NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. - Poster Auctions International’s (PAI) third sale of the year—Auction LXXIX, held October 27th, online and at the PAI gallery in Manhattan—finished at $1.707 million in sales. The auction provided enthusiastic acclaim for important works of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras.
Jack Rennert, President of PAI, said, “The most significant aspect of this sale was the return of Art Nouveau following declining interest in previous years. This renewed passion is evident in record sales of Orazi’s ‘La Maison Moderne,’ Thiriet’s ‘Absinthe Berthelot,’ and continued interest in Mucha and Toulouse-Lautrec.”
The highest bid at auction—and perhaps the most unexpected triumph—was for Henri Thiriet’s ca. 1898 “Absinthe Berthelot,” a rare Belle Epoque design depicting a bustling outdoor café scene. Its estimate of $30,000-$40,000 was swiftly surpassed with animated bidding, and the lot was finally won for $108,000 (all prices include sales premiums).
Perhaps no other artist is more emblematic of Art Nouveau’s prowess than Alphonse Mucha. His 1902 “Cycles Perfecta” exudes the decorative style and expressive spaghetti hair that made him famous. While estimated at $17,000-$20,000, bidders were fervent, resulting in a $36,000 sale to a bidder in the room—and exuberant applause followed. Rarer works by the Belle Epoque master were similarly desired; his theatrical “Princezna Hyacinta,” from 1911, blew away the estimate of $25,000-$30,000 for a grand $48,000.
For the Father of Art Nouveau—Jules Chéret—sales were similarly impassioned. His revered “Librairie Ed. Sagot / Affiches-Estampes,” from 1891, sold for $6,000. But it was his oil painting, “Sérénade dans le Parc,” that really excited collectors; with an estimate of $25,000-$30,000, it was won for $38,400.
Leonetto Cappiello, whose work informed both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, also delighted bidders. His very first poster—“Le Frou Frou,” from 1899—is testament to the artist’s innate lithographic skill; estimated at $5,000-$6,000, it was sold for $7,800. For the first time in PAI’s history, his 1907 “Congrès International des Étudiants” was available, and collectors were thrilled. With an estimate of $3,000-$4,000, the Dionysian scene was won for $5,520.
Manuel Orazi continued the theme with his elegantly decorative work, “La Maison Moderne,” from 1900. His stately design for the modern art store, estimated at $50,000-$60,000, was won for $78,000.
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen also proved the lasting power of his works; his most iconic poster, “Chat Noir / Tournée,” from 1896, received a winning bid of $18,000 (Est.: $14,000-$17,000). Collectors also vied for a unique painting by the artist: “Femme au Café,” from 1914. The portrait of a woman seated in a crowded space well surpassed its estimate of $7,000-$9,000, earning $19,200.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s iconic designs for Belle Epoque Paris resounded with poster lovers. One of only two bicycle posters he ever designed, “Cycle Michael,” from 1896, garnered a winning bid of $9,600 (Est.: $8,000-$10,000). The 1896 “Salon des Cent,” an iconic image from the artist, topped out at $78,000 (Est.: $60,000-$80,000). His 1896 “The Ault & Wiborg Co. / Au Concert” boasted several notable qualities: the hand-signed image was printed on zinc plates, and is an extremely rare French version before letters. Justifiably so, it garnered $66,000 (Est.: $60,000-$70,000).
But Art Deco, Modern, and Contemporary posters were also highly lauded. Paul Colin dazzled Art Deco lovers with his 1927 “Lisa Duncan,” which earned $45,600 (Est.: $30,000-$40,000). Henry George Gawthorn presented a luxurious view of the world-famous St. Andrews golf course with his 1925 maquette, “St. Andrews.” Estimated at $14,000-$17,000, it exceeded expectations for a win of $24,000. Charles Gesmar’s seductive design for the early drag queen aerialist, “Barbette,” from 1926, also sparked a bidding frenzy; the gavel fell at $5,280 (Est.: $2,500-$3,000). And Harley Wood’s romantic scene of Manhattan at dusk, “New York / Pennsylvania Railroad,” prompted a winning bid of $13,200 (Est.: $8,000-$10,000).
Despite these notable sales, there are always some disappointments. Rennert explained his dismay about low sales for Cuba’s first revolutionary posterist, Eladio Rivadulla: “While a specialized niche, I am disappointed that the historical importance of these documents was not recognized.”
All in all, though, PAI-LXXIX was a resounding achievement.
Poster Auctions International’s next sale will be held in New York on February 23, 2020. Consignments are accepted until December 1, 2019.
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About Poster Auctions International, Inc.
Poster Auctions International (PAI, also Rennerts Gallery) is a full-service auction company specializing in rare vintage posters in all genres. The firm is based in New York City, where it has a gallery in lower Manhattan.