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The latest Impressionist & Modern art auctions in London recorded a mixed performance – with Christie’s playing much the stronger hand.

The sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s generated £256m including premium, a figure that compared to £334.8m from the equivalent sales last year.

Over a quarter of the works at Sotheby’s 36-lot evening sale on June 19 were unsold, including three guaranteed works with a combined low estimate of £6.7m.

The sale raised £87.5m and was led by a Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) portrait from the key year of 1932. Offered with an ‘estimate on request’, the auction house arranged an irrevocable bid in advance of the sale. On the night, Buste de femme de profil (femme écrivant) was knocked down at £24m to a lone phone bidder.

Christie’s sale the following evening saw the market react more favourably to most of the works on offer. The auction total was £128m with 37 of the 45 lots sold (82%).

The top price came for one of Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) famous 1877 views of Saint-Lazare station in Paris.

Selling at £22m, it matched the $29m (£22m) hammer price for another of Monet’s 12 views of the same location that sold at Christie’s New York auction of the Rockefeller collection in May.

Strong competition emerged for a small gouache on card by German Expressionist Franz Marc (1880-1916) offered with a £2.5m-3.5m estimate.

The trademark 1912 depiction of three horses, Drei Pferde, was chased by at least four bidders before it was knocked down at £13.5m, establishing a new record for the artist.

It sold to New York dealer Jeffrey H Loria who, according to Christie’s, was buying for his personal collection.

Peploe sets new Colourist record

Christie’s also staged a strong-performing sale of Modern British art last week which was led by a Henry Moore head sculpture at £3.9m. A record came for any Scottish Colourist when Samuel John Peploe’s (1871-1935) Still Life with Tulips was knocked down above estimate at £820,000. 

Dating from 1919, it previously sold at Sotheby’s Hopetoun House sale in 2006 for £480,000. The previous record for Peploe was the £800,000 set by The Coffee Pot that sold at Christie’s in May 2011.


‘Still Life with Tulips’ by Samuel John Peploe that sold for £820,000 at Christie’s, a record for the artist and a record for any work by a Scottish Colourist.