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Two Restituted Masterworks from the Alfred Flechtheim Collection at Sotheby’s this November in NYC

  • Auktion
    Two Restituted Masterworks from the Alfred Flechtheim Collection at Sotheby’s this November in NYC

Sotheby’s to Auction Expressionist Masterworks by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner & Oskar Kokoschka Recently Restituted to the Heirs of ALFRED FLECHTHEIM

Kokoschka’s Portrait of Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac from 1910 Estimate $15/20 Million & Kirchner’s Das Soldatenbad (Artillerymen) from 1915 Estimate $15/20 Million

Highlights of THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED A Commemoration of the Artistic Genius Born from the Turmoil of World War I

On Offer in Sotheby’s Evening Auction of IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART On 12 November in New York

NEW YORK, 19 October 2018 – Sotheby’s is honored to announce that two Modern masterworks recently restituted to the heirs of art-world luminary Alfred Flechtheim will highlight our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 12 November 2018.

Among the finest examples by their respective artists ever to appear at auction, Oskar Kokoschka’s portrait of Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac from 1910 (estimate $15/20 million) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s compelling Das Soldatenbad (Artillerymen) from 1915 (estimate $15/20 million) both encapsulate the seismic shifts occurring in visual arts during the period leading up to and including the onset of World War I. They also serve as testaments to Flechtheim’s passion for collecting exceptional Expressionist works.

In addition to their inherent art historical significance, both paintings are distinguished by their illustrious provenance and remarkable stories of restitution to Flechtheim’s heirs. Prior to its restitution earlier this year, Kirchner’s Das Soldatenbad had resided in the distinguished collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York for three decades, and in The Museum of Modern Art prior to that. Like the Kirchner, Kokoschka’s Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac was voluntarily returned to Flechtheim’s heirs in 2018 by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. As in the past, the Flechtheim heirs are expecting to use some of the proceeds for charitable causes, and for Holocaust remembrance and education purposes.

Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac and Das Soldatenbad will be on view in Sotheby’s New York headquarters beginning 2 November, as part of our full sale exhibitions of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art.

Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Restitution and Senior Specialist in the Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: “It is an honor to present these two recently restituted masterworks by Oskar Kokoschka and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner at auction this November. While markedly different in subject matter, both works are striking embodiments of the momentous changes developing in visual art throughout Europe at the time, and, as we can see with the Kirchner in particular, a tremendously palpable sense of angst during the beginning of World War I. Painted just after he returned from the war, Das Soldatenbad instills the viewer with the same dehumanizing sentiments that Kirchner experienced during his enlistment and the frightening anonymity of life as a soldier. In this ferocious anti-war painting, the artist embraces the avant-garde through various techniques: the spatial arrangement of the figures; his unmediated depictions of the body that are divorced from the rigorous constraints of academic painting. In contrast, Kokoschka’s entrancing “soul painting” of Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac is an intensive study of personality and expression, one wherein he sought to bring the invisible inside of a person to the surface. These two introspective pictures are united not only by their respective restitutions, but also by the pioneering foresight of Alfred Flechtheim, an innovative figure in his own right and trailblazer in the field of collecting. It is with this rich history that we are delighted to offer this pair of avant-garde canvases in our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale.”

Alfred Flechtheim was a collector, art dealer, publisher, patron and bon vivant. Born in Germany in 1878, his father Emil Flechtheim brought him in to the family’s grain business at the age of 24. While learning about the commodities trade in Paris in 1906, he fell in with the colony of German artists who frequented the Café du Dôme in Montparnasse. With income from the family business, Flechtheim rapidly built up an exceptional collection of Cubist paintings – including a large number of works by Pablo Picasso, who he met in 1907.

On his return to Düsseldorf in 1909, Flechtheim became closely involved in the local art scene. By this time he was widely rumored to be gay, and it is perhaps for this reason that in 1910 his parents encouraged his marriage to Betty Goldschmidt, the heiress of a wealthy Dortmund merchant. The newlyweds took their honeymoon in Paris, where it is said that Flechtheim invested Betty's dowry in Cubist art, to the alarm of his in-laws. Regarding the works by Picasso, Braque and Derain, he wrote his father-in-law “don’t worry, they’ll double in value”.

When he abandoned his family’s commodities business in 1913, Flechtheim opened his eponymous ‘Gallery for Older and Modern Art’ in Düsseldorf, with an elegant catalogue for the opening show listing works by many of the artists whom he would continue to promote throughout his career, including Braque, Cézanne , van Gogh, Kokoschka, Matisse, Picasso and Schiele. However, due to World War I, Flechtheim was forced to auction both his collection and his business stock in 1917. The auction of his trading stock in Berlin included some 250 works of art, marking both the first auction of contemporary art in Germany and the only display of French Modernism during the war.

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  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Das Soldatenbad (Artillerymen) Painted in 1915.
    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Das Soldatenbad (Artillerymen) Painted in 1915.
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Oskar Kokoschka Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac Painted in 1910. Estimate $15/20 million
    Oskar Kokoschka Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac Painted in 1910. Estimate $15/20 million
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 9330 Alfred Flechtheim portrait (seated), Courtesy of Thea Sternheim
    9330 Alfred Flechtheim portrait (seated), Courtesy of Thea Sternheim
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • 9330 Alfred Flechtheim portrait (standing)
    9330 Alfred Flechtheim portrait (standing)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
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