Published: June 27, 2006
Egon Schiele’s lost masterpiece “Herbstsonne,” recently rediscovered and restituted to the heirs of Karl Grünwald, was sold at Christie’s on June 20 for $21,688,424 in an evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art, including German and Austrian art, that totaled $160,319,621.
The sale’s results were the highest sale total ever achieved in this category at Christie’s London. Six auction records were established.
“Herbstsonne” had been missing and feared destroyed for more than 60 years and was last seen publicly in the summer of 1937. Painted on the eve of World War I in 1914, the picture was originally acquired from the artist by Xaver B. Gmür and subsequently bought by the Austrian collector Karl Grünwald. In 1938, Grünwald, who by this time had amassed a first rate collection of Austrian art, fled Vienna for France. His collection, however, including “Herbstsonne,” was confiscated in Strasbourg and sold at auction in 1942.
Grünwald escaped the war, but spent most of his life searching relentlessly for his collection. He only had limited success prior to his death in November 1964, when his family continued this passionate pursuit.
At the end of 2005, “Herbstsonne” was discovered in France. When Christie’s specialists revealed the painting was a lost masterpiece, they explained that it had long been sought by the heirs of the Grünwald family. Christie’s advised that there were important moral considerations that had to be addressed and, as a result, the owner decided that the work should be returned to the heirs of Karl Grünwald and it was officially restituted in February this year.
The sale also included a large selection of works by Pablo Picasso spanning different periods of his work. An energetic and colorful later work of 1969, “Homme à la pipe assis et amour,” filled with the whimsy and romance that makes Picasso’s late pictures so engaging, sold for $7,858,552.
Further highlights included Paul Cézanne’s “Maisons dans la verdure,” circa 1881, which was previously owned by great friend and fellow artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and which sold for $7,652,136.
A complete review will appear in a future issue.
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