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Cezanne, Seurat paintings fetch more than $95 million at auction

May 11, 1999
Web posted at: 12:36 a.m. EDT (0436 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Anonymous telephone bidders spent record sums for two paintings by French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Cezanne at an auction Monday night of works from the collection of the late socialite Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney.

One Cezanne painting brought $60.5 million -- the fourth highest price ever paid for a work of art at a public auction, held at Sotheby's in New York.

In the first of the evening's blockbuster sales, Seurat's "Island of the Grand Jatte" (1884) sold for $35.2 million, including commissions.

The painting is one of two small, final preparatory studies for Seurat's famous "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte," a work he painted in his "pointilist" style later the same year, and which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

The largest sum previously paid for a Seurat painting was $2.7 million in a 1996 auction, for a landscape called "Le Chenal."

Later on Monday, Cezanne's "Still Life With Curtain, Pitcher, and Bowl of Fruit" (1893-94) sold for $60.5 million, including commissions, nearly double the pre-auction estimate.

Cezanne, one of the most influential modern painters, completed this still life during the peak of his career.

The most money previously paid for Cezanne's work was a $28.6 million sale of "Les Grosses Pommes," a still life of apples auctioned in 1993.

Only three other paintings have garnered a greater auction price than the Cezanne sold Monday: Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" sold for $82.5 million in 1990; Renoir's "Au Moulin de la Galette" sold for $78.1 million in 1990; and Van Gogh's "Self Portrait" sold for $71.5 million last year.

Fifty works from the Whitney collection were up for sale Monday. Whitney, a New York socialite and philanthropist, died in March.

Mrs. Whitney and her husband, financier John Jay Whitney, who died in 1982, assembled one of the most impressive private collections of impressionist and modern paintings and sculpture in the United States.

Also on the auction block Monday were paintings by Picasso, Degas, de Kooning, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Tolouse Lautrec. The sale grossed more than $100 million.

Mrs. Whitney bequeathed art worth more than $300 million to four museums and the rest to her two daughters, who decided to sell many works to pay estate taxes.

In addition to the art works sold Monday, Sotheby auctioned more than 1,200 lots of furniture, books, and manuscripts from the Whitney homes last month.



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The Art Institute of Chicago
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