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Rare Paul Cezanne masterpiece, Vue sur L'Estaque et Le Chateau d'If, sold for $29.8 million at London auction

Paul Cezanne painting auction

A Paul Cezanne painting of a southern French town sells for $29.8 million at a London auction, as the art market simmers with interest from Asian buyers.

Vue sur L'Estaque et Le Chateau d'If, rare among Cezanne works as a vertical-format landscape, was painted during a visit to the town of L'Estaque.

It is the first time the painting has changed hands since 1936.

The painting, sold at auction by Christie's, captured a view from the hill above the town, with pine trees framing the fishing port's terracotta rooftops and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Chateau d'If fortress of the title is located on one of the Frioul islands visible in the background of the painting, which had a pre-sale estimate of $23.5 million.

The painting dates from about 1883-1885.

It was bought in 1936 by collector Samuel Courtauld and remained in his private collection until being sold on Wednesday.

Art market 'simmering'

The rivalry between auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's is strong after auctions this week.

Sotheby's brought in $360 million from its impressionist and modern paintings sale, led by museum-class Claude Monet landscapes, showing the world's rich is still eager to collect despite an oil price collapse and talk of chillier times ahead.

Christie's ended its Wednesday sale with a collection of surrealist works that contributed almost half of the evening's total of $287 million, which included its own impressionist and modern art haul.

Its art experts said more Asian buyers were being tempted away from the soothing impressionists to the works of surrealists, which express the mood of unreality, unease and the irrational in Europe between the two world wars.

Christie's deputy chairman in London, Olivier Camu, said Chinese buyers were becoming intrigued by surrealism.

"It's simmering," he told reporters after the sale.

The top price of the night was $30.2 million for Spanish surrealist Juan Miro's Painting (Woman, Moon, Birds) of 1950.