Bernard Boutet de Movel, a darling of early 20th century Parisian Cafe Society, was a noted painter, engraver, sculptor, decorator and illustrator. Although he died in 1949, his collected works, plus furniture from his Paris residence will be up for sale for the first time next month at Sotheby’s Paris.
The sale will feature around 300 lots, including paintings and drawings by the French artist and his father, the famous children’s book illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850-1913), according to the auction house.
The collection also includes antique Art Deco furniture, some of which were designed by the artist himself.
Boutet de Monvel was more than just an artist. He was a master of style and set the tone for the Art Deco era with his keen eye and unrivaled aesthetic sense.
His influence extends all the way to the 1960s and includes artists such as Andy Warhol to Robert Mapplethorpe.
His style also extended to his personal life. He was once dubbed “the handsomest man in Europe” by the American press.
“He turned beauty into a lifestyle, seeking perfection from his servants’ uniforms to his young daughter’s fringe of hair,” according to the auction house.
He was probably best known during his time as a celebrated portrait artist. He received commissions from some of the wealthiest people of his time. He was a master of the Art Deco and American Precisionism movements, and his paintings were known for hyper-realism.
His subjects included Prince Sixte de Bourbon-Parme, William Kissan Vanderbilt and Lady Plunkett, as well as members of the Frick, Whitney and Astor families in New York City.
Boutet de Monvel’s most celebrated portrait is of the Maharajah of Indore a statesman and ruler in India who led Indore’s incorporation into greater India in 1948. He was also a leading advocate of the United Nations.
In 1929, Henri-Pierre Roché, a member of Paris’s avant-garde and a friend of artists Brancusi, Man Ray and Picabia recommended Boutet de Monvel to the Maharajah, who commissioned a portrait.
The Maharajah liked it so much he commissioned a second painting a few years later, featuring him in ceremonial dress. The paintings were exhibited in 1934 at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York City.
The exhibit proved to be so popular, Boutet de Monvel created a replica of the Maharajah’s second portrait. The painting is the highlight of the auction. It’s expected to fetch between 300,000 and 500,000 euros, roughly $546,120 in U.S. dollars.
The subjects of his portraits were just as colorful as he was.
In 1935, he painted William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr., heir to the Vanderbilt railway and shipping fortunes. He was nicknamed “Commodore,” after his great-grandfather and posed in his Admiral’s uniform.
A second portrait of William Vanderbilt in front of his house in more informal garb will be included in the sale, with estimates ranging between 20,000 and 30,000 euros.
In 1945, he painted Madame la Duchesse de Brissac, wearing a flowing Christian Dior dress with diamonds and emeralds. The Duchesse was French heiress Marie Schneider, whose family controlled a huge iron and steel conglomerate.
The painting still hangs in the Château de Brissac. A replica painted by Boutet de Monvel is for sale with estimates ranging between 20,000 and 30,000 euros.
Also featured in the sale are several self-portraits. Among the best known are two he painted for an exhibition at the Reinhardt Galleries in New York City. Autoportrait, place Vendôme is carrying an estimate of 200,000 to 300,000 euros.
Although a noted artist and stylist, Boutet de Monvel was also a hero in World War I and a pioneer of French aviation. He flew bombing missions in the war for which he was awarded teh Légion d’Honneur. He was also wounded as a foot soldier during the Battle of the Marne.
He died in a plane crash in 1949.
The sale will take place on April 5th and 6th. Exhibitions will be held in London from Feb. 26 to Mar 1 and in Paris from Mar. 29 to April 4.
For more information contact Sophie Dufresne at Sotheby’s Paris.
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