Choice pieces from an estate
Renoir, Pissarro and Boudin all feature large in this sale, which could well be the first major event of the season at Drouot.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Cour de ferme à Melleraye (Mayenne), 1876, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm.
Auction houses have long cultivated the mystery of origins. Here secrecy is preserved once again, and the works speak louder than their owners. This time, they come from the estate of Mme X; the best known were acquired in the 1970s and 1980s from the leading Paris gallery owners Schmit, Nicolier and Étienne Lévy. Pedigree fanatics can rest assured that most of the pieces on offer have belonged to prestigious collections, appeared in exhibitions or been reproduced in reference works. One of the finest examples in the sale is Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1905 Baigneuse assise. The painter sold it to his friend Maurice Gangnat, who kept it until his death. When his collection went up for sale in 1925 at the Hôtel Drouot (see below), it was bought by Paul Durand-Ruel, the Impressionists' famous dealer, and exhibited in Paris and New York. It spent several years across the Atlantic, and was then sold by Sotheby's in London on 2 July 1974 for £26,000. After passing through the Schmit gallery, it joined a European collection. A splendid record for this painting of one of Renoir's favourite subjects. This woman bather sitting by a river is one of the last works where he painted nudes next to their abandoned clothes: a way of adding a light tone to a very reduced palette. After 1900, he returned to models with generous figures, reminiscent of Titian's and Rubens' vision of female beauty.
Masters of outdoor painting
A painter of the skies, Eugène Boudin also specialised in beach scenes with ladies in crinolines, one of the subjects most sought-after by collectors because of his shimmering colours and the vibrant life he conveys. You will need €80,000/120,000 for an 1869 panel that once belonged to the French engineer, collector and artist Henri Rouart. We then head for the Somme Bay and Brittany with the estate's two other paintings by the Honfleur artist: Le Chargement du poisson à Berck (€60,000/80,000) showing fish being unloaded, and Le Passage. Embouchure de la rivière de Landerneau (€80,000/100,000), with its river mouth landscape. These could make quite a splash – as might Camille Pissarro's 1876 painting Farmyard in Melleraye (€500,000/600,000). Exhibited in Paris at the Manzi-Joyant gallery in 1914, the Durand-Ruel gallery in 1928, Marcel Bernheim in 1936, Paul Rosenberg two years later and the Musée de l'Orangerie (Paris) in 1930 (for the artist's centenary), it belonged to Georges Viau, a dentist, collector and patron. A close friend of the Rouart family, this amateur painter, who had fun mystifying his visitors with pastiches, liked to go "to the source" and buy directly from artists. He clearly had enough influence with Ambroise Vollard to recommend Camille Pissarro to him. The sales of his first collections on 21 and 22 March 1907 with Durand-Ruel included five Monets, fifteen Renoirs, twelve Sisleys and nineteen Pissarros, including this attractive scene of farming life: a work expressing the painter's love for nature and above all for these figures imbued with simplicity, absorbed in their occupations.