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Le givre à giverny

Painted in 1885, Le Givre à Giverny depicts the hoar-frost covered trees at Giverny, a town on the outskirts of Paris that would become synonymous with the most innovative compositions of Monet's career. The artist moved with his family to Giverny in April 1883 and remained there for the rest of his life. The two silhouetted figures in the present work are the artist’s son and step-son Michel Monet and Jean-Pierre Hoschedé who are walking near the Ile de Orties in the village. The dynamic handling of paint represents Monet’s progression towards a more radicalised depiction of the natural world that would effectively establish him as a pillar of the avant-garde, as the dramatic interplay of light and shadow here transforms the landscape into a sensory montage of textures and colours. Le Givre à Giverny is one of Monet's first significant depictions of his new environs and belongs to an important series of oils that the artist completed in the beginning of 1885 (fig. 1). In those first years after settling in Giverny with his family, Monet spent many of his painting campaigns away from home, travelling to Italy and the south of France and later to Etretat in Normandy. 'One always needs a certain amount of time to get familiar with a new landscape',  Monet later explained, implying that his time away from Giverny allowed him to recalibrate his new objectives in landscape painting (quoted in Daniel Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, vol. I, p. 192). By January 1885, he was ready to meet the challenges of his new environment, when a heavy snowstorm recast the region in colours of wintery blue, silver and grey. Before the ice and snow melted, Monet rushed to paint the wintery spectacle, producing nine oils including the present work (ibid., vol. II, nos. 961-968). The subject of winter landscapes had fascinated Monet early in his career, and his first explorations of this theme can be found in his depictions of Honfleur in 1865 and 1867. Monet relished the challenge of painting the extraordinary effects of cold weather. Over the course of his career he chose to paint progressively more nuanced and ephemeral effects such as frost, tackling the subject previously in 1880 at Vétheuil (fig. 2). Léon Billot gave an early account of Monet painting en plein air in the snow, a vivid proof of the artist's dedication to capturing the effects of light on the frozen landscape: 'It was during winter, after several snowy days, when communications had almost been interrupted. The desire to see the countryside beneath its white shroud had led us across the fields. It was cold enough to split rocks. We glimpsed a little heater, then an easel, then a gentleman swathed in three overcoats, with gloved hands, his face half-frozen. It was M. Monet studying an aspect of the snow' (L. Billot, 'Exposition des Beaux-Arts', in Journal du Havre, 9th October 1868). The preoccupation with snowy landscapes would extend to several of the Impressionist painters, including Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro, though Monet's effet de neige paintings are often viewed as the most successful examples of the theme. Writing about Monet's snow scenes, Eliza E. Rathbone observed: 'The Impressionists, and above all Monet, determined to record the complete spectrum: deep snow in brilliant sunshine, creating the bluest of blue shadows; snow under a low, grey winter sky that shrouds nature in a single tonality; landscapes so deep in snow that all details are obscured, evoking a silent world; even snow melting along a country road at sunset; or, perhaps most striking, a sky filled with snow falling. Of all the Impressionists, Monet painted the largest number of snowscapes and the greatest variety of site, time of day, quality of light, and quality of snow itself. He was not only interested in a relatively traditional conception of a snowy landscape, but he found beauty in unexpected phenomena of winter. He brought to his snowscapes his desire to experiment both with new technique and with formal invention' (E. E. Rathbone, 'Monet, Japonisme, and Effets de Neige', in Impressionists in Winter (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1998-99, p. 25). The first recorded owner of the picture was Montague Shearman, a barrister with a keen appetite for Impressionist art. Over the course of his life he amassed a fine collection including major works by Pissarro, Sisley, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and contemporary paintings by Matisse and Picasso. Introducing an exhibition of the collection held after Shearman’s death, St. John Hutchinson wrote about the present work: ‘Nearly one of Shearman’s last purchases is the really monumental Monet, not monumental in its size, but a real monument in being one of the most beautiful of all Monet’s pictures. Always a fine painter, Monet is often a bore, and it is in a picture such as this that his real genius is seen; the white scene is made up by the subtle harmonies of brilliant colours, and the two people, interrogation marks in black, achieve an inspired composition’ (St. J. Hutchinson in The Montague Shearman Collection of French and English Paintings (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 14). Signed Claude Monet (lower left)

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2013-02-05

Antibes vue de la Salis

Monet’s dazzling view of the south coast of France, Antibes vue de la Salis, is one of his most accomplished and brilliantly hued compositions of the 1880s. Monet’s chosen palette conjures an Elysian vision of azure skies rising above a landscape concocted from a rich palette of pinks, turquoises, purples and greens. The delicate interplay between dazzling reflections, shimmering sunlight and dappling velvety shadow is triumphantly achieved and displays Monet’s pre-eminent abilities as a painter of light. Monet left Paris for the Mediterranean coastline of France on the 12th January 1888, arriving several days later. On the recommendation of Guy de Maupassant he planned to stay at the Chateau de la Pinède, a hotel popular with artists. As was often the case, Monet did not find the company of his fellow guests very congenial and in this instance he found the group of artists who gathered around the Barbizon painter Henri Harpignies particularly irksome. Monet contented himself by first exploring the area around Antibes-Agay and Trayas to the west, then moving east towards Monte Carlo, before finally settling on five or six motifs (figs. 1 & 2), including this view of the brightly shining town of Antibes as seen across the bay from the Gardens of La Salis. In his Catalogue Raisonné entry on the present work, Daniel Wildenstein explains: ‘Monet moved closer to the sea, to the part of the Gardens of La Salis which adjoins the Plateau de la Garoupe. From this position, further to the east, the tower of the Château Grimaldi hides that of the cathedral. The Fort Carré is further to the right. The foreground is occupied by olive trees’ (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, p. 444). Monet completed four paintings of this view shown at different times of the day, placing particular emphasis on the tonal contrast between the nearby olive trees and the distant shoreline. The Toledo Museum of Art’s version (fig. 4) shows the Gardens of La Salis in the afternoon under direct sunlight with Antibes cast in shadow, whilst the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s (fig. 5) is entirely awash with the mid-day sun. The present work represents dawn, and is perhaps the most successful juxtaposition of light and shade in the group, possessing a beautifully orchestrated balance of vibrant colours which clearly determine the time of day. Transfixed by the brilliance of the light found in Antibes, and although he was occasionally overwhelmed by the challenge of representing it on canvas, Monet had a particularly productive campaign returning to Paris in May with close to forty canvases. Discussing the works Monet produced in Antibes, Virginia Spate quotes Baudelaire’s L’invitation au voyage – ‘There, there is nothing else but grace and measure, Richness, quietness, and pleasure’, stating: ‘This is indeed the mood of these paintings, for, in the more constant Mediterranean weather, Monet could afford to concentrate for longer than he could on northern coasts on identifying the pigments with which to create the impression of intensely still coloured light’ (V. Spate, The Colour of Time – Claude Monet, London, 1992, p. 191). Paul Hayes Tucker has speculated that by travelling throughout France in the 1880s Monet was attempting to decentralise Impressionism which for the most part had been based in Paris. ‘When queried in 1880 about his defection [from the Impressionists], he asserted, 'I am still an Impressionist and will always remain one.' Unlike some of his former colleagues such as Pissarro, who experimented with the pointillist techniques of the Post-Impressionists, Monet staunchly maintained that belief. Indeed, he put it into practice in an unprecedented way, travelling extensively during the decade to paint some of the most spectacular and varied sites in all of France, from the black, ocean-pounded coast of Belle Isle in the Atlantic south of Brittany to the verdant shores of Antibes on the Mediterranean. The places he chose had dramatically different geological formations, weather conditions, lighting effects, and temperature ranges. They also possessed strikingly different moods, mythologies, associations, and appeals. These challenging conditions led Monet to write to his friends and family about his difficulties frequently throughout the decade. 'It is so difficult, so delicate, so tender [in Antibes],' he told Berthe Morisot in 1888, 'particularly for someone like me who is inclined toward tougher subjects’. However, the canvases resulting from his trip to Antibes are testament to Monet’s masterful technique and his ability to reconcile his earlier Impressionist manner with the atmospheric conditions of the South. As Joachim Pissarro observed: ‘The status of Monet's painting in Antibes changed as fast as the weather. One day he would work admirably, "thanks to the eternal and resplendent sun", and the next a terrible wind would make work impossible. Nevertheless, Monet worked relentlessly. On the 1st February, Monet reported that he had 'worked all day without a break: it is definitely so beautiful, but so difficult as well!”’ (J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 42). After several weeks of working in this region, Monet expressed confidence in his work in a letter to Alice Hoschedé; writing in early February, ‘What I will bring back from here will be pure, gentle sweetness: some white, some pink, and some blue, and all this surrounded by the fairylike air’ (quoted in ibid., p. 44). For the artist whose entire career was dedicated to exploring the quality of light and its effect on water, the rich, saturated colours of the Mediterranean provided an ideal environment in which to challenge his abilities, and resulted in a remarkable series of works unique within Monet’s œuvre. His success in achieving this in works such as the present one was clearly demonstrated by the enthusiasm which greeted them when they were first exhibited shortly after Monet's return to Paris. Rather than consigning the whole series to Durand-Ruel, and not being averse to creating rivalry between his dealers, Monet released ten Antibes paintings, including the present work, to Theo van Gogh who helped Boussod & Valadon to exhibit them in June and July 1888. Writing about the show, Gustave Geffroy noted the startling colouration the works possessed, ‘Changing colours of the sea, green, blue, grey, almost white – vastness of the rainbow-coloured mountains – with colours, clouded, snow-covered – pale silver foliage of the olive trees, black greenery of the pines, blinding red of the earth – silhouette of the dewy golden town, permeated by light’ (quoted in V. Spate, ibid., p. 193). An early owner of the present work was William H. Fuller, the director of the National Wallpaper Company and a devoted collector of Monet's art. In 1891, Fuller organised the first exhibition of the artist's paintings in the United States at the Union Club in New York, effectively introducing Monet to an American audience. Fuller wrote an introduction on Monet’s work using Antibes vue de la Salis as an example of how his paintings could so convincingly portray atmosphere: ‘Do not fully accept your first impressions. It will grow upon you. Observe how skilfully the picture has been composed; notice also the purity and harmony of the colors; see how finely drawn are the wide spreading branches of the tree in the foreground, through which we catch glimpses of the pale blue receding sky. Under it, like an opal, lie the waters of the bay, tremulous with light. On the farther shore the distant hills are tinged with the first flush of morning light, while at their feet, like an enchanted city, sleeps the old fortress of Antibes. In conception and in rendering this picture is the embodiment of all the poetry, all the beauty, and all the mystery of the Dawn’ (W. H. Fuller, op. cit., p. 17-18). Signed Claude Monet and dated 88 (lower right) 

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2015-02-03

Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30)

I like the night images very much, really. I think these images have the most mystery. The color is quite beautiful. (D. Hockney, quoted in J. Butterfield, David Hockney: Blue Hedonistic Pools, The Print Collectors Newsletter, Vol. 10, no. 3, July/August 1979, p 75) Suffused with the luminous, jewel-like colors of turquoise, aquamarine, and jet-black, David Hockneys Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) is a brilliant iteration of the artists beloved series - the Paper Pools of 1978. Inspired by his friend Kenneth Tylers swimming pool in Westchester County, New York, this dazzling series reprises one of Hockneys most iconic motifs. In the Paper Pools, Hockney recorded the effects of sunlight as it reflected upon the water of Tylers pool at various time of the day, creating a series of unique works on paper, in which dye-infused paper pulp was pressed into stunning, color-soaked sheets. Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) belongs to a particular subset of Paper Pools, in its ravishing depiction of a swimming pool after dark. Never before had Hockney's treatment of the ephemeral qualities of light on water met such a perfect marriage as in the Paper Pools, with the midnight swimming pools a particularly ravishing group. Taken from the vantage point of the diving board after nightfall, the intensity of the saturated colors and their midnight setting in Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) is the perfect platform, allowing Hockney to wax poetic upon the qualities that linger just beneath the surface of the iconic swimming pools, with longing and desire at their forefront. Epitomizing the era of unabashed optimism in which they were created, Hockneys swimming pools captured and distilled the particular essence of Southern California in the mid-1960s, and in the Paper Pools, they remain an enduring celebration of the artists highly-coveted and deeply personal theme. Stretching across six panels, Hockneys modernist precision is matched only by his flair for color in Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30), as softly radiant passages of turquoise and aquamarine encircle and envelop the viewer, giving the impression of a nighttime pool lit by an underwater light. The effect of the saturated bands of alternating color - extending outward in concentric rings from cool, crystalline waters to a shadowy marine blue - is altogether painterly, as Hockneys innovative technique allows the intermingling of colors at an almost microscopic level. Set against a darkened backdrop of rich, inky blacks, the cooled tones of the swimming pool underlit by submerged electric light 'pops' out from the surface, lending a striking degree of depth and verisimilitude to this decidedly flattened, abstract depiction. Tiny pinpoints of bright white peek through the paper pulp, giving off the effect of sparkling light as it glistens across the surface of softly-dappled water. Bathed in the particular 'aura' the work emanates, one becomes acutely aware of standing before an empty swimming pool after nightfall, with the cool breeze of the evening air lending a sensuous quality to the otherwise pristine body of water. Serendipity and chance intervened in the late summer of 1978, as David Hockney found himself temporarily stranded in New York in what had been a return trip to California from London. Having misplaced his drivers license, Hockney was forced to stay on for several weeks in New York, and decided to call upon his friend, the master printmaker Kenneth Tyler, at his home in Bedford Village. Tyler introduced Hockney to a new technique for unique paper works that involved wet paper pulp that he impregnated with rich, saturated colored dye. This innovative new method had already produced spectacular results when Tyler tried the approach with Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland. It involved the pouring of liquid color pulp into moulds placed directly onto a wet paper surface. Onto this surface, more colored pulp and liquid dyes could be applied freehand, and the result was then pressed between felts in a high-pressure hydraulic press. Once dry, the color had permeated the paper surface, giving it an intensity of hue that is inseparable from the sheet itself. Using a variety of tools, Hockney applied the colored paper pulp into cloisonné-type molds. Soup ladles, turkey basters, spoons and brushes allowed the artist to create the specific look he desired, and he particularly enjoyed the wet, messy process, which he felt was naturally suited to the liquid nature of the swimming pools. Spurred on by Tylers excitement for the new medium and the physicality of the process, Hockney became energized, working for forty-five days straight as late summer gradually turned to fall. As the project progressed, Hockney carefully recorded the effects of sunlight, shadow and other ephemeral effects of weather as they impacted the pool with his Polaroid camera. One evening, after a particularly productive day, Hockney was struck by the appearance of the swimming pool after dark, particularly when Tyler activated its underwater lights. The light from within the pool stops at the surface of the water and everything above it is black, Hockney described. The diving board becomes black And I thought that was very exciting, and I said, thats what we will do tomorrow. (David Hockney, quoted in Nikos Stangos, Ed., David Hockney: Paper Pools, New York, 1980, p. 48) In Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30), Hockney employs the darkened diving board as a compositional device, drawing the eye upwards into the central action of the luminous swimming pool. One of approximately five unique works that feature the pool after dark, Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) is a brilliant orchestration, in which the effects of light-dappled water set amidst a midnight scene break free from their representational role to become independent entities, their luxurious color harmonies on par with the best of the Color Field painters. The soft and subtle variations that Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler teased out from the thinned-down paint as it soaked and stained their raw, unprimed canvases is certainly evoked in the present work, as the individual colors sing and glow, especially when in concert together. In the present work, Hockney wields an impressive degree of control, as he allows the colors to seamlessly blend and pool into each other, compounded by the sheer scale of the six-panel work, which stretches over seven feet in width. Not unlike Mark Rothkos saturated pillars of pure color, Hockney envelops his viewer in a painterly embrace, though its mood leans less toward Rothkos sober pillars of color and more toward the splendor of Henri Matisse, as beautifully exemplified in Matisse's late composition, Polynesia, the Sky, which features discrete passages of varied blue grounding a harmoniously choreographed dance of birds. Every time you look at a pool, it is a different blue, Hockney said while in conversation with the critic Jan Butterfield in 1979. And each time you see it, it takes on a different character. (David Hockney, quoted in Jan Butterfield, David Hockney: Blue Hedonistic Pools, The Print Collectors Newsletter, Vol. 10, no. 3, July-August 1979, p 74) Indeed, Hockneys swimming pools proved to be an endlessly versatile motif, and their depiction in the Paper Pools came at a seminal moment in the artists career. In Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30), Hockney continues on many of the themes espoused by his greatest paintings, especially A Bigger Splash, since the empty diving board implies a human presence through its very absence. In the Paper Pools, Hockneys radical new medium (that he emphatically declared was not a print), the paper pulp method reinvigorated the iconic motif in a new and exciting way. The sheer bravura of David Hockneys Paper Pools delights. They are joyous in color and shape and monumental in scale. Enchanted with the elusive properties of light, Hockney has seized aspects of it, rippling it across and through his works with broad, fearless strokes. Whether in inky darkness or glimmering sunlight, his Pools refresh, please, [and] recall the joyousness of Matisse. (Jan Butterfield, Ibid., p. 74) Signed and dated 78

  • 2018-05-17

A highly important and exceptionally large imperial khotan-green jade

The substantial stone of an even light fern-green colour, superbly worked in the form of a pair of addorsed dragons resting atop the seal, each mythical beast powerfully rendered with long whiskers flanking a slightly agape mouth revealing sharp fangs, the upper edge of the intertwined scaly bodies decorated with well pronounced bosses simulating prominent spinal columns, the seal face crisply worked with a border enclosing a six-character inscription in seal script reading Taishang huangdi zhi bao ('Treasure of the Emperor Supreme'), the centre of the 'dragon' finial pierced through with an aperture, original zitan stand Taishang Huangdi Zhi Bao, Treasure of the Emperor Supreme Guo FuxiangThe Qianlong Emperor (1711-99, r. 1735-96) had the longest reign period in Chinese history and also enjoyed one of the longest life spans. He inherited the dynasty from his ancestors, and built on its prosperity and power, creating a dynasty of great splendour during his reign. For his legacy he commissioned objects to reflect the different stages and major events and turning points in his life. A few years ago, I published a book titled The Treasure Seals of Emperors and Empresses of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, an exclusive study of the treasure seals of Emperors and Empresses. In the book I summarised the characteristics of Qianlong’s seals, one of which is that his seals were made to record meritorious events. During Qianlong’s reign, seals were carved to commemorate special state events and family happenings. These seals were then re-carved in great numbers. If we lined up these seals according to the year they were made, we can clearly see all the major state events and family happenings of his reign. This jewel of Khotan-green jade is carved with a pair of addorsed dragons, and the seal inscription is composed of the six characters taishang huangdi zhi bao (‘Treasure of the Emperor Supreme’). It was originally kept in a zitan wooden box which is now lost, but the zitan stand still remains. In order to understand and appreciate this seal, we have to know the history of taishanghuang (‘Emperor Supreme’). Taishang means ‘the most supreme’, a term of extreme respect; and together with the word huang means that ‘its virtue is more supreme than the emperor’. Therefore, the characters together refer to someone ‘whose virtue is even more supreme than the emperor’. The title taishanghuang, which first appeared during the Qin Dynasty, has a long history. According to Shi ji [Records of the Historian] by Sima Quan (c.145-91 BC), after the first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC, r. 220-210 BC), united the six kingdoms, he gave his deceased father, King Zhuangxiang (281-247 BC), the title taishanghuang. Shi ji also records that after Liu Bang (c.256-195 BC) of the Han dynasty ascended the throne, known as Emperor Gaozu (r. 202-195 BC), he showed extreme respect towards his father, Liu Taigong (272-197 BC). Legend has it that one day his father’s housekeeper said the following to his father: “Heaven does not have two suns, neither should the earth have two kings. Although the present Emperor is your son, nevertheless, he is the head of the country. Although you are the father of the Emperor, you are his subject. How can the Emperor kowtow to his subject? If this continues, your prestigious position will not last long.” When Liu Bang visited his father, Liu Taigong went to greet him outside the front door with a sweep of his hand. He humbly led his son into the house. Seeing this, Liu Bang was very surprised and asked why his father was acting so humble. Liu Taigong said, “You are the Emperor of the people, I am your subject, how should law and regulation be changed because of me!” Thus Liu Bang issued an imperial decree to honour Liu Taigong as the Emperor Supreme. Liu Taigong was the first person in the Chinese history to become an honored Emperor Supreme despite not being an Emperor himself. Since that time, all Emperors who passed the throne down to the crown princes were thus called Emperor Supreme. Throughout history, those who have lived to become Emperor Supreme have come to accept this title under various circumstances although most have been forced to take the position. Those who were worthy of the title taishanghuang were those who remained well respected and powerful, and the Qing dynasty’s Qianlong Emperor was without a doubt in that category. The Qianlong Emperor became Emperor Supreme after he voluntarily abdicated his throne. Hence, this was a major turning point in his life and to commemorate this he ordered the making of this group of seals. The Qianlong Emperor claimed that he had always vowed to choose his successor and abdicate the throne if he could rule the empire for sixty years. The Emperor however only made his thoughts public on the 11th month of the 37th year (1772). He did not yet realise the significance of this pledge until a few years later, when the connection between the abdication and the investiture of the crown prince became apparent. An Emperor was always expected to be a man of his words; to fulfill his promise, on the third day, ninth month of the sixtieth year of Qianlong’s reign (1795), the eighty-five year old Emperor convened his princes, the nobility and his great generals, to declare that his fifteenth son, Yongyan (1760-1820, r. 1796-1820), Prince Jia of the First Rank, was to become crown prince. The following year, the Qianlong Emperor personally held a grand coronation ceremony for his son where he announced in an imperial edict: “… the Crown Prince on the morning of the lunar New Year’s day of the bingchen year (1796) is to take the position of Emperor [under the reign title Jiaqing]. I, sovereign of the Taihedian (‘Hall of Great Harmony’), now bow and confer the Imperial Seal. Henceforth I shall be th­e Emperor Supreme,” see Qing Gaozong yuzhi wen yuji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong proses, the final collection], vol. 1. And in this manner, the Qianlong Emperor concluded his sixty-year reign and became the Qing dynasty’s only, and thus China’s last, Emperor Supreme. At the same time as he proclaimed that he was passing the throne to his son, the Qianlong Emperor was also already planning and preparing himself for a positive life as Emperor Supreme. On the 28th of the 9th month of the same year, he gave a speech saying: “After I have passed on the throne, I shall have the phrase taishang huangdi zhi bao carved onto my finest jade seal. Then immediately after that, I shall have the imperial edict Shiquan Laoren zhi bao shuo (‘On the treasure of the completely fulfilled elder’) engraved as a volume on the life of an Emperor Supreme in order to display the flourishing and growth of the dynasty while I am the Emperor Supreme,” recorded in ‘Dianli yi [Ceremony, part 1]’, Guo chao gong shi xu bian [Sequel of the imperial house and court history]. This original ‘taishang huangdi zhi bao’ seal which, with an area of 22.5 cm square, is the largest imperial jade seal of the Qing dynasty, is preserved in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (fig. 1). Following the orders of the Qianlong Emperor, craftsmen in addition made further taishang huangdi zhi bao seals from various types of jades, and the current seal is one of these. According to the records in the Qianlong yuxi yinpu [Record of Qianlong imperial seals] of the Qianlong baosou, over twenty taishang huangdi seals of various sizes were made. The majority of these seals is still in the Palace Museum, Beijing. The largest of these has already been mentioned; the seal offered in the present sale comes next in size, being 13 cm square, and is thus not only the second largest of the taishang huangdi zhi bao seals, but also the largest in private hands. Moreover, the largest taishang huangdi zhi bao seal in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing acted only as a decorative token of Qianlong’s status and has never been used, whereas all his other similar seals were impressed on paintings and calligraphic works. In other words, the seal offered in this auction is the largest seal that was used by Qianlong as Emperor Supreme, which reflects the importance of this object. Carved from a superb boulder of Khotan-green jade from Xinjiang province, the exceptionally large seal is flawless in texture and pleasing in colour. The characters on the seal face are boldly carved and flow with ease, and even though the stone is extremely hard, the seal inscription is executed with elegance, the character strokes are even, and the composition tidy, demonstrating the skill and artistry of the craftsman. The majestic pair of addorsed dragons crouching on the seal, detailed with finely carved scales, horns, hair, manes and beards, gives a forceful presence through their imposing posture. The dragons are particularly three-dimensional as they are carved in varying levels of relief, a style of carving more typical of the early and mid-Qianlong period, which again demonstrates the unique value of this seal.

  • HKGSonderverwaltungszone Hongkong
  • 2016-10-05

An Outstanding Imperial carved Zitan 'Dragon' Throne Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

An Outstanding Imperial carved Zitan 'Dragon' Throne Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period, THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS ARE REQUESTED TO COMPLETE THE PREMIUM LOT PRE-REGISTRATION 3 WORKING DAYS PRIOR TO THE SALE. Magnificently carved, the wide seat of generous proportions formed from six planks set in a floating panel, framed by an ornately carved stepped throne-back centred on a high-relief full frontal five-clawed dragon, hovering above turbulent waves crashing against rocks, his sinuous body wrapped around a 'flaming pearl', flanked by a pair of attendant dragons rising out of the water, reserved against a dense ground of ruyi clouds and flying bats, interspersed with the bajixiang ('Eight Buddhist Emblems'), the main panel with the 'endless knot', 'wheel', 'fish' and 'conch shell', the side panels with a single dragon in pursuit of a 'flaming pearl' on a similar ground, one panel with the 'lotus' and 'vase', the other with the 'canopy' and 'umbrella', the decoration all repeated on the back side, the carved panels framed by a fine diaper ground extending along the top of the rails and borders, the borders further decorated with small quatrefoil panels, each enclosing a formal lotus with scrolling leaves, the seat frame carved with a key-fret band running along the outer edge, all above a waisted apron with begonia florets enclosed within a frame alternating with unframed florets, set between horizontal bands of upright and pendant petal lappets, the apron centred on each of the sides with a dragon head reserved on an archaistic 'hooks and volutes' scroll ground, the beast's claws grasping the scrolls, the decoration extending to the solid square-sectioned legs issuing from a dragon's mouth set on each corner terminating in a hoofed foot, further supported on a humpback stretcher, the wood of deep chestnut tone with lighter brown areas 110.5 BY 140.5 BY 85.5 CM. 43 1/2 BY 55 1/4 BY 33 3/4 IN.

  • HKGSonderverwaltungszone Hongkong
  • 2009-10-07

Der genfersee von saint-prex aus view of the lake of geneva from saint-prex

Dieses Gemälde ist im Schweizerischen Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich, unter der Archivnummer 31 459 inventarisiert. Unten rechts signiert Gemalt um 1901. Im März 1900 vollendete Ferdinand Hodler seine Marignano-Fresken im Waffensaal des Schweizerischen Landesmuseums in Zürich. Die Arbeit an diesen bedeutenden, von einem veritablen nationalen Kunstskandal begleiteten Historienbildern hatte den Künstler während vier Jahren fast vollständig in Anspruch genommen. Für die Landschaftsmalerei fand der Meister in dieser kräfte- und nervenzehrenden Schaffensphase kaum je Zeit. Erst jetzt, mit dem Beginn des neuen Jahrhunderts, konnte sich Hodler wieder vermehrt Motiven und Sujets in der Natur zuwenden. Dabei entwickelte er seine Landschaftsmalerei zu einer eigenständigen und radikaleren Form weiter, mit der er im In- und Ausland bald schon Bewunderung und Erfolg erlangen sollte. Das vorliegende, um 1901 geschaffene Gemälde «Der Genfersee von Saint-Prex aus» verkörpert wie kaum ein anderes Werk diesen Aufbruch Hodlers zum Erneuerer der Landschaftsmalerei. Vom Künstler selbst als «Salonbild» bezeichnet, handelt es sich bei diesem in kräftig strahlenden Farben gehaltenen Werk um eine programmatische Arbeit, in der sich die rhythmisierenden und stilisierenden Tendenzen von Hodlers zukünftigem Schaffen eindrücklich ankündigen. Welche Bedeutung der Maler dem Gemälde zumass, manifestiert sich nicht zuletzt im Umstand, dass er es an der VII. Nationalen Kunstausstellung im Sommer 1901 in Vevey als aktuelle Arbeit ausstellte. Das breitformatige Bild zeigt das Panorama von den Anhöhen oberhalb der Waadtländer Genferseegemeinde Saint-Prex über den lac Léman auf das gegenüberliegende französische Ufer von Thonon-les-Bains mit den Savoyer Alpen im Hintergrund. Der Blick des Betrachters schweift über eine blühende, baumbestandene Wiese, deren Horizont sich bis zur Bildmitte erhebt. Darüber schimmert in sanften Blautönen der Genfersee, in dem sich die Spiegelungen der Wolken als helle, schmale Streifen abzeichnen. Nur unmerklich unterscheidet sich davon die Uferpartie mit den in violettes Gegenlicht getauchten Bergen, die sich vom Mont Ouzon links über die Spitze der Haute Pointe in der Bildmitte bis hin zu den schräg aufsteigenden Zügen der nahe Genf gelegenen Les Voirons am rechten Bildrand erstrecken. Die vereinzelt über der Gebirgskette schwebenden Quellwolken leiten über in das weite, aus hellblauen und weissen Flächen geformte Firmament. Durch den weitgehenden Verzicht auf vertikale Elemente prägen übereinander gestaffelte, den gesamten Bildraum durchziehende waagrechte Zonen aus Grün-, Blau- und Weisstönen die gesamte Komposition. Hodlers Credo, der Maler müsse die Natur als Fläche sehen, kommt in dieser konsequent parallelen Abfolge von Wiese, Seespiegel, Bergkette und Himmel deutlich zum Ausdruck. Die horizontal dominierte Bildanlage rhythmisieren vereinzelte vertikale Elemente, wie die Gräser und Blumen im Vordergrund, die kleinen, ungleichmässig auf der Wiese verteilten Bäume und die dazu korrespondierenden Kumuluswolken, deren Spiegelung die ruhige Seefläche beleben. Der eigentliche Landschaftsausblick, der sich von nahsichtiger Wiese im Vordergrund zur endlosen Weite im Himmelszelt verliert, wird so einem rhythmischen Grundkonzept untergeordnet, das Hodler wenige Jahre später in seiner Serie des «Landschaftlichen Formenrhythmus» (1908-11) (vergleiche Landschaftlicher Formenrhythmus, (1908-11) - siehe unten) und in seinen Genferseelandschaften der letzten Lebensjahre in noch rigoroserem und abstrakterem Masse formulierte. Hodlers Biograph Carl Albert Loosli bezeichnete das über einen langen Zeitraum irrtümlich auf 1905 datierte Bild als «eine der schönsten, reichsten und innigsten Landschaften Hodlers überhaupt» […]; dieses Gemälde, so Loosli, sei «eines der prächtigsten Beispiele dafür, wie tief, wie innig und leidenschaftlich Hodler die Natur empfand, mit wie glühenden Augen und heissem Herzen er sie schaute, wie restlos es ihm gelang, nicht nur sein Eigenempfinden, sondern den besonderen Charakter der Landschaft selbst auf die Leinwand zu bannen.» Wir danken Dr. phil. Matthias Oberli, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter Œuvrekatalog Ferdinand Hodler, vom Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich, für den Textbeitrag.

  • CHESchweiz
  • 2007-06-04

Helter Skelter I

Mark Bradford mixed media collage on canvas Executed in 2007. With Helter Skelter I, Mark Bradford puts forward a statement of heroic ambition that takes the detritus found on the streets of Los Angeles to subtly reflect on the history, social structures and lived experiences of the artist’s urban environment. An intricate network of lines explodes across the full expanse of the over ten metre wide canvas, breaking the gleaming silver surface like cracks in the earth. Fragments of elusive text and imagery begin to reveal themselves upon closer consideration – from a looming large black skull, an American flag, and snippets of words such as ‘CANDY’ or ‘KING’ – only to coalesce into abstraction when seen from afar. Bradford created Helter Skelter I in 2007, concurrently to his series of silver-clad abstractions that debuted at his solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in the same year, the most celebrated of which include Bread and Circuses, 2007, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Mississippi Goddam, 2007, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Bradford created Helter Skelter I in tandem with its companion piece Helter Skelter II specifically for the New Museum’s thematic group exhibition Collage: The Unmonumental Picture that opened in January 2008 in New York, bringing together 11 artists to explore ‘the formal and ideological power of juxtaposing found images’. Following almost immediately on the heels of the Whitney show, this exhibition firmly placed Bradford in the contemporary art map, with Thomas Micchelli from the Brooklyn Rail lauding his contribution as, ‘not merely the finest in the show but quite possibly the best contemporary art on view anywhere in New York. Bradford’s behemoth collages…are as tough as the street and just as resistant to simple answers or unearned beauty’ (Thomas Micchelli, 'Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century Collage: The Unmonumental Picture', The Brooklyn Rail, 6 February 2008, online). Exhibited together at the New Museum, the two works introduced a sense of monumentality hitherto unseen in his practice, which most recently found its zenith in Bradford’s installation for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennial, and Pickett’s Charge, currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.Bradford was first catapulted onto the contemporary art scene in 2001, following the inclusion of his multi-layered collage paintings in Thelma Golden’s Freestyle exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The groundbreaking exhibition introduced him alongside 27 other emerging African American artists as part of a generation of ‘post-black’ artists who sought to transcend the simplistic label of ‘black artist’, while still deeply exploring and re-defining the complex notions of blackness. Helter Skelter I’s conception, along with the concurrent series shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 2007, represented the culmination of the profound shift in the artist’s practice, which was characterised by a departure from his earlier grid-like work, towards more decentralised, all-over, and increasingly monumental compositions that have become the hallmarks of his mature visual idiom.Like Scorched Earth, 2006 (Broad Museum, Los Angeles), Helter Skelter I’s title refers to a real moment of racial tension in American history. While ‘helter-skelter’ is generally synonymous with disorder or confusion, and in British English recalls an amusement park slide famously eternalised in The Beatles’ eponymous song, it here evokes a particularly harrowing episode in Los Angeles’ history. In the late 1960s, cult leader Charles Manson attempted to incite what he dubbed ‘Helter Skelter’, an apocalyptic race war he thought he could ignite by killing white people and blaming black militants. The gruesome killings that his followers committed, its victims including Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, shocked and fascinated the American public alike. The shockwaves that reverberated through America have come into focus again with Manson’s recent death, making Helter Skelter I a timely piece that addresses the persistent issues of race, crime and celebrity culture that continue to structure urban America. While Bradford evokes his loaded subject matter with his characteristically direct and literal title, Helter Skelter I presents the viewer with an abstract composition that does not seem to directly correlate visually, other than its resemblance to the urban sprawl and vastness of Los Angeles. As is typical for Bradford’s practice, much of the meaning underlying this work stems from and merges with his unique creative process. If Andy Warhol approached the theme of race riots with emotional distance and the serial process of silkscreening media imagery in his 1964 Race Riot series, Bradford pursues an approach that is as expressive, as it is abstract. Gouged and torn, the canvas bears witness to the artist’s adroit ability to exploit the creative and expressive force of destruction – the force of which, as curator Becky Hart has suggested, is in part reflective of Bradford’s reaction to certain political situations. Unfolding in front of us with the energetic rhythms and swirling colours reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings such as Blue Poles, 1952, and confronting us with the gravitas of Clyfford Still’s jagged edges and electrifying flashes of colour, Helter Skelter I demonstrates how Bradford harnesses the potential of abstraction for his own agenda. Bradford pursues what he has termed ‘social abstraction’, that is, ‘abstract art with a social or political context clinging to the edges’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in Calvin Tomkins, ‘What Else Can Art Do?’, The New Yorker, June 22, 2015, online). Critical of the ways in which the annals of art history divorced abstract art from its political context, particularly 1950s Abstract Expressionism, Bradford around 2000 decided, ‘let’s make abstract painting and lets imbue it with policy, and political, and gender, and race, and sexuality’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in ‘Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford’, Denver Art Museum, 2017, online). It is above all Bradford’s pioneering use and transformation of materials that infuses the language of abstraction with social, political and historical meaning. Rather than paint in the conventional sense of the term, Bradford takes the detritus of urban visual culture as the conduit through which life enters art. Whereas Bradford had previously used end papers typically used in hair salons, works such as Helter Skelter I exemplify his shift towards using paper material found on the streets of South Central Los Angeles, where he lived as a child, worked in his mother’s hair salon, and now lives and works. Working in the lineage of the Dadaists and the Nouveau Réalisme movement, Bradford has honed a refined technique of décollage, a process defined by cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing, pieces of an original image. Limiting his palette to the range of colours that occur in his materials, Bradford builds his intricate compositions in quick bursts over a prolonged period of time. Working intuitively without a preparatory drawing, he repeatedly covers the canvas with signage, posters, discarded advertising, and other materials peeled off billboards, while fixing these layers with thick-and thin-gauge twine that he sands back to construct a dense network of lines. By cutting, tearing, and scraping through the layers, Bradford reveals the underlying strata of visual material that ties the work both conceptually and physically to the economies of place and social structures of Los Angeles. Exploiting the potential of excavation, Bradford has here created a complex psychological urban portrait that exists at the sharp edge between abstraction and representation. Evincing Bradford’s equal commitment to indexicality and erasure, Helter Skelter I combines text and image, as well as flatness and depth, in such a way that our attention is constantly pulled between the materiality of the work and its representational and expressive content – a tension famously brought to the fore by Jasper Johns some decades earlier. As Bradford indeed explained, ‘I can’t fall into the camp of just conceptual or social art. Instinctively, I have to create a tension between the two’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in Sarah Valdez, ‘Questions for Mark Bradford’, Art on Paper, vol. 12, no. 2, 2007, p. 41). Demonstrating Bradford’s commitment to ‘slippage’, the ultimate intention of Helter Skelter I remains open-ended and constantly in flux. With it, Bradford presents a work that not only explores the vital tension between abstraction and representation in contemporary art, but crucially invites us to confront some of the most pressing issues that we must continue to reckon with in today’s socio-political landscape characterised by flares of racism, sexism and global economic suffering of the disenfranchised.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-03-08

Buste de Diego

Giacomettis extraordinary Buste de Diego is a robust personification of the Existentialist movement during the heated years of the Cold War. Of all his representations of the human figure, the present work is without question one of Giacometti's most formally radical and visually engaging sculptures. This imposing figure, parting his lips as if he is about to speak, embodies the anticipation of a moment yet to be realized. The model for this profoundly expressive sculpture was the artist's younger brother Diego, who inspired numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures of the 1950s and whose physiognomic similarity to his brother invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative. "To me," Giacometti once stated, "sculpture is not an object of beauty but a way for me to try to understand a bit better what I see in a given head, to understand a bit better what appeals to me about it and what I admire in it" (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-11, p. 73). By the 1950s, Giacometti shifted his attention from the spindly, elongated figures of his post-war years, like Homme qui chavire, and turned to figural sculptures that were more naturalistic in scale.  Most of these works were heads and half-length busts, completed between 1951 and 1957 and often executed from memory. For the most part, these sculptures were solid, designed without a base, and executed with the matiére pétrie, or kneaded method, that heightened the expressiveness of the figure. The artist relied on an intensely hands-on process for this sculpture to create the indentations and the folds of Diego's jacket and in the sharp bridge of his nose.  "Each of these nebulous undergoing perpetual metamorphosis seems like Giacometti's very life transcribed in another language," Jean-Paul Sartre wrote when observing the artist at work on his sculptures in his studio (reprinted in ibid. 233). These sculpted faces compel one to face them as if one were speaking to the person," Yves Bonnefoy has written, "meeting his eyes and thereby understanding better the compression, the narrowing that Giacometti imposed on the chin or the nose or the general shape of the skull. This was the period when Giacometti was most strongly conscious of the fact that the inside of the plaster or clay mass which he modeled was something inert, undifferentiated, nocturnal, that it betrays the life he sought to represent, and that he must therefore strive to eliminate this purely spatial dimension by constricting the material to fit the most prominent characteristics of the face. This is exactly what he achieves with amazing vigor when, occasionally, he gave Diego's face a blade-like narrowness - drawing seems to have eliminated the plaster, the head has escaped from space - and demands therefore that the spectator stand in front of the sculpture as he did himself, disregarding the back and sides of his model and as bound to a face-to-face relationship as in the case of work at an easel. As Giacometti once said, "There is no difference between painting and sculpture." Since 1945, he added, "I have been practicing them both indifferently, each helping me to do the other. In fact, both of them are drawing, and drawing has helped me to see (Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 432-36). Giacometti's choice of his brother Diego as the subject of this significant sculpture was based on his comfortability and familiarity with his model. "He's sat for me thousands of times," Giacometti said. "When's he's sitting there, I don't recognize him. I like to get him to sit, so as to see what I see" (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space, ibid, p. 140). Like the hauntingly beautiful paintings of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Buste de Diego demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face. Viewed from different vantage points, the present sculpture can be seen as two distinct heads: the side profile is much more articulated and full-bodied than the elongated, nearly intangible frontal view. According to the archives of the Comité Giacometti, the present work is from an edition of six bronzes that were made at the Susse Foundry between 1957 and 1958. Two bronzes, including the present work and the version which resides at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. received the number 1/6. Other bronzes from the edition are at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (5/6) and the Yale University Art Gallery (2/6). The original plaster for the present work is at the Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung in Zurich. The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Giacometti and it is recorded in the Alberto Giacometti database as AGD 3705. Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti, numbered 1/6 and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris

  • 2017-05-16

L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir or Voiliers sur l'Escaut

Painted in 1892, LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir was executed at the height of van Ryssleberghes artistic powers and is one his acknowledged masterpieces. The artists complete mastery of the pointilliste technique is fully evident in this visually dazzling work, and is further enhanced by his original painted frame. From the late 1880s to the end of the 1890s van Rysselberghe developed a distinct form of Neo-Impressionism, based on the style of the French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, yet with a distinct leaning toward the Symbolist sensibilities of the leading Belgian artists of the day. Portraits, exquisitely rendered in dappling colours applied in small dots of paint, were the most prominent part of his output until 1890 when landscapes came to the fore. Robert Herbert has written about the present work: the unusual simplicity of the seascape is a mark of the period 1892-1894, his best in landscape. [The present work] has a strong yellow that comes from a moist, but sunlit afternoon, forcefully opposed to lavender and blue, and each shares a Belgian penchant for limiting the surface to very few planes (R. L. Herbert, Neo-Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1968, p. 183). Van Rysselberghe was a founding member of the Brussels-based Neo-Impressionist group known as Les XX (sometimes written Les Vingt). The group was founded by van Rysselberghe along with Emile Verhaeren and Octave Maus in 1883, and was named after its twenty members. Van Rysselberghe played an important role in organising the groups annual exhibitions and was considered by many to be its leading artist. His extensive connections with other painters and writers enabled him to exhibit widely and travel extensively himself. Van Rysselberghe completed a number of oils of maritime subjects in the years around 1890, many drawing inspiration from the river Scheldt near his native Antwerp and other from excursions further afield. These paintings included a portrait of his friend and fellow painter Paul Signac at the helm of his sailing boat. The two men shared many common interests, not least sailing and painting, and their relationship provided the most substantial connection between the Sociéte des Artistes Indépendants based in Paris and the Belgian group Les XX  to which Signac was elected in 1891. Allied by their friendship and artistic ambitions, they each nonetheless cultivated their own Neo-Impressionist style, with van Rysselberghe being particularly interested in imbuing his compositions with a rich sense of atmosphere. This characteristic is perfectly exemplified in LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir with its sunlit palette of yellow and orange beautifully poised with lavender and pale blues and the strikingly similar Soleil couchant, pêche à la sardine, Concarneau, Opus 221 (Adagio) by Signac (fig. 1). The Frenchmans panoramic view and of the fishing fleet off the coast of Concarneau  is somewhat impersonal with each element in the composition dealt with equal precision, while in LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir, Rysselberghe heightens the contrast of colours and creates a more intimate, contemplative composition. In discussing the development of Neo-Impressionism and the distinct strands explored by different practitioners, Cornelia Homburg highlights van Rysselberghe and the present work: Théo van Rysselberghe employed a rather daring, restricted color scheme in some of his compositions in order to evoke a mood. [] purple and yellow could be used to produce Big Clouds [fig. 2], Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis] or to create a very different impact in The Scheldt Upstream from Antwerp, Evening [the present work]. This evening scene, with its intense hues, invites us to lose ourselves in reverie. The anchor poles and their reflection in the water provide a gentle rhythm to the composition, while the sailboats calm path underlines the evocative atmosphere. With its high horizon line [] one is tempted to recall the high horizons and reflective moods of Whistlers Nocturnes. Van Rysselberghe personally knew Whistler and had also repeatedly seen his work, among others, at the 1884 Les XX exhibition. Van Rysselberghe of course also knew Seurats Gravelines canvases of 1890, exhibited in Brussels and Paris, of which in particular the evening scene must have touched a chord [fig. 3]. While Van Rysselberghe decided to create space horizontally and close the pictorial space with the riverbank on the opposite side, Seurat used the harbour wall opposite in a similar way. However, he chose a low horizon line and gave vast space to sea and sky, leading our view into the distance (C. Homburg, Neo Impressionism and the Dream of Realities (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 2014, pp. 112-113). In 1893 the present work was featured in the final exhibition of Les XX held in Brussels at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. This was the first show to introduce divisionism or pointillism to a northern European audience. Many of van Rysselberghes best works were then shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris later in the year, marking the first of many international exhibitions to include LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir. In 1899 van Rysselberghe was invited to participate in the third exhibition held in the Secession building in Vienna. He chose to exhibit thirty-two works in a dedicated room, including LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir, though many of them were portraits, such as his paintings of the Sèthe sisters, Émile Verhaeren and Paul Signac in his boat. Van Rysselberghe was also accorded the honour of having an article written about his work by Verhaeren which was published in the chronicle of the Vienna Secession Ver Sacrum. To have been so chosen by Viennas leading artists was indicative of van Rysselberghes rapidly growing international reputation, as well as their sensitivity towards his particular approach to painting and depiction of atmosphere. The Austrian Secessionists, in particular Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll, were well aware of the pointillist techniques employed by van Rysselberghe and other Neo-Impressionists, and like van Rysselberghe, they were intrigued by the way in which applying paint in a pointillist manner could imbue their subjects with greater animation and atmosphere. LEscaut en amont dAnvers, le soir has subsequently been included in several major one-man exhibitions and Neo-Impressionist group-exhibitions. In 1954 the painting was acquired by Arthur G. Altschul, an American banker and a descendant of one of the three founders of Lehman Brothers. Altschul was a devoted collector of Neo-Impressionist and Nabis art, and a generous supporter of several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After nearly half a century in his collection, the present work was sold after his death at Sothebys in 2002, and achieved the record price paid for a painting by van Rysselberghe at the time. Signed with the monogram and dated 1892 (lower right)

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-06-21

Te Arii Vahine – La Femme aux mangos (II)

Dating from 1896, Te Arii Vahine was executed during Gauguins second and last visit to the South Seas. Inspired by the lush environment that surrounded him, it epitomises the artists life-long search for the primitive and displays the same vividness and sensuous atmosphere and the bright, warm palette that characterised his best and most celebrated Tahitian landscapes and figure paintings. Attracted by the freedom, wilderness and simplicity of this remote place far removed from the Western world, Gauguin produced works in which the fluidity and expressiveness of the brushstrokes reflect the sense of artistic liberation. The present composition is a smaller version of a large painting of the same title which can be translated as The Noble Woman or The Kings Wife now in The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow (fig. 1), considered to be the first masterpiece of Gauguins second trip to Tahiti. In a letter to Daniel de Monfreid from April 1896 Gauguin described the scene: A naked queen, reclining on a carpet of green, a female servant gathering fruit, two old men, near the big tree, discussing the tree of knowledge; a shore in the background I think that I have never made anything of such deep sonorous colors. The trees are in blossom, the dog is on guard, the two doves at the right are cooing (quoted in Gauguin Tahiti (exhibition catalogue), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris & Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003-04, p. 147). Gauguins treatment of paint and the dynamic, vibrant palette of the present oil reflect the richness of nature that excited the artist. The composition is dominated by the bright blue and green tones in the upper section punctuated by the brilliantly coloured mangoes, and the strong, flame-like reds and yellows in the lower half, clearly inspired by the sunshine that bathed everything around him. As the painter Maurice Denis observed, Gauguin strove to create the most sumptuous color harmonies in order to represent sunlight. In his work, instead of bleaching the color out of objects, [sunlight] exalts their hues, pushes them to the bursting point; it favors the art of painting, and authorizes any excess of color (M. Denis quoted in Charles Kunstler, Gauguin, peintre maudit, Paris, 1937, p. 151). Having spent two years in Tahiti, in July 1893 Gaugin returned to France, in order to sell his paintings and raise funds for subsequent travels. After twenty-two months of energetic and intense activity of self-promotion, the artist left Marseille on 3rd July 1895. In September he arrived to Papeete, where he had spent most of his time during his first stay on the island, but having found it increasingly Europeanised and colonised, moved to Punaauia, where he lived in a traditional Tahitian hut made of bamboo canes and palm leaves. Fascinated by the simple lifestyle of the island unencumbered by civilisation, Gauguin painted the world that surrounded him. Mango trees that were abundant in Tahiti certainly attracted the artist for their exotic appeal. As the fruit of the soil represented a part of everyday life of the islanders, it often appears as an integral part of larger compositions (fig. 2), usually depicting men and women fruit-picking or simply sitting or reclining in an outdoor environment, surrounded by attributes of nature as in the present work. Gauguins monumental Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going painted the following year is dominated by the central figure of a man stretching his arms up to pick a fruit. While the subject of the present composition celebrates the artists exotic surroundings, it draws on the Western canon. The subject of a reclining female nude has many precedents in European Old Master paintings, particularly Diana by Lucas Cranach the Elder, of which Gauguin may have had a postcard, and Manets Olympia. A closely related image of a nude woman reclining under a tree appeared several years earlier in Gauguins wood panel Reclining Woman with a Fan in a Tropical Landscape (fig. 3). Comparing the painted and carved versions of this image, George T. M. Shackelford wrote: the nude holds a circular red fan behind her head and covers her genitals with a cloth, which she fingers gingerly. As in Reclining Woman [fig. 3], figures appear in the background here, in addition to the dog that keeps watch, are a mysterious pair of old men, discussing the tree of knowledge from the Garden of Eden, and a servant picking fruit, whose action inevitably suggests the Fall of Man. [] In the painters reference to the tree of knowledge, and in the serpentine vine encircling the trunk of the tree, there are intimations of good and evil that place his captivating nude in a biblical frame of reference that any Western viewer would have recognized (ibid., p. 148). Françoise Cachin also commented on the amalgamation of Christian imagery into the composition: The snake coiled around the treetrunk points to Gauguins intent: to paint Eve, but without implying original sin. The Tahitian Eve is very subtle, very knowing in her naiveté. The enigma hidden deep in her childlike eyes remains incommunicable to me (F. Cachin, Gauguin: The Quest for Paradise, London & New York, 1992, pp. 108-109). Stéphane Guégan explains that Gauguins idea was to contrast two worlds and two conceptions of sexuality, the Eden of the Bible and the sinless Tahitian Eve. With her sidelong glance and irresolute smile, this woman is still untainted by Christian condemnation yet is threatened by it. [] She is the embodiment of the Tahitian woman of his dreams, of a morality anterior to that of the missionaries. And as the title tells us, she is also a queen, the chiefs wife, inaccessible to the common man (S. Guégan in Gauguin Polynesia (exhibition catalogue), Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen & Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 2011-12, p. 244). Whilst Gauguin shared the obsession with the primitive and savage with a number of leading artists from nineteenth-century Symbolists to Fauve and German Expressionist painters he was the one to have ventured furthest in the quest for these ideals. A fascinating and highly accomplished image of harmony between man and nature, Te Arii Vahine is a powerful testament to not only Gauguins own creative vision, but also the artistic and spiritual ideal of his time. The present work was sold from the artists estate in 1903 and shortly afterwards entered the collection of Dr Alfred Wolff, a German banker and art collector who amassed a highly important collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings including several other works by Gauguin. It was subsequently acquired by the celebrated Cone sisters, the majority of whose collection now forms the backbone of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The work remained in North America until 1991, and was sold at auction in 2010 when acquired by the present owner. This work will be included in the new edition of the Gauguin catalogue critique being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-03-01

Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa)

Martin Kippenberger oil on canvas Painted in 1996. Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa), one of Martin Kippenberger’s final masterworks, exudes the artist’s distinct and compelling eccentricity. Emblematic of his late style, the present work is a seminal canvas from Kippenberger’s epic homage to Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. This eponymous body of works, created in the penultimate year of Kippenberger’s life, encompasses 26 paintings in addition to photographs, sketches, lithographs and a woven rug. The artist’s self-portrait from this formative corpus of works, confronts the spiritual facets of mortality with poignant grace. Amongst the largest of Kippenberger’s self-portraits, the present work was exhibited at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, honouring the artist’s receipt of the Käthe Kollwitz Prize in 1996. Other works from this decisive series are included in prominent international collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection.Distinguished as the most important paintings of the artist’s career, Kippenberger’s Raft of The Medusa portraits leave behind the artist’s cheekily sly and imaginative post-war intervention and confront the viewer with a psychological depiction of mortality. The present masterpiece, painted whilst Kippenberger had liver cancer and was refusing treatment, acknowledges the artist’s impending fortune. Exhibiting profound foresight, the artist’s body lies elegantly reclined, bespeaking spiritual and bodily woe. Kippenberger’s striking expression imparts the distinct image of the artist’s soul departing his still body, his countenance more psychological and unaffected than in any painting from the series. The artist’s revered leitmotifs are at the forefront of the composition, thick washes of colour are built up to present the artist as the torpid cadaver, a self-presentation in line with his recurrent artistic portrayal of himself as a victim, a haunted and sad subject.Géricault’s illustrious painting depicts the plight of distressed survivors clinging to a raft after the historic sinking of the frigate Méduse on 2 July 1816. Kippenberger first encountered the monumental painting when his sculptural The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s Amerika was presented alongside the Romantic canvas in the 1996 exhibition Memento Metropolis in Copenhagen centred on the theme of catastrophe and civilisation. Seduced by the tender artistic genius of Géricault’s work, Kippenberger staged a photo-shoot in his Jennesdorf studio. His wife Elfie Semotan, under his instruction, produced gracefully frightful photographs of the artist in various dramatic poses mimicking the raft survivors and corpses. Taking these photographs as his source material, Kippenberger produced paintings, sketches and lithographs which formed a major group of self-portraits of the artist impersonating Géricault’s deserted men and their uniquely splayed bodies. Capturing the moment of rescue and peril in his homage to the masterpiece, Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa) Kippenberger’s cycle of works across various mediums is one of his largest groups of thematically related works. The paintings can be divided in two groups: the group of eighteen portraits - Kippenberger’s last series of portraits and the group of eight paintings representing fragments of an original drawing of the construction of the raft. Dissecting the ghostly figure, allowing his body to be assumed by the dark blue passage to the left of the composition and his hand to trail into the unknown, Kippenberger conveys the fragility of his expiring body. The artist’s fragmented figure, from the fragmented, multipartite series, underscores the artist’s tragically fragmented identity in his battle against mortality. In preparation for his finished canvas, Géricault had made numerous anatomical drawings and studies at the morgue. These studies of flayed limbs were photocopied and reworked by Kippenberger who embellished the limbs with legs, feet and high-heeled shoes, inspired by 1960s porn-auteur Elmer Batters. Framing the melancholic subject matter within his characteristic mockery and caustic humour, Kippenberger presents a ghostly portrait instilled with more spirit and play than the distressed theme may suggest. Never pious nor self-serious, the artist’s intricately finished expression in Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa) nevertheless instils the work with an air of fear. Almost cynical, yet simultaneously mystical, the series flourishes from the wreckage of Géricault’s raft. Continuing Kippenberger’s astounding legacy of self-portraits, the present work irreverently challenges the dictates of centuries of artistic self-presentation. In contrast to the heraldic poses of his earlier self-portraits, the present work shows a depleted artist toward the end of his life. Representing the culmination of Kippenberger’s strategies of appropriation, conceptions of persona and challenging of society, Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa) displays his conflicted relationship with the anachronistic ideal of art historical precedents as well as his tendency to sardonically assume them. With his monumental practice of portraiture serving as a provocative statement throughout his career, developing it in a way that did not enhance his image, the artist creates an illusion out of the concept of self-perception. Questioning the notion of contemporary identity and the function of the artist, Kippenberger comments on artistic creation and presents a reactionary approach toward iconic art historical tropes. Appropriating and placing himself within the traumatic imagery of the wreck of the naval ship Méduse, Kippenberger displays his curiosity toward the macabre. Having criticised Gerhard Richter’s Bader Meinhof paintings as kitsch, for Richter ‘did not live it’ (Rachel Kushner, quoted in The Raft of Medusa, exh. cat. Skarstedt Gallery, New York, 2014, p. 9), the question is raised as to the motivation and context behind Kippenberger’s assumption and portrayal of the harrowing event. Within The Raft of Medusa, the artist takes on the trauma of the event and confronts his own mortality, perhaps in eerie premonition of his premature death. Here, at the end of his life, his joking, his understanding of art history and his exhibitionism come to a head in the present self-portrait of a lifeless figure, eyes closed, mouth open, body inert. The staged poise and weary elegance of Kippenberger, whose irregular silhouette is outlined in sketchy strokes atop the washed ground, presents a peaceful reflection on the relationship of the body to death. Denying mortality whilst inevitably reaching toward it, Kippenberger ‘deploys regression to anticipate his own future reception but only while always courting the risk of going too far back, tipping into self-annihilation. The artist offers something other than cynical end-gaming, because he anticipates something other than the end of art: an end, that is to say, whose narrative by his desire will never be fully written, but instead, and by definition, will be rewritten time and again’ (Gisela Capitain, Regina Fiorito and Lisa Franzen, eds., Martin Kippenberger Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, volume 4: 1993 -1997, London, 2014, p. 20).Through his defining and narcissistic practice of self-portraits Kippenberger boldly challenges the prescribed dictates of artistic self-portrayal. This fervent revision of Géricault’s infamous 1818-1819 painting is a masterwork exemplary of the artist’s boldest achievements. Unmistakably presenting his own figure at the forefront of the composition, Kippenberger recalls the enduring artistic narrative of self-portraits and alter-egos which informs his revolutionary oeuvre. A sombre, enigmatic and simultaneously vibrant reckoning from the artist’s coda, the present masterwork emphasises the inextricable relationship between self-image, life and art for Kippenberger.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-06-27

Country-rock (wing-mirror)

Country-rock (wing-mirror) is distinctly Doig: nostalgic without being specifically reminiscent, entrenched in fabled Canadian roots, and characterised by his trademark otherworldliness. The rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway, or DVP, is a view immediately familiar to any Toronto resident. Situated within a small valley in the parklands that surround the Don River, the tunnel was built in 1961 at the same time as the mammoth six-lane highway that today forms a major artery in and out of the city. A view from the passenger seat of a car, Peter Doig’s mysterious landscape utterly encapsulates the familiar ennui of such peripheral spaces. In concert with the ever-expanding urban sprawl, these places represent a terra incognitaof concrete and shrubland. The rainbow underpass however is a jarring interruption of the cultural no-man’s land that borders the flow of speeding or gridlocked cars. It is a peculiar and mysterious entity: seen by everyone yet uninhabited, it is a decoration that could have been completed by anyone, on an underpass belonging to no one. This is what Doig looks for in his source material: his subject is not personal nostalgia, but the abstract phenomenon of dreams and the concept of nostalgia itself. Painted in 1999, Country-rock (wing-mirror) is one of Peter Doig’s most recognisable works. Replete with mystery and intrigue, this painting is definitive of the artist’s cinematic visual code; a melding of memory with imagination, landscape with dreamscape, timelessness with the inescapably present. Between 1998 and 2000 Doig would paint three monumental works centred on a vista of the Don Valley rainbow from the highway: one of these is presently in the collection of the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev while the other was chosen as the catalogue cover illustration for the artist’s seminal retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008 and remains in a European private collection. The present work is distinguished from the other two, however, as the only version to feature a glimpse of the car – via the intrusion of a wing-mirror in the lower left quadrant – from which our viewpoint originates. The spectator is thus a passenger on their way out of the sprawl and into the wild. Doig’s rainbow is a marker, a reminiscent signpost of the wistful space of summertime car journeys, and its title is the soundtrack, the background radio intermingled with the car engine’s drone. Seated next to the driver, the passenger is free to daydream and let thoughts runaway with the speeding traffic; watching a blur of cars and shifting landscape, the window becomes a television screen, a channel for the kind of dream-like trance that travelling induces. In Country-rock (wing-mirror) we are transported into that fantastical realm of reverie, a meditative in-between pregnant with suspense and anticipation, and resigned to the province of memory. Though only featured in three major works, there are countless drawings, watercolours and aquatints that replay, relive and revise this view from the DVP. Affined with the déjà vu-like status of the canoe for its countless reprisals – an engagement famously beginning with White Canoe (1990-91) and continuing through to 100 Years Ago (2001) – the rainbow tunnel is among the most powerfully evocative and universal signifiers of Doig’s practice. In 1972, just over ten years following its construction, the originally grey façade of this roadside underpass was over-painted with a rainbow. Boldly self-anointed the ‘Caretaker of Dreams’, Berg Johnson was 16 when he first decided to decorate the concrete tunnel that passes underneath a railway line next to the highway. Originally from Norway, Johnson was inspired by the memory of a friend named Sigrid, who died in a tragic car accident nearby. He often would complain to her that people in Toronto “never looked up”, and following her death, endeavoured to do something to “make people smile” (Berg Johnson quoted in: The Toronto Star, 3 November 2012, online resource). His first attempt to paint the tunnel was beset by drama. Having fashioned a support out of rope and lowered himself into position by the tunnel's entrance, he was caught unawares by an approaching train: the fast-moving vehicle cut through the rope and Johnson tumbled down the embankment, breaking his leg in the fall. A class from the nearby Don Mills Middle School helped Johnson to complete the mural shortly afterwards and ever since the DVP rainbow has remained a beloved and unofficial public monument. Following the first incarnation in North York, further rainbow arches began to appear on culverts and tunnels around the Greater Toronto Area. However the original, and the one depicted in Doig’s paintings, is the only one left remaining today. Though park authorities deemed the mural as vandalism and overpainted it in layers of grey, Johnson would determinedly return over 40 times within the space of 30 years to remove graffiti and restore his mural; a recurrence that would only end when he was issued a no trespassing order in 1994. Now officially sanctioned as public art, local groups have taken up maintenance of the site, covering up the graffiti which has appeared over time with fresh layers of brightly coloured paint. The most recent renovation was undertaken in 2012 with the help of a grant from the City of Toronto and the efforts of Mural Routes, a non-profit organisation that restores public art projects in urban environments. The freshly painted rainbow tunnel was officially ‘re-launched’ at the completion of the project in the presence of local dignitaries and in front of a crowd for whom the mural had come to represent a crucial moment of brightness on a weary commute: a celebrated local monument and repository for over forty years’ worth of memories. There is a pronounced folkloric dimension to this story that undoubtedly would have captured Doig’s imagination. The tale behind the origin of the rainbow – a story of transformation from concrete carbuncle to roadside symbol of hope – through Johnson’s 30-year maintenance of the site and his battle against park authorities, to the tunnel’s now official integration into the cultural landscape of Toronto, these details collectively spin a folksy yarn of legendary proportion. Indeed, Johnson’s whimsical tale truly of belongs to the realm of Canadian mythology. Undeniably redolent with nostalgia and hippy romanticism, this story is the perfect vehicle for Doig’s portrayal of Canada as a creative realm of free imagination. Intriguingly, Doig only began painting these geographically specific Canadian locations in earnest once he had settled in London in 1989. A heightened almost melancholic sense of dislocation from the Canadian landscape of his youth is thus tenable in his work from the 1990s and early 2000s. As though heralding a return of the repressed, cultural displacement emerges in these works as evocative nostalgia suffused with fantasy. It has been suggested that Doig’s pronounced fascination with nostalgia is a product of a nomadic life; a product of being born in Scotland, growing up in Canada and settling in London and Trinidad; a product of not really being ‘from’ anywhere. To this end, it is interesting to note the way he has painted Canadian images while living in London and Trinidad – as much attempts to form an identity in a new home, as to commemorate an old one. However, to make this assumption perhaps overly sentimentalises the work and suggests a personal link and a sense of specificity to the artist that is notably absent. Doig has registered his grievance at this narrow interpretation: “people have confused my paintings with being just about my own memories. Of course we cannot escape these. But I am more interested in the idea of memory itself” (Peter Doig quoted in: Richard Shiff, ‘Incidents’, Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Britain, Peter Doig, 2008, p. 21). The rainbow tunnel is a significant subject that would be charged with nostalgia for any resident of Toronto. Doig uses it however to conjure up a sense of general memory – of a fleeting snapshot filled with implication, but devoid of direct connotation. Indeed, this work focuses as much on memory and nostalgia itself, as on the reminiscences of a Canadian artist living in London. It is then through the transient highway setting that Doig is able to hone in on the act of dreamlike recollection. Country-rock (wing-mirror) is a prime example of the mood which Doig has forged in his painting: an ethereal but tense otherworldliness that suffuses his subjects with a muted numbness. In the planar composition, in the thin texture of the paintwork, and in the suggestion that their scenes may continue beyond the limitations of the canvas, Doig’s works are overtly dreamlike. They are surreal, if not in the semiotic psychoanalytical sense, then in that sense of a blanketed half-remembered detail. So often, when we experience a sense of misplaced familiarity, we attribute it to a dream. With this mundane and universally recognised highway setting, Doig imparts that same sense of familiarity into his work, and from it we make the same attribution: that this is not a work of memory, but rather a dream transposed. At once universally familiar and discordant, Doig’s picture bestows a strangely recognisable yet irretrievable past that compounds a reading of Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny. Congruent to this psychological state, there is an atmospheric disturbance present within the most powerful of Doig’s painted landscapes: fragments of recollected autobiography combined with hallucinatory fiction and the isolating feeling of suspended time confer an underlying threat, a case of jarring homeliness. In Country-rock (wing-mirror) a hint of trepidation is cloaked in jovial rainbow colours. The vibrant colours of the rainbow arch in Doig's painting appear superimposed against the green expanse of the verge; this culvert seems to weightlessly balance upon the white barrier that divides the tunnel from the road. Overhead telegraph wires pass through the tops of trees through which medium-rise buildings are just visible above the foliage. The deep blackness of the tunnel’s centre is enigmatic, at once suggestive of an entrance to another world whilst simultaneously evoking the threatening portent of an isolated and unlit tunnel in the midst of the urban sprawl. As the artist has explained: “A lot of the works deal with peripheral or marginal sites, places where the urban world meets the natural world. Where the urban elements almost become, literally, abstract devices. There a lot of ‘voids’ in the paintings. A lot of the paintings portray a sense of optimism that can often be read as being a little desperate, like the image of a rainbow painted around the entrance to an underpass” (Peter Doig in conversation with Matthew Higgs in: Adrian Searle, Kitty Scott, Catherine Grenier, Peter Doig London 2007, p. 139). In Doig's juxtaposition of the man-made and the natural, perhaps a comparison with J.M.W. Turner is apt. Where Turner painted hints of steam engines and railways within a sublime landscape setting, he highlighted the encroachment of the industrial age upon an Arcadian ideal. Analogously in Doig’s work, landscape becomes a reflective symbiosis of mythology and urban reality: screens of static distort our view, telegraph poles cut through foliage and, as in the present work, a concrete motorway courses through the constituent elements of a Romantic landscape. The rainbow in particular is a historical feature of traditional paintings of sublime nature. As prominent in works by Turner, John Constable and Caspar David Friedrich, the rainbow is an articulation of divine glory. Doig’s use of the trope however, in line with Gerhard Richter’s parodic photo-mediated treatment, evinces the marked post-modernism of his painterly enterprise. Utterly eclectic, Doig’s practice is thoroughly entrenched within our contemporary image and media-saturated moment. Akin to Richter’s aforementioned corpus of Photo Paintings, and bearing a strong affinity with the archival methodology of Francis Bacon, Doig’s studio based practice utilises a vast archive of images collated from newspapers, postcards, film and album covers, as well as a stock of his own video footage and photography. The composition for Country-rock (wing-mirror) is structurally anchored to the artist’s own photographs of the rainbow tunnel and is accordingly imbued with the kind of atmospheric glow that old photographs possess. Nonetheless, Doig was also thinking specifically about a particular Edward Hopper painting, Approaching a City (1946) in which a railway moves inexorably towards the depths of a curved tunnel. The converging perspective and slight arch of the railway tunnel set against a row of apartment buildings are all elements that find their parity in the present work, however it is the stark inference of isolation and bareness that chimes most resonantly. In this sense Doig was also greatly influenced by the work of Edvard Munch: the melancholic and tense atmosphere and dreamlike treatment of line and colour present within works such as Red Virginia Creeper (1898-1900) reveal parallels with the psychological stimulus for Doig’s own work. At once enmeshing elements derived from art history, autobiography and a contemporary experience of non-stop visual saturation, Doig taps into a collective virtual-memory. Significantly, this picture narrates a crucial turning point in Doig’s oeuvre. Moving away from the matrix of dense painterly layers that provide a videotic static to the earlier Canadian winter-landscapes, towards the end of the 1990s the works begin to possess an aqueous clarity and delicately diffusive quality. A catalytic masterpiece that illustrates this crucial transformation, this painting precedes comparable examples in major public institutions: Gastof zur Muldentalsperre (2000-02) on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, Music of the Future (2002-07) housed in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, and 100 Years Ago (2001) in the collection of the Pomipdou Centre, Paris. Rather than looking through screens of interlocking patterns and painterly veils, Country-rock (wing-mirror) and its counterparts exude a translucency and openness that in turn reinforces the hazy atmosphere of sepia-toned nostalgia and bleary-eyed remembrance of a dream. The triumph of Country-rock (wing-mirror) emphatically resides in its dreamscape synthesis of heady atmosphere, collective-memory and emotive nostalgia tinged and countered by minor discord. There is a visual suspension between the imaginary and the documentary, the autobiographically specific and culturally multifarious all of which flow within the ethereal reverie of this painting’s exquisite facture. In Country-rock (wing-mirror) Doig confers a fascinating and otherworldly symposium of the homely and peculiar. Signed, dated 1999 and variously inscribed on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2014-06-30

Robe jaune et robe arlequin (nezy et lydia)

Matisse’s sensuous Robe jaune et robe arlequin (Nezy et Lydia) depicts two of his favorite models: Lydia Delectoriskaya (see fig. 1) and Nezy Hamid Chawat (see fig. 2).  These two women – one a flaxen-haired Russian, the other a smoldering-eyed Mediterranean – personified the types of beauty that most captivated Matisse while he was living in the south of France.   While not much biographical information is available about the sultry Nezy, Lydia wrote her memoirs and her relationship with the artist is well known.  Beginning in 1935 this pre-Raphaelite beauty was a constant presence in the artist’s life, both posing for and assisting Matisse in his studio.  As undeniably seductive in the flesh as she was in his art, Lydia was the veritable superstar of Matisse’s late compositions.  Both she and Nezy appear in many of Matisse’s paintings of the 1930s and 1940s wearing vibrantly colored clothing – a wardrobe choice that engaged the painter’s fascination with ornately patterned fabric. In October 1939, Matisse and Lydia Delectorskaya went to Nice, returning to the grand rooms at the Hotel Regina which had become both the artist’s home and studio in the south of France. While there he painted a series of celebrated works depicting female figures in interior settings, and the present composition demonstrates its links to the ‘hard-edged’ line and decorative boldness of coloration that had characterized Matisse’s style since his work on designs for the Rockefeller fireplace decorations (1939) and the Monte Carlo Ballet production of Le rouge et le noir (1939). Matisse worked in this bold and decorative aesthetic in several two-figure compositions, such as Robe noir et robe violette of 1938 (fig. 3), a painting that anticipates the stylization of the present work. Having largely turned his back on the outside world, after late 1939 Matisse concentrated almost exclusively on capturing in his painting the interior of his rooms in the Hotel Regina. Like a musician composing variations on a given theme, Matisse constantly rearranged the pieces of furniture, decorative objects and plants in his rooms, frequently enlivened by the presence of models. Robe jaune et robe arlequin (Nezy et Lydia) can be compared to Deux personnages et le chien of 1937 for, although the latter was painted before the artist’s return to Nice, it shares with the present work the same combination of a yellow-clad figure and another in a boldly patterned dress and the same, predominantly green and brown tonalities in the background. The juxtaposition in Robe jaune et robe arlequin (Nezy et Lydia) of Lydia with her rich, red-blond hair and the more familiar dark-haired Mediterranean type normally favored by Matisse, embodied by the model Nezy Hamid Chawat, sets up a powerful dynamic in this work. This combination of contrasting elements creates a rhyme with the juxtaposition of the dresses, which – given the prominence that they are accorded in the title of the painting- seem ultimately to differentiate the two models, Nezy’s yellow dress mirroring Lydia’s blond hair and Lydia’s darker dress reflecting her companion’s black hair. Matisse’s coloristic intensity and joie de vivre during this period belies the suffering he was experiencing form his illness. The bold colors and delight in beauty abundant in the present work attest to the artist's abiding spirit and generosity of vision, despite the hardships he had been suffering, and are overwhelming evidence of the apotheosis of color and form he had reached at the time. Athough the artist dated this work 40, Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed that the artist painted this work in 1941, the same year as Robe jaune et robe écossaise (see fig. 4).  However, the style of this picture relates to compositions that Matisse completed the year before.  Describing a painting from 1940 – Ananas et Anemones – Alfred H. Barr refers to the ‘undifferentiated’ texture of the objects evident in the works from that period: "…there is luminosity but almost no sense of directional light; the forms are practically unmodelled… It is a demonstration of complete synthesis after fifty years of study and ceaseless research in which academic, impressionist, quasi-primitive, arbitrarily abstract and comparatively realistic styles were all put to the test."  These words pertain equally to Robe jaune et robe arlequin (Nezy et Lydia), a beautifully balanced and wonderfully rich work from the height of Mastisse’s powers as an artist. Figure 1  Lydia Delectorskaya in the "robe arlequin" in the artist's studio Figure 2  Henri Matisse drawing Nezy Hamid Chawat, 1942 Figure 3  Henri Matisse, Robe noir and robe violette 1938, oil on canvas, Galerie Beyeler, Basel Figure 4  Henri Matisse, Robe jaune et robe écossaise, 1941, oil on canvas, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou Signed and dated Henri Matisse 40 (lower left)

  • 2005-11-02

0 Through 9

“Some years ago Johns was asked at a party what he would do if he were not a painter. He said he would run a lending collection of paintings to tour the country by air. The distributing aircraft, he said, would be labeled: “The Picture Plane” (Leo Steinberg, “Jasper Johns: The First Seven Years of His Art” (1962) in Leo Steinberg, Other Critera: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art, New York, 1972, p. 52) On January 15th, 1961, Jasper Johns bought a house in Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Until 1966, the artist would reside in this secluded beach house from spring to fall every year. It is here that he would elaborate upon a relatively new motif which he had begun the year before. Continuing his fascination with and employment of numbers as neutral subject matter, Johns created a quasi-abstract pattern achieved through the layering of every Arabic numeral from zero to nine, one on top of each other. He titled all these works 0 Through 9 and, during the spring and summer of 1961, he concentrated on little else, making eight paintings and only one drawing, the present work. Seven of these paintings, as well as this drawing, would be exhibited together for Johns’ second exhibition at the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris (Jasper Johns: Peintures et Sculptures et Dessins et Lithos, June 13th – July 12th, 1961). Johns traveled abroad for the first time (accompanied by Leo Castelli) to attend the opening of this exhibition. Formerly in the celebrated collection of Robert and Ethel Scull, this monumental drawing is one of the most important works on paper executed by the artist. Certainly it is one of the largest he has ever made (its size approximates those of the 0 Through 9 paintings he executed in 1961) and, at the time, was the largest. The technical virtuosity exemplified on the sheet, as well the ‘exquisite irony’ Johns manipulates on and of the ‘subject’, mark the present work as a tour de force within Johns’ oeuvre and one of the most important drawings of the Twentieth Century. This magnificent work powerfully displays “Johns’ desire [to transform] … Abstract Expressionism into something solid and monastic and menacingly flat while retaining the broken space and discontinuous draftsmanship of expressionism”. (David Shapiro, Jasper Johns Drawings, New York, 1984, p. 19) The genesis of the 0 Through 9 paradigm begins with Johns’ early paintings of numerals. Johns made a small number of works displaying a single numeral executed in a creamy white encaustic over a newspaper collage, perhaps the most notable being Figure 5 (1955, Collection the artist). Following these small, single Figures  were canvases depicting rows and columns of numbers, at first in monochrome encaustic on vertical supports (as early as 1957) and then in kaleidoscopic bursts, as in Numbers in Color (1958-59, Buffalo, N.Y., Albright-Knox Art Gallery). Roberta Bernstein notes that “In 1958, Johns painted 0-9 (0 To 9) in white encaustic and collage. The numbers are arranged in two rows, 0 to 4 and 5 to 9, so that a horizontal field is made out of the smaller, vertically rectangular units. Each unit is handled like an individual Figure painting, but at the same time it is an inextricable part of the whole (like the grid modules in the Numbers)”. (Roberta Bernstein, Things the Mind Already Knows: Jasper Johns’ Painting and Sculptures, 1954-1974, Columbia University, Ph.D., 1975, pp. 49-50). As such, we see the numeral undergo several transformations, both as an individual unit, as a single group or clusters of groups. From the Figure to the Numbers to the 0 To 9 works, one can clearly see Johns’ ambition to record as many variations in execution of a predetermined pattern of an image, calling to mind his famous self instruction: “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.” The 0 Through 9 represent the zenith of this lengthy investigation (Bernstein catalogues fourteen Figure, ten Numbers and three 0-9 works executed between 1955 and 1961). Between 1960 and 1961, Johns made eleven 0 Through 9 paintings, one sculpture and two drawings, so that this series represents an equally important ‘subject’. The numerals are now zero ‘through’, as opposed to ‘to’ nine, “… to indicate the process of looking through space to see them, rather than reading them in a linear sequence. This arrangement creates an illusion of shallow depth since the numbers interlace and overlap … at the same time, they establish the flatness of the surface on which they are [executed]” (Ibid., pp. 50-51). Leo Steinberg notes that “… succession had given way to transparency and superposition … It accords well with his moral position that Johns should have hit on the idea of annulling the seniority rule among numbers.” (Leo Steinberg, “Jasper Johns: The First Seven Years of His Art” (1962) in Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art, New York, 1972, p. 52). 0 Through 9 works thus, literally, marry together all the previous aspects (and examples) of Johns’ employment of the numeral, allowing him to create Cubistic surfaces that voice a tension between plasticity and flatness. Of course, unlike Picasso or Braque, Johns does not use volumetric objects or beings to create illusions of layers, rather these signs are flat and identical in scale. No one number is privileged over the other: each one is present, and becomes part of the other as they dissolve into (and become) the 0 Through 9 diagram. The two drawings from this series seem to offer the viewer the ‘beginning’ and the ‘end’ of the story of the 0 Through 9. The charcoal on paper, from 1960 (Collection the artist) sees Johns superimpose each stenciled numeral, attaining the unembellished structure. Here, the numbers are neither too obvious nor completely lost, with the result being a design of interlacing lines that is predetermined by the subject (and mechanically executed by the artist). With the series of paintings, Johns developed the pictorial possibilities available to him with this design, concluding with the present drawing. The diagrammatic simplicity of the 1960 work gives way to an almost Baroque treatment of the ‘subject’; a dazzling peacock-like display of technical and stylistic virtuosity, but one which still returns to the same design. Bernstein makes the connection between Johns’ 0 Through 9 works and Monet’s Rouen Cathedral paintings. Both artists were interested in describing pictorial variation through medium, color and  texture, but both remained faithful to the same ‘subject’ and its predetermined paradigm (see Ibid., p. 52). In the annals of Johns’ emblems, the 0 Through 9 are perhaps some of his most complex. Underpinning the pattern achieved is the fact he has denied the validity of each separate number. They are no longer ‘readable’ and therefore their ‘meaning’ or ‘value’ has been eradicated and replaced with another set of meanings and values that are centered on his concern with surface. The objective thus gives way to the subjective; the rational is abandoned in favor of the sensational. What is privileged is the creation of a surface for meditation: one that the viewer can feel. Ironically, this surface is created from phenomena that do not exist in nature, nor can they be apprehended by the senses. Johns had spent the summer of 1961 reading the Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951) famous Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In it, Wittgenstein claimed that philosophical problems arose from misunderstandings of the logic of language. Johns shared Wittgenstein’s concern for logic, and also for displaying moments when logic broke down. The 0 Through 9 series displays Johns’ systematic examination of the ultimate breakdown of logic. By taking each separate number, and superimposing them, the logical, objective clarity of the number (and its meaning) gives way to the random, subjective ‘reading’ of the abstract design their superimposition creates. Just as he had done with the flag and the target, those ‘things the mind knows already’, Johns used conventional systems of numbers to generate surfaces of (for him) unusual abandon. This is most certainly the case with the present work, bringing to mind Mark Rosenthal’s comment that Johns’ images “… ceaselessly puzzle and perplex … And then, just as the inquiry reaches frustration, glimmers appear, not just of meaning, but of touching sensual beauty … This hardheaded art becomes an extraordinary tangle of raw emotion, dazzlingly complex and poetic content” (Mark Rosenthal, “The Art of Jasper Johns: Further Thoughts” in Exh. Cat., Houston, The Menil Collection, Jasper Johns: Drawings, January – May 2003, p. 8). The present drawing is a work made after both the original drawing (one might say the ‘manuscript’) and a number of paintings. In 1908 Picasso made a series of studies after his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, The Museum of Modern Art, New York). Johns, just like Picasso, is known for making drawings concerned with the same subject depicted in a recently executed major painting. Both artists are interested in exploring particular problems in visual representation generated by previous paintings. As Nan Rosenthal notes, “It would be more faithful to Johns’ modus operandi … to describe his characteristic activity with drawing as a form of deeply serious play, ‘postplay’ rather than foreplay …” (Nan Rosenthal, “Drawing as Rereading” in Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art [and traveling], The Drawings of Jasper Johns, 1990-91, p. 15). The 0 Through 9 series displays the close integration between all of Johns’ work in all categories. Johns’ “...characteristic procedure with drawing, of making highly finished works based on images he has previously painted, may be compared to his practice with painting, of depicting certain images in the primary colors and then in a form of grisaille …” (Ibid.). The relationship between the various disciplines is a very fluid one, and their effect within the picture plane is very much like having different voices perform in the same musical enterprise. We hear the same words, but we have a different experience. What is self evident is that Johns does not approach the discipline of drawing exclusively as a means of creating ideas to execute in his paintings. The mantra of  “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it” can be connected to Johns’ process of making drawings after paintings. Doing something to an image, of course, is about selection; about choosing a medium and how one manipulates it and these decisions to do ‘something’, and then ‘something else’ on the sheet are beautifully delineated in the present work. Drawings provide “new thoughts” for the ‘subject’ and are thus often more playful, and this is clearly the case with the 0 Through 9 series. No painting displays the same planar fragmentation, tonal or textural modulation and sheer technical variety as one finds in the present drawing. Rosenthal notes that “… Johns has placed a system of seemingly abstract marks on the surface in such a way that his virtuosity with materials and the lushness of the pattern unite to emphasize the presence of his hand” (Rosenthal, p. 19). No signifying system is privileged – often systems are juxtaposed; used for several simultaneous purposes … “Thus the experience of “reading” a work by Johns is like hearing and understanding several languages spoken simultaneously” (Op. Cit., p. 19). Such a variegation of different styles, techniques and systems within the same composition comes out of Cubism and Surrealism. From Cubism, Johns took the principle that a means of representation may signify in different ways at different times. Thus, this 0 Through 9 can be seen juxtaposing a number of diverse styles, exploiting their individual properties as they are seen in contrast with one another. Here, the artist is extremely complex with his technical explorations. Johns is consciously searching to discover every possible nuance of what the medium is capable of, so much so that he achieves an individual vocabulary within that medium. Here, charcoal is primarily employed; it moves around the paper easily, lending fluidity to the composition; it is easily managed, and its physical manipulation by the artist on the sheet lends the surface its gradations of tone and, thus, volume. Johns has also employed pastel – a transient, crumbly material, one that is readily rubbed – and here he has used it to engender a three-dimensional quality to the design. What immediately strikes the viewer with this 0 Through 9 is the extraordinary variety of techniques employed by the artist, and the magnificent handling of his chosen medium. The predetermined design of the numbers has been stenciled onto the paper; wide passages of the composition, particularly in the open areas of the lower half of the sheet, reveal where the artist has rubbed charcoal over the sheet against the studio wall, in the process imprinting the texture of that surface. Flurries of intense hatching dominate the upper left quadrant of the sheet, serving to disguise the identity of certain numbers, yet pushing the stenciled network of the 0 Through 9 design out of the pictorial plane. Dryer areas of softer rubbing are juxtaposed with this section, as if offering a visual relief from the intensity of that application. Some of the delineation is crisp; other areas more smudged. Washy, charcoal waves sometimes reach a crescendo, and sometimes gently pass by. There is such extraordinary motion within the composition, achieved because Johns’ drawing is a very physical account of his actions as a mark maker. Such actions “… give him entry into a work, just as his various drawing systems establish a place from which to move.” (Ruth E. Fine, “Making Marks” in Exh. Cat., The Drawings of Jasper Johns, Op. Cit., p. 60). The material and the variation of its mode of representation becomes one of the subjects of the work itself. Fine notes that  “The nature of mark-making carries as much meaning as his iconography, and functions quite specifically as metaphor” (Ibid,. p. 53). This extraordinary drawing seems to celebrate the process of making as much as the dynamic of looking.  Johns himself suggests this when he noted that “… the mind can work in such a way that the image and technique come as one thought, or possibly one might say there is no thought. One works without thinking how to work.” (Johns in Exh. Cat., Basel, Kunstmuseum, Jasper Johns Working Proofs, 1979, p. 64). Drawing for Johns is an intrinsic part of his artistic endeavor. It allows him the opportunity to think or, better, ‘unthink’. What he draws are not objects or things but something more essential than that: Signs or streams of Signification that seem, to all but a few, impossible to put into form. Through this bravura display of graphic capacity and through his formidable intellectual powers, we are left with a drawing that is such a work. 0 Through 9 is a drawing that does not organize, so much as it dislocates. It forces its viewer to look at the surface, to engage completely with it, and to make up their own mind as to what it ‘means’. Yet, for all this intellectual thrust, there is much in this drawing that allows the eye to wander and simply feel the sensations created on the surface. Passages appear like fifteenth-century Grisailles; others are akin to Picasso’s Analytic Cubism. The varying degrees of touch are all beautifully orchestrated to work as a whole. What we are left with is a puzzling, curious ‘subject’ and the most extraordinary display of graphic ability that both intrigues the mind and satiates the eye.

  • 2004-11-09

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