Paul Klee - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 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 edition publisher with the strong support of Aaron, a psychoanalyst and passionate collector, with interests in Modernism, Dada, Russian Constructivism, and American Pop Art taking center stage. Rosa began publishing portfolios of prints by contemporary artists in the 1960s. Editions such as the New York Ten Portfolio, 1965, and Ten from 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 Esman collection, regardless of genre.

    Art was one of several passions that Rosa and Aaron shared, even when they began dating in the early 1950s. In 1952, they bought their first artwork together, a drawing by Miró, initiating their shared pursuit of inspired collecting that would continue for the rest of their lives. Rosa recalled: “sometimes we look at something, and I say, ‘Oh, isn’t that marvelous?’ and Aaron would respond, ‘It’s for us.’”i Founded in 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.


    i Rosa Esman, interviewed by James McElhinney, "Oral History Interview with Rosa Esman," Archives of American Art, June 9–16, 2009, online.

    • Provenance

      Werner Allenbach, Bern (until 1956)
      Berggruen & Cie, Paris (1956–1959)
      Galerie Würthle, Vienna
      Jacob D. Weintraub Gallery, New York (1959–1960)
      Rosa and Aaron Esman (acquired from the above)
      Thence by descent to the present owners

    • Exhibited

      Vienna, Galerie Würthle, Paul Klee. Zeichnungen und Aquarelle 1913–40, February–March 1959, no. 48
      New York, New Art Center Gallery, Paul Klee. Drawings and Watercolors, January 18–February 20, 1960, no. 28, n.p.
      Kunstmuseum Bern, Paul Klee. Das Schaffen im Todesjahr, August 17–November 4, 1990, no. 34, pp. 148, 289 (illustrated, p. 148)

    • Literature

      Stefan Frey, Josef Helfenstein, Paul Klee. Verzeichnis der Werke des Jahres 1940, Bern, 1991, no. 1940.34, p. 50 (illustrated)
      The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 9, Bern, 2004, no. 9053, p. 48 (illustrated)
      Bettina Gockel, Die Pathologisierung des Künstlers, Berlin, 2010, fig. 78, pp. 240, 241, 373 (illustrated, p. 241)
      Matthias Dieterle, Paul Klee, Der verborgene Engel, Zurich, 2012, no. 20

Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman


Schatten Fürstin (Princess of the Shadows)

signed "Klee" upper right; titled, inscribed and dated "1940 y 14 Schatten Fürstin" lower edge of the artist's mount
pen and ink on paper, mounted on card
sheet 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. (29.5 x 21 cm)
artist's mount 13 7/8 x 9 5/8 in. (35.2 x 24.4 cm)

Executed in 1940.

Full Cataloguing

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $50,800

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023