The Foundation Langmatt and Christie’s have announced the sale of three important paintings by Paul Cezanne. It will be the highlight of Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, taking place on November 9, 2023
Fruits et pot de gingembre, Quatre pommes et un couteau and La mer à L’Estaque. This exceptional trio come to Christie’s from the collection of the Museum Langmatt in Baden, Switzerland, home to one of the most extraordinary collections of Impressionist art in Europe, assembled with care and passion in the early 20th century by famed collectors Sidney and Jenny Brown.
The lead highlight of the trio coming to auction is the exceptional Fruits et pot de gingembre (estimate: $35 million – 55 million). This iconic painting is part of a select group of canvases Cezanne painted in the late 1880s and early 1890s. With this work, Cezanne achieves a new level of sophistication in his treatment of still life, exhibiting a rich complexity in his formal approach to colour and space. This painting hails from the coveted and essential series of Cezanne’s still-life compositions, now celebrated as his signature artistic achievements, alongside his Bathers series and his views of Mont Sainte-Victoire. The subjects within Fruits et pot de gingembre stand in dialogue with one another, assuming almost human-like characteristics. This work was most likely painted in the studio Cezanne kept at his parents’ estate on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence – the same site where he painted his highly celebrated Card Players series.
The second work on offer, Quatre pommes et un couteau ($7 million – 10 million), explores one of Cezanne’s favourite and most famous subjects – the apple. Having been largely absent from his work in the 1860s, the fruit, now inextricably linked to the artist’s identity, began to appear in Cezanne’s compositions with increased frequency in the 1870s, then throughout the rest of his career, in all types of arrangements and settings. Moving away from the spontaneity and broken touch of classic Impressionist technique, which had dominated his body of work up to that point, the artist uses a distinct and tightly “constructed” painting style, embracing a more structured technique and approach to formal rendering.
The final painting of the trio, La mer à l’Estaque ($3 million – 5 million), is a serene landscape view and the earliest of the three works, painted at the end of the 1870s. The oil on canvas encapsulates the growing boldness of Cezanne’s style during the time he spent looking out onto the vistas of L’Estaque, a picturesque fishing village on the Mediterranean coast that served as the setting for some of the most innovative landscapes of the artist’s career.
Dirk Boll, Deputy Chairman, 20th/21st Century Art, Christie’s EMEA, remarks, “Museum sales are highly sensitive processes. We were extremely impressed by the thoughtfulness and care with which the foundation and the management selected the works and managed the selection process. Christie’s brings decades of experience in dealing with museum sales, which are part of institutional practice in the Anglo-American cultural area.”
Max Carter, Vice Chairman, 20th/21st Century Art, Christie’s, continues, “Cezanne is the father of modern art, and many of his greatest works were last seen on the market within thirty years of his death in 1906. The trio of Cezannes from the Museum Langmatt was acquired in this vital period and represents two of the artist’s essential motifs and bequests to the generations that followed: his radical approach to still life and the view of the Gulf of Marseille from L’Estaque. We could not be more honoured to handle this historic group, above all, Fruits et pot de gingembre, one of the most important and exquisite Cezanne still lifes ever to be sold at auction.”
Support for the Museum Langmatt
Bequeathed to the City of Baden, Switzerland, in 1987, the villa Langmatt, a historic family home built in 1900-01, was converted into a public museum and cultural institution, which opened in 1990. It houses the significant Impressionist art collection of Sidney and Jenny Brown, privately acquired mainly between 1908 and 1919, with a few additional purchases over the following decades. It also presents a regular series of contemporary art exhibitions and public programs. Since its opening, the Museum has required increasing levels of care to maintain its ageing physical facilities, which has substantially depleted the resources of the Langmatt Foundation, Sidney and Jenny Brown. In 2017, the foundation launched “Future Langmatt,” a public capital campaign to identify solutions to secure the Museum’s future. With the help of the canton and third parties, the city pledged to contribute to the restoration of the property, and the foundation committed to securing a long-term and financially sustainable basis for the Museum’s operations. The project was finalized and adopted on June 18, 2023, by a public vote [an unprecedented 80% majority] in Baden. Museum Langmatt will receive substantial funds from the City of Baden and the Canton Aargau towards the Museum’s renovation and restoration. The foundation Langmatt must now raise CHF 40 million / circa US$45 million for its endowment fund, providing the necessary interest rates for the long-term future of the Museum’s operation.
Lukas Breunig-Hollinger, President of the Foundation Langmatt, Sidney and Jenny Brown: “The collection, which is important far beyond the country’s borders, is strongly linked to Baden. Exhibited in the former home of the Brown family of collectors, it has been firmly associated with the town for a century. It is also symbolic of the internationality and pioneering spirit that have always characterized the town of Baden. We are happy to continue showing the collection in its historical context.”
Markus Stegmann, Director of Museum Langmatt, remarks: “Sidney and Jenny Brown showed an extraordinary flair for the emerging art movement of Impressionism early on, as evidenced by their acquisition of numerous masterpieces in the first two decades of the 20th century. The deaccession of one to three works is not easy for us. However, it is the only way to save the heart of this unique private collection – some 50 pieces of French Impressionism – in the long term and keep them publicly accessible.
We look forward to welcoming art lovers from near and far back to the renovated Museum in 2026.”
A Unique Sale Format
These three Cezanne masterpieces will be sold in a unique format within Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale. They will be offered consecutively until the total bid achieves Museum Langmatt’s fundraising target of CHF 40 million / circa US$45 million. Under these special conditions, the Museum has committed to selling only the required lots to achieve its goal. Once this 40M mark has been reached in the auction, any subsequent lot(s) in the trio will be withdrawn from sale and returned to public display in Switzerland.
Top Photo Courtesy Christie’s