‘La Gare Saint-Lazare’ by Claude Monet
‘La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure’ by Claude Monet – £22m at Christie’s.

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Claude Monet’s painting La Gare Saint-Lazare and a Pablo Picasso portrait of Dora Marr were the top lots at last night’s sale, but the best competition arrived on a vibrant gouache by Franz Marc.

Overall, the auction generated £128m including premium with 37 of the 45 lots sold (82%). It produced more action than Sotheby’s slim 36-lot sale that totalled £87.4m with 26 of the 36 lots sold (72.2%).

Monet’s station

Christie’s had secured the bulk of the most valuable works at this series which included a number of works by Claude Monet (1840-1926).

These included one of his famous views of Saint-Lazare station in Paris. The artist painted 12 views of Saint-Lazare station in Paris between January and March 1877, nine of which are now in museums including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery in London, while another sold at Christie’s auction of the Rockefeller collection in New York in May.

That picture, which was the same size but in a brighter palette than the current picture, sold $32.9m (£24.3m) including premium.

The 2ft x 2ft 8in (60 x 80cm) oil on canvas here came to auction from the family of Texas investor and oil baron Perry R. Bass who died in 2006. Acquiring works through three leading dealers, he and his wife Nancy Lee Bass, who died in 2013, had quietly amassed a large and impressive collection of Impressionist, Modern and Post-War art. This work was purchased from New York’s Acquavella Galleries in 1985.

Offered with an ‘estimate on request’ thought to be £22m-28m, it generated some limited competition from two phone bidders but was eventually knocked down at £22m to a buyer in the room who immediately exited the auction after securing the lot.

Pablo Picasso portrait of Dora Maar

Pablo Picasso's Dora Maar portrait at Christie's

‘Femme dans un fauteuil’, a Pablo Picasso portrait of Dora Maar from 1942 that sold for £17m at Christie’s.

Christie’s also offered a Pablo Picasso portrait of Dora Maar from 1942 for which the auctioneers had guaranteed a minimum price to the vendor.

It was announced from the rostrum before the sale that the picture was now subject to a third-party guarantee, meaning Christie’s had been able to offset any risk of having an expensive buy-in.

Femme dansun fauteuil was offered with an ‘estimate on request’ which was believed to be £18m-22m but it failed to reach this level on the night and was knocked down at £17m to a telephone buyer bidding through Xin Li, deputy chairman of Christie's Asia.

The wartime portrait had been rarely exhibited having remained in the artist’s collection until his death, after which it passed to his second wife, Jacqueline Picasso. It was later sold through the agency of Picasso’s dealer, Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris but was not shown in public until 1986.

It came to auction from a European vendor who had bought it as an aftersale purchase after it failed to get away at a Sotheby's sale in June 1990.

‘Drei Pferde’ by Franz Marc

‘Drei Pferde’ by Franz Marc – a record £13.5m at Christie’s.

The star performer of the sale was Drei Pferde, a gouache on card by German expressionist Franz Marc (1880-1916) that brought a prolonged competition against a £2.5m-3.5m estimate.

Chased by at least four bidders, the colourful 1912 depiction of three horses dated from a period when the artist was producing his greatest works, starkly depicting equine subjects in increasingly abstract landscapes. 

It was knocked down at £13.5m to New York dealer Jeffrey H Loria and, according to Christie's, is destined for his personal collection. The price established a new record for the artist.