This May, Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction will feature four works from the collection of Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important art dealers in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries famed for playing an essential role in the development of Modern Art. The auction marks the first major sale of works from Vollard’s collection in over a decade.
The group is highlighted by a major still life by Paul Gauguin, one of the most significant by the artist to appear at auction, which hung on the walls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for almost 40 years since its founding in 1986. Following years of legal proceedings, during which the heirs of Ambroise Vollard were represented by lawyers including François Honnorat, a French court recently ruled that ownership of the works would be returned to Vollard’s descendants. The works were exhibited today at Sotheby’s Paris, bringing full circle the storied history of these works as an integral part of the development of the shared understanding of Impressionist and Modern art.
Ambroise Vollard was instrumental in building the reputations of the most significant artists of the time, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and many more. Not only did he stage the first solo shows for many of these artists, but also supported them throughout their careers, establishing their legacies by publishing prints and illustrated books of their work, and ensuring works were placed in major institutional and private collections.
Leading the group is a masterwork by Paul Gauguin: Nature morte avec pivoines de chine et mandoline, one of the finest examples of the artist’s still lifes ever to appear at auction. The work was painted in 1885 at the moment when the artist began to pursue his art full-time, moving away from the naturalism of the Impressionist movement and beginning to experiment with vivid color. The artist's experiments in this period would go on to form the basis of the Post-Impressionist movement; a bold new direction which caught the eye of Vincent van Gogh, who invited Gauguin to join him in Arles a few years later. It was also around this time that Ambroise Vollard began to see the potential in Gauguin and became instrumental in the development of the artist’s career, organizing several major exhibitions after Gauguin's departed for Tahiti in the 1890s.
Elsewhere in the collection is a dynamic landscape by Pierre-August Renoir; Paysage de bord de mer (est. $1, - $1.5m), created while the artist was at the height of his independence in 1884. The group is further highlighted by a red chalk by Renoir depicting the Judgement of Paris titled Le Jugement de Pâris from circa 1915 (est. $300,000 – 500,000) and a watercolor and pencil work on paper by Paul Cézanne titled Sous-bois from circa 1882 - 84 (est. $250,000 - $350,000).