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Kirchner Portrait Comes to Auction Under Settlement with Heirs — May Reach $15M

A self-portrait by German Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is coming to auction this month as part of a settlement agreement with the heirs of its original German Jewish owner.

The 1907 painting, which shows the artist rendered with vibrant brushstrokes smoking a pipe, will be offered during a modern and contemporary art evening sale at Sotheby’s London headquarters on June 29th. Self-Portrait with a Pipe is expected to fetch £8 million to £12 million ($9.8 million to $14.7 million). If it reaches its high estimate it could be among the five most expensive works by the artist to sell at auction.

Kirchner executed the work while involved with the avant-garde Die Brücke movement he helped to found in 1905. The work was first owned by his friend and Die Brücke co-founder Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Later it passed into the hands of Hugo Simon, a Berlin-based banker and politician in 1931. Facing Nazi persecution, Simon fled to Paris in 1933 and eventually landed in Brazil.

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Painting in gallery

The work is be offered via the public sale as part of a legal agreement with Simon’s heirs and the U.S. based owners, who bought the work at Sotheby’s more than forty years ago in 1981. Terms of the legal settlement are confidential. Details of when a claim was first made for the work have not been disclosed.

The present self-portrait was last exhibited publicly in the 2007 exhibition, “Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism,” held at the Neue Galerie in New York and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. That showcase highlighted van Gogh’s influence on Kirchner, who identified with the French painter’s personal struggles. Kirchner suffered a breakdown in 1915 leading to his discharge from the German Army.

Simon’s extensive art collection, which included examples by Edvard Munch and Camille Pissarro, was dispersed in duress sales and confiscations after he left Germany. His heirs have attempted to recover many of the work from the collection. A landscape painting with nude figures by Max Pechstein, an artist also associated with the Die Brücke gorup, taken from Simon’s Paris home was returned to his heirs last year.

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