Beethoven bust auction drawcard

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 5th June, 2014

An impressive sculpture of famous German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) by noted French sculptor Emile Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) will be a major highlight of Leonard Joel’s fine art auction from 6.30pm Tuesday June 17 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

Bourdelle was well known for his works – making about 80 sculptures from 1888 until his death, with Beethoven’s figure featuring quite prominently.

Early on, the Mautauban artist identified both aesthetically and physically with the German composer, according to French authority Colin Lemoine, and endlessly depicted an alter ego.

“Sometimes (he did this) by pursuing the idea of resemblance, sometimes by deforming his facial features, even distorting them,” he is quoted as saying in the May edition of Leonard Joel’s publication, Leonard.

“Here, at the turn of the (20th) century the artist chose to deliver a frontal, static image of Beethoven, deploying his voluminous hair in space and structuring his inscrutable face around a pained grimace.”

According to Leonard Joel’s fine art department head Sophie Ullin, sculptures are currently very collectible and one of the few areas of the art market holding its own.

“The vendor has had this particular example for decades and (with a $20,000-$30,000 catalogue estimate) is now looking to sell,” she said.

The auction contains a definitive self-portrait of Clifton Pugh (1924-1990), painted in 1950 and complete with pipe in mouth, and there are several good examples by modern artists such as Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, John Perceval and Charles Blackman.

Nolan’s work Bather 1975 from a private collection is ripolin enamel on board and was exhibited the following year in The Bather Paintings at Rudy Komon Art Gallery in Sydney.

Fred Williams Coastline 1959 is a gouache and watercolour possibly of Lorne and was gifted at the time by the artist to Hawthorn Galleries owners Audrey and Tony Carr.

Blue Blossom oil on board by Charles Blackman and John Perceval’s Flowers are other good examples of modern artist paintings.

Contemporary works in the sale include Ken Whisson’s Birds, Cat and Bright Blue House 2001 and John Cattapan’s From the City Submerged (Motherline) 1999.

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