French Artists with Ties to Denmark

Paintings by Pierre Soulages and Simon Hantaï as well as a sculpture by Henri Laurens from Jørn Utzon's private collection are among the highlights when we present a cornucopia of French art connected to Denmark in various ways.

At the final Live Auction of the year, we will be focusing on French temptations that span most of a century. The selection includes a painting by Soulages from 1951, two works by Hantaï from 1971 and 1980 and a sculpture by Laurens from 1940. The four French works of art have all been in private Danish collections until now.

Watch as Head of Modern Art Niels Raben talks about one of his favourite artists, Pierre Soulages.

The Master of Darkness Is Still the New Black

For Soulages, the late 1940s and early 50s represents a period of hectic exhibition activity and his real breakthrough both in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic. The connection to Denmark is established as early as 1950, where he is presented to an enthusiastic Danish audience at the landmark exhibition "Living Colours" at Charlottenborg.

In 1951, Soulages' second Danish solo exhibition takes place. This time it is the leading Copenhagen gallery owner Børge Birch who has opened his doors to the artist. Among the paintings is "Painting 59 x 85 cm, September 1951", which is now up for auction at Bruun Rasmussen in December. Back in 1951 it was bought by a Danish art collector and has since then been in the ownership of the same family, who at different times lent it out to exhibitions, most recently to “Fremmed kunst i dansk eje” (Foreign Art in Danish Ownership) at Louisiana in 1964.

"I have known of this painting all my career, and I know the seller as well. Therefore, it is fantastic that we can now put it up for auction after almost 70 years in private ownership," says Niels Raben, Head of the Department of Modern Art at Bruun Rasmussen, where another painting by Soulages has previously been sold at a record price.

Niels Raben, leder af afdelingen for moderne kunst hos Bruun Rasmussen.

The seed of Soulages’ long artistic oeuvre was planted via the memories from his childhood home near the town of Rodez. An experience of the trees was particularly vivid for the young Soulages, where the dark network of branches stood as dark silhouettes against the shifting background of light. The memory has been integrated into his art, and right from the beginning, he used the black colour as a starting point for his studies of the physicality of light. The artistic toolbox of French art’s dark eminence contains large, solid brushes, palette knives and scrapers.

Pierre Soulages is both literally and figuratively ‘the grand old man’ of French abstract painting. He turns 101 on 24 December and is considered France's greatest living painter. Estimate: DKK 6-8 million.

Two Paintings by Simon Hantaï from the Collection of an Art Historian

It is the first time we are selling art by Hantaï at auction, and the two paintings in question have not been on the market before. They come from art historian Hanne Finsen's collection.

Today, art historian Hanne Finsen is widely recognised as one of the biggest names on the Danish cultural and museum scene and a leading authority on French Modernism. French art is the common thread that runs through Hanne Finsen’s career, right from her student days in the 1950s, when she co-curated exhibitions for ‘Foreningen Fransk Kunst’ (the French Art Society) at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, through her position as senior curator of the Royal Collection of Graphic Art at the National Gallery of Denmark, to her appointments as the progressive and far-sighted director of both the Hirschsprung Collection and the Ordrupgaard Collection north of Copenhagen.

The so-called “Études”, where the shapes cannot be distinguished from the background with any certainty, were created in the period from 1969–1973. The folded canvas is typically painted in a single colour, while the unpainted white sections subsequently assume shapes that can resemble an abstraction over a forest floor, a wild flurry of fluttering birds or what we’re really dealing with here: pure abstraction. Estimate: DKK 1-1.5 million.

The slightly later series of “Tabulas” from 1973–1982 is based on the same technique. However, the folds here are more stringent and methodical, giving the works a grid-like appearance, which, in addition to bringing the artist even closer to the depersonalised painting also reflect the entire minimalist tradition in art. Tabula 1980. Estimate: DKK 800,000 – 1,000,000.

Henri Matisse was undoubtedly the focal point of an eventful career, which also includes the international reactualisation of Vilhelm Hammershøi in 1981. Hanne Finsen was known in the press and by the public as “Culture’s feisty hag” (Kulturens frække kælling) and “Hard-nosed Hanne of the art scene” (Kunstens hårde Hanne), due to her innovative, modern and uncompromising approach to museum operation and communication.

Since then, Hanne Finsen has also worked on bringing Simon Hantaï’s art to a wider Scandinavian audience. However, this project was made difficult by, among other things, the artist’s many years of self-imposed isolation, but now we can shed light on these two works here at Bruun Rasmussen.

Additional French Temptations

We can also present a preliminary study for a painting by Henri Le Sidaner. The painting belongs to the Musée Marmottan-Monet in Paris and the study for the final work has a Danish provenance. The auction also features a sculpture by Henri Laurens, which the architect Jørn Utzon received directly from the artist in connection with a visit to France. The other French works of art include names such as Chu Teh-Chun, another Soulages (lithograph) and a work by Niki de Saint Phalle.

Henri Laurens gave Lis and Jørn Utzon this sculpture when they visited the artist together with the Finnish collectors Harry and Maire Gullichsen in 1940. The sculpture has until now remained in the ownership of the family. Estimate: DKK 125,000-150,000.
Henri Le Sidaner: "Le Ruisseau au soleil levant". The painting was created by Le Sidaner in May 1922 during a stay in Le Croisic in the southern part of Brittany. The canvas, for which this study in oil on board is a preliminary study, was presented in March 1923 at Galerie Georges Petit. Estimate: DKK 150,000-200,000.

Live Auction

Modern Art

8 - 9 December

For further information, please contact:

Niels Raben: +45 8818 1181 ·

Niels Boe Hauggaard: +45 8818 1182 ·

Kathrine Eriksen: +45 8818 1184 ·

Peter Beck (Aarhus): +45 8818 1186 ·