DALLAS, Texas — A rich variety of French paintings, a masterwork by one of Victorian Britain's foremost female artists and a fresh-to-the-market cache of Old Masters from a Texas collection make up an impressive offering for Heritage Auctions' Fine European Art Signature Auction May 24. Particularly noteworthy is the diversity of French art from the 18th- through mid-20th century featuring an impressive representation of landscapes, cityscapes, portraits and genre subjects.
Works by top French academic painters are well represented in the auction. Leading this group is William Adolphe Bouguereau's La leçon de flûte (est. $400,000-600,000), a tender image of an Italian father teaching his young son how to play a piffero, a reeded oboe-type instrument which was played in the Apennine mountains. Bouguereau's ability to achieve an almost photo-realistic effect through his smooth porcelain finish was much admired and emulated by artists such as Guillaume Seignac, Leon Perrault, and Etienne Adolphe Piot Roses (est. $40,000-60,000), all of whom are represented in the auction. Louis Marie de Schryver's Le marché aux fleurs de la Madeleine (est. $250,000-350,000) adapts the academic technique to his favorite subject, Belle Époque Paris, where flower vendors, horse-drawn carriages and elegant pedestrians inhabit the busy city streets. Rounding out this remarkable group is Guillaume-Charles Brun's The young rag seller (est. $50,000-70,000), a glimpse of the flip side of Parisian life focusing on the city's youngest and poorest denizens forced to eke out a living on the streets as buskers, flower sellers or rag pickers. Despite the rag picker's hardships, Brun ensures his young girl remains pretty, a requirement of French academic figure painting, but her expression is entirely devoid of flirtatiousness. It is at once beautiful but with a high degree of pathos.
The academic tradition also finds expression in a commanding French Orientalist canvas, Le labourage, frontière du Maroc by Gustave Achille Guillaumet (est. $15,000-25,000). Whereas Orientalism generally presented an idealized or anecdotal portrait of North Africa, Guillaumet's work was notable for portraying the harshness of life in a desert region, which is conveyed through this landscape's rugged yet spare grandeur.
Fine works of French Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Fauvism are features of the auction. Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillauminis represented by two snow scenes — Gelée blanche au village de Crozant, (est. $40,000-60,000) and Neige, circa 1890, (est. $40,000-60,000) — notable for their magical iridescent palettes of lavender, pink and aqua. French Post-Impressionist Henri Baptiste Lebasque's Sur les bords de la Marne (est. $150,000-250,000) is an exceptionally large tour de force from the artist's "Marne" period of 1900-06. In the Lagny-sur-Marne, an area just outside Paris in the Île-de-France, Lebasque worked outside to capture the clear and gentle current of the river, the greenery and foliage of its shoreline featuring vibrant poplar trees, and the brilliant, dappled sunlight and fleeting atmospheric effects. Fauvist Maurice de Vlaminck's Rue de village (est. $80,000-120,000) and Ferme (est. $40,000-60,000) express mood through strong color and slashing brushwork.
British artist Henrietta Rae's Psyche before the throne of Venus (est. $120,000-180,000) is in many regards the most significant and ambitious work of the Victorian artist's career. Sold even before it was first exhibited in the 1894 Royal Academy Exhibition to George McCulloch, the most important collector of contemporary British art of the period, Psychefeatures a total of 14 full-length figures, and is a testament to Rae's celebrity as the finest painter of the female nude in pre-modern Britain. The work was subsequently owned by two other "celebrity collectors": William Randolph Hearst and Amon G. Carter.
The auction boasts an interesting group of Old Master paintings which has been off the market for over 50 years. Two striking portraits include the double portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn, Mrs. Graham Young and child, circa 1810 (est. $15,000-25,000), which may be dated to Raeburn's later years when he began to explore more elaborate compositions; and Jean Baptiste van Loo's Portrait of a gentleman (formerly identified as the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé), circa 1720-30 (est. $15,000-25,000). A recently reattributed work by Guercino follower, Matteo Loves, whose work seldom surfaces at auction, is a large devotional painting of The Virgin Mary adoring the Christ Child, circa 1645.
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world's largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.