Important Winter Modern + Contemporary Art Highlights

  • Auction
  • Modern + Contemporary

Clars’ February 9th Important Winter Modern + Contemporary Art Auction will feature a selection of artwork from an array of international artists.

A featured highlight this month is a watercolor on paper by influential German-Swiss artist Paul Klee. This piece, titled Fragment of a Mural (Fragment einer Wandmalerei), shows an abstract image that is left to the viewer to decipher. Klee is known for the use of geometric forms in his work — often building his arrangements with triangles and rectangles — but here we see an unrecognizable object, made more mysterious by the title identifying it as just one section from a larger composition. Klee is perhaps even better known for his innovative take on color theory. The blending of purple into red into gray tones seen in this work illustrates Klee’s opinion that small sections of color could be unified to create a harmonious visual. Furthermore, during his time as an instructor at the Bauhaus, Klee taught as a master of stained glass, often using smoking techniques to color pieces of glass. The muted tones in this watercolor echo the hazy, blended hues that would result from smoking glass. The work on paper is estimated at $100,000–$150,000.


Paul Klee, Fragment einer Wandmalerei.
Paul Klee (German, 1879–1940), Fragment einer Wandmalerei, 1933, gouache, 7.5″ x 9.75″ (19.05 x 24.8 cm).
Estimate: $100,000–$150,000

Also included in the sale this month is a work on paper, titled Green Hill, by American artist, Mark Tobey. As a founder of the Northwest School in Seattle, Washington, Tobey imbued in his peers an appreciation of East Asian culture — the effects of which are visible in Green Hill, with its muted color palette echoing Shan Shui landscapes, and an expressionist style that mimics calligraphy. The misty atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest was a driving influence on Tobey, who used earthy tones to illustrate Green Hill, with the green of the hill obscured almost completely by a heavy fog against a sepia sky. Green Hill is dated 1957, the year before Tobey became the second American artist to win the International Grand Prize at the 1958 Venice Biennale. The work is estimated at $30,000–$50,000.


Mark Tobey, Green Hill.
Mark Tobey (American, 1890–1976), Green Hill, 1957, tempera, 12.25″ x 18″ (30.8 x 45.4 cm).
Estimate: $30,000–$50,000

Another important work in the February sale is a steel sculpture by acclaimed Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo. The piece depicts two figures, likely one male and one female based on their clothing, standing with hands overlapped in an uncomplicated embrace. The stylized figures are reminiscent of the simplified figures seen in well-known Tamayo paintings like Tres Personajes, with dominant geometric lines replacing the naturalistic curves of the human body. The sculpture shows the figures’ bodies as rectangles, with semicircle arms and circular hands. The male figure’s legs and female figure’s skirt are triangular, and the base is a narrow rectangular platform. The gray patina of the metallic material is consistent throughout and recalls the stone and clay sculptures of the Zapotec, an indigenous Pre-Colombian culture from whom Tamayo claimed both heritage and inspiration. The work is estimated at $70,000–$100,000.


Rufino Tamayo, Untitled (Dos Figuras).
Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899–1991), Untitled (Dos Figuras), 1989, steel sculpture with patina, 16.5″h (41.90 cm).
Estimate: $70,000–$100,000

Next featured in the February sale is the Makemono lithograph scroll by Catalan painter and sculptor, Joan Miró, created circa 1956. Considered a major figure in the Surrealist family, Miró uses this color-printed Chanton silk scroll to marry a traditional East Asian medium with his “automatism” technique, a method of revealing an individual’s psyche through spontaneous drawing and painting. Makemono presents form and color before narrative, showing abstract human figures interspersed with birds, eyes, and nonobjective forms derived purely from the artist’s imagination. From an edition of only 50, the vibrant scroll is anchored by wooden batons on each of the two ends and includes its original carved and painted wood box. The scroll is estimated at $20,000–$30,000.


Joan Miró, Makemono
Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983), Makemono, 1956, color lithographic scroll in colors on silk with wooden batons (accompanied with original carved and painted wood box), 16.13″ x 382″ (41 x 970 cm).
Estimate: $20,000–$30,000

Other notable artworks to be offered in the sale include prints by Yayoi Kusama, a ceramic plate by Pablo Picasso, and a painting by Guy Anderson.


Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929), Pumpkin, 1982, lithograph in colors with collage, 22.75″h x 18.75w″.
Estimate: $30,000–$50,000
Pablo Picasso, Visage Masque.
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Visage Masque, 1947, ceramic plate, 12.5″ x 15″ (31.75 x 38.1 cm).
Estimate: $20,000–$30,000
Fernand Leger, Deux Personnages.
Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955), Deux Personnages, 1947, watercolor, 12.5″ x 16.25″ (32 x 41 cm).
Estimate: $60,000–$90,000
Enrico Donati, Luxor VIII
Enrico Donati (American/Italian, 1909–2008), Luxor VIII, 1979, oil and sand on canvas, 50″ x 48″ (127 x 122 cm).
Estimate: $10,000–$15,000
Bidding for Clars’ February 9th, 2023 auction is available by phone, absentee bid, live online at Live.Clars.com and through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. For more information about this auction, please contact [email protected].

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