- Associated Press - Thursday, June 24, 2010

LONDON (AP) — Pablo Picasso’s “Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto,” a work from the painter’s Blue Period, has sold for nearly 35 million pounds ($52 million) at a London auction.

The winning bid of 34,761,250 pounds, from an anonymous bidder at an auction at Christie’s Wednesday night, was in the middle of the estimated sale price of 30 million pounds to 40 million pounds, the auctioneer said.

One of Claude Monet’s famous “Water Lilies” paintings — “Nympheas,” a work from 1906 — failed to sell. It had been expected to fetch up to 40 million pounds.

Still, Christie’s said the total of 152,595,550 pounds paid for 46 works of art set a record for an art auction in London. Another 16 paintings failed to sell.

The Picasso was sold by musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber to benefit his charitable foundation which supports architecture and the development of musical talent.

“I am pleased that my foundation has raised over 30 million pounds, especially in such austere times,” said Lloyd-Webber, who paid $29.2 million for the painting at a New York auction in 1995.

Other significant sales in the auction of Impressionist art included Gustav Klimt’s “Frauenbildnis” (Portrait of Ria Munk III) for 18,801,250 pounds; Picasso’s “Le baiser,” 12,137,250 pounds; Vincent van Gogh’s “Parc de l’hopital Saint-Paul,” 9,001,250, and “Nu a la chaise longue” by Henri Matisse, 6,649,250 pounds.

All of those paintings were sold to anonymous buyers.

Picasso’s portrait of Fernandez — a fellow artist with whom the young Picasso shared a studio in Barcelona — was withdrawn from sale in New York in 2006 after the heir of a Berlin banker who owned it in the 1930s claimed his ancestor was forced to sell it under Nazi intimidation.

U.S. courts threw out the lawsuit, and Christie’s said the issue was resolved “by agreement.”

The painting, done in 1903, marks a high point in the artist’s Blue Period and shows his growing mastery of his unique style of portraiture.



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