Some of the world’s greatest impressionist and modern artworks are soon to go under the hammer for extravagant sums. Sotheby’s auction house are currently exhibiting the works in Paris before the auction takes place in New York on May 10th.

Collected by the late Mr and Mrs JOHN HAY WHITNEY, the artworks include two acknowledged masterpieces by SEURAT and CEZANNE and more than fifty impressionist and modern paintings.

CEZANNE’S “Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier”, a still-life circa 1893-94 is expected to fetch between $US25-35million. In its size, quality of execution and complexity of composition, the work represents the quintessential Cezanne.

GEORGES SEURAT’S painting, “L’ile de la Grande Jatte” is the only major image relating to Seurat’s famous work that remains in private hands and is also estimated at $US25-35million. It is one of two, large, final works that are preparatory to “Un Dimanche a la Grande Jatte”, one of the greatest icons of both modern painting and the entire history of art. Initially Seurat started “L’ile de la Grande Jatte” in 1884. In 1885 he returned to the work and created a greater sense of finish and refinement. In 1889, he added the border of small dots at the edge and thus completed the painting which is remarkable for its serenity and its treatment of light, colour and shadow.

Two paintings by PICASSO are also included for sale at auction. “Le Journal”, his widely exhibited and publicised painting executed during the high period of analytical cubism, and “Nature Morte a la Verre, Bouteille Rhum Paillee, Compotier sur une Table”, a beautiful, early synthetic cubist painting executed at Avignon in 1914. Both paintings were acquired in 1968 from the collection of writer, GERTRUDE STEIN, with whom Picasso was friendly.

Also on display was EDGAR DEGAS’ pastel of a ballet dancer, the artist’s most popular subject. “Danseuse au repos” (circa 1879) is an exquisite work from Degas’ classic series of studies of young ballet dancers in informal situations which he began in the late 1870’s. It shows a young dancer relaxing after the rigours of training, massaging her left foot while sitting on a bench next to a second dancer of which only the frills of her skirt can be seen. The dancer’s eyes appear to be closed or half-shut and she seems more focused on her thoughts than the world around her.

Degas placed the emphasis of the composition to the top-left of the picture space, aiming to capture the isolation of the figure and the intimacy of its setting and of the moment. Since the 1870’s, he had been experimenting with similar viewpoints based on his interest in Japanese woodblock prints and photography. The painting has a richly worked surface, the result of Degas’ use of a variety of media and experimental techniques. In some areas, he appears to have employed moistened pastels applied with a brush, thus creating a more wash-like appearance, which in other areas, he used gouache to achieve a greater degree of flatness and solidity.

“Danseuse au repos” was acquired in 1885 from the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Paris, the first great dealers in Impressionist paintings, by the French businessman, JULES EMILE-BOIVIN, who was also a friend of the artist. The work has remained in the Boivin collection ever since and is expected to sell for more than £5million in Sotheby’s major sale of Impressionist and Modern art in London on June 28th.

Prior to their sale in London, the pastels will be included in an international exhibition which will tour Paris, Zurich and New York.

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