OLD MASTERS. 19TH CENTURY AND MODERN ART.
OLD MASTERS, 19TH CENTURY & MODERN ART
In 2021, in the Old Masters department, we had the honour to work with the extraordinary works of Jacek Malczewski. Among the rare paintings from prestigious collections were the 1914 ‘Orpheus and Eurydice' and the 1888 ‘Nativity Play'. The works have set auction records for the paintings of the greatest Polish symbolist. In April, a small but charming 1900 work by the painter's apprentice, Zofia Atteslander, was acquired by the Jacek Malczewski Museum in Radom. Discovering the lost ‘Portrait of Stanisław Witkiewicz' in a private Warsaw-based collection was a remarkable event. After conservation works and archival research, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating artworks restored to the Polish culture in recent years. Thanks to a memoir, letters, and archival photographs, we know that it was painted on the terrace of the ‘Pod Jedlami' villa in Zakopane, where Malczewski visited Jan Gwalbert-Pawlikowski in the summer of 1902. The auction price of the ‘Portrait of Stanisław Witkiewicz' exceeded the high estimate of the work.
WORKS ON PAPER - 19TH CENTURY AND MODERN ART
Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was one of the Polish artists who, with enjoyment and consistency, created on paper. From the early stages of his artistic career, he painted fantastic compositions appealing to his consciousness. In the mid-1920s he started a ‘portrait company' where numerous pastel paintings depicting the unusual social cross-section of the interwar elite were created. ‘Art is the necessity to tell, in a Beauty form, the other beings about the horrors of a lonely existence in an infinite universe' - wrote Witkacy in ‘New Forms in Painting' in 1919. Undoubtedly, Witkacy's extravagant art belongs to some of the most intriguing phenomena on the auction market. After fierce bidding, ‘Whale and Andromeda', a work from the historical collection of the Żeleński family, was sold for 840.000 PLN. This work of extraordinary rarity belongs to the ‘Astronomical Compositions' series. The painter worked on it during his wartime stay in Saint Petersburg, where he witnessed the October Revolution. Next year, ‘Whale and Andromeda' will be presented at an exhibition devoted to the artist at the National Museum in Warsaw.
MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE
Sculptures are becoming an increasingly significant branch of the Polish art market. As part of the ‘Modern and Contemporary Sculpture' project, we present to you the names of the classics of European art. The current record for the work of Antonio Canova from 2019, has been beaten by the 2021 result for ‘The kiss' by Auguste Rodin. The so-called third reduction of this work was created during the artist's lifetime, between 1901 and 1918, and for decades had been held in a private Polish collection. At a DESA Unicum auction, we managed to reach one of the highest results for such type of work, also on an international scale. Polish collectors are on a continuous lookout for the works of the classics of the 20th-century Polish modernism, such as Wacław Szymanowski, Bolesław Biegas, or Xawery Dunikowski, as well as the most important interwar sculptors like Stanisław Szukalski, August Zamoyski, Magdalena Gross, or the Zakopane School artists.
ÉCOLE DE PARIS
At our École de Paris auctions, we mainly offer the works of Polish-Jewish painters active in Paris at the beginning of the 20th-century. The Paris School circle was composed of social relations, a network of art dealers, galleries, and critics from left-bank Paris. Those connections created an international artistic bohemia - something of an artistic colony existing on the premises of the 14th arrondissement of Paris, Montparnasse. The May auction is an awaited event every year, during which we present carefully selected objects. It is usually filled with records for the works of Mojżesz Kisling, Leopold Gottlieb, Mela Muter, Henryk Hayden, Eugeniusz Zak, or Henryk Epstein. We take care to introduce the collectors to the less known artists by offering the works of artists such as Leon Kaufmann, Marc Sterling, Jerzy Ascher, and Dora Kucembianki.
OLD MASTER AND MODERN PRINTS
The work of a coordinator at an auction house is a pleasure linked to the possibility of ‘meeting' a work of a famous artist. Some of them become like old acquaintances. We look forward to their works, and when they do turn up, we are glad to have the chance to ‘meet an old friend'. Some of those meetings are unique, such as the appearance of a graphic design by Leon Wyczółkowski at an auction in September 2021. That was a truly extraordinary ‘meeting'. Every element of the print was rare and unique. It is not often that you encounter a work by this graphic design master made using the technique of soft varnish (used by him relatively briefly). It is also rare to encounter his prints on old paper (it is known that he collected such papers). Finally, rarely, a print is somewhat of a record of the artist's creative process to the same extent as the portrait of ‘Mangghe'. On one side is the print of Jasiński's image that must have not pleased Wyczół. For that reason, he turned the page and made the print again. This time, the effect was satisfactory, and he signed this page. In the end, the work is a result of the meeting and the long-lasting friendship between the greatest 20th-century Polish graphic designer and the eccentric and energetic promoter of this art field. A portrait of a friend by a friend.