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Property from the Estate of Payne Whitney Middleton HENRI 'LE DOUANIER' ROUSSEAU (1844-1910) Les Flamants oil on canvas 44.7/8 x 63.1/4 in. (113.8 x 162 cm.) Painted in 1910 $20,000,000 – 30,000,000
EW YORK – This May, Christie’s is honored to offer Les Flamants, an extraordinarily rare masterpiece by Henri Rousseau in Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale during the Spring Marquee Week. Estimated at $20,000,000 – 30,000,000, this painting is poised to reset the auction record for the artist, far exceeding the current record of $4.4 million set three decades ago at Christie’s London. Les Flamants comes to Christie’s from the estate of Payne Whitney Middleton, having been in the family since 1949. Max Carter, Christie’s Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, remarks, “A legend among the Parisian avant-garde, Henri Rousseau is perhaps the rarest major artist of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Of the fewer than 240 attributed oils in the definitive catalogues by Dora Vallier and Henry Certigny, the number of privately owned paintings with provenance traced to Rousseau can be counted on two hands. Among them there is only one monumental jungle vision, Les Flamants, which hung for many years in Joan Whitney Payson’s living room opposite Van Gogh’s Irises. In 1954, five years after the family acquired Les Flamants, Rousseau’s The Dream reportedly became the most expensive acquisition in MoMA’s history. At the time, one of Rousseau’s masterpieces appearing on the market was an event. Today it is once-in-a-lifetime.” Vanessa Fusco, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art and Co-Head of Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, remarks, “Rousseau was a celebrity among the avant-garde artistic community in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. He was championed and collected by some of the most influential modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, and Wassily Kandinsky, and his epitaph was written by the great poet Guillaume Apollinaire. His unique, fantastical vision has continued to inspire artists through to the current day. This May’s 20th Century Evening Sale therefore represents the perfect platform in which to feature this quintessential artist’s artist’s great masterpiece, in dialogue with subsequent generations of artists upon whom Rousseau had a profound influence.” Created in the final year Rousseau’s life, Les Flamants is a superb example of his jungle paintings, the small, highly celebrated series that cemented his artistic legacy. Among his most ambitious compositions, both in scale and subject, Rousseau’s jungle landscapes were almost entirely imagined. The self-taught artist never left France, and instead drew inspiration from journals, newspapers, and botanical guidebooks, which he supplemented with visits to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, to study live animals and exotic plant life. Through this multi-layered process, Rousseau’s paintings became rich assemblages, combining many different types of imagery together to create dream-like landscapes. Prior to committing himself fulltime to art, Rousseau made a living as a customs officer working at the outskirts of Paris, which led to the moniker ‘Le Douanier.’ Rousseau is among the most important self-taught European painters from the late 19th and early 20th Century.
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Property from the Estate of Payne Whitney Middleton HENRI 'LE DOUANIER' ROUSSEAU (1844-1910) Les Flamants oil on canvas 44.7/8 x 63.1/4 in. (113.8 x 162 cm.) Painted in 1910 $20,000,000 – 30,000,000