Formerly owned by the Czech activist Pavla Schück, the six paintings offered in March set the benchmark for Kubin at auction, totalling €670,700 (around £590,000) and breaking a four-year auction record for the painter twice during the sale.
The result was the culmination of several years of rising prices for the artist’s Impressionist and Cubist works, including a then-record £170,500 (with premium) paid at Sotheby’s in 2014 for one of the artist’s dynamic Cubist creations.
Kubin – or Othon Coubine as he is referred to in France – would need little by way of introduction in his native land or among those with a keen eye on the Imps and Mods market. But, outside these circles, the artist is less well known.
Born in the town of Boskovice in Austria-Hungary, Kubin found early inspiration in the work of van Gogh and Gauguin before participating in the first exhibition of the Prague avant-garde group ‘Osma’ (The Eight) in 1907. On his permanent move to Paris five years later, Kubin struck up a friendship with Pablo Picasso and became part of the contemporary Cubist revolution.
Although his works are primarily offered in France, a few turn up at auctions elsewhere, including the UK.
Five in west London
On October 3 in west London, five Kubin works in varying degrees of condition were the star attraction in a sale of British and European pictures and portrait miniatures at Chiswick Auctions (25/12% buyer’s premium).
Painted in the 1920s, a few years after the peak of his career, the group comprised a flower still-life, three landscapes of the French countryside and a nude – the latter with a hole and several rips to the canvas.
The works had been acquired by the vendor in London from the Crane Kalman Gallery in 1974, and all had previous provenance to Adolphe Basler. The early 20th century Parisian art dealer and critic was a great admirer of Kubin’s work and wrote of him as a “particular favourite and protégé”.
With attractively low guides starting from £800, they proceeded to sell for multiples of their guides to post £66,000. European galleries, mainly from the Czech Republic, were the major bidders.
Business was conducted mostly on the phones, while one gallery sent a representative to bid and secured two pictures.
“It was all trade buying so one assumes they still have some way to go, especially after they have been nicely restored,” said Rohan McCulloch, fine art specialist at Chiswick Auctions.
The top price went to one of the largest works from the group, a Cezanne-esque landscape of part of the Loire in south-central France. The 23in x 2ft 8in (60 x 83cm) oil on canvas was knocked down at £18,000, three times the top guide.
Despite its condition issues, the 23in x 2ft 4in (59 x 72cm) nude easily bettered its £800-1200 guide to sell for £12,000. “The nude reminded us of a picture by André Derain – it was very characteristic of Post-Impressionism. A good restorer will be able to fix it,” said McCulloch.
The three other pictures were also secured for £12,000 each.