Architect’s small but perfectly formed collection for sale
A small but perfectly formed 27-million-pound collection of modern art by Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Joan Miró and other masters from the estate of a recently deceased architect is to form a cornerstone of Christie’s forthcoming modern and contemporary art sales in London.
Christie’s does not name the architect, but offers a clue in the catalogue introduction where they describe his vision as ‘socially engaged housing’ emphasising the welfare of residents by ‘providing ample space for vegetation to grow over balconies and transform apartment blocks into living vertical gardens…’
The Alt-Erlaa apartment blocks, Vienna
The description perfectly fits the work of Austrian architect, Harry Glück, who died thirteen months ago aged ninety-one. Amongst his earliest successes embodying these principles were the leafy, terraced apartment blocks, Alterlaa, built in Vienna between 1973 and 1986. From there it is not difficult to find images on the internet of Glück seated at home with three peaceful Giorgio Morandi still lives on the wall behind him — all in the sale.
In an open kitchen/seating area is a triptych of Francis Bacon portraits of Henrietta Moraes; nearby is a surreal figure, resembling a strange sci-fi tower, by Picasso – both also in the sale. Closely related to architectural practice is a rare ‘metaphysical’ painting by Giorgio de Chirico from 1916, ‘Head of a Mannequin’, in which a draughtsman’s measuring and drawing tools are spread out in the foreground.
Giorgio de Chirico, Testa di manichino (1916-17) Estimate £800,000 to £1.2 million
The fifteen works are all small in scale, as befitted Glück’s modest apartment, and are united by a common sense of structure. Glück bought them during the mid-1970s from rising galleries such as Acquavella and Jan Krugier, after his first wave of success, and they never subsequently left his apartment…until now. So this is the only chance to see a model collection, clearly lovingly and thoughtfully assembled by a highly informed eye, before it is dispersed to the highest bidders in a month’s time.
Baroque bull mastiff discovered in East Anglia
An exceptionally rare and previously unrecorded painting of a dog by the 17th century Italian Baroque painter known as il Guercino has been discovered in an East Anglian family home.
The owners, whose forbears made the Grand Tour of Italy in 1850, were completely unaware who the painting was by until a routine valuation visit by Cheffins auctioneers from Cambridge started an investigative ball rolling. Cheffins called in their Old Master paintings consultant, John Somerville, a former specialist at Sotheby’s, who recognised the painting as ‘Bolognese School’ Baroque, but needed corroboration for an attribution to Guercino as only one dog portrait by the artist is known.
That painting, a brindle mastiff with the Aldrovandi family coat of arms on its collar, was sold in 1972 for the then princely sum of £110,000 to the Norton Simon Museum in America where it hangs today. The Cheffins painting is of a bull mastiff, or, more correctly in Italian, a Cane Corso. Somerville then showed it to the art historian Dr Nicholas Turner, who, after months of careful consideration, during which the painting was cleaned and examined (much as in a sequence from the TV programme, ‘Fake or Fortune?’), endorsed it as a genuine Guercino.
This endorsement was then supported by Francesco Petrucci, artistic director of the Palazzo Chigi in Rome and an expert on the Baroque. Pricing it was a tricky job as there was only the Norton Simon painting available as a rather distant precedent. Although much smaller, the Cheffins painting carries similar expectations at £80,000 to £120,000 – though its rarity and quality may lift it higher at the sale in March.
An art world suffragette
What better way for the art world to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage than to stage an exhibition of watercolours by Hilda May Gordon.
In the spring of 1922, Gordon left her comfortable home on the Isle of Wight for a painting trip to the Dalmatian coast. But instead of returning after four months as planned, she embarked on a six-year solo journey around the world selling her art as she went.
Hilda May Gordon (1874 – 1972) Night, Siamese Coast
Her spirit is epitomised by an incident in Constantinople during the Greco-Turkish war when British ladies were instructed by the General in charge to evacuate. “I am an artist, not a lady,” she protested, and was allowed to stay.
After she died in the 1970s aged ninety-eight, nearly three hundred of her watercolour sketches were bought at Phillips by London dealer, Martyn Gregory, who specialises in China Trade pictures. He sold a few in the 1980s and kept the rest, forty-five of which, focussing on her adventures in Thailand, Burma and Bali, are on show at the Leigh Morse Fine Arts in New York priced from £700 to £4,000 each.