Spring is coming early to London. Gustav Klimt's flowery Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) (1907) will lead Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale in the UK capital on 1 March, the house announced today.
The news of the top lot comes on the heels of Bloomberg’s report that Oprah Winfrey sold Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) for $150m last year to a Chinese buyer in a private sale. Winfrey bought the work for $87.9m at Christie’s New York in 2006, the same year that Ronald Lauder paid a reported $135m for Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), now the main attraction at his Neue Galerie in New York. The legal fracas launched by Bloch-Bauer’s heirs to to recover the painting from the Austrian government was the subject of a 2015 movie, Woman in Gold, staring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.
Helena Newman, the co-head worldwide of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby's, declined to say whether or not that recent buzz had anything to do with Bauerngarten's coming to auction but noted that “there’s an appetite not just for Klimt but for masterpieces and obviously that informed part of the decision-making”. She added: “Klimt is just one of those icons.”
According to the catalogue, Klimt’s flower paintings from the period were influenced by his seeing a major exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings at the Galerie Miethke in Vienna. “Seeing Van Gogh’s ability to render brilliantly coloured landscapes using pure paint and few traditional techniques emboldened Klimt and he began using much thicker brushwork,” according to the catalogue. The oil on canvas was originally unveiled in the 1908 Kunstschau in Vienna, where Klimt was given his own gallery to show 16 paintings, and was soon after acquired by the National Gallery in Prague, which deaccessioned the work in 1968, after which it entered a private Swiss collection.
It came to auction at Christie’s London in 1994, where it sold for $5.8m, and has remained with the current consigner since then, featuring in the Royal Academy's exhibition Painting the Modern Garden just last year. With the current record for a landscape painting by the artist set at $43m (for his Church in Cassone—Landscape with Cypresses, sold in 2010) Bauerngarten is expected to make more than $45m.