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Rolex When an original Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona is offered for sale, collectors take notice. To own one is a dream for so many. This absolutely fresh to the market watch is the “Paul Newman” Daytona after which all others came second. Likely purchased in 1968, Joanne Woodward chose this reference 6239 fitted with an ‘exotic’ dial, as a gift for Paul Newman as his passion for motorsport was just beginning. Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Newman was seen wearing several generations of Daytona models. This is the first and only ‘exotic’ dial Daytona he wore, making it the ultimate Rolex Daytona wristwatch. This wristwatch has been worn by Paul Newman lovingly over the years, but also well preserved by the consignor, James Cox. The case retains its original proportions, lines, and edges, and in our view, has never been polished. The wonderful, “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME” engraving on the case back is perfectly crisp and completely intact.Likely to have been originally purchased at Tiffany & Co. in New York, an inventory number possibly engraved by the luxury retailer is found on the underside of the left lug. The dial has developed a creamy, warm patina that is consistent with its age. The luminous hour markers have also aged charismatically along with the luminous hands – all completely original and intact. It comes accompanied with a signed letter written by Paul Newman’s daughter, Nell Newman, documenting its provenance and her support of its sale. The Daytona is a model that will forever be associated with Paul Newman, made famous by him thanks to this very timepiece. The present lot therefore presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own one of the most mythical, most important, and most recognizable watches of the 20th century. It’s now being sold for the first time since leaving the inner circle of the Newman family, nearly 50 years after its purchase by Joanne Woodward. We are thrilled to offer it here, with a portion of the proceeds going to The Nell Newman Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation, in support of Paul Newman’s philanthropic values. Its impeccable provenance, incredible “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME” engraving from Joanne Woodward, and wonderful original condition make Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” Daytona one of the world’s most precious – and most priceless – timepieces. Ever.

  • 2017-10-26

Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51)

Ever since its legendary exhibition in Iris Clert’s ‘forest of sponges’ exhibition in Paris in 1959, Yves Klein’s exquisite Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51) has represented the pinnacle of the artist’s creative innovation. It is perfectly archetypal of the artist’s legendary Rélief éponge corpus and embodies an artistic event beyond mere painting or sculpture; epitomizing the act of Klein’s genius. It was first owned by Lucio Fontana, the Italian luminary who is without question one of the pre-eminent, most revered pioneers of twentieth century abstraction. Fontana, in an expression representative of his extreme admiration of Klein, owned five works by Klein, each from Klein’s most significant, distinct series. Both the visual effect and physical presence of RE 51 are magnificently unique and impossible to reproduce adequately. The powdery, velvet blue surface continually evolves according to the play of light across the spectacularly articulated surface. While the sponges and pebbles afford a beautiful compositional structure, their arrangement also reinforces the effect of the monochrome. Indeed, the sheer power of the IKB pigment unifies the whole work to such a degree that the exact topography of the surface is not always discernible and the spellbinding blue intermittently overcomes silhouette and contour. The labyrinths of minute spaces within the sponges create multifaceted schemas of light and shadow and the extraordinary potency of Klein’s blue seems to fill these void matrices with a coloristic energy independent of the physical forms. Thus while the sponge bodies loom towards us, the myriad recesses draw our world into the infinity of Klein’s blue epoch. Klein’s meteoric career—ended barely before it had truly begun—was devoted to a relentless search for an immaterial world beyond our own. To this end he developed modes of expression that fused together a sweeping array of profoundly held interests in aesthetics, nature and mysticism. Among these artistic dialects the Rélief éponges issue the most effective manifestation of the complex mysteries that filled the artist’s life. Forging the kernel of Klein’s epoch of immateriality, these unreal masterworks deliver the crescendo promised by the IKB, gold and rose Monochromes; and bring to life the enigmatic shadows of the Anthropométries. While the Monochromes invite the viewer into Klein’s world, this Rélief éponge advances out into the world of the viewer; whereas the Anthropométries narrate the trace of transient human presence, RE 51 absorbs ancient creatures into the depths of its fathomless and immaterial blue. Although it may be indicative of some alien planetary landscape or the deepest ocean bed, the topography of RE 51 encapsulates the artist’s pure concept of an ethereal and intangible state. Having first observed the powerful chromatic effect of pure powdered pigment while in an art supply shop in London in 1949, through the 1950s Klein experimented with various fusions of asphalt, plaster, cement, sand, tar and other materials that he acquired from Edouard Adam, a chemicals and art supplies retailer in Montparnasse. From these trials he developed the legendary International Klein Blue, a synthetic medium that included the transparent binder Rhodopas M 60 A, which preserved the pigment as if it were still pure powder. It was also in Adam's shop where Klein discovered sponges in 1956, sourced from Greece and Tunisia, which the artist first used to apply paint to his surface before being struck by the extraordinary aesthetic of soaking them in IKB. As aquatic animals, sponges have evolved over hundreds of millions of years into bodies of maximum surface area and exceptional absorption qualities in order to extract food and oxygen as efficiently as possible from the constant flow of water passing through them. As a living being the shape of a sponge changes, but extracted from its life-support of plankton-filled seawater it is frozen in its final, ultimate form. In the present work these outstanding features of natural selection are profusely drenched in Klein’s blue, resulting in an organic architecture of immeasurable chromatic depth. From his earliest experiments with monochromes Klein was gripped by sculptural possibilities: curved edges emphasized dimensions beyond the flat rectilinear canvas and in his first IKB exhibitions the works were projected away from the hanging wall so as to be suspended in space. This exploration into the prospects of hanging sculpture finds its apogee in the Rélief éponge corpus where the three-dimensional elements project forward into the space of the viewer. Klein was fascinated by the work of Gaston Bachelard, the French philosopher of Air and Dreams, and by the Zen philosophy of spiritual and physical harmony that he first encountered during his training as a judo-ka in Yokohama in 1952. Indeed, the placement of the sponges in RE 51 surely drew upon Klein’s memory of the Zen gardens he had visited in Kyoto. In the Ryoan temple garden there are five groups of stones placed within a rectangle of raked gravel, presenting an order that appears entirely natural as if the stones had grown in place. The fact that the sponge reliefs incorporated actual elements of nature reinforces the parallel with the gardens of Kyoto. Yves Klein’s artistic contribution to contemporary culture is most frequently described as visionary, and the scope of his artistic innovations was utterly without precedent. The works he left behind are testament to a genius that perceived things others could not. RE 51 expedites the artist’s career-long investigation into how to communicate these concepts through artistic means, and because his language is so utterly unlike any other and precipitates a unique response in each individual spectator, this profoundly engaging and immensely beautiful work will always transcend and surpass our expectations of what art can achieve. Signed and dated 59 on the reverse

  • 2014-05-13

Abstraktes Bild

“There are few artists in the contemporary art world whose work has a presence like that of Gerhard Richter's.” Kasper König and Chris Dercon, in Ulrich Wilmes, Ed., Gerhard Richter; Large Abstracts, Cologne and Munich, 2009 "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself" The artist interviewed in 1990, in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, Eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Verlag Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36 A majestic panorama of richly variegated paint cresting across a vast canvas, Abstraktes Bild comprises the epitome of Gerhard Richter’s astoundingly powerful art of abstraction. Simultaneously concealing and revealing spectacular accents of red, yellow and blue primaries, a sublime silvery-gray veil of lusciously viscous oil paint flows laterally across the canvas like a tide coursing across the geological strata of an ancient cliff face. According to the artist’s self-determined catalogue raisonné, this work was numbered as his first painting of 1990, the chronological apex of the 1988 to 1992 period when his creation of monumental essays in abstraction reached new heights. Indeed, at the start of a new decade and perhaps more than any single other, this moment witnessed his mastery of the long, hard-edged spatula ‘squeegee’ as the central instrument of his technical practice. The most comparable body of work immediately to precede this painting was the 1989 cycle of four abstract paintings entitled Eis, now a highly-prized component in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago, which, though on canvases smaller in scale than the present work, stand as direct precursor for Abstraktes Bild. The scale of this work is exceptional and it is one of only eight paintings created in 1990 to exceed two and a half meters in height, with the others today housed in prestigious collections including the Tate (number 726); the Böckmann Collection, Berlin at Kunsthalle Hamburg (727); and The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (734). Works of this scale and quality are remarkably rare (only three paintings of this scale and format from the 1988-1992 period have ever before appeared at auction) and the appearance of Abstraktes Bild today, after more than twenty years in the same private collection is a major event. The vast and intensely beautiful chromatic expanse of Abstraktes Bild stands as one of the most elegant and fully resolved exemplars of Richter's epic corpus. It embodies the fully-formed mature aesthetic of the artist's abstract vision, and is very much a paragon of "the compositionally complex, heavily impastoed and richly polychromatic Abstract Paintings" described by Roald Nasgaard (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 106)  Seeping layers of brilliantly charged hues are dramatically scattered across the canvas, alternately coalescing and dissolving to defy conventional color patterns. Accumulations of innumerable streaking strata of lustrous oil paint forge a sublime symphony of dark and light blue-grey tracts punctuated by vibrant reds, yellows, blues and greens. This coloristic harmony and lyrical resonance broadcast an evocative atmosphere of density and chaos, while the interplay of hues and the complex smattering of thick impasto invite the viewer to look both at and through the laminas of material. We become immersed in color and movement as if confronting a natural phenomenon of the sea or sky. Absorbed by the vast surface area of the canvas, the experience is evocative of confronting a monolithic masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism by artists such as Rothko or Pollock. The result of Richter's remarkable technical aptitude, which has led to his reputation as one of the outstanding painters of our era, this work is testament to his ceaseless technical explorations in the field of abstraction and to his profoundly intellectual interrogation of the nature of images and perception. Although the title Abstraktes Bild that Richter has given to the impressive works he has produced since the 1980s is typically translated as 'Abstract Painting', the curator Robert Storr restores the meaning of Bild as 'picture', implying something beyond mere painting, and as this "reinforces the impression...of shoals, riptides, and cresting waves amid the paintings' scraped and layered pigments" (in: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. XIII)  Here tracts of color are dragged across the canvas using the squeegee, so that the various strains of malleable, semi-liquid pigment suspended in oil are fused together and smudged first into the canvas, and then layered on top of each other as the paint strata accumulate. The painting undergoes multiple variations in which each new accretion brings color and textural juxtapositions until they are completed, as Richter himself declares, "there is no more that I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with." (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108)  This extensive process facilitates multiple facets of creativity: Abstraktes Bild becomes truly the sum of Richter's wide-ranging innovation. Furthermore, Richter's technique affords an element of chance that is necessary to facilitate the artistic ideology of the abstract works. As the artist has himself explained, "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself." (the artist interviewed in 1990, in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36)  With the repeated synthesis of chance being a defining trait of its execution, the painterly triumph of the present work becomes independent of the artist and acquires its own inimitable and autonomous individuality. Gerhard Richter's artistic contribution is internationally considered within the highest tier of this era; his inimitably diverse canon evidencing more than five decades of philosophical enquiry into the core natures of perception and cognition. Indeed, with its poignant critical reflections and groundbreaking advancements, it is undeniable that his output has opened up a wealth of possibilities for the future course of Art History. Since the early 1960s he has considered all genres of painting, delving into and pushing the boundaries of theoretical and aesthetic levels of understanding whilst exploring and challenging the fundamentals of their development. However, his extraordinary odyssey into the realm of abstract painting is often regarded as the culmination of his artistic and conceptual enquiries into the foundations of visual understanding. After decades of exploring the role of painting in relation to competing visual cultures; film and photography; and even painting itself, the emergence of the Abstraktes Bild stands as the crowning achievement of his oeuvre. As Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has highlighted, and as there can be absolutely no doubt, Richter's position within the canon of abstraction is one of “incontrovertible centrality.” (Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Gerhard Richter Large Abstracts, 2009, p. 9) In sum, Abstraktes Bild beautifully encapsulates Richter's theory that with abstraction "there is no order, everything is dissolved, more revolutionary, anarchistic" (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108)  As a collective corpus, the Abstraktes Bilder are destined to have a unique identity whereby the total deconstruction of perception - dismantling themes of representation, illusion, communication - becomes a sublime chaos. As a paradigm of this oeuvre the present work communes a subjective relationship with the viewer and becomes itself experience rather than object. Here Richter deconstructs the concept that abstraction demands logical framework, thereby advancing the pioneering achievements of Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian, and continuing the line of enquiry instituted by the Abstract Expressionists by delivering a visual experience of phenomenal psychological resonance. In the words of Nasgaard, "The character of the Abstract Paintings is not their resolution but the dispersal of their elements, their coexisting contradictory expressions and moods, their opposition of promises and denials. They are complex visual events, suspended in interrogation, and fictive models for that reality which escapes direct address, eludes description and conceptualization, but resides inarticulate in our experience" (Roald Nasgaard, Op. Cit., p. 110) Signed, dated 1990 and numbered 712 on the reverse

  • 2012-11-14


La plage à trouville

La Plage à Trouville is an important and fascinating early example of Monet's beach scenes, a subject that is now recognised as an icon of the Impressionist movement. With its evanescent effects of light and colour, and a lively, atmospheric depiction of daily life at a fashionable seaside resort, it represents a key moment in Monet's career and in the development of his Impressionist style. The present work was recently included in the travelling exhibition Impressionists by the Sea, which opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last summer. Its featuring on the cover of the exhibition catalogue is not only a testament to its importance in Monet's œuvre, but also proclaims it as an emblem of Impressionism. La Plage à Trouville was painted in the summer of 1870, when the artist took his new wife Camille and their son Jean to Trouville (fig. 1) on the Normandy coast to spend the summer months there. By the second half of the nineteenth century Trouville had become a fashionable summer retreat for the French aristocracy, and their colourful costumes provided a subject-matter to a number of painters, most notably Boudin, who returned there throughout his career. Boudin and his wife were also spending the summer of 1870 at Trouville, and the two artists often painted together en plein air, while Camille and Madame Boudin would relax, sunbathe and read. Boudin's interest in capturing the fleeting effects of sunlight on sumptuous fabrics and the effect of a windy day on the flowing garments (fig. 2) was to have a profound influence on Impressionist artists. Indeed, 'Monet later acknowledged his debt to Boudin for introducing him to this peinture claire as a means of representing the effects of bright daylight' (J. House in Impressionists by the Sea (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 132). The paintings Monet executed throughout the summer at Trouville depict either a wide stretch of the beach populated by a number of figures, as in the present work, or the elegantly dressed Camille on the beach (fig. 3). The three major achievements of Monet's summer at Trouville are the present work, its sister-painting La Plage à Trouville, now in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (fig. 4) and L'Hôtel des Roches Noires, à Trouville, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (fig. 5). These three pictures mark a turning-point in the artist's career, when he started using a brighter palette and focusing on the effects of light. Although he had been rejected from the Salon only months before, while his fellow artists Manet, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and others had all been accepted, the present work shows Monet in a seemingly optimistic mood, employing vivid colours and a daring compositional arrangement. The scene is characterised by its expansive sweep of beach, with the sea on the left, and the promenade on the right lined by the red-bricked, neo-Gothic grandeur of the Hôtel des Roches Noires. The tricolors bring an aura of festivity to the composition and are echoed in the billowing sails of the boats and dinghies in the bay. The present painting is the larger of the two closely related horizontal versions of this view of Trouville. The Wadsworth Atheneum version (fig. 4) depicts the beach at low tide, with a boardwalk laid out on the margins of the beach for the ladies with their parasols and paramours. In the present work, by contrast, the tide has encroached upon the beach, leaving only a confined area of sand for the strollers to occupy. Both paintings must have been created at similar times of day, though, as the shadow that the green steps leading down to the beach cast is the same in both works. The flags and the sailing boats in the present painting, serve to enliven the present version of the scene still further. John House wrote about the present work in relation to its sister-painting in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art: 'These two canvases form a clear pair, one showing the beach at low tide with the boardwalk of planks laid out at the top of the beach, the other the scene at high tide with the boardwalk removed. However [...] there is no evidence that Monet exhibited the two pictures together, despite their evidently complementary subjects. Monet's viewpoint in the two canvases is identical, but the more extended, horizontal format of [the present work] emphasises the expanse of the beach [...]. In [the Wadsworth Atheneum picture] the sea is relegated to the distance, and appears wholly placid and passive. By contrast, in [the present work] the waves encroach close to the promenading figures, though only the little dark figure of a child beyond the foreground couple seems to be taking any notice of them' (ibid., p. 132). Almost ten years after this work was painted, Marcel Proust began to spend his teenage years at the Hôtel des Roches Noires, taken there by his grandmother, and later recalled 'those seaside holidays when grandmother and I, lost in one another, walked battling the wind and talking' (quoted in G. D. Painter, Marcel Proust: A Biography, New York, 1959, vol. I, p. 83, translated from the French). The author was later to fictionalise his yearly visits to Trouville in A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur, in which the town becomes Balbec and the Hôtel des Roches Noires becomes Grand Hôtel de Balbec. Proust writes in A la recherche du temps perdu: 'I could see, on the first evening, the waves, the azure mountain ranges of the sea, its glaciers and its cataracts, its elevation and its careless majesty – merely upon smelling for the first time after so long an interval, as I washed my hands, that particular odour of the over-scented soaps of the Grand Hotel' (Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu, translated from the French). This passage, so redolent of Proust's seaside experiences at Trouville, reflects in words the conjuring power that Monet achieves in paint in La Plage à Trouville. The blustery summer breeze is evoked in the bulging sails and the pennants blowing across the promenade. The wide perspective with which the artist handles the scene and the way in which the figures at the far end of the beach grow into larger figures walking towards the viewer in the middle distance, with their walking canes and parasols and their sun hats and Sunday best, invites the viewer into the scene. An image of leisure and luxury, of the pleasure of a fashionable seaside resort, the work is an important testament of its era. At the same time, it shows the painter's quintessential relish for sunshine, sand and sea, masterfully rendered in this composition that can be regarded as one of the most iconic images of Impressionism. Fig. 1, The beach at Trouville, 1860 Fig. 2, Eugène Boudin, La Plage de Trouville, 1863, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford Fig. 3,  Claude Monet, La Plage à Trouville, 1870, oil on canvas, The National Gallery, London Fig. 4, Claude Monet, La Plage à Trouville, 1870, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford Fig. 5, Claude Monet, L'Hôtel des Roches noires, à Trouville, 1870, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris Signed Claude Monet (lower left)

  • 2006-11-07

No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue Over Yellow on Gray)

Since my pictures are large, colorful and unframed, and since museum walls are usually immense and formidable, there is the danger that the pictures relate themselves as decorative areas to the walls. This would be a distortion of their meaning, since the pictures are intimate and intense, and are the opposite of what is decorative. (Mark Rothko, 1954) Mark Rothko is universally regarded as one of the preeminent artists of his generation; closely identified with the New York School, his art, like Jackson Pollock’s and Willem de Kooning’s, remains one of the most celebrated dialects of the collective Abstract Expressionist language. For nearly half a century, Rothko developed an impassioned form of abstract painting; one that transformed painted color into emotive experience. The 1940s saw him adopt a biomorphic style close to that of his fellow Abstract Expressionist, Arshile Gorky. Gradually, Rothko became increasingly reductive, paying rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth and composition. From the early 1950s, until his death in 1970, Rothko made a series of works in which any suggestion of figuration was abandoned in favor of superimposed rectangular shapes of color, with cloudy edges, that possessed an evanescence and incandescence unique to his art. Bathed in a painterly mist, these indeterminate forms project their hues out of the pictorial space, inviting the viewer to contemplate the space he has created, leading them to extreme states of feeling. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is a seminal example of Rothko’s enterprise. Executed in 1954, a time many consider the zenith of Rothko’s creative powers, the present work displays Rothko’s elimination of all elements of Surrealism or mythic imagery, providing us with a nonobjective composition of amorphous forms for which the artist is so championed – here, three soft-edged, luminescent rectangles of lemony yellow, milky white and ultramarine blue stacked weightlessly on top of one another, floating horizontally against a gray ground. The effect, as in all his work, but especially with this particular painting, is utterly mesmerizing. In the spring of 1954, Rothko left the Betty Parsons Gallery and joined Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning at the Sidney Janis Gallery. In April 1954, Katherine Kuh, the Curator of Modern Painting and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, approached Rothko and proposed that he inaugurate a series of solo exhibitions at the Art Institute. His exhibition, Recent Paintings by Mark Rothko, held in Chicago from October 18th to December 31st in the Gallery of Art Interpretation at the Art Institute, was the first one-man show Rothko had received at a major American museum. Kuh and Rothko exchanged a number of letters about his work, and this correspondence was intended to be used as the basis of a pamphlet to accompany the show. The brochure was never produced, however, as Rothko did not want to guide the viewer’s experience of his work (“While on the surface this may seem an obliging and helpful thing to do, the real result is the paralysis of the mind and the imagination” Mark Rothko’s letter to Katherine Kuh, July 14th, 1954). Crucially, Rothko was very involved in the selection of works for this important exhibition and, as David Anfam notes, “… much effort went into the selection and its arrangement. Rothko used number-titles for all the pictures, which were hung around three walls (the east one had windows), on both sides of a free-standing partition and, in one case, suspended from the ceiling of an off-white room measuring 50 [by] 41 ½ feet”. (David Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 2001, p. 72). Rothko even prescribed the color of the walls: ‘slightly off-white’, as Katherine Kuh wrote in her letter to Rothko on July 8th, 1954. Only eight canvases were selected by Rothko and Kuh: two works from 1951; one from 1952; two from 1953 and three paintings from 1954. All were insured by the Art Institute whilst on exhibition; the present work for $2,000. Four of these works now grace the walls of the Tehran Museum of Art; The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. One painting belongs to the artist’s son; another to his daughter. Only the present work and one other from this exhibition remain in private, anonymous collections. David Anfam conjectures that the ensemble of these eight paintings “… must have been unforgettable: an ambience not unlike what John Elderfield describes with regard to Symbolist aesthetics as ‘disembodied light in an unlocatable space’ – and, in the words of the press release (which perhaps contains leads from Rothko himself transmitted via Kuh), one that ‘avoids the traditional center of interest, always stressing instead the flux and flow of light and color’.” (Ibid.) Many of the works were conspicuously tall and narrow (the present work included) serving to stress an upright, anthropomorphic aspect to their display. Anfam suggests that the keynote to this exhibition was a ‘magisterial somberness’, evident in the dark plum-black of No. 4 (1953, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) or the midnight-green of No. 7 (1953, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C.). This exhibition was the first to powerfully speak of Rothko’s move away from a sunny spectrum of reds, yellows and oranges, to weighty, darker, more challenging hues. Anfam notes that even “… the light fields of No. 6 [the present work] were in fact locked within a marginal black aureole”. (Op. Cit., p. 73). This shift in palette and mood is linked to Rothko’s desire to envelop his viewer with his art; to provide not an object in space, but the very space itself. Indeed, Rothko asked Kuh in a letter dated 25th September, 1954 to ensure that his larger pictures be installed in such a way “… so that they must be first encountered at close quarters, so that the first experience is to be within the picture.” (see Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Mark Rothko, 1998, p. 345). Kuh, in an earlier letter on July 18th, 1954, wrote “I think what happens to me when I am enjoying your paintings is less a thinking [her underline] than a feeling process. I seem to enter them – not just be looking at them.” As such, this famous exhibition and the extraordinary paintings included in it wonderfully reveal the conscious expansion of size, scale and seriousness made by Rothko with his art at this crucial juncture in his career. Rothko’s absolute authority over color, surface, texture and composition was never more commanding than in his paintings from the 1950’s. This was a decade in which Rothko created some of the most important, beautiful and tragic images of the Twentieth Century. Experimentation in the balance of these elements, and the proportion of weight or suspension given to each cloudy field of color, created a majestic series of sensual, enigmatic masterpieces of gripping presence. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is amongst the most sensational of them all. This superlative painting reverberates, optically and intellectually; engaging us with the artist’s desire to create a pictorial language that went beyond the very boundaries of painting, encompassing a transcendent, deeply affecting relationship between the viewer and the object. Rothko’s challenge, to both himself and his audience, was to engage not only the eye, but also the mind and even the spirit. Seeking to evoke Edmund Burke’s notion of the ‘Sublime State’ - one of vastness, oneness and infinity - Rothko hoped to achieve in his painting what he called a moment of clarity: “The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea; and the idea and the observer … To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.” (Mark Rothko, “Statement on his Attitude in Painting”, The Tiger’s Eye, 1949). The reductive power of Rothko’s canvases, built upon the elimination of line in favor of a blurred demarcation of color forms, is powerfully felt in the present work. Here, veils of rich blue, opalescent white and citrus yellow are layered on top of a deep gray ground, stretched to the perimeter of the canvas, allowing the ground to frame the dazzling interaction of color within. Such color juxtapositions achieve an alchemy of optical mystery, with the evanescent vapors of blue, yellow and white evoking a myriad of contradictory responses. Here, a sense of illuminating light contrasts with the artist’s achieved obscurity; within the apparently monolithic voids, a sense of organic presence prevails. To come back to Edmund Burke, “… extreme light … obliterates all objects, so as in its effects exactly to resemble darkness”. In the same paradoxical manner, Rothko’s saturated colors transcend above and beyond the decorative, into the metaphysical realm and the tragic Void. The breathtaking quality of the oscillating color forms has always been the most accessible and the most seductive element of Rothko’s expression. Katherine Kuh considered Rothko’s paintings to have “… a kind of ecstasy of color” (letter to Rothko, July 18th, 1954). We see here a communion of color that unites each and every tone together into a unified whole. The impact of color, here layers of yellow, white and blue thrust to the front of the picture plane by the charcoal frame surrounding them, is immediate. It is striking, almost physical at first glance. Interestingly, Rothko objected to any simplistic view of vibrant color. Pulsating yellows and whites bounce with life and joy and yet, ironically, there is a deeper, more somber tone (lurking in the blues and grays) which one begins to feel the more time one spends in front of the picture. The chromatic contrasts he presents us with display a dissonance that is both ethereal and disquieting. Another formal contradiction lies in the monumentality of Rothko’s canvases. These large format surfaces surprisingly allow for the most intimate experience between the viewer and the object. Yet, for all of that, one still feels that one is experiencing the Void, is actually ‘in’ the painting and that the artist has come close to the ‘visual infinite’. Rothko’s complex relationship with color was shaped by the influence of Henri Matisse’s pure, flat color (he would paint Homage To Matisse in 1954 [The Edward R. Broida Trust]) and the thin veils of flat color in his friend Milton Avery’s work. Rothko’s technique allowed him to create these dazzling surfaces. Oil paint seems to have been soaked into the present work, achieving a finish akin to the effects of watercolor bleeding into paper. Rothko fleshes out his color bands with feathery, liquid brushstrokes that further define these passages as densely painted areas. Such brushwork serves to establish the amorphous, evanescent forms that appear to float on top of each other. It is as if we witness a miasma of form and color that has been extracted from some primordial soup. Rothko’s rectangular shapes hover on the subtly diffused canvas, lending each shape a halo-like effect that serves to simultaneously radiate out and recede in to the picture plane. A combination of opaque and translucent layers of paint come together to continually add and subtract the density of painted ‘weight’ on the support, further engendering a sense of movement within the abstract composition. A beautiful equilibrium between colors is achieved and one that chimes perfectly with the shape of the canvas. The artist has calibrated these color fields in relation to the proportions of the internal forms and the overall scale of the canvas. White and yellow fizzes against the gray ground, and is anchored by the dark blue field below it. Color literally moves, and its movement is articulated not by the artist's brush, but by our ocular reception of the painting. We move it around because we are drawn in so deeply by its scale and by the sensitivity of its painted surface. A shimmer prevails overall, one that makes the velvety tones of the surface literally breathe. No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray) is an astonishing example of Mark Rothko’s theories on painting and his craft. The emphasis on rich color heightens our senses, yet this joyous chromatic celebration is underpinned by his ability to create a temporal and spatial vacuum which draws the viewer in, forcing them to contemplate the work and themselves in a quasi-spiritual manner. This achievement draws Rothko’s work far away from the boundaries of mere decoration, and subsequently enhances the powerful concept at play here. We are not presented with an empty pattern, merely to satiate the eye, but rather with a portal into another dimension into which each individual viewer can project their own feelings and emotions. Signed and dated 1954 on the reverse; numbered #5102.54 on the stretcher

  • 2004-11-09

Femme à la fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)

Picasso’s paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter are among the greatest images of love, sex and desire in twentieth century art.   Created amidst the spiralling emotional chaos of Picasso's own personal life in the 1930s, the 'Marie-Thérèse pictures' comprise what is largely considered to be the artist's creative peak and have come to epitomize Surrealist figurative painting at its most impassioned and dramatic.  This richly-textured painting, with its thick cross-hatching, is believed to be one of the most color-saturated in Picasso’s oeuvre.  It evidences one of the first creative bursts of energy following a near year-long hiatus from painting during his stressful separation from his wife Olga.   It is also perhaps the most emotional portrayal of the woman who would go down in history as Picasso's personification of love.  Picasso had met Marie-Thérèse in Paris in 1927 when she was only seventeen, and the wealth of images she inspired over the following decade has been acclaimed as one of the greatest achievements of the artist's career.  Dating from 1936, this sumptuous and exuberantly colorful portrait of the young woman was painted in April following the birth to Picasso’s daughter Maya the previous fall, and her presentation here demonstrates the potency of her role in the artist’s life.   His biographers and descendants have claimed that Picasso’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse was the most emotionally enriching of all his love affairs, despite the numerous infidelities and his eventual marriage to his second wife Jacqueline.  Through it all, Marie-Thérèse remained the personification of sweetness and light, sustained by Picasso’s declarations of his enduring love for her. Just weeks after painting her striking likeness in Femme à la fenêtre, he described his feelings for her in no uncertain terms:  “This 23rd day of May 1936, I love you still more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.  I will always love you as they say, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you….” (quoted in L’Amour fou, Picasso and Marie Thérèse,  Gagosian Gallery, 2011, p. 40). Femme à la fenêtre bears all the hallmarks of Picasso’s sumptuous depictions of the love of his life.  Strength and vibrancy characterize the picture, with its sharp color palette, angularity and boldness of form.  An athletic, statuesque blonde, Marie-Thérèse was the embodiment of sensuality, and her physical presence elicited some of Picasso’s most visually arresting images (fig. 2).  His many inventive depictions of her asleep, reading or at play underscore how her every move fascinated him.  In the present work, he pictures her seated at a window, similar to the pose of Leonardo's Mona Lisa smiling enigmatically from within the loggia.   Now the mother of his child, Marie-Thérèse is cast in a new role, evocative of the courtly ladies of Renaissance portraiture and indicative of her more dignified status in the artist's life. Picasso was not the only one who found Marie-Thérèse’s physical presence irresistible.  “I found her fascinating to look at,” reported Françoise Gilot upon meeting her rival in 1949.  “I could see that she was certainly the woman who had inspired Pablo plastically more than any other.  She had a very arresting face with a Grecian profile. … She was very athletic; she had that high-color look of glowing good health one often sees in Swedish women. Her form was very sculptural, with a fullness of volume and a purity of line that gave her body and her face an extraordinary perfection” (quoted in L’Amour fou, Picasso and Marie Thérèse, pp. 71-72). In contrast with his depictions of a more passive Marie-Thérèse, the present painting is one of his most animated, tactile and sculptural renderings of the young woman.  Her figure is rendered with incisions into the thick paint, adding dimension to her features.  Her alertness and sharpened sensibilities are not without merit, as the composition dates from a vulnerable period in her relationship with the artist.  Picasso painted this canvas at a villa in Juan-les-Pins, where he had taken Marie-Thérèse and their infant daughter Maya during the spring of 1936 (fig. 1).  He had neglected her for months following the birth of their daughter in order to deal with his separation from his estranged wife Olga.  But another distraction had entered Picasso’s life during these months, and her influence on Picasso was becoming increasingly apparent in his art.  Dora Maar, the young Surrealist photographer whom Picasso met through Paul Eluard while Marie-Thérèse was pregnant, had already commenced her love-affair with the artist by late 1935.   By the end of the decade Dora would eclipse Marie-Thérèse as Picasso’s primary muse, becoming the inspiration for his harrowing “weeping women” series of the war years. Picasso would interpret Dora’s strength of character and fiery personality in severely abstracted and sharply linear depictions reinforced with acidic colors.  We can see iconographic traits manifesting in the present depiction of Marie-Thérèse, particularly in his rendering of her hands.  While the distinctive arches of Marie-Thérèse’s hairline and smooth curves of her face are present, it is Dora’s famously manicured fingernails that we see here, which would become her identifying features in some of Picasso’s most ambitious portraits (fig. 3).   Dora's presence also makes its way into this picture vis-a-vis the artist's focus on Marie-Thérèse's hat, which Maya Widmaier Picasso has identified as a beret that her mother purchased at Hèrmes. Picasso embellishes this accessory with textural cross-hatching, calling to mind the embossing of the golden halo on Duccio's twelfth century Madonna (fig. 5).  While the luxe accessory may have been important to the sitter, its significance in this painting becomes clear in retrospect: for it was Dora who would be immortalized in Picasso's portraits as the wearer of stylish hats.  What may have then been an important personal item for Marie-Thérèse becomes here a symbolic indicator of her status as the saintly new mother of Picasso's daughter and as the antithesis of her new rival.  In fact, the picture can be read as an amalgam of both women, and evidences a Madonna/Magdalene dichotomy that manifested in Picasso's art while he was simultaneously involved with both women. As is the case for many of the works now considered to be among Picasso’s greatest pictures, Femme à la fenêtre remained in the artist’s possession until his death in 1973.  It was then inherited by his granddaughter Marina, whose father was the son that Picasso had with his wife Olga.  Because Picasso was not able to divorce Olga due to the heavy financial penalties that would ensue, he was unable to marry Marie-Thérèse and kept their relationship a secret well into the 1930s.  Marie-Thérèse, for her part, was mostly tolerant of the situation, with Picasso forever reassuring her that she was the primary object of his affection.   Her permissive temperament, however, is alleged to have faltered upon meeting Dora only months after he finished the present canvas.  As the story goes, Picasso was painting Guernica in his studio when Marie-Thérèse met Dora for the first time.  “I kept on painting and they kept on arguing,” Picasso told Gilot in later years.  “Finally Marie-Thérèse turned to me and said, ‘Make up your mind.  Which one of us goes?’ … I was satisfied with things as they were. I told them they’d have to fight it out for themselves.  So they began to wrestle.  It’s one of my choicest memories” (quoted in ibid., 49-50).  It is Marie-Thérèse’s uncharacteristic fierceness that is perhaps alluded to in this most fascinating and provocative picture. Dated 13 avril XXXVI (upper left)

  • 2012-11-08

Le bassin aux nympheas

In 1883, Monet moved to Giverny where he rented a house with a large garden.  Reflecting his growing success, he acquired the property in 1890.  In 1893 he purchased a large adjacent plot of land, and began to construct his famous water gardens and lily pond, fed by water from a nearby river.  During 1901-02, Monet enlarged the pond, replanted the edges with bamboo, rhododendron, Japanese apple and cherry trees.  Towards the end of his life, he told a visitor to his studio “It took me some time to understand my water lilies.  I planted them purely for pleasure; I grew them with no thought of painting them.  A landscape takes more than a day to get under your skin.  And then, all at once, I had the revelation - how wonderful my pond was - and reached for my palette.  I've hardly had any other subject since that moment” (as cited in Stephan Koja, Claude Monet, Osterreichische Galerie-Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 146). In fact, after the turn of the century, the gardens around Monet's Giverny home became the central theme of the artist's work, as Monet produced series of paintings on the themes of the Japanese footbridge and the waterlilies.  Monet paid exacting attention to the details of the garden, including maintaining the pond and plants in a perfect state for painting. Elizabeth Murray writes “The water gardener would row out in the pond in a small green flat-bottomed boat to clean the entire surface.  Any moss, algae, or water grasses which grew from the bottom had to be pulled out. Monet insisted on clarity.  Next the gardener would inspect the water lilies themselves. Any yellow leaves or spent blossoms were removed.  If the plants had become dusty from vehicles passing by on the chemin du Roy, the dirt road nearby, the gardener would take a bucket of water and rinse off the leaves and flowers, ensuring that the true colors and beauty would shine forth” (Elizabeth Murray, ‘Monet as a Garden Artist,’ Monet, Late Paintings of Giverny from the Musée Marmottan, New Orleans, 1995, p. 53). In 1914, Monet began to conceive of his Grandes Décorations, a sequence of monumental paintings of the gardens that would take his depictions of the water lily pond in a dramatic new direction.  Paul Tucker writes that these new paintings “were characterized by an unprecedented breadth in terms of their size, touch and vision.  Nearly all of these pictures... were twice as big as his earlier Water Lilies. They were also more daring in their color schemes and compositions.  And they were much looser in handling...  At once exploratory and definitive, hesitant and assured, these paintings thus constitute a unique group of canvases in Monet's oeuvre.  They were a sustained and evidently private enterprise in which Monet tested out his ideas for his decorative program on a scale he had never attempted for these watery motifs” (Paul Tucker, Claude Monet, Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, pp. 203 & 204). After constructing an enormous garden that could surround him while he worked, Monet conceived of a group of paintings that would similarly surround the viewer. Monet wrote:  “The temptation came to me to use this water-lily theme for the decoration of a drawing room: carried along the length of the walls, enveloping the entire interior with its unity, it would produce the illusion of an endless whole, of a watery surface with no horizon and no shore; nerves exhausted by work would relax there, following the restful example of those still waters, ... a refuge of peaceful meditation in the middle of a flowering aquarium” (cited in Roger Marx, ‘Les Nymphéas de Monet', Le Cri de Paris, May 23, 1909). Le Bassin aux Nymphéas was painted as Monet worked on the Grandes Décorations, the two rooms of large scale paintings of the water lily pond (see figs. 1 and 2).  In this large scale, Monet has moved further away from a realistic depiction of the lily pond as the viewer is brought closer to the surface of the pond, seemingly hovering above the shifting colors of the pond's reflections.  Monet's palette is more vibrant than in his earlier water lily series, and the handling is decidedly more loose and fluid, with flowers indicated by bold strokes of paint..  Related paintings of the same motif in the Honolulu Academy of Arts (see fig. 3) and another formerly from the Reader’s Digest Collection (see fig. 4) show a similar handling of paint. In the present work, the viewer is brought even closer to the surface, making the purple and green reflections even more striking in their indication of trees and sky that Monet does not elsewhere depict.  This heightened sense of the pond's surface also emphasizes the surface of the painting as Monet's dazzling strokes of paint move back and forth, like the reflections of the lily pond, between the ripples in the water. The large scale of the present work suggests that although it may have been conceived outside, it was almost certainly painted in the large studio that Monet had built expressly for the purpose of accommodating the Grandes Décorations.  Monet's conception at this point was not to depict the actual pond but to surround the viewer with the “water surface with no horizon and no shore,” an effect the present work achieves with its striking scale and presence.  Charles Moffett and James Wood write:  “While the garden that he had made served as a first sketch, a springboard for the imagination, everything was subject to a revision in the studio.  As his world contracted his canvases grew larger, culminating in the great mural-sized waterscapes in which nature is recorded in a scale of nearly one to one. Simultaneously the point of view was elevated, leaving the observer suspended above the ambiguities of translucence and reflections, deprived of a horizon line from which to plot his location.  After 1916, when the barnlike third studio was completed, Monet devoted himself to the large, decorative Water Lilies cycle (Les Nymphéas, Etude d'eau) that was finally installed in the Orangerie in 1927.  That Monet was nearly totally absorbed by a 'decorative’ cycle did not in any way diminish the importance of the project.  Perhaps more than anything else, 'decorative’ suggests that he was synthesizing and abstracting form and color from nature to create a particular effect for a specific architectural setting.  The image on the retina was now only a starting point, for in these vast close-ups Monet takes us through the looking glass of the pond's surface and into the shallow but infinite space of twentieth century painting” (Monet's Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978, p. 13). Fig. 1, Monet’s Grandes Décorations in the artist’s studio at Giverny, photograph by Joseph Durand-Ruel on November 11, 1917, Archives Durand-Ruel Fig. 2, Monet’s Grandes Décorations in the artist’s studio at Giverny, photograph by Joseph Durand-Ruel on November 11, 1917, Archives Durand-Ruel Fig. 3, Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1918, oil on canvas, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu Fig. 4, Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1917-19, Oil on canvas, formerly in the Reader’s Digest Collection Stamped with the signature (lower right)

  • 2004-05-06


Vlaminck's seminal Sous-bois (Paysage) resonates with a passion and exuberance that characterize the greatest Fauve paintings. This work was executed in the summer of 1905, only months before Louis Vauxcelles derided the outrageously colorful canvases of Vlaminck, Matisse and Braque on display at the Salon d'Automne as the rantings of 'wild beasts.' The Fauves, as they came to be known, continued to flood their compositions with bold color for another two years, creating an aesthetic that would later launch the color revolution of the German Expressionists in the following years.Of all of the Fauve painters, Vlaminck was perhaps one of the most vocal about the trans-sensory impact of vibrant color. He would frequently use musical and visual qualifiers interchangeably in his descriptions of his art, enabling him to express the powerful, multi-sensual experience he attempted to convey in his paintings. ''When I had spent a few days without thinking, without doing anything, I would feel a sudden urge to paint" Vlaminck once recalled of this period. "Then I would set up my easel in full sunshine [...] Vermilion alone could render the brilliant red of the tiles on the opposite slope. The orange of the soil, the harsh crude colours of the walls and greenery, the ultramarine and cobalt of the sky achieved an extreme harmony that was sensually and musically ordered.  Only the series of colours on the canvas with all their power and vibrancy could, in combination with each other, render the chromatic feeling of that landscape" (quoted in Gaston Diehl, The Fauves, New York, 1975, p. 104). This fascination with brilliant, vibrant colors is magnificently reflected in Sous-bois, which probably depicts a scene near Chatou, where Vlaminck lived at the time. The artist rarely left this region during his Fauve years, preferring its surroundings along the Seine over the landscapes of the south of France, favored by Matisse, Derain and Braque. Vlaminck moved to the island of Chatou in 1892, at the age of sixteen, and became deeply attached to this area. He drew inspiration for most of his early landscapes from this region, many of them characterized by the red-tiled roofs typical of the surrounding villages. It was in Chatou, the birth place of André Derain, that the two artists met by chance in 1900, and subsequently formed a partnership that became the core of the Fauve movement. Vlaminck and Derain shared a studio, and over the following years regularly painted together, often depicting the same views of the local landscape. The present work was acquired in 1954 by Sarah (Sadie) Campbell Blaffer, an art patron and philanthropist, and has remained with the family for over sixty years.  Blaffer was the daughter of William Thomas Campbell, the founder of the Texas Company (later known as Texaco), and Sarah Campbell (née Turnbull). Sarah’s lifelong love for supporting the arts began during a visit to the Louvre during her honeymoon with her husband Robert E. Lee Blaffer (the founder of the Humble Oil  & Refining Co., now Exxon Mobil). Together, the Blaffers amassed a comprehensive collection of works ranging from Old Master paintings to Impressionist and Modern masterworks. Mrs. Blaffer was an early benefactor of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she later donated a large portion of her collection. Following her death, the present work was inherited by her daughter Cecil Blaffer Hudson von Fürstenberg (also known as Titi von Fürstenberg). Signed Vlaminck (lower right)

  • 2016-05-09

Selbstbildnis mit glaskugel  (self-portrait with crystal ball)

As an artist with one of the most expressive and imposing countenances of the 20th century, Beckmann could not resist rendering his own image in countless compositions throughout his career (see fig. 1 & 2). Those pictures that he explicitly intended as self-portraits were often the most psychologically intense and thought-provoking of these images. Beckmann painted this portrait of himself as a brooding sooth-sayer in 1936, only months before he and his wife Quappi fled Germany for Holland on the eve of the Second World War. Selbstbildnis mit Glaskugel (Self-Portrait with Crystal Ball) is a powerful testament of the artist’s determination to persevere during these troubled times. And perhaps more than any other picture that he completed while living in Berlin, it is a bellwether of the state of Modern art in the Third Reich. Earlier in 1936 government authorities shut down Beckmann’s exhibition space at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, claiming that his bold compositions were examples of “degenerate art.” Undeterred and perhaps even emboldened by this affront, Beckmann went on to paint this picture, in which he contemplates his fate in a crystal ball. Because of this picture and a select number of self-portraits that are now in museums throughout the world, Max Beckmann’s face has become an emblem of 20th century art. In his memoirs, Stephan Lackner wrote about the imposing figure of this man: “Beckmann’s appearance was incredibly impressive. Above his athletic, massive body, his large head loomed like one of those rocks left by a prehistoric glacier on top of a hill” (Stephan Lackner, op. cit., p. 29). By their very nature, Beckmann’s self-portraits were his most direct and explicit mode of personal expression. And the objects he chose to depict in these pictures, like the crystal ball in the present work, are of particular importance to his message. Symbolism and iconography played a crucial role in Beckmann’s compositions throughout his career and were of great significance during the 1930s. Images of double-entendre were commonly used in the 1920s by the artists of the New Objectivity movement, but Beckmann, who did not affiliate himself with any artistic group, used symbolic objects to express his own political ideas. In his self-portraits from the late 1930s Beckmann usually included some kind of prop or instrument as a veiled reference to his struggle as an avant-garde artist working within the Third Reich (see fig. 3). The horn in his Selbstbildnis mit Horn (see fig. 4), for example, is a symbol of the man’s triumphant defiance in the face of National Socialism. The present picture, completed when the artist was still in Berlin and struggling in the midst of this oppression, is equally loaded with political significance. Here he casts himself in the roll of a sorcerer, brooding over events that are about to unfold. Beckmann presented the theme of the crystal ball gazer in another picture around this time (see fig. 5). A strong preoccupation with the unknown was evidently on his mind. Stephan Lackner reflected on the crisis of this era, considering that “Many ‘people of good will’ predicted that Hitler could not stay in power much longer, that the rearming Third Reich would soon be bankrupt, or that the radicalism of the Nazis would play itself out and give way to moderation” (Stephan Lackner, Max Beckmann, Memories of a Friendship, Coral Gables, 1969, p. 24). This picture may also relate to Beckmann’s specific concerns regarding the future of his art. In an essay written two years after it was painted, Lackner suggests in hindsight that this contemplative figure was divining the genesis of the fantastical pictures that he would complete in the years to come: “A magician in timeless garb stands before us, holding a large, shimmering crystal ball. From deeper sockets the glance does not challenge the viewer any more, the shadowy eyes look beyond actuality into more distant works. They now see oceans welling up with curved horizons, sunken islands, half-human and superhuman creatures from forgotten fables, titans in forbidden incest, kingly demigods looming in the dusk of prehistory: the basic symbols of life” (ibid., p. 59). In addition to its symbolic connotations, this picture provides examples of the swirling strokes and strong formal structure that defined Beckmann’s best compositions (see fig. 6). Peter Selz described it in the following terms: “Dominated by greenish-blue colors, Self-Portrait with Crystal Ball is based on the geometry of the sphere: the roundness of the ball is echoed in the half-circles of shoulder and lips and again in the artist’s forehead, as well as in the dark, almost sinister, cavities of his eyes. Beckmann’s eyes do not look into the crystal ball, nor are they directed at the viewer. Their gaze goes beyond, into unknown and threatening figures. Although the artist holds the means of divination in his very hands, he is helpless and seems to recede into the deep black space behind him” (Peter Selz, Max Beckmann, The Self-Portraits, New York, 1992, pp. 63-65). The first owner of this picture was Beckmann’s loyal patron, Rudolf Freiherr von Simolin (see fig. 7). In 1938, Beckmann’s friend Stephan Lackner arranged for some galleries in Zürich and Basel to stage exhibitions of the artist’s recent work. Beckmann, who was living in exile in Amsterdam at the time, came to the Zürich opening. To his great surprise, he was greeted by von Simolin, who had come all the way from his home in Berlin. Despite the German government’s vehement opposition to Beckmann’s “degenerate art,” von Simolin purchased Selbstbildnis mit Glaskugel and bravely took it with him back to Germany. Signed and dated Beckmann B.36 (lower right)

  • 2005-05-03

A Belle époque Diamond Devant-De-Corsage Brooch, by Cartier

A BELLE ÉPOQUE DIAMOND DEVANT-DE-CORSAGE BROOCH, BY CARTIER The pendant centering upon a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 34.08 carats, an oval-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 23.55 carats, and a marquise-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 6.51 carats, enhanced by Lily-of-the-valley links set with circular-cut diamonds, and suspended from two detachable similarly-set lines, each with a pavé-set old-cut diamond palmette terminal, mounted in platinum, 1912, pendant only 9.1 cm With maker's mark for Henri Picq workshop, signed Cartier Accompanied by report no. 2155827220 dated 20 December 2013 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the 34.08 carat pear-shaped diamond is E colour, VSI clarity, and a Diamond Type Classification letter stating that the diamond is Type IA Report no. 2155827320 dated 16 December 2013 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the 23.55 carat oval-shaped diamond is D colour, VVS2 clarity, a working diagram indicating that the clarity of the diamond is potentially Internally Flawless, and a Diamond Type Classification letter stating that the diamond is Type IIA Report no. 2155827783 dated 24 December 2013 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the 6.51 carat marquise-shaped diamond is D colour, VS1 clarity, and a Diamond Type Classification letter stating that the diamond is Type IIA Report no. 5151827771 dated 20 December 2013 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the 3.54 carat heart-shaped diamond is E colour, VS2 clarity, and a Diamond Type Classification letter stating that the diamond is Type IA

  • CHESchweiz
  • 2014-05-14

Concetto Spaziale, Attese

“There is a spontaneous effect of ritual in Fontana’s action that has nothing at all to do with destruction but everything to do with the intention of all ritual action: to clarify what is invisible… What is concrete loses its significance as reality and what is insubstantial manifests itself as more cogently real than anything we can grasp with our five physical senses… The insubstantial, intuited space beyond the canvas, however, turns into a powerful presence that is far more physically real than the canvas.” (Fred Licht in Exh. Cat., Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection (and travelling), Homage to Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 40)  "I have invented a formula that I think I cannot perfect. I succeeded in giving those looking at my work a sense of spatial calm, of cosmic rigor, of serenity with regard to the infinite. Further than this I could not go." (Lucio Fontana cited in Giorgio Bocca, “Il taglio è il taglio: Incontro con Lucio Fontana, il vincitore di Venezia”, Il Giorno, 6 July 1966) In the fall of 1964, the legendary Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni was fifty-two years old and was not only redefining the landscape of contemporary cinema, but transforming the very parameters of visual expression. Following the unparalleled success of his now-canonical trilogy of black and white feature films that interrogated the alienation of man in the modern world—L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962)—Antonioni made a radical turn for the first time to the cinematic possibilities of color. That September, Antonioni debuted his film Il deserto rosso (Red Desert) at the 25th Venice Film Festival. Met with universal acclaim, the feature was awarded the Golden Lion—the festival’s highest honor. Antonioni’s earliest venture into color motion pictures, Red Desert makes profound use of the chromatic spectrum: intensely saturated fields of red, yellow, and green puncture the bleak industrial landscape of Ravenna, in which the film is set. A former painter in his youth, Antonioni took up his brushes again prior to filming Red Desert in order to refamiliarize himself with color. The director likened his filmmaking process to painting: “In ‘Red Desert’ I had to change the appearance of reality—of the water, the streets, of the countryside. I had to paint them with real paint and brush. It was not easy…. it is like painting a film.” (Antonioni cited in Aldo Tassone, ed., Parla il Cinema Italiano, Milan, 1979) Several months later, the sixty-five year old Lucio Fontana stood before a nearly seven-foot wide canvas and plunged his blade into the vast blazing red void. One year before winning the grand prize at the Venice Biennale, Fontana took his knife to the surface of the present work at the very crest of his creative powers. Slicing the painted canvas with twenty-four individual tears across its panoramic width, Fontana embarked on what would become the most dramatic and climactic painting of his career—the single canvas that bears the greatest number of slashes of any of the artist’s deeply venerated series of Tagli. After inflicting his archetypal violence on the painting’s expanse, Fontana inscribed on its reverse (in Italian): “I returned yesterday from Venice, I saw the film of Antonioni!!!” Seeing Antonioni’s landmark film Red Desert left Fontana in a state of utter revelation, motivating him to create the most electrifyingly theatrical painting of his entire body of work. A breathtaking frieze of twenty-four sensational incisions across a single row of his majestic crimson canvas, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Attese from 1965 is extraordinarily rare among the artist’s output. Not only is it the only single unmodified canvas to bear twenty-four cuts, but there are no paintings in the artist’s entire production with a greater number of incisions, thus rendering it an ultimate exemplar of the utmost rarity among Fontana’s iconic body of paintings. Concetto Spaziale, Attese is indisputably cinematic in composition; Fontana’s lacerations erupt across the surface from left to right like discrete frames unspooling over a film reel, marking a rhythmic progression of narrative time in sequential beats. In the dynamic kineticism of its sweeping proportions, the present work stuns in its filmic tempo more than any other of Fontana's paintings. Noting the unparalleled drama of the present Concetto Spaziale, Attese, Fred Licht explained: “Fontana’s frieze compositions are probably his most ambitious and eloquent works. The artist strikes a major chord by means of the proportionate relationship of the grouped slashes and the rigid format of the overall field. Against this primary equivalent of a basso continuo the eye perceives constantly changing rhythmic sequences made up of the shifting fields, sometimes broad, sometimes slender, that separate the slashes… The situation is not dissimilar to Chinese scroll paintings in which the viewer is also expected to unroll the painting very slowly, revealing first one complete ‘phrase’ which he then must bring into linear and rhythmic conjunction with the image that appears as the scroll is unrolled another few inches.” (Fred Licht in Exh. Cat., Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection (and travelling), Homage to Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 64) Each slash ruptures the emptiness of Fontana’s monochromatic picture plane, paralleling the singular bursts of hysteria that erupt from the empty landscape of Antonioni’s Red Desert. In the enigmatic film, isolated moments of erotic passion and subdued violence punctuate the bleak industrial environment of petroleum tankers and smoke plumes that characterize the mechanical plant of the story’s setting. These scenes are heightened by Antonioni’s richly saturated color palette. His severe geometries and bright zones of pure, solid color surely appealed to Fontana, as did the film’s underlying subtext. Red Desert explored the contemporary alienation and spiritual malaise of the technological age; how the architecture of modern technological industry affects the anxiety of mankind. Just as Fontana’s holes and slashes evoked mankind’s instinct to leave his mark within the space age, in Antonioni’s film, the director explored how modern technological life affects humanity. Both Fontana’s and Antonioni’s respective works mine the existential loneliness of humans in a world that far exceeds the limits of any intelligible dimensions. In the final scenes of Red Desert, the figures descend into the foreboding fog, echoing the infinity of the black voids within each of Fontana’s slashes. Disclosing a space beyond the two dimensional picture plane guided Fontana’s artistic intent. Significantly, it was humankind’s exploration into space that would transform his practice: tangibility of the universe and scientific discovery of infinity was the catalyst for extending the scope of his sculptural/painterly experimentation. Fontana’s Tagli offered an innovative interpretation of the artist’s gesture that moved it from the surface to penetrating the canvas, and hence opened up an entirely new spatial dimension to his work. Surrounded by an era of advancements in space travel and quantum physics, Fontana understood that art, like science, must also compete with a vision of the world comprised of time, matter, energy and the deep void of space. This fixation with unknowable dimensions should be understood against a contemporaneous context of cosmic exploration; at the same moment Fontana began his Tagli, news stories of the 'space race' captivated audiences all over the world. Indeed, Fontana’s Spatialist theories echo an age utterly dominated by news of space exploration and discovery. In 1957 the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit; in 1959, the Soviets landed probe Luna 2 on the moon; and in 1961 the very first outer-space flight was made by Yuri Gagarin. As Sarah Whitfield noted: “The famous hole and cut were not just gashes punched through a canvas, but a way of making the viewer look beyond the physical fact of the painting, to what Fontana called ‘a free space’. This is as much a philosophical concept as a visual one, for as Fontana told Tommaso Trini shortly before his death: ‘art is only thought in evolution.’ The space created by the hole or the slash stands for the idea of a space without physical boundaries.” (Sarah Whitfield, Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 14) In 1947, Fontana founded Spatialism, a deeply influential artistic movement that proposed a ground-breaking synthesis of the phenomenological realm as a new form of visual expression. The main principles, laid down in the very first Manifiesto Blanco, published in 1946 in Buenos Aires, outlined a new spirit for art, in tune with the post-war era, in which the traditional illusionism of oil painting was repudiated in favor of a unification of art and science. As outlined in the Manifiesto, Fontana stipulated the need for matter, color, and sound to be enacted within ‘real’ space and time: “Color, the element of space; sound, the element of time; and movement that develops in time and space; these are the fundamental forms of the new art that contains the four dimensions of existence.” (Lucio Fontana, "Manifiesto Blanco," 1946 in Guido Balla, Lucio Fontana, New York, 1971, p. 189) This theorizing would lay the foundation for the next twenty years of his practice, a period of production that significantly boasts the most important and esteemed works of the artist’s career. Fontana embarked on the Tagli at the end of 1958, partly in response to the developments in contemporary art in Italy during 1957-58, particularly Yves Klein’s first exhibition of monochrome paintings in Milan in 1957, Jackson Pollock’s retrospective in Rome in 1958, and the predominant rise of Art Informel. In response to the contemporary turn toward action painting at this time, Fontana’s cuts evoked this gestural performance while seeking the realization of a more metaphysical presence. Fontana combined the highly saturated monochromatic purity of Klein’s canvases with Pollock’s violently physical action. However, whereas Pollock’s painterly dripping technique left an indexical record of his every movement, Fontana’s gesture annihilated this proclivity toward additive mark-making and replaced it with a vandalistic destructiveness. Drawing attention to the materiality of the picture-plane, Fontana’s cuts question classical interpretations of a ‘figure-ground’ relationship; rather than striving toward an illusion of perspectival depth, Fontana’s punctures create forms within the canvas that embody a real third dimension of space. Moreover, the painting’s chromatic radiance amplifies the profound darkness of the plunging black recesses that aptly signify Fontana’s quest for "the Infinite, the inconceivable chaos, the end of figuration, nothingness." (Lucio Fontana cited in Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 198) While Fontana maintained the outward gestural expressivity of artists like Pollock and Klein, each cut with the metallic edge of his Stanley knife blade reduced artistic gesture to a machine-like action, displacing the indulgence of personal subjectivity for an apparently mechanical reductivism. The serial progression of twenty-four repetitive cuts across the panoramic canvas aligns Fontana’s artistic process with industrial modes of mass production; even the implement he used to lacerate the painting is normally used to cut lengths of canvas in preparation for stretching. In part, Fontana’s grasp of how technology could fundamentally redefine the boundaries of human existence was indebted to the influence of Italian Futurism. As the Manifiesto Blanco had appreciatively stated: “Futurism adopts movement as the only beginning and the only end.” (Lucio Fontana, "Manifiesto Blanco," cited in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. II, Milan, 2006, p. 19) For Fontana, Futurism rightly valued the forward progress of civilization and acknowledged the implications of Einstein’s theories of relativity. Yet whereas this earlier twentieth-century movement obsessed over sleek industrial design and the sublime amalgamation of man and machine in the known world, Fontana perceived a different aspect of progress: the loneliness of vast, unexplored territories, the return to primordial states of becoming, and a mysterious fourth-dimension. However, though Fontana undoubtedly inherited Futurism’s high-modernist endeavor to bring forth a totally new art for a new era, the mechanical character and emphasis on speed and movement through urban space vital to their project is resolutely absent from the Spatialist enterprise. Instead, the wounded picture plane and the scars of his eloquently sliced canvases hark back to an established art historical legacy. Far from the Futurist’s bombastic insistence on burning down the libraries and flooding the museums to purge the oppressive past, Fontana’s Spatialism expressed a project of recognizing the past and uniting it with the future. Though not speaking of any religious message, Fontana phrased his Spatialist journey in the context of Western art history. Supreme elegance, endurance and audacity define the present work; an extended choreography of twenty-four cuts jet across a deep-red monochrome picture plane. As each slash penetrates the evenly painted surface, the resulting tear is exquisitely fine at each polar end, gradually broadening toward the center where the tight canvas gives way to the pressure of the blade and curls deeply inward to reveal a profound emptiness. Reaching across a pristine expanse of pure bloodshot canvas, Concetto Spaziale, Attese heralds the end of the flat picture plane in what is quite simply one of the most radical gestures in art history. What defines Fontana’s work however is not only a revolutionary new form of expression, but a triumphant marriage of the cutting edge and the historical via the restrained yet violent gesture of Fontana’s Stanley blade cut. Indeed, the size of Concetto Spaziale, Attese and the unrivaled dynamism of its myriad cuts make this masterpiece an extremely rare testament to one of the most decisive breakthroughs in the history of art. Signed, titled and inscribed Sono tornato ieri da Venezia, ho visto il film di Antonioni!!! on the reverse

  • 2015-11-12

Glaçons, effet blanc

Among Monet’s most celebrated and visually spectacular canvases are his depictions of floating ice on the Seine.  These majestic compositions exemplify his talent for capturing the nuances of the natural world in flux, and Glaçons, effet blancis among the most elegant.   This view of the left bank and the islet of Forée from Bennecourt belongs to a series of fifteen river views completed during the winter of 1892-93.  Monet painted this composition in early January 1893, while the temperatures were still frigid enough to create the atmospheric drama that we see here. Through the haze of frosty air, the large sheets of ice have begun to break apart on the surface of the river as they drift downstream, while the banks and treetops in the distance glisten with the melting snow.   By the end of the month, the thaw brought Monet’s campaign to an abrupt end, leaving the artist with several unfinished compositions that he would have to complete in his studio.  The present composition, which Monet dated upon its sale the following year in 1894, is among the most visceral of these grand compositions and perhaps his most sensory interpretation of his observations that winter. Monet’s Bennecourt series was his third attempt at depicting the transformation of the frozen river.  Earlier depictions at Bougival in 1868 and then at Lavacourt, near Vétheuil, in 1879-80, mark his fascination with this subject and the gripping effect of the subject on his psyche.  These scenes were meditations on the cycles of life and the relentless passage of time, and the artist’s apparent awe with the grandeur of nature.  Paul Tucker suggests that Monet’s decision to focus on the ice floes yet again was an attempt to “reinvigorate himself, even to the point of painting outdoors in temperatures that were well below freezing.  They are at once elegiac and soothing, appropriately familiar in their composition and handling while striking in their color and their chilling atmospheric effects” (P.H. Tucker, Monet in the ‘90s, The Series Paintings, Boston, 1989, p. 169). Monet’s series paintings from the 1890s are widely considered his finest and most innovative achievements.   By painting the same subject at various times of day and under different weather conditions, he could document the continual transformation of his surroundings.  His painting of  Glaçons, effet blanc and the related canvases coincided with his series of depictions of Rouen Cathedral, and both undertakings reveal similarities in palette and approach.  Monet would apply the lessons he learned from these pictures to later series of misty mornings on the Seine and ultimately to his depictions of the waterlilies in his garden at Giverny.  Perhaps more than any of the series from this decade, the ice floe pictures laid the groundwork for his approach to his renderings of the floating lilypads and the reflection of the trees and sky in the garden pond. Monet continued to work on this series long after the ice melted on the Seine and into the following year.  As was the case for most of his plein-air compositions, he worked on these paintings intermittently throughout the day and would complete many of them in his studio.  His practice was often to sign paintings only upon turning them over to his dealer, and the present work is dated accordingly on the occasion of its consignment in February 1894 to the dealers Boussod, Valadon & Cie.  The picture was sold shortly thereafter to Edmond Decap, one of the first major collectors of Impressionist art. Monet's series of ice floes has since gained a significant following in the literary world, having been described beautifully in Marcel Proust's first novel, Jean Santeuil, and most recently requoted in Edmund de Waal's family history, The Hare with Amber Eyes.  Proust's gorgeous literary description captures the essense of what we see here: "A day of thaw ... the sun, the blue of the sky, the broken ice, the mud, and the moving water turning the river into a dazzling mirror" (M. Proust, reprinted in Edmund de Waal, The Hair with Amber Eyes, A Hidden Inheritance, New York, 2010). Signed and dated Claude Monet 94 (lower right)

  • 2013-11-07

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