A group of oil paintings by Viennese artist Marie-Louise von Motesiczky proved very popular when they were offered at Chiswick Auctions in London last week. The artist parted with very few works during her lifetime, which meant that the sale was extremely rare and could be why collectors jumped at the opportunity to own one of her pieces.
The auctioneers reported lively bidding for the eight works, which were created by the émigré artist when she was living in London. They were sold on behalf of The Marie-Louise Motesiczky Charitable Trust and achieved a total of £52,600 against an estimate of £45,000.
Speaking after the sale, Chair of Trustees at the trust, Frances Carey, said: “The Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust is delighted with the outcome of the auction, particularly with the response to Cat with Flowers of 1949 and the Still-life of 1960/61, which show how Marie-Louise absorbed Max Beckmann’s influence to create her own style. The most important thing is that Marie-Louise’s work should be more widely seen and enjoyed and that is what Chiswick Auctions has achieved.”
The top price achieved was for Cat with flowers, which sold for £11,500 against an estimate of £4,000-6,000. She captures the curiosity of a cat to charming humorous effect in the work. The composition both concertinas and contrasts the feline stretching on her hind legs with the adjacent form of a three-legged table and the rugged upright of the artist’s easel. Painted at Amersham in 1949, the cat named Suzi, was owned by Marie Hauptmann.
Marie had been the family wet nurse in Austria, becoming the artist’s surrogate second mother. She accompanied Marie-Louise and her mother Henriette to England in February 1939 and continued to live with them until her death in 1954.
The second highest price was for Still life with Inkpot, Ashtray and Matches (pictured below), painted in 1960-61. It achieved £11,200 against an estimate of £5,000-7,000. By her own admission, Marie-Louise liked to use subject matter easily to hand. As well as the items in the title, the canvas includes an open book, two feathers and a biro. Although an apparently prosaic selection, they carry self-referential significance. The book and quills may well allude to her relationship with Canetti. Compositionally, her choice of a narrow horizontal canvas suggests her debt to Beckmann. The format was one that he commonly deployed when painting still-lifes, as it allowed him to imbue apparently humdrum items spread out across the canvas with enigmatic meaning.
Three of the eight works were acquired by Austrian buyers, four were acquired by UK private collectors and one, The Circus, of 1964 was acquired by the Ben Uri Gallery in London for £8,125. Commenting on the acquisition, The Ben Uri Gallery said: “We are delighted with the acquisition of ‘The Circus’ by Marie-Louise von Motesiczky. Marie-Louise has been an omission from our collection and been a key target acquisition. Following restoration, it will be transferred to the museums Pre-eminent Trust where it will be preserved for posterity and active public benefit along with the other c100 most important works in the museum’s collection.”
Adrian Biddell, Head of Paintings & Fine Art at Chiswick Auctions, said: “It has been a huge pleasure and privilege to work with the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Trust on this project. Marie-Louise’s life and work is truly fascinating and still too little-known. We were very pleased therefore, to be able to offer such a rich range of her paintings spanning from the 1940’s, through to the mid-1980s and I am delighted that the market responded so emphatically, with strong interest from both the UK and abroad.”
The eight works by Marie-Louise von Motesiczky formed a single owner sequence in a particularly strong auction of British & European Fine Art. The 120 lots offered totalled £270,000 with a sell rate by lot of 82.5%.
The highest price was for a view of Mallorca: ‘Cote aux Baleares, Majorque, Cala San Vicente‘ by William Degouve de Nuncques of 1900 which sold for £37,500, one of a group of Belgian paintings in the sale from a private collection. Another highlight was ‘Flower Picking‘, a charming scene of three young girls in a garden, by Dorothea Sharp which sold for £32,500.