The Top Ten of the 1910s



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten sales of works from the 1910s.

The Top Ten of the 1910s
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Gustav KLIMT $78 500 000 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) 08/11/2006 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
2 Claude MONET $71 846 600 Le bassin aux nymphéas (1919) 24/06/2008 (Christie’s LONDON)
3 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $61 500 000 Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) (1917) 02/11/2010 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
4 Kasimir Sevrinovitch MALEVICH $53 500 000 Suprematisch Composition (1919) 03/11/2008 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
5 Juan GRIS $50 778 000 Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux (1915) 04/02/2014 (Christie’s LONDON)
6 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $46 650 450 Tête 14/06/2010 (Christie’s Paris)
7 Henri MATISSE $41 046 400 Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose (1911) 23/02/2009 (Christie’s Paris & Pierre Bergé PARIS)
8 Gustav KLIMT $38 284 800 Kirche in Cassone (Landschaft mit Zypressen) (Church in Casson – Landsc (1913) 03/02/2010 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
9 Amedeo MODIGLIANI $37 752 000 Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau) (1919) 06/02/2013 (Christie’s LONDON)
10 Egon SCHIELE $35 681 800 Häuser mit bunter Wäsche (Vorstadt II) (Houses with laundry Suburb II) (1914) 22/06/2011 (Sotheby’s LONDON)

This Top 10 reflects some truly astounding results: from the $35.6 million set by Egon SCHIELE to the peak of $78.5 million posted by Gustav KLIMT, receipts for the top ten works sold between 1910 and 1920 add up to a total of $515 million … higher than the that achieved by all 60,000 lots that went under the hammer in France in 2012. This ranking is dominated by European avant-garde artists – it was not until the 1940s that Americans began to reach such dizzying heights at auction. There does seem to be one striking omission: Pablo Picasso, who took nine of the top ten places in our 1930s ranking, fails to make the list for this earlier period with a single Cubist work. He makes way for seven artists, six of whom created their top-selling works during this period: Klimt, Monet, Modigliani, Malevitch, Gris and Schiele. All these artists posted record prices during the 2000s.

Three places for the Viennese school

In 1897, Gustav Klimt participe à la fondation de la Sécession viennoise became one of the founding members of the Viennese Secession movement. He focused on creating stylised reinterpretations of reality and, 10 years later, was to have a major influence on Egon Schiele. Indeed, Schiele was just 17 years old when Klimt took him under his wing in 1907. The young Schiele emerged during the artistic revolution that was taking place in Vienna, known at the time as the Second Viennese Secession. His brief career came to a sudden end when he died in 1918, eight months before Klimt’s own death. He painted a portrait of Klimt on his deathbed. Works by these two artists rarely appear in the sales rooms. The last major opportunity to buy one of their paintings arose on 8 November 2006, when Christie’s sold four Gustav Klimt works. These four works brought in some $192 million, with the highest price of $78.5 million ($87.9 million including buyer’s premium) being achieved for the Portrait d’Adele Bloch-Bauer II. This painting tops our rankings of the most expensive works from the 1910s. The sale of four works by the Viennese master was a historic occasion, as they had been confiscated from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis and the Austrian government had only just returned them to their rightful owners. The four paintings exceeded their estimates, causing Gustave Klimt’s value to soar by 46% in 2006. The two other Viennese works in our Top 10 are rare landscape paintings depicting houses, produced by Klimt and Schiele within a few months of each other. Kirche in Cassone (Landschaft mit Zypressen) is Klimt’s second-most expensive work, while Schiele’s painting set a record that has stood since 2011. It was also the most expensive work sold in London during June of that year.

Two Parisian sales

Two Parisian sales feature in this Top 10. The first was the Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent session, a historic sale that cleared no less than a quarter of all French fine art receipts in 2009 ($265 million of the $665 million recorded in 2009). Organised by Christie’s at the Grand Palais de Paris on 23 February 2009, at a time when Wall Street was hitting its worst low in 12 years (S&P 500 at 743.33 points), the quality of the works from this collection produced some exceptional results, including four of the top ten sales for 2009 and world records for Matisse, Brancusi, Mondrian, De Chirico, Duchamp, Klee, Ensor and Géricault. Since this sale, Henri MATISSE has topped the $41 million achieved by Les Coucous, tapis bleu et rose (with the sculpture Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV), sold for $43.5 million at Christie’s in 2010), but Les Coucous gave Matisse a world record for 2009. This is the third time that Henri Matisse has appeared in one of our Top 10s – he also features in our rankings for the 1920s and 1930s.
The most expensive sculpture produced in the 1910s is Tête (ca. 1910-12) by Amedeo MODIGLIANI. In 2010, the year when it sold for $46.65 million and smashed the artist’s previous record in this discipline ($3.5 million), Tête became the world’s third-most expensive sculpture, behind two bronzes by Alberto Giacometti.

Modigliani occupies three places in our ranking, thanks to the auction record set by Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine), a sensual nude created in 1917 that sold for $61.5 million at the Impressionist and Modern Art sale held at Sotheby’s New York on 2 November 2010. Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine) had previously been auctioned in 1999, setting a record price at the time ($15.25 million, Sotheby’s). The third Modigliani to make our Top 10 is a painting entitled Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau). The value of this bold work increased by $10 million between 2006 (sold at Sotheby’s London on 19 June) and 2013, when it achieved the equivalent of $37.7 million, again in London.

The other three world records in our rankings reward iconic, early 20th-century masterpieces that are not only records for the 1910s but also for the artists in question. These include the monumental Bassin aux nymphéas by Juan GRIS, sold for the equivalent of $71.8 million in London in 2008 and a new record for an Impressionist painting. This edges just ahead of the $71 million set in 1990 for the famous Moulin de la Galette by Auguste Renoir. There are only four comparable versions of this museum piece by Monet. One of them is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Apart from Impressionism, the Suprematist and Cubist movements are also represented, the former by Kasimir Sevrinovitch MALEVICH. One of his 1919 compositions sold for $53 million in 2008, a record that not only reflects the aesthetic and historical qualities of the canvas, but also Malevich’s extreme rarity on the market (only 10 paintings have appeared at auction since the 1990s). Cubism is represented by Juan Gris with an impressive canvas that fetched $50.7 million in London on February 2014. This record was posted just two months ago, demonstrating how works from this period can still increase their price, largely thanks to their impeccable quality. This was certainly the case with Juan GRIS‘s masterpiece Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux. From a private Swiss collection, this was its first appearance at auction. Expected to set a record by achieving its high estimate of $30 million, in the end it shattered even the most optimistic of forecasts by some $20 million.