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Two auctions of impressionist, modern art

Works by Gaugin, Monet, Matisse will be featured
/ Source: The Associated Press

Paintings by such luminary artists as Gauguin, Matisse and Monet will be auctioned next week by the city’s top two auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, in separate impressionist and modern art sales.

Together, more than 120 pieces will be sold at a combined price of nearly $350 million.

A painting from Gauguin’s second Tahitian period, “Maternite (II),” is expected to fetch the highest price. Sotheby’s estimated the value of the piece, which currently belongs to an unidentified private collector, between $40 and $50 million.

Christie’s auction will be held Wednesday and Thursday and Sotheby’s on Thursday and Friday.

Paul Gauguin painted “Maternite (II)” in 1899, around the time his 17-year-old Tahitian mistress gave birth to the couple’s son. The painting depicts a woman breast-feeding a newborn as two attendants hover nearby. It “represents a peak in the artist’s career,” said David C. Norman, co-chairman of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department.

The highlight at Christie’s is a painting from Claude Monet’s series on London’s House of Parliament. With orange and red light piercing London’s fog, the 1904 painting has become an icon of the impressionist era and is expected to sell for $12 to $18 million.

Monet painted 19 versions of Parliament, each from a different time of day with the light either hiding or illuminating the building. The painting for sale is one of only four still in private hands.

The Monet painting is “a truly breathtaking moment for the auction house” because the work is so rare and is perhaps the best of the entire London Parliament series, said Guy Bennett, Christie’s senior vice president and an impressionist and modern art expert.

Even though much of the country will turn its attention the presidential election next week, neither auction house is worried that would-be bidders will be distracted. “This upper, upper end of the art market seems to kind of exist in its own plane,” Norman said.

Other highlights of the Christie’s sale include a van Gogh estimated at $12 to $18 million, a Miro estimated at $6 to $8 million and Pissarro’s paintings of the four seasons, sold as a set and estimated at between $8 and $12 million.

Besides the Gauguin, Sotheby’s is selling six works from the collection of Hester Diamond, including a Kandinsky and a Mondrian, each expected to bring in more than $20 million.

Sotheby’s also is selling a Modigliani painting of his wife and muse, painted in 1919. It is his last portrait of her before his death and her suicide days later, Norman said.