Published: July 25, 2006
An exceptional work by J.M.W. Turner, RA (1775-1851), the most important watercolor to appear at auction for more than 50 years and one of the most impressive ever painted by the artist, sold at Christie’s last month for $10,987,488, the world record price for a British work on paper.
“The Blue Rigi” is a remarkable work of art by the universally acknowledged master of watercolor and the “precursor of Impressionism.” The auctioneer’s hammer fell after a tense ten-minute bidding battle, which was won by an anonymous bidder on the telephone. The sale of British art on paper was the first of five auctions to take place during British Art Week at Christie’s. Further highlights sold during the week included a selection of paintings, watercolors, furniture and sculpture worth in excess of $45 million and representing more than 500 years of British art, including works by Gainsborough, Hockney, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Stubbs, as well as “The Liver Building,” a rediscovered masterpiece by L.S. Lowry.
Between 1841 and 1844, Turner undertook annual tours to Switzerland where he was inspired by the dramatic scenery around Lake Lucerne and the Rigi Mountain rising from the eastern shore. In 1842, on his return from Switzerland, Turner produced four exemplary and highly finished watercolors, including “The Blue Rigi,” which is considered to be the superlative example, and went with them to his agent, Thomas Griffith, in order to secure further commissions. John Ruskin, the foremost art critic of the Nineteenth Century, said of this series that “Turner had never made any drawings like these before and never made any like them again.”
In April 2006, Christie’s established the world record price for Turner at auction when his masterpiece “Giudecca, La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio” was sold in New York City for $35,856,000.
Prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, www.christies.com.
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