Sotheby’s has announced that a rarely seen painting from Picasso’s Blue Period, La Gommeuse (1901), as well as one of Monet’s major Waterlilies paintings, Nymphéas (1908), will be auctioned at their Impressionist and modern art evening sale in New York on November 5. Both works come from the collection of businessman and collector William I. Koch.
La Gommeuse, which is estimated to sell for more than $60 million, was painted at a crossroads in Picasso’s life, after both the enormous success of his first exhibition in Paris and also the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. During a conservation attempt arranged by Koch in 2000, a mischievous hidden portrait of Picasso’s longtime dealer Pere Mañach—depicted with the body of an exotic dancer—was revealed beneath the lining on the back of the canvas. According to a release, “Scholarship has suggested that Picasso was frustrated with Mañach’s professional dealings during the summer of 1901, and this outrageous portrait encapsulates their tumultuous friendship.” This is the first time the painting will be sold at auction. Nymphéas, estimated from $30 million to $50 million, is considered to be one of Monet’s finest works among those in his Giverny lily pond series as well as his entire oeuvre.
In a statement, Simon Shaw, co-head of Sotheby’s global Impressionist and modern art department, said, “Above all others, Picasso’s Blue Period is prized as his breakthrough—this is the moment Picasso becomes Picasso. With her dreamy gaze and frank sensuality, the cabaret dancer in La Gommeuse ushers in a new visual idiom for the 20th century. Exploring themes which would underpin Picasso’s work for the next seven decades, the painting stands squarely between the bohemian nightlife of Toulouse-Lautrec and the raw expressionism of Munch and Schiele. La Gommeuse and Nymphéas hung together in the salon of Bill Koch’s beautiful home. These are two icons of art history from one of the greatest American collections ever assembled—a testament to Mr. Koch’s unique connoisseurship, which we are honored to celebrate this fall at Sotheby’s.”
The works will be publicly displayed at Sotheby’s London galleries during Frieze week from October 10 through 15, and will arrive in New York on October 30. The paintings will be on view until the day of the sale.