Although best known as a Cubist and abstract painter, the vibrant colour palette and rapidly- applied paint of Maisons au Quai Vert, Bruges, dated 1906, marks the apogee of Herbin’s Fauvist style.
The auctioneers confirmed the authenticity of this 21 x 2ft 1in (53 x 64cm) work with Geneviève Claisse, the artist’s great niece and author of Herbin’s catalogue raisonné. In that, three similar paintings of the same date are pictured titled Quai de la Poterie, a Bruges; Le Canal, Bruges and Maisons du Quai de la Poterie.
Estimated conservatively at £20,000-30,000, it drew an international crowd of bidders and 10 phone lines, eventually selling to London gallery Alon Zakaim Fine Art for a hammer price of £125,000. The total purchase price including 15% buyer’s premium and Artist’s Resale Right meant the total just exceeded £150,000.
Paysage, another Herbin of the same size and date, had sold at Christie’s Paris just four days earlier at €98,500.
Mark Gilding, auctioneer on the day, told ATG: “The real beauty of this story comes from the painting’s humble history.
“The work has been unseen since it was acquired sometime in the 1920s from The Leicester Galleries. Since then it has been hung in a private house in Northampton, unknown to the wider world.”
Ernest Brown & Phillips, trading as the Leicester Gallery, held a solo exhibition of Herbin’s work in 1923, although Gildings was unable to establish if this well-preserved painting was included in that show.
The highest prices for the artist have been paid for a series of similar post-Impressionist works completed on Corsica in 1907. Sharing the subject of port buildings and their glittering reflections, Quai du port de Bastia sold at a premium-inclusive €600,750 at Sotheby’s Paris in 2012. At Christie’s New York in 2015, Le Matin, Corse took $725,000 (including buyer’s premium).
Gildings’ picture posted the second-highest price in the firm’s history, next to the unexpected £205,000 bid in 2007 for a 16th century Venetian painting in the style of Titian.