andrew Huynh, Eve Leonard, David Moore, Gabriel Civita Ramirez, Constance Urist, Nicholas Xu, and Roberta Zaphiriou.
In this revelatory book, Nina Amstutz combines fresh visual analysis with broad interdisciplinary research to investigate the intersection of landscape painting, self-exploration, and the life sciences in Friedrich’s mature work. Drawing connections between the artist’s anthropomorphic landscape forms and contemporary discussions of biology, anatomy, morphology, death, and decomposition, Amstutz brings Friedrich’s work into the larger discourse surrounding art, nature, and life in the 19th century.
Best known for his atmospheric landscapes featuring contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies and morning mists, Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) came of age alongside a German Romantic philosophical movement that saw nature as an organic and interconnected whole. The naturalists in his circle believed that observations about the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms could lead to conclusions about human life. Many of Friedrich’s often-overlooked later paintings reflect his engagement with these philosophical ideas through a focus on isolated shrubs, trees, and rocks. Others revisit earlier compositions or iconographic motifs but subtly metamorphose the previously distinct human figures into the natural landscape.
Nina Amstutz is assistant professor in the history of art and architecture at the University of Oregon.