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Caillebotte’s masterpiece will go to Getty

Four artists smash records at Christie’s New York auction of Edwin Cox’s Impressionist trove Who said that Impressionism was dead! The famous Impressionist collection of Edwin Lochridge Cox (Texas oilman as well as philanthropist and 99 years old) was auctioned off at Christie’s New York for a staggering $332m last night.

The final figure (calculated using fees) for the white-glove auction of 23 lots soared beyond pre-sale expectations of $178.6m to $267.6m (calculated without fees) and the hammer tally was as convincing at $286m.

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Sixteen of the entries were backed by financial guarantees from a third party or in-house. Four records for artists were made.

The evening action kicked off strongly with Claude Monet’s Nympheas (fragment) (around 1912) which was gifted to Cox in 1982 from the art dealer extraordinaire Daniel Wildenstein, that made $5.2m ($6.2m including costs) against a $700,000 to $1m estimate.

Odillon Redon’s still-life with flowers Grand bouquet des flowers of the champs (circa 1900-2005), was valued at $2.3m (plus costs). (Est. $1.2m-1.8m) and Vincent van Gogh’s light suffused-landscape, Cabanes de bois parmi les liviers et cypres, painted in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in October 1889 sold to Hugo Nathan of London’s Beaumont Nathan Art Advisory, shattering its estimate (unpublished, but in the region of $40m), realising $71.3m (with fees). Both paintings were purchased by the collector from Wildenstein & Company New York in 1981 and 1982 respectively.

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It is refreshing to note that no of the items offered carried the auction house’s provenance. In fact, only two of them came through the closed doors of Wildenstein.

A second van Gogh work, Meules du ble which was a pencil, ink and watercolour gouache paper, was painted in Arles in June1888. It was later sold to Beaumont Nathan for $31 million ($35.8m plus costs). $20-30m). It was put on the market following an extended settlement between the consignor as well as the heirs to the previous owners Max Meirowsky and Alexandrine de Rothschild, as the painting was confiscated during the Occupation of France and transferred to the Jeu de Paume, Paris in April 1941. It was a decade before landing at Wildenstein.

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The third van Gogh, surely one of Cox’s favourite artists Jeune homme au bleuet, a late work painted in Auvers-sur-Oise in the month of June 1890, just a few weeks prior to the artist’s suicide. It features an attractive young man wearing a corn flower playfully stuck in his mouth, made a whopping $40.5m ($46.7m including fees) in contrast to estimates of $5m to $7m).

Paul Cezanne’s unique to the market beautiful seaside view, stunning interior and stellar provenance, L’Estaque aux toits rouges (1883-85), which was acquired by Cox in 1978, sold for $48m ($55.3m including fees, estimated. $35m-$55m).

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Another version from the celebrated series Vue sur l’Estaque et le Chateau d’If which was auctioned off at Christie’s London in February 2015 for PS13.5m/$20.5m.

Le basin d’argenteuil (1874), a more extensive Claude Monet entry, depicting a variety of moored vessels and figures on mirror-like waters and with an extensive history of exhibitions the piece was purchased for $24m (Est. $27.8 and fees). $15m-25m). It was secured by a third party guarantee as did the Van Goghs as well as Cezanne.

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The only painting of a female artist in the last night’s collection, Berthe Morisot’s vibrant and beautifully executed oil on canvas Fillette portant un panier (1888), acquired by Cox during the early years of his collecting career in 1977, realised $4.4m ($5.3m with fees, i.e. $2-$3m).

The final lot, the cover lot, the one everyone was eagerly anticipating and that sure captured Cox’s impeccable taste–was Gustave Caraillebotte’s stunning composition Jeune homme a sa fenetre (1876), which was written by Gustave Caillebotte. It sold to the New York dealer Adam Williams who bid on behalf the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for $46m ($53m with fees, est. upon request, in the range of $50 million) which was a record for the artist.

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Cox purchased the work from Wildenstein in 1995 when he purchased the painting from Wildenstein. The painting was also featured in the travelling retrospective Gustave Caillebotte Urban Impressionist. The painting quickly became an integral part of his meticulously assembled collection. It featured the elegant back of a man standing in front of a stunning French window. The painting reveals his silhouette as well as the breathtaking Parisian boulevard that he looks out over. This was the highlight of one of the most competitive bidding games that took place in the evening. While not in the description the figure standing was the middle brother of Caillebotte Rene who died not long after the work was finished. It broke the previous record set by Chemin Montant in 1881 at Christie’s London in February 2019 when it sold for PS16.6m/$22.2m (with costs).

Caillebotte did not just paint with the Impressionists but was an excellent financial patron and, perhaps the most important gave his extensive collection to the French state following his death.

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“It was an extraordinary sales,” said Guy Wildenstein, Daniel Wildenstein’s son, as he exited the room for sales. Cox had bought a lot of the night’s artifacts from the duo. “He was a collector who bought very quick, but all of them are of the same style and went beyond the prices we ever sold.”

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