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Art Investment News, 10-22: Public Domain
The under-estimation of Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), "Grandmere et Louise assise a la Terre (P. 17)," 1910. Drypoint on Rives paper, signed in pencil, from the edition of 75, with margins, framed. 10 7/8 x 9 3/8 in; sheet 18 3/8 x 14 1/4 in. Bonhams pre-sale estimate $1,200 - 1,800. (Public domain.) Courtesy of Bonhams.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

Considering how the artist in question has always been eclipsed by men, I guess I should not have been surprised when, after having diligently supplied the precise copyright notices required for us to be able to reproduce half of the images we wanted to share to report on today's Bonhams Print and Multiples sale in San Francisco -- the other half required a considerable fee by the copyright holder or were simply not available -- the Bonhams publicist informed us that for Suzanne Valadon, there was no copyright requirement; the work had fallen into the public domain. (The first I've heard this about a major Impressionist or post-Impressionist painter -- Valadon was born in 1865 and died in 1938 -- in 20 years of covering fine art.) Never mind that in the fineness of her line, supple and exact at the same time, Valadon surpassed many of the men for whom she once modeled before coming into her own as a painter: Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec. Never mind that the naturalness of her nudes surpassed Picasso's.

For evidence that Valadon's sex has factored into her under-estimation, one need look no further than her son, Maurice Utrillo. While Utrillo's early work displays an invention with the scale of white, his later oeuvre was often little better than glorified postcards of Montmartre, often vacant of the human life which gave the quarter its vitality, the whites turned to a grim gray. And yet following his death in 1955, the market value of Utrillo's work soared to the high five figures, and has remained steady at the low five figures since.

Valadon's most poignant work by far -- and that which sets her apart from the much more presentational work of her male colleagues -- is the portraits of her immediate family, particularly Utrillo and her mother, often drawn in the familiarity of their home on the rue Rustique on the Butte Montmartre. The multiple available here -- rarely, as Valadon seldomly pops up at auction (if she's being hoarded, perhaps collectors are doing her more justice than critics and curators), "Grand Mere et Louise assise a la Terre (P. 17)," a drypoint on Rives paper from an edition of 75, signed by the artist, is a premium example. Estimated pre-sale by Bonhams at $1,200 - $1,800, it's a bargain. (A color lithograph by her son -- albeit much larger, but unsigned -- is estimated at $7,000 - $9,000.)

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), "Pour le Bal de l' A.A.A.A." (F. 7), 1925. Lithograph in colors on wove paper, before the lettering, with margins, framed. 43 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.; sheet 45 1/2 x 31 in.. Bonhams pre-sale estimate. $7,000 - 9,000. Copyright 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), "La Danse des Faunes" (B. 830; M. 291), 1957. Lithograph in black and ochre on Arches paper, signed in red crayon and numbered 158/200 (there was also an unsigned edition of 1000), published for Le Patriote, Nice, with full margins, framed. 16 x 20 3/4 in.; sheet 19 3/4 x 26 in.. Bonhams pre-sale estimate. $7,000 - 9,000. Copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Joan Miro (1893-1983), One Plate, from Miro Lithographs I (M. 860: C. bk. 160), 1972. Lithograph in colors on Arches paper, signed in pencil and numbered LXXIX/LXXX (there was also an edition of 150 in Arabic numerals), published/printed by Maeght/Mourlot, Paris, with full margins. 12 5/8 x 19 3/4 in.; sheet 17 3/4 x 24 1/2 in.. Bonhams pre-sale estimate. $2,000 - 3,000. Copyright Successio Miro / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2013. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Poster (C. 83), 1969. Screenprint in colors on Rives paper, signed in pencil, dated '69' and numbered 78/250 (there were also an unknown number of artist's proofs), co-published by the artist and Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, with full margins, framed. 23 1/8 x 23 1/ 8 in.; sheet 28 5/8 x 28 5/8 in.. Bonhams pre-sale estimate $8,000 - 12,000. Copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Courtesy of Bonhams.

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