Impressionist and modern art set to fetch £50m in biggest sale in a decade

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The biggest sale of Impressionist and modern art to be held in Britain in a decade is expected to make more than £50m later this month.

The biggest sale of Impressionist and modern art to be held in Britain in a decade is expected to make more than £50m later this month.

Four Picassos, two Renoirs, a late Monet and a Modigliani that was once owned by the Guggenheim gallery but controversially sold 10 years ago, are among the works which will be auctioned by Sotheby's in London on 21 June.

The sale also includes the most significant collection of works on paper by Egon Schiele ever to come onto the market. Most were originally owned by an eminent collector and dealer, Serge Sabarsky, who was a friend of the artist.

Melanie Clore, head of the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby's, said many sales had one great work in them but that this sale was distinguished by a number of really good pictures.

She said many buyers felt this was a good time to sell - partly because of the high-profile success of some recent big auctions and partly because big spenders were questioning the wisdom of other forms of investment.

"If they're cash-rich, there's nothing more compelling than a wonderful Impressionist painting," Ms Clore said. For American sellers, the strong pound made it more sensible to sell in the UK.

In addition, the sale is the first big event of Art Fortnight, a programme of exhibitions and auctions involving around 80 galleries and designed to celebrate London's role in the international art market.

"London in June is a very compelling venue. There's Art Fortnight and Grosvenor House [art fair] as well as Ascot and Wimbledon," Miss Clore said.

The most valuable painting on offer is a luminous portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, which belongs to an important group of commissioned portraits that established him at the forefront of the Parisian avant-garde. It was painted the year before the great Impressionist show of 1874, making it "a significant milestone in the early development of the Impressionist", and is estimated to fetch between £6m and £8m.

A second work by Renoir, a female nude, Jeune Femme se baignant , is expected to make up to £5m.

A rare large canvas from the 1930s by Picasso depicts his lover, Marie-Thérèse and is expected to make up to £3m. A second Picasso, Plante de Tomate , is being sold from the collection of Ray Stark, the Hollywood producer of films including Funny Girl and Steel Magnolias, who died this year. It is similar to a work which made $6m (£3.3m, three times its estimate, a few months ago.

The 15 works on paper by Schiele, an Austrian artist who died at the age of 28 in 1918 but whose stock has risen considerably in recent years, are regarded as important as they cover all the main themes in his work.

There is a self-portrait, a portrait of the composer Schoenberg and several erotic works including the most significant gouache in the sale, Liebespaar , depicting lovers in an embrace. "It is probably the most important Schiele on paper ever to come on the market," Miss Clore said. It is expected to make up to £1.8m. The current owner, who is anonymous, bought the bulk of the group from Serge Sabarsky, but, without the space to hang them together, has decided to sell. It will be the first opportunity for buyers to buy any of them individually.

Two works by his fellow Austrian, Gustav Klimt, which were both seized by the Nazis during the war, are being sold by families to whom they have been returned only recently.

The large painting by Claude Monet is a beautiful late waterlilies scene from this Nymphéas series. Painted between 1914 and 1917 at his home in Giverny where he transformed the gardens into a horticultural paradise, it is estimated at up to £6m.

Other works of note include a scene of horses and riders by Edgar Degas, a painting of crabs by Vincent van Gogh painted just after he fell out with Gauguin and cut off part of his ear, and the Modigliani, a typically elongated portrait of a boy.