The School of Paris. How to begin collecting

The works by the École de Paris artists were some of the key objects in the most significant private collections of Polish paintings that came into existence in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the works of the most important School of Paris artists, and those painters who permanently settled in Paris triumph on the market and are among the most expensive works appearing on the Polish market. The position can be evidenced by the record auction prices of paintings by Mojżesz Kisling (2.4 million PLN), Mela Muter (1.8 million PLN), and Tadeusz Makowski (nearly 4.6 million PLN).


At our annual School of Paris auctions, we present both the most outstanding works by the classics, as well as the works by less-known artists attractive from a collector's viewpoint. Currently, one can start a collection of the School of Paris works with exactly those kinds of works. Below, we present a selection of five fascinating works that may turn out to be both an incredible start to a collection and an excellent investment. 

Irena Reno with her daughter, approx. 1914, source:

Irena Hassenberg's creative output still awaits an academic description and was recently popularized by the publication of ‘Polish Women of Montparnasse' by S. Zientek (2021). The painter left for Paris as early as 1907, becoming one of the first professional Polish women artists in the city by the Seine. City views were a separate theme in her paintings and drawings - of Paris, New York but also those of smaller cities. In the presented work, the painter captured a fragment of Krakow's old architecture, using her recognizable style based on a wide colour palette and the use of numerous dynamically painted lines, creating the impression of a moving spectacle. 

Works on paper are an excellent alternative to large oil works, especially in the context of the works of Tamara Łempicka. The compositions by the ‘queen of art déco' are among the record-breaking works on the global art market - in February 2020, the ‘Portrait de Majorie Ferry' sold for nearly £19.4 million. Both presented works come from the 1920s, the artist's key period. They also show both her meticulous and decorative style. The drawings come from the collection of one of the first promoters of Łempicka's works, Ives Plantin. 

Józef Hecht in a Paris studio, private archive, source:

Hecht was an outstanding graphic designer of the interwar period, and his easel painting is still awaiting its description. Recently, the works by this painter have attracted great interest from collectors - the price of ‘Leda and the Swan' turned out to be almost three times the upper estimate, and the ‘Still life with a pink shell' five times the upper estimate. 

The contact with German expressionism during his stay in Berlin shortly before World War I and his subsequent contact with the Swedish expressionist, Issak Grünewald, as well as contact with his works were key for Hecht's painting. The influence of the great master of modernism, Henri Matisse, is echoed in his painted works.

Alicja Halicka, Self-Portrait, approx. 1914, private collection, reproduction: Alicja Halicka. École de Paris Masters, text by Krzysztof Zagrodzki, exhibition catalogue, Villa la Fleur, Konstancin-Jeziorna, Warsaw 2011, page 42

Halicka has gone down in history as the only cubist painter, whose talent developed in the shadow of her husband-painter, Ludwik Markus (Louise Marcoussis). In the 1920s and 1930s, the artist relaxed the rigour of her painting based on studies of Cézanne and analytical cubism. She created intimate interior views, visions of motherhood, and idyllic beach scenes. The presented work belongs to the latter category. Halicka's collaboration with Helena Rubenstein and the creators of Broadway ballets, the publishing of the painter's memories ‘Yesterday' (Polish: ‘Wczoraj') (1971), and the recent presentation of her oeuvre in the context of women's art in Paris of the 1920s during a ‘Pioneers' exhibition (Musée du Luxembourg, Paris) - all of the above showcase her popularity. 

Egon Schiele, Sunset, 1913, Leopold Museum, Vienna, source:

The discovery of Pressmane's works is linked to an exhibition at the Villa la Fleur, during which the public could fully acquaint themselves with the painter's oeuvre. After World War II, Pressmane turned out to be an outstanding painter endowed with a poetic sense of Paris and Île-de-France. His exceptionally subtle landscapes - in terms of their sublime lines, nervously constructed form, and lyrical mode - in their expression are like the landscapes by Egon Schiele. On its back, the presented work is described as the last painting created by the artist shortly before his death.