Lyonel Feininger - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 18, 2023 | Phillips

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  •  “I think a good dealer is also a collector.”
    —Rosa Esman

    Rosa and Aaron Esman assembled an outstanding collection of Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art over the course of their seventy-year marriage. The collection’s highlights mirror that of Rosa’s career as a gallerist and print publisher (which Aaron, a psychoanalyst, strongly supported), with interests in Modernism, Dada, Russian Constructivism, and American Pop Art taking center stage. Rosa got her start publishing artists’ print portfolios in the 1960s, including the New York Ten Portfolio, 1965, and Ten for Leo Castelli, 1967, which featured works by rising contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, and helped pioneer the field of artist’s editions and multiples. Her eponymous gallery exhibited in Manhattan for over twenty years, and she was a founding partner of Ubu Gallery, which is still in operation today.


    When asked about her wide artistic tastes in 2009, Rosa emphasized her love of drawing, “the quintessential bit of the art,” which can be seen across the collection, regardless of genre.


    The pair bonded over gallery visits when dating in the early 1950s. While Aaron already had begun collecting by then, the first work they purchased together was a drawing by Miró, early in their marriage. Rosa recalled: ‘sometimes we look at something, and I say, “Oh, isn’t that marvelous?”’ and Aaron would respond, ‘It’s for us.’


    Founded on lifelong love, the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman gives a unique vision of the art movements of the 20th century that shaped New York’s art scene.


    Rosa and Aaron Esman, Madrid, 1963


    • Provenance

      Royal Saint Marks, New York
      Rosa and Aaron Esman, New York (acquired from the above, 1963)
      Thence by descent to the present owners

    • Literature

      Leona E. Prasse W191

    • Catalogue Essay

      These ten prints [10 Woodcuts by Lyonel Feininger] feature subjects that captivated Lyonel Feininger throughout his career: ships at sea or moored in harbor, architecture, people, and ghosts, all rendered in an off-kilter style. The distorted portrayals recall his artistic beginnings as a caricaturist. They also attest to a sophisticated experimentation with form. Feininger restructured space in a Cubist manner, combining multiple perspectives in the same composition and embracing the flattening and planar tendencies of the woodcut medium.

      Feininger based these woodcuts, which count among his first experiments in the medium, on quick sketches he termed “nature notes.” He made many of these sketches in summer 1918 while vacationing in the Harz Mountains, far away from wartime Berlin.

      In 1937, American-born Feininger left Germany, where he had lived for fifty years, in the face of growing persecution by the Nazis. The Buchholz Gallery in New York, run by Curt Valentin, was instrumental in helping him reestablish himself stateside. In 1941, the gallery published this portfolio of selected early woodcuts, all printed from the original woodblocks, which Feininger had saved. The prints still resonated deeply with the artist, who only rarely made new woodcuts after returning to America.

      The Museum of Modern Art website

Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman


Angler (mit Sonne) (Fisherme (with Sun), plate 9 from Ten Woodcuts by Lyonel Feininger (P. W191)

Woodcut, on thin Japanese laid paper, with full margins.
I. 4 x 5 1/2 in. (10.2 x 14 cm)
S. 6 7/8 x 9 1/8 in. (17.5 x 23.2 cm)

Signed in pencil, from the edition of 30 (aside from the edition of 50 printed in 1921), published by Buchholz Gallery, Curt Valentin, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000 - 4,000 

Sold for $1,778

Contact Specialist
212 940 1220


Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 18 - 20 April 2023