In a strong start to its 20th century art sales launched at its London and New York headquarters on Monday, Christie’s sold a group of eight drawings from the family collection of London dealer Thomas Gibson for a collective $25.3 million, well above its estimate of $15.8 million.
Across the several sales held at the house’s New York and London salesrooms beginning on March 1, Christie’s reported a net total of $61 million, realizing a combined sell-through rate of 98 percent.
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Leading the works on paper sale was a rare drawing of a French girl by Vincent van Gogh titled La Mousmé (1888). Executed near the end of the artist’s life, the Japonisme-inspired drawing of the young sitter went for £7.5 million ($10.4 million) with fees, against an estimate of $7 million. Acquired by Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum in 1943, following the war-time persecution of its original Jewish owners Kurt and Henriette H. Hirschland, the work was later returned in the 1950s to their heirs before it passed into Gibson’s hands.
The drawing is the last work from a group of 12 originally gifted by the artist to Australian painter John Russell that still remains in private hands. The remaining works from that gift, which include nine landscapes and two portraits, are held by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The result was shy of the current record for a van Gogh work on paper, set in 1997 at Sotheby’s in London by the sale of a drawing of $14.6 million. When that work sold again, in 2003, it went for $10.3 million.
Elsewhere in this week’s Christie’s sale, drawings by top modernists—many of which gone largely unseen on market—surpassed expectations. René Magritte’s Journal in time (1954) sold for £2.7 million ($3.8 million), against an estimate of $2.5 million, marking a substantial return on the 1954 gouache that Gibson acquired at Sotheby’s in 2002 for just $355,600. A 1974 self-portrait by Lucian Freud, which Gibson acquired in 1975, went for $2.2 million, against an estimate of $1.8 million.
Henry Moore’s Two Sleepers in the Underground (recto); Figures and Sketches of Sculpture (verso), which had been in the Gibson collection since 1983, went for £2.3 million ($3.2 million), double its initial value of $1.5 million. Georges Seurat’s 1890 Conté crayon riverside scene La voile blanche was placed with a new buyer for £3.8 million ($4.6 million), against an estimate of $2.5 million.