Sotheby’s Paris Will Hold Sale of Major Modernist & Impressionist Works

Gustave Courbet, La Dormeuse nue, dit aussi Le Rêve, 1860

Long before the days of schmooze-a-rama art fairs stacked with jetsetting collectors rubbing shoulders with press-craving celebrities, there was Robert Schmit, who collected art for art’s sake, and ended up an influential arbiter of Modernist era taste. Having been introduced to art by a family friend, he ended up as the impassioned, perhaps even zealous “chaser of masterpieces,” some of which will go on sale at Sotheby’s Paris this December 8.

In 1964 he opened the eponymous Galerie Robert Schmit at 396 rue Saint Honoré in Paris (it’s now an Anne Fontaine clothing boutique), near the Place Vendome and the Louvre. It was described exuberantly by one critic as one of those “…rare places where miracles could happen… [with works by] Degas and Monet as we usually see only in museums, sensitive and delectable Boudins, furtive and silky Fantin-Latours, […], Sisleys and Corots in dialogue as equals with delicate Lépines or magical Redons…”. A genuine visionary, Schmit’s annual exhibitions helped to define art world trends and proclivities, and many works that once hung on the walls at 396 can now be seen in the hallowed halls of the great museums of Europe.

He ultimately ended up bridging the gap between the radicals of the late 19th Century – the Impressionists shocked and offended much of the establishment of the time – and the wild experimentation of early 20th Century Modernism, helping to shape the narrative of how art got from one monumental moment to another, during one if its most important periods in history. And the Sotheby’s sale bears out his remarkable level of good taste. So while there will be Gustave Courbet’s (still) provocative La Dormeuse nue, dit aussi Le Rêve, 1860 (600.000-1.000.000 €) and Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Buste de jeune fille, 1879 (400.000-600.000 €), also included is early surrealist Odilon Redon‘s Anémones et coquelicots, 1914-15, which looks nothing like his earlier nightmarish images, and which most fascinatingly the house expects to fetch more than the Renoir. (Notably of Courbet, Jeff Koons has actually become one of his most vigorous collectors.)

Eugène Boudin, Trouville, l’heure du bain

Impressionism, of course, was also arguably the first major art movement where women featured quite prominently. And Sotheby’s will offer works by two of its most iconic femmes, Mary Cassat and Berthe Morisot, with the latter’s Jeune fille à la cruche d’eau, 1893, expected to bring 600,000-800,000 €.

Aurélie Vandevoorde, Vice-President Sotheby’s France and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art enthuses, “This extraordinary selection of works reveals the wonderful taste of Robert and Nadine Schmit, who had a very sharp eye for the great masters of the 19th and 20th centuries. What is fascinating is the great diversity of works that seduced them over the years, from Delacroix and Courbet to Villon and Dufy, building a picture of their immense curiosity. Most of the works have not been seen at auction for a long time, and some are being offered for the very first time.”

Thankfully for those who don’t have half a million burning a hole in their pocket, Collection de Monsieur & Madame Robert Schmit | Œuvres choisies – Session I will be on view from December 4 at the Sotheby’s Paris gallery (76 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré), which is just a short stroll over to the 8th after a morning of taking in the treasures of the Louvre. We couldn’t think of a more enlightening way to spend an autumn day in Paris.

Kees van Dongen, La belle Fatima, 1906

Odilon Redon, Anémones et coquelicots, 1914-15

Berthe Morisot, Jeune fille à la cruche d’eau, 1893

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