Roger de La Fresnaye (1885 - 1925)

Portrait Arabesque Sold

Pencil on buff paper. Laid down.
249 x 197 mm. (9 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.)


This drawing, which was included in the major retrospective exhibition of La Fresnaye’s work at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1950, may be dated to the later years of La Fresnaye’s career, after the First World War, and more precisely to the early 1920’s. As Germain Seligman has written of the artist’s work of this period, ‘There are few oils, none after 1922, but the drawings, watercolours, and gouaches are among the most beautiful he ever produced, infinite in their variety and often extremely moving. It was a time of constant experiment with new techniques, new media, and new subject-matter, and the works have few links with those of the pre-war years. There [is] a humanity and warmth in the late works…New also is the sensuous quality of the sinuous lines – an emotionalism which becomes more and more evident in the movingly beautiful late drawings.’

A stylistically comparable drawing - a schematic portrait of the artist Marie Laurencin, dated 1921 and drawn in ink - is in a private collection. Also similar is a pencil drawing of the head of a man, again dated 1921, which was formerly in the collection of Helena Rubinstein and was sold at auction in 1966. A similar pose is found in La Fresnaye’s self-portrait drawing of c.1919, which was on the art market in Geneva in 1969, as well as in a drawing of A Couple in Conversation of c.1920, in a private collection in New York.

The present sheet was once in the collection of the art dealer André Level (1863-1946), owner of the Galerie Percier in Paris. In 1904 Level founded the La Peau de l’Ours, the first modern art investment fund, for which he purchased several works by Pablo Picasso (with whom he enjoyed a close relationship), Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Vuillard, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and other artists. The collection was sold at auction in 1914 and achieved considerable financial success, quadrupling the initial investment.

The attribution of this drawing has been confirmed by André Schoeller.

André Level, Paris
Galerie Percier, Paris
Acquired from them by a private collector in 1938
Edwin Livengood, Paris, in 1950
Thence by descent until 2013.


Portrait Arabesque


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