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In an era dominated by Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel, Piero Manzoni radically dislocated the painted surface from the hand of the artist. To achieve this end, the series of Achrome works initiated in 1957 and pursued until his premature death in 1963, together constitute one of the most ground-breaking and profound artistic contributions to the post-war age. Though Manzoni experimented with a plethora of materials – including straw, polystyrene, bread rolls, gravel, felt and wool to name a few – it is the series of ‘achromatic’ works on canvas composed of kaolin saturated folds, that epitomise the very apogee of Manzoni’s pioneering conceptual dialogue. Spanning an expansive 150cm in width, Achrome from 1958-59 is a true masterpiece from this revered and ambitious corpus. Of the three-hundred or so works composed of kaolin on canvas, the present Achrome is one of only nine pieces executed in such monumental proportions; one of which resides in the Pompidou Centre, Paris; one is housed in the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; one which is held in the collection of the Museum Moderna Kunst, Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; and another is part of the Rachofsky Collection in Dallas. The masterful swathe of central corrugations are exquisitely articulated. Framed by two serene bands of tonally diaphanous and veil like kaolin, these horizontal folds, ridges and peaks appear preserved like a fossil, petrified in a state of material metamorphosis. No longer the fluid softness and liquidity of its primary state, but a suspended positive and negative hardened into a dual affirmation of both substance and void: a true exemplification of Manzoni’s metaphysical quest for “total space” and “pure absolute light” (Piero Manzoni, ‘Free Dimension’ in: Azimuth, No. 2, 1960, n.p.). Included in the 1971 retrospective at the Gallerie Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome and not seen again until the 2005 exhibition Beyond Painting, Burri, Fontana, Manzoni at Tate Modern, the public reappearance of this pristine and unassailably rare Achrome, marks a truly extraordinary event. Constituting a primordial sign, the Achrome does not signify or represent anything but its own existence: each work possesses its own autonomy. Across the series of kaolin Achrome however, formal variations and differences in scale enliven these monochromatic entities: sometimes achieved with a single piece of canvas, and other times with individual squares to form a grid; sometimes scattering the folds throughout the picture plane, and other times – as in the present work – concentrating them within a specific area. In this regard, the present work can be viewed as a paragon of Manzoni’s production. Flanked by two horizontal bands of scumbled kaolin, the enveloping central field of taut pleats saturated with heavy kaolin is utterly mesmeric. Though Manzoni expressly eschewed referentiality, the exquisite formal harmony evident in Achrome suggests a kind of organic architecture, as though harnessing and liberating an innate beauty that lay dormant within the materials of canvas and kaolin themselves. The kaolin suspends a dialogue with chance, and in so doing captures something of the universal. Indeed, one can’t help but relate these undulating vibrato forms to the drapery of Renaissance marble statuary or the crumbling soil ridges of a ploughed field. Microcosm and macrocosm are brought together within Manzoni’s tabula rasa; his expansive field of immersive and sculptural monochrome thus becomes an empty arena or Zero ground, at once evocative, yet closed and resistant to interpretation. By dislocating artistic agency and gesture from the canvas' surface, Manzoni aimed to evacuate representation and therein obtain an entirely self-generated metaphysical image of absolute purity. Structured as a 'non-picture', the Achrome were composed via the drying process of kaolin. This material, a soft china clay employed in making porcelain and first employed by Manzoni in 1958, is not an impasto; it does not require brushing, pouring or physical manipulation. Rather, Manzoni would first glue the canvas into a seemingly organic arrangement of self-proliferating folds and creases, before the chalky colourless kaolin solution was applied. The white kaolin not only removed the hand of the artist but also enhanced the sculptural depth and solidity of surface undulations. With its torrent of striated and sculptural folds, the resultant work harbours a dynamic energy. Ultimately it is through the self-defining drying process, without the artist's intervention, that the work achieves its final form. Seemingly white, the kaolin functions in removing colour whilst adding weight, imbuing these works with sculptural monumentality. Nonetheless if this work evokes monumental art of the past, it is testament only to the insularity of art itself, a purely visual language of resplendent luminous materiality. As the curator Jon Thompson has elucidated, the Achrome are material tautologies: they refer only to themselves as reiterations of their own composition (Jon Thompson, ‘Piero Manzoni: Out of Time and Place’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Serpentine Gallery, Piero Manzoni, 1998, p. 43). Canvas laid upon canvas, folding in on itself in self-generating monochrome pleats, the Achrome constitutes a metaphysical blank, a distillation of the picture plane to pure material characteristics. Etymologically meaning ‘without colour’ these works are unrelated to any pictorial phenomenon or anything extraneous to its surface; in the words of the artist:  “It is a white that is not a polar landscape, or a beautiful or evocative material, or a sensation, or a symbol, or anything else; it is a white surface that is nothing else but a white surface (a colourless surface that is nothing else but a colourless surface). Or better still is exists, and this is sufficient” (Piero Manzoni, ‘Free Dimension’, op. cit.). Very much in tune with the vital tenets of the Zero art movement, Manzoni sought to explore the relationship between art and nature against a new age of technological advancement emerging from the rubble of the Second World War. Chiming with the aims of Zero’s progenitors Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, Manzoni looked to overturn the boundaries of painting and supplant tangible and fixed appearances in art. Indeed, Manzoni was integral in forging the bridge between Northern European and Italian artists, travelling tirelessly back and forth to Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, and functioning until his early death in 1963 as a “messenger, carrying the Zero message all over Europe” (Otto Piene quoted in: Heiner Stachelhaus, Zero: Mack Piene Uecker, Dusseldorf 1993, p. 153). Together with Castellani he published the first issue of the journal Azimuth in September 1959, followed by the second and final issue in January 1960. They opened Galleria Azimut in Milan on 4 December 1959 and during its six month lifetime they hosted twelve solo and group exhibitions that exactly summated the vital message of Zero, such as La nouvelle conception artistique in January 1960, which included the work of Mack and Mavignier as well as Manzoni and Castellani. Alongside members of the Zero group, this rich dialogue of avant-garde artistic theories thrived amongst Manzoni and his contemporaries, particularly Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein. However, where Fontana and Klein both experimented with and relied conceptually upon colour in their art, Manzoni distinguished himself with the Achrome by utilising only the porcelain white of kaolin clay and articulated an entirely new attitude to the picture plane. Lucio Fontana’s Spatialism incited artists to pierce the canvas and access the quasi-mystical dimensions beyond while Yves Klein’s concept of colour promised access to sublime states of meditative transcendence. Manzoni, by contrast, revolted against the implication that art lay ‘on’ or ‘through’ the canvas, or within any given chromatic tone. His comments, advanced primarily in Azimuth, establish an entirely different view of painting. Manzoni wrote: “… I am unable to understand the painters that, whilst declaring themselves to be interested in modern problems, even today look on a painting as if it was a surface to be filled with colour and forms in accordance with a taste which can be more or less appreciated and which is more or less trained… The painting is thus completed and a surface with limitless possibilities is finally reduced to a sort of recipient into which unnatural colours and artificial significance are forced and compressed. Why not empty, instead, this recipient? Why not liberate the surface? Why not attempt to discover the limitless significance of total space? Of pure and absolute light?” (Piero Manzoni, ‘Free Dimension’, op. cit.). During a tragically brief life cut short at the age of only thirty, Manzoni adopted a revolutionary conceptual approach to making and viewing art, emphasising the surface and materials as the true subject of the work. In the creation of the Achrome, Manzoni awakened an area of creativity in which the painting's subject was its own self-generating form; in 1960 he wrote: "The artist has achieved integral freedom; pure material becomes pure energy; all problems of artistic criticism are surmounted; everything is permitted" (Ibid.). Manzoni's prescient innovations anticipated both Conceptualism and Arte Povera, while his artistic legacy, enshrined by iconic works such as the present Achrome, enduringly persists as a revolutionary and insurmountable presence within contemporary art today. Signed on the stretcher

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2014-10-17

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

Femme de Venise VI

"I keep coming back to these women... around them space vibrates," the writer Jean Genet once said of the seminal Femmes de Venise.  The present sculpture is number six of Giacometti's celebrated series of nine standing figures of a female nude, collectively known as the Femmes de Venise. These standing women are perhaps Giacometti's best known works, regarded by many as the artist's most significant contribution to art of the 20th century.   Of the nine figures, number six is the tallest, with an elaborate coiffure and slightly parted lips. The form bears a sharp facial profile and a heavily textured surface that is rooted in the richly-modeled base. The series originates from a group of ten plasters which Giacometti had produced between January and May 1956 in preparation for the concurrent exhibitions of his work at the Venice Biennale and at the Kunsthalle in Bern in June of that year.  According to recent scholarship by Véronique Wiesinger, six of the plasters were exhibited in Venice as "works in progress" and four were shown in Bern.  Giacometti eventually selected nine of these plasters for casting into bronze in editions of six, plus one artist's proof of each figure.  Regardless of where they were exhibited, each of the nine bronzes is called Femme de Venise. Genet, who was Giacometti's favorite living author, provided a sensually-evocative descripion of these figures in the essay he published in 1957: "I can't stop touching the statues:  I look away and my hand continues its discoveries of its own accord: neck, head, nape of neck, shoulders... The sensations flow to my fingertips.  Each one is different, so that my hand traverses an extremely varied and vivid landscape... The backs of these women may be more human than their fronts.  The nape of the neck, the shoulders, the small of the back, the buttocks seem to have been modeled more lovingly than any of the fronts.  Seen from three-quarters, this oscillation from woman to goddess may be what is most disturbing: sometimes the emotion is unbearable... I cannot help returning to this race of gilded and sometimes painted sentries who standing erect, motionless, keep watch" (reprinted in R. Howard, ed., The Selected Writings of Jean Genet, Hopewell, 1993, pp. 323-324). The Femmes de Venise are direct descendants of the elongated female figures which Giacometti had been working on in the 1940s and precursors of the larger female figure that he would execute in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Created at the median of this artistic development, the Femmes de Venise serve as the summation of Giacometti's findings in this particular subject.  The variations among the nine Femmes, when considered as a group, demonstrate the metamorphoses of Giacometti's vision of the female form.  From a technical standpoint, the differences in height and anatomy suggest that their numbering might not reflect the sequence in which Giacometti produced them.  Valerie Fletcher has suggested that the nine Femmes were randomly renumbered when the artist selected them from among the original plasters for casting into bronze. This group of sculptures was created as different states of the same female figure, modeled from a single mass of clay on a single armature.  When Giacometti was satisfied with a particular version, his brother Diego made a plaster cast of it while Giacometti continued to rework the clay into a different figure.  "Every time I work I am prepared to undo without the slightest hesitation the work done the day before, as each day I feel I am seeing further," Giacometti explained in an interview with André Parinaud in 1962.  "Basically I now only work for the sensation I get during the process." ("Why am I a Sculptor?" reprinted in A. Gonzalez, Alberto Giacometti, Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2006, p. 151). All of the Femmes de Venise display the thin, gaunt proportions for which Giacometti is best known, and about which he commented to Sylvester in 1964:  "At one time I wanted to hold on to the volume, and they became so tiny that they used to disappear.  After that I wanted to hold on to a certain height, and they became narrow.  But this was despite myself and even if I fought against it.  And I did fight against it;  I tried to make them broader.  The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got.  But the real explanation is something I don't know, still don't know.  I could only know it through the work that I am going to do" (D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London and New York, 1997, p. 6). With its disproportionately small head and large feet accentuated by a sloping pedestal, the overall effect of this tall, slender figure is what Lord termed an "ascending vitality" (J. Lord, op. cit.,p. 356).  Reflecting on the impression which the Femmes de Venise make upon the viewer, Lord concludes: "When a spectator's attention is fixed upon the head of one of these figures, the lower part of her body would lack verisimilitude were it not planted firmly upon those enormous feet, because even without looking directly at them, one is aware of their mass... The eye is obliged to move up and down, while one's perception of the sculpture as a whole image becomes an instinctual act, spontaneously responding to the force that drove the sculptor's fingers.  Comparable to the force of gravity, it kept those massive feet so solidly set on the pedestal that they affirmed the physicality of the figure as the one aspect of his creativity which the artist could absolutely count on, all the rest being subject to the unreliability of the mind's eye" (ibid., pp. 356-57). According to Mary Lisa Palmer, Giacometti would usually send the even-numbered bronzes from the edition, including the present work, to Galerie Maeght in Paris and the odd-numbered casts to Pierre Matisse in New York.  Other casts of Femme de Venise VI are in the collections of Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Museo Nazionale d'arte moderna in Rome, and the Fondation Maeght, Paris. Signed Alberto Giacometti, inscribed with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 4/6

  • 2015-05-05

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

Le Pont japonais

Monet's spectacular images of the Japanese bridge spanning the lily pond of his lush garden at Giverny of the most recognizable images of 20th century art.  These pictures capture the mystique of the meticulously-landscaped environment that served as Monet's inspiration during his later career.  The present picture, which is one of the most richly painted in the series, can be seen in a photograph of the artist's Giverny studio,  where it hangs in completion among other notable examples of the artist's late production. Monet's bridge had powerful symbolic resonance when it was painted in the years after World War I.  As the bridge had been a symbol of progress for late 19th century artists, it was now also a signifier of the mending of nations and the joining of cultural forces.  Between 1918 and 1924 Monet seized upon the opportunity to lavish renewed attention on the bridge in his garden, using radical formal tactics that eliminate perspective, merge land with sky, and sky with water.  What he is attempting to suggest in the Japanese Bridges is the existence of a hybrid environment, a place where East becomes West through the powers of French culture and where nature becomes art through the Impressionist vision. Monet constructed his Japanese bridge in the summer of 1893 on a newly-acquired plot of land where he was creating a pond irrigated by the Epte river.  Daniel Wildenstein noted that just a few days before purchasing the land, Monet had viewed a collection of prints by Utamaro and Hiroshige at Durand-Ruel’s gallery and this Asian aesthetic was clearly on his mind.   He first painted the bridge in 1895, but it was not until 1899 that he turned to the pond and bridge in a series of eighteen views, twelve examples of which were exhibited at Durand-Ruel in 1900.  Nearly two decades later, Monet returned to this subject again.  Between 1918 and 1924 he completed twenty-five views of the bridge, now radically abstracted amidst layers of paint.  These later pictures, which have often been credited as an inspiration for Abstract Expressionism in the second-half of the 20th century, were completed contemporaneously with his Grandes Décorations project and were stylistically related to this monumental undertaking.  When considered within the scope of the series, each of the Pont japonais pictures differ signficantly.  In some canvases, Monet would stay true to the colors of the actual scene, rendering flecks of white, green and mauve for the trails of wisteria that covered the railing and the balustrade. In others, he did little to differentiate the bridge from the pond, and his color choices were surprisingly daring.  The present composition is exceptional for its fine balance between abstraction and realism, enabling us to see the bridge clearly amidst the torrent of Monet's wildly expressive brushwork. Paul Hayes Tucker provides an analysis of Monet's series of Japanese bridges, describing the artist's unorthodox approach to painting these pictures:  "The new Le pont japonais pictures were a throwback to his first engagement with this aquatic paradise, but now on radically different terms.  Completely disregarding artistic decorum, Monet lathered the surfaces of these canvases with thick, wet paint, making the liquid medium appear to seethe and dance as if fired by some unseen power.  These paintings are cauldrons of cacophonous color, trumpeting Monet's daring and abandonment, while asserting the value of the unknown over the secure, the reckless over the refined" (P. Hayes Tucker, Claude Monet, Late Work (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York,  p. 36). The present composition is one of the artist's most expressive renderings of the Japanese bridge.   Monet has lavishly applied his paint in the center of the canvas, while thinning it into washes in the corners.  His technique creates a peripheral recession, which is apparent even in the photograph of this painting hanging in the artist's Giverny studio. Stamped with the signature (lower right)

  • 2014-05-07

Paysage à la Ciotat

Braque’s magnificent depiction of La Ciotat in the south of France is a seminal image of the Fauve revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century. The jubilant hues Braque used to create this vibrant image owe less to nature and more to his own emotional response to the landscape (figs 1, 5).  "Nature," Braque said in 1908 "is a mere pretext for decorative composition, plus sentiment. It suggests emotion, and I translate emotion into art" (quoted in Masters of Colour: Derain to Kandinsky  (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002, p. 131). Braque's depictions of the environs of Provence rank among the most expressive and desirable of the Fauve landscapes (figs. 2, 3, 5).  The inception of these rare and extraordinary canvases dates from the period immediately after the fall of 1905, when Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck first exhibited their boldy colorful Colliure landscapes at the Salon d'Automne and famously earned the moniker "wild beasts."   In 1906, Braque too would travel to the South of France, but he chose instead the rich terrain of the Provençal countryside as opposed to the port towns. In the present work, which was painted in the summer of 1907, Braque depicts the rolling hills near La Ciotat and L'Estaque - an area that figures prominently in his production through his Cubist landscapes. The influence of Matisse and Derain is heavily felt in the present work, but there is a sophistication of form that is entirely unique to Braque's Provençal landscapes. Richard Schiff writes of his landscapes from this period in a recent exhibition catalogue: "Freely arranged, his colors 'constitute a pictorial fact' and become, only in their secondary function, the description of a limited number of characteristics of the locality. Whether L'Estaque or Antwerp, the given configuration of land, water, and sky remains no more than summarily translated. A sense of height and a distinctive form of vegetation distinguish the southern location from the northern one. In March 1906, as if to speak for Braque as well, Derain wrote to Matisse that their generation of artists was fortunate in being the first at liberty to capitalize on a newly acknowledged condition: whatever material an artist chose to use would assume a life of its own, independent of what one makes it represent. The means would come first, followed by its object, so that the subject of art would be the means and not the representation" (Richard Schiff, 'Infinition', in Georges Braque, Pioneer of Modernism (exhibition catalogue), Acquavella Galleries, New York, 2011, p. 36). Braque's explosive Fauve period would end quickly when he turned to Cézanne's example in the construction of the Cubist idiom. The rarity of his Fauve canvases make them all the more valuable to these early moments in Modernism. Braque stated that "For me Fauvism was a momentary adventure in which I became involved because I was young... I was freed from the studios, only twenty-four, and full of enthusiasm. I moved toward what for me represented novelty and joy, toward Fauvism... Just think I had only recently left the dark, dismal Paris studios where they still painted with a pitch!" (quoted in The Annenberg Collection (exhibition catalogue), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1989, p. 116). Braque's attention to form within the Fauvist landscape would have immeasurable influence on subsequent movements, such as the German Expressionists who would reiterate a freedom of color a few years later. Braque's dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler purchased many of Braque's paintings at the end of 1907, including several canvases that fit this description.    Please note that this work has kindly been requested for the upcoming exhibition, German Expressionism and France: From van Gogh and Gauguin to the Blaue Reiter to be held at the following venues: Kunsthaus Zürich, February 7 – May 11, 2014; Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, June 8 – September 14, 2014; and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, October 6 – January 25, 2015. Signed G. Braque (lower left)

  • 2013-05-07

Untitled xvi

Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XVI dates from 1975, the year when the artist ended a long period of abstinence from painting and produced twenty large-scale canvases of explosive, vibrant color executed in lush, sensuous paint strokes, all in the space of only six months. Normally an artist who heavily scrutinized and reworked his canvases at great length, de Kooning marveled at his own burst of creativity, experiencing a great resurgence of confidence in his masterful manipulation of oil paint.  As de Kooning recalled in 1981, “I made those paintings one after the other, no trouble at all. I couldn’t miss. It’s a nice feeling. It’s strange. It’s like a man at a gambling table [who] feels that he can’t lose.  But when he walks away with all the dough, he knows he can’t do that again.  Because then it gets all self-conscious.  I wasn’t self-conscious.  I just did it.”  (Judith Wolfe, ``Glimpses of a Master’’ in Exh. Cat., East Hampton, Guild Hall Museum, Willem de Kooning: Works from 1951-1981, 1981, p. 15).  Beginning in 1975 and over the next few years, de Kooning surrounded himself with his canvases, each inspiring him to paint another and informing all with the same sense of water, light and sky.  The thick and juicy paint flowed from his brushes, layering color upon color, as forms emerge and submerge in the textural paint surface. By autumn of 1975, de Kooning had created enough paintings for a major exhibition with his dealer, Xavier Fourcade, in October and November. Untitled XVI was a highlight of this show which heralded a new, dramatically passionate period of the artist’s oeuvre. Beginning in 1969, de Kooning worked primarily on sculpture, producing clay and bronze figures in his first foray into three-dimensional art. The tactile quality of sculpting was wholly sympathetic with de Kooning’s sensuous approach to oil paint which was eloquently acknowledged by de Kooning in his famous 1950 quote, ``Flesh was the reason oil painting was invented’’.  When sculpting, de Kooning often closed his eyes while working with clay, allowing touch and not sight to dictate the form. In similar fashion, the physical immediacy of Untitled XVI is striking. De Kooning emphasizes texture, allowing a variety of planes of paint to coalesce in and out of each other across the canvas. Bold, jubilant brushstrokes of white, pink, yellow and red swell and pucker like undulating flesh, juxtaposed with quieter passages of blue, green, salmon and maroon that are scraped and flattened across the surface with a large palette knife. The building up of paint and the impastoed surface is a signature characteristic of Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s in general and of de Kooning in particular; however one of the revelations of de Kooning’s later work, such as Untitled XVI, is the utter sophistication and variety of de Kooning’s paint handling. The quieter passages of paint, created by scraping and smearing across fields of varying color pigment, foreshadow the beauty of Gerhard Richter’s smeared Abstrakte Bild of the 1980s. In the present painting, de Kooning employed this subtle technique in passages of blue paint at the center of the composition, highlighted with threads of white and yellow, reminiscent of shimmering water. Critics have long noted the strong affinity for water in de Kooning’s work, and the paintings of 1975-1977 seem to be the most direct references to liquidity and flow in the artist’s oeuvre. De Kooning’s newfound freedom of form, space and color in paintings of 1975 such as Untitled XVI was described by Bernhard Mendews Bürgi in the 2005-2006 exhibition of de Kooning’s later decades at the Kunstmuseum in Basel. ``Now, however, the accumulation of sensations between earth and light and water and sky, distilled and detached from anecdotal experience, exploded in a rush of painting. What already applied to the abstract landscapes of the late 1950s and early 1960s became even more conspicuous in the series created between 1975 and 1980, …. They are not abstractions of the experience of nature; they are abstract in following an uncurbed energy principle without beginning and end, allowing things to emerge, to rise to the surface in analogy to nature. ..Everything seems to be floating, flying, lying and falling in these paintings, their energy heightened by a pulsating rhythm.‘’  (Exh. Cat., Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, De Kooning Paintings, 1960-1980, 2005, pp. 24-26). De Kooning’s sense of line is key to his artistic talent and aesthetic sensibilities, and even during his fallow period away from painting from 1969 to 1975, he continued to draw prolifically. But with his return to the plastic form of paint, de Kooning’s line is subsumed, as his strokes broaden and flatten. In place of the line, color and light serve as the organizing principles in these abstract landscapes, reflecting the bright and open environment of his home in East Hampton. De Kooning was always a superb colorist, whether using a palette of black and white in the abstractions of the early 1940s or the pastel hues and acidic, jarring tones of his Women paintings and Urban Landscapes of the 1950s.  But with his move to Long Island, de Kooning responded intimately not only to his watery surroundings, but to the elements of light and air. In shimmering light, forms dissolve and reform in a manner deeply akin to de Kooning’s sense of abstraction. The overlapping layers of color create the sense of space in this composition, juxtaposing muscular maroons with yellows and salmon pinks in a sensuous celebration of color.  With this vibrancy of palette, coupled with the genius of paint handling and sure command of composition and form, Untitled XVI heralds the emergence of de Kooning as a wholly revitalized artist as he entered his seventh decade. Signed on the reverse

  • 2006-05-10

Sinking Sun

One of the defining works of Roy Lichtenstein’s stellar career, Sinking Sun is an authoritative masterpiece which occupies a peerless position both within the artist’s prodigious oeuvre and within the wider context of American Pop Art. Executed in 1964, it stands at the apogee of the comic strip paintings which shot Lichtenstein to international fame in the early 1960s. Bold in ambition and scale, Sinking Sun demonstrates the artist’s complete mastery of the mechanics of impact that he culled from the mass-media and witnesses the distillation of his instantly recognisable, highly distinctive comic-book-derived iconography that he honed in the earlier comic strip paintings. The centerpiece of the Roy Lichtenstein: Landscapes exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1964, Sinking Sun was acquired by Dennis and Brooke Hopper and for many years was the crown jewel of their collection, gracing the walls of their home at 1712 North Crescent Heights, Los Angeles – the literal backdrop to one of the most well-known celebrity duos of 1960s America. An iconic image of a quintessentially American landscape full of hope and nostalgia, Sinking Sun has itself become an icon of the cultural landscape from which it originated. Alongside Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein’s espousal of the prosaic commonplace of popular culture - both in style and frame of reference - and his alchemy of the mass-produced visual qualities of ‘base’ commercial images into poetic pictorial elements worthy of Fine Art, is unequivocally one of the most original innovations and crowning achievements of twentieth-century art practice. Sinking Sun is the endpoint of Lichtenstein’s most acclaimed and sustained body of work, painted between 1961 and 1965, which looked to the low-brow, vapid, cult comic literature to provide both its imagery and its stylistic blueprint. Jettisoning the emphasis on the artist’s touch – the indexical link to the artist that had played such a vital role in the semiotics of Abstract Expressionism – Lichtenstein, alongside Warhol, sought a pictorial vocabulary embedded in modes of mechanical reproduction. Like Gustave Courbet a century earlier, Lichtenstein sought freedom from what he deemed to be the dominant and academic mode of painting of the day through recourse to vulgar subject matter presented in a vernacular style on a pedestal formerly reserved for high art.  In so doing he forced a critical reappraisal of the aesthetic potential of the quotidian modes of commercial illustration. Unlike Warhol, who pioneered the silkscreen process to transfer his images to canvas, Lichtenstein at the start magnified and transferred his images by hand in a painstaking process that insistently removed all the expressionistic detail of brushwork, further divesting the image of naturalistic representation by heightening the heavy stylization of the comic book source. “I want my painting to look as if it has been programmed. I want to hide the record of my hand.” (Roy Lichtenstein interviewed by John Coplans cited in Exh. Cat. Pasadena, Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein, 1967, p.12). This systematic and detached process invited accusations from Lichtenstein’s hostile critics of image duplication: the rote copying of arbitrarily gleaned trite images. However, Lichtenstein never copied an image wholesale and it is in the subtle manipulation of the images that Lichtenstein’s true genius lies. As the artist comments, the difference is often not great but it is crucial: “It becomes a very exaggerated, a very compelling symbol that has almost nothing to do with the original”. (Ibid, p. 12)  As one can see by examining the comic book page for Heart Throbs, a DC Superman National Comics issue in comparison to the Sussex, another 1964 Landscape painting, the artist did not borrow a comic panel in its entirety. He would slice out a cropped section – in this case the horizon of rolling hills, clouds and sky – that is glimpsed behind the dialogue balloons of a couple in deep discussion. The horizon is a distant detail in the overall image, but Lichtenstein sliced it from the page and focused on this edited image for his composition. In a similar manner, Lichtenstein chose to highlight the upper right corner of a comic panel from another issue of Heart Throbs for the composition of the romantic painting Kiss with Clouds (1964). In this case, the image of a kissing couple is truncated so that we see their closed eyes but not their lips, with the background of sky and clouds playing a more prominent role in the composition than in the original comic panel. Such conscious artistic choices denote the high level of thought and careful consideration that Lichtenstein brought to the image he chose to convey on canvas, contradicting any notion that his was a rote selection of given images. What fascinated Lichtenstein about the comic strip subject matter was the disjunction between their exaggerated emotional content and the rigid conventionality of their style. “I was very excited about and interested in the highly emotional content yet detached, impersonal handling of love, hate, war etc., in these cartoon images… It is an intensification, a stylistic intensification of the excitement which the subject matter has for me; but the style is, as you say, cool. One of the things a cartoon does is to express violent emotion and passion in a completely mechanical and removed style”. (Roy Lichtenstein interviewed by G. R. Swenson cited in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, 1968, p.9) It is this fundamental paradox between subject and style, an ongoing concern throughout Lichtenstein’s entire oeuvre, which the artist interrogated with such aplomb in the comic-strip works. Like the artist's greatest works of the period, Sinking Sun harnessed the rigorous stylistic order and overwhelming graphic clarity of the comic strip while simultaneously mimicing the modes of mechanical reproduction. Lichtenstein’s palette is reduced to the core primary colours of red, yellow and blue which are kept as close as possible in feeling, texture and pitch to those used in advertising. As the artist has said: “I use colour in the same way as line. I want it oversimplified – anything that could be vaguely red becomes red. It is mock insensitivity. Actual colour adjustment is achieved through manipulation of size, shape and juxtaposition”.  (Ibid, p. 12) The extensive use of the regularised Benday dot throughout the broad expanse of the picture plane simulates on a monumental scale a specific type of widely used printing technology. Diagrammatic to the extreme, the composition is articulated by the use of bold black highly legible outlines which dramatically define and separate the four horizontal registers of land, horizon, cloud and sky. In places, the Benday dot is liberated from this containing black line and the artist uses the white ground to evoke volume, as in the curvilinear forms of the billowing cumulus cloud, which recall the ebbing waves of Drowning Girl of the previous year. Unlike many of his works from this period which adapted and modified a specific source image or combined multiple sources into a single image, Sinking Sun depicts a generic, clichéd image that verges on the kitsch. Clearly derived from the comic strip, this traditional topos of romantic literature is conventionally depicted in the final frame of both romance and war comic strips, drawing the plot to a close and symbolizing closure and the restoration of order and harmony. This is not an actual landscape, rather it is the stereotype of a fictive landscape - one that is quintessentially optimistic and American. The cliche of `riding off into the sunset' spoke of the promise of happiness and success, as well as the providential abundance of the American frontier and the American dream. Because the stereotype is so strong and so indelibly ingrained into a shared public consciousness, we readily recognise the image just as the beholder instantly recognises the landscape in Temple of Apollo, painted the same year, even if they have never visited Greece. By reducing all extraneous pictorial detail and traces of narrative to an absolute minimum (note the absence of gulls here that are present in other landscapes of the same period), Lichtenstein bestows on Sinking Sun an emblematic fixity that transcends the here and now to create a monolithic image of monumental and enduring presence. What is so powerful in Lichtenstein’s most accomplished paintings is that they are more like comics than the originals from which they derive. Through Lichtenstein’s process of manipulation and reframing, his image of the closing sunset comes closer to the Platonic ideal of comic book style than the comic book source. So powerful is Sinking Sun that it has been subsumed back into the media from which it originated as the hyperbolic archetype of the comic strip genre. However, Lichtenstein’s primary interest in the motif of the landscape resides in the jarring tension established between the synthetic style and the natural phenomena that is being depicted, which pushes to its logical conclusion the disjunction between the object and its representation that is at the core of his practice. As the artist has stated: “There is something humorous about doing a sunset in a solidified way, especially the rays, because a sunset has little or no specific form. It is like the explosions. It’s true that they may have some kind of form at any particular moment, but they are never really perceived as defined shape… It makes something ephemeral completely concrete.” (Lichtenstein interviewed by John Coplans cited in Exh. Cat., Pasadena, Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein, 1967, p. 15). Even though the source image is a derivative of the comic strip, it is a strictly three dimensional motif that undergoes the same formulaic process of simplification and schematization as the more overtly two-dimensional comic-strip images. The rolling hills and expanse of sky, with all its permutations of light and dark, shadow and reflection, are reduced to a flat amalgam of lines, shapes and colours; its nuanced organic forms become rigid and geometric and nature’s disorder is ironed out to become a highly structured arrangement. Lichtenstein has abstracted nature into his own synthetic construct: while traditional landscape painters rely on a willing suspension of belief, asking the beholder - at least for a moment – to accept the representation as the scene itself, Lichtenstein, by contrast, stresses the artificiality of the representation, urging us to recall not the natural landscape but a generic landscape as depicted in the mass media. Above all it is in the rendering of a three-dimensional landscape in a two-dimensional graphic style with its tenacious insistence on ineluctable flatness of the picture plane that silences his antagonistic critics in demonstrating his engagement with the same formal concerns that had been the overbearing preoccupation of his greatest ancestors. As Diane Waldman has commentated, “Sinking Sun, an obvious cliché of a landscape, is among the most successful of [Lichtenstein’s] landscape paintings, largely because it strikes such an effective balance among its subject, the conventions of the comic strip and the demands of pure painting. By stressing the artificiality of the comic-strip derived landscape, Lichtenstein proposed a new form of landscape painting. The predetermined fiction of the comic strip enabled him to present the illusionistic image of the landscape in terms that confirm the fictive reality of the picture plane. As he had in the past, Lichtenstein was able to subvert the representational subject matter by belying its reality and conforming instead to the reality of a reproduction and, ultimately, the even more fundamental reality of the canvas.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Roy Lichtenstein, 1994, p. 131). Standing at the intersection of popular culture and high art, Sinking Sun aptly demonstrates the facility with which Lichtenstein negotiated between Fine Art and images of common currency. In a large part the initial potency of Sinking Sun derived from the cultural shock of scrutinizing for the first time a spectacle so common that we have always closed our eyes to it; Lichtenstein’s skill resided in his ability to unlock the beauty within the pictorial conventions of ubiquitous, everyday images. However, like Jasper John’s Flag, itself a metaphorical landscape of stars, sky and limitless American horizons, Sinking Sun has become a timeless American icon, as fresh and compelling today as it was to its original audience. Exceptional for its rarity, Sinking Sun is one of the few unequivocal cultural landmarks of the twentieth century, making this the rarest of auction moments. Signed and dated 64 on the reverse

  • 2006-05-10

Le Roi jouant avec la reine

Le Roi jouant avec la reine is Max Ernst's masterpiece in sculpture. Belonging to a small group of sculptures that Ernst conceived in 1944, Le Roi jouant avec la reine is one of the artists most powerful and compelling plastic works and illustrates his visionary approach to the medium. The power of this work lies in the contrast in scale between the oneiric, god-like figure of the King who rises out of the chessboard and the smaller figure of the queen who sits within his embrace. Discussing the sculptures of this period Carola Giedion-Welcker wrote: the best among them is the spectacular composition Le Roi jouant avec la reine (1944), with its contrasting alternation of smoothly supple, tactile volumes and encircled expanses of air, combining to produce an impression of suggestive lightness and spatial tension (C. Giedion-Welcker, quoted in Max Ernst. Sculptures, maisons, paysages (exhibition catalogue), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1998, p. 154, translated from French). This dynamism is an essential element of Ernsts anthropomorphic reimagining of chess pieces in the work. The Surrealist preoccupation with chess stemmed from more than a mere enjoyment of the game; rather, chess was particularly suitable as a means of exploring Surrealist preoccupations. Visually it lent itself to a Surrealist involvement, but more importantly, it could function metaphorically as an alternative reality. For artists who had lived through the First World War, it offered a different battleground and a means of transcribing violence in more civilized terms. The practicalities of the game the paradox between individual thought and proscribed movement mirrored their own interest in automatism and the unconscious mind but the patterns of play were also suggestive of other realms and multiple endings. A keen player, Ernst was particularly receptive to these artistic possibilities, using them to great effect in the present work. Just as the beauty of the game lies not in the pieces but in their movement, in Le Roi jouant avec la reine the power of the sculpture is not in its constituent parts but in the suggestive fluidity of their orchestration. The sculpture was originally conceived in the summer of 1944 while Ernst and Dorothea Tanning were holidaying in Great River, Long Island. Ernst presented the plaster version to his friend Robert Motherwell, who was also staying nearby, as Motherwell recalled: Max Ernst made some haunting sculpture in white plaster, including The King Playing with the Queen. Angry at its general rejection, and moved by my admiration, he gave me The King on the spot. I barely managed to get it into my little Nash convertible (quoted in H. H. Arnason & Dore Ashton, Robert Motherwell, New York, 1982, p. 106). In 1953 Jean and Dominique de Menil arranged for the work to be cast in bronze by the Modern Art Foundry and Ernst arranged for Motherwell to receive a bronze cast as an acknowledgement of his safekeeping of the plaster and in testament to the friendship between the two artists. Dr. Jürgen Pech has confirmed the authenticity of this work. Inscribed max ernst and numbered I 

  • 2017-05-16

Le Bassin aux nymphéas

Claude Monets paintings of his water lily pond at Giverny rank among the most celebrated Impressionist pictures. The profound impact the series made on the evolution of modern art distinguishes this important series as Monets greatest achievement. The famous lily pond in his garden at Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major late works, recording the changes in his style and his constant pictorial innovations. The present work, which dates from circa 1917-20, is a powerful testament to Monets enduring vision and creativity in his mature years. Le Bassin aux nymphéas triumphantly achieves monuments of color; the water reflects the skies shifting hues and the lilies themselves are elegant touches of paint applied with bravura. By 1890, Monet had become financially successful enough to buy the house and large garden at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. With enormous vigor and determination, he swiftly set about transforming the gardens and creating a large pond. There were initially a number of complaints about Monets plans to divert the river Epte through his garden in order to feed his new pond, which he had to address in his application to the Préfet of the Eure department: "I would like to point out to you that, under the pretext of public salubrity, the aforementioned opponents have in fact no other goal than to hamper my projects out of pure meanness, as is frequently the case in the country where Parisian landowners are involved. I would also like you to know that the aforementioned cultivation of aquatic plants will not have the importance that this term implies and that it will be only a pastime, for the pleasure of the eye, and for motifs to paint" (quoted in M. Hoog, Musée de lOrangerie. The Nymphéas of Claude Monet, Paris, 2006, p. 119). Once the garden was designed according to the artists vision, it offered a boundless source of inspiration, and provided the major themes that dominated the last three decades of Monets career. Towards the end of his life, he obfuscated his initial intentions, perhaps with a mind to his own mythology, telling 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. Ive hardly had any other subject since that moment" (quoted in S. Koja, Claude Monet (exhibition catalogue), Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 146). Once discovered, the subject of water lilies offered a wealth of inspiration that Monet went on to explore for several decades. His carefully designed garden presented the artist with a micro-cosmos in which he could observe and paint the changes in weather, season and time of day, as well as the ever-changing colors and patterns. John House wrote: "The water garden in a sense bypassed Monets long searches of earlier years for a suitable subject to paint. Designed and constantly supervised by the artist himself, and tended by several gardeners, it offered him a motif that was at the same time natural and at his own command - nature re-designed by a temperament. Once again Monet stressed that his real subject when he painted was the light and weather" (J. House, Monet: Nature into Art, Newhaven, 1986, p. 31). By 1909, Monet's paintings of his Giverny garden were creating a sensation among patrons and critics. In 1909, Charles Morice wrote in response to an exhibition of recent works at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris: "These 'Paysages d'eau,' five years of studies at the edge of the same pond, miraculously synthesize all the accomplishments of Impressionism, all its errors, all its merits. One shouldn't resist this enchantment, but one must also take it into account. The omnipotence of the artist is not in question: he has done exactly what he proposed to do. But, if Delacroix had good reason to define painting as 'the art of producing illusion in the mind of the spectator by way of his eyes,' could one say that the painting of Mr. Monet accords with the terms of this definition This painting does not aim at our mind; it stops at our eyes. This splendidly and exclusively physical art returns to the elements of matter. It has the status of a necessary reaction and bears witness always to marvelous personal gifts" (C. Morice, "Modern Art" in Mercure de France, July 16, 1909, trans. in Claude Monet: Late Work (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, 2010, p. 180). The lasting legacy of Monets late work is most clearly seen in the art of the Abstract Expressionists, such as Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock and Sam Francis, whose bold color planes and rejection of figuration is foreshadowed by Monets Nymphéas. In recent years Gerhard Richter's monumental abstract canvases, such as Cage 6 from 2006, have carried on the tradition established by his artistic forebears. As Jean-Dominique Rey writes: "Late Monet is a mirror in which the future can be read. The generation that, in about 1950, rediscovered it, also taught us how to see it for ourselves. And it was Monet who allowed us to recognize this generation. Osmosis occurred between them. The old man, mad about colour, drunk with sensation, fighting with time so as to abolish it and place it in the space that sets it free, atomizing it into a sumptuous bouquet and creating a complete film of a beyond painting, remains of consequential relevance today" (J.-D. Rey, op. cit., Paris, 2008, p. 116). The present work is distinguished by its important early provenance. Katia Granoff, the Ukranian poet and art dealer who was close friends with Michel and Gaby Monet, was given the opportunity to acquire major works from Monet's estate including the present work. Granoff championed Monet's paintings from his late oeuvre throughout her lifetime, and contributed many photographs and factual information to the first edition of the artist's catalogue raisonné. Stamped Claude Monet (lower right); stamped Claude Monet (on the reverse)

  • 2017-05-16


Curving and muscular, sensuous yet tinged with threat, Francis Bacon’s Portrait from 1962 is a masterclass in the art of seduction. Despite its anonymous title, this passionate painting is undoubtedly a portrait of Bacon's first great love, Peter Lacy, and invites the viewer’s voyeuristic gaze to explore the serpentine lines and flowing curves of the libidinous and muscled flesh on display. Combining the erotic grandeur of Michelangelo with the bestial carnality of a fresh kill, this painting heralds the very beginnings of Bacon’s great (and long) late style.  Arriving in a burst of precocious activity between January and May 1962, embarked upon in preparation for his landmark career retrospective at the Tate Gallery, this painting announces a shift in the artist’s treatment and portrayal of the human animal. Under the spotlight and on the stage, Bacon’s work is imbued with a grandiloquence that approaches the cinematic. Fittingly, Portrait once resided in the collection of pioneering film director Michelangelo Antonioni, whose acclaimed existentialist films of the 1960s telescoped the alienation of our contemporary situation in a way that chimes with Bacon’s revelation of the isolated human figure’s corporal despair. With this work, the creative frustration and turbulence of the mid-1950s was finally converted into a profound inventive force: Portrait marks the inception of an astounding vision that would engender the most remarkable decade of Bacon’s career. Counting among the handful of new paintings created before the Tate show in May 1962, Portrait accompanied the artist’s first great large-scale triptych, Three Studies for a Crucifixion and prestigiously graced the Tate’s walls. Both of these works deploy an exhilarating painterly treatment in which flesh and bone are turned outwards while writhing bodies are located within increasingly resolute interiors. The hallowed ‘spaceframe’ is largely abandoned; although the faint ghost of its linear outline burns through the cool greys and taupe shades that demarcate floor from ceiling in Portrait, Bacon’s drama now takes place upon a raised curvilinear platform and within a defined claustrophobic room. Recalling Bacon’s memories of a country house in Abbeyleix, Ireland, in which he lived as a boy, curving walls and arced space became the quintessential Baconian stage-set from this moment on. Of the latter, Portrait shares a remarkable compositional congruence with Study from Innocent X (one of Bacon’s most inventive and very last Pope paintings executed in 1962, also exhibited in the Tate show) and in many ways these works are pendant pictures. The use of arcs intersecting and dividing the background to create the sense of a curving room and raised platform – or dais – are almost identical in both works; while their corkscrewing bodies and contorted and grimacing features confer an unmistakable reading of the bestial. The very cruciform pose of Bacon’s subject in Portrait – with both arms spread-open above interlaced legs that appear to hover as though suspended in midair – formally echoes the pictorial trope of Christ’s crucifixion. This is a religious construal that carries through from the present work – which has been suggested was painted early in 1962 – into the red Pope that comes next in Ronald Alley’s 1964 catalogue raisonné, and finally through to the Three Studies for a Crucifixion which was famously completed only days before the Tate show opened in May. The confluence between the far right panel of this triptych (which has been suggested is a re-working and inversion of Cimabue’s canonical altarpiece) and the present work, thus imparts a striking conceptual link. However, counter to the hot inferno and vicious animalism of these two paintings, the palette for Portrait is considerably cooler and presents a voluptuous male body that in its very contortion activates a louche yet inviting scenario ripe with phallic charge. It is worth noting as well that where the figure of the Pope and armature of the Christ’s crucifixion were symbols of Bacon’s rise to prominence during the 1950s, the proven success of this symbolic ‘crutch’ began to give way for, to quote John Russell, ‘the maximization of risk’ at stake within his practice of portraiture. (John Russell, Francis Bacon, Greenwich, 1971, p. 165) Having said this, where Portrait may at first appear to be the sedate and composed counterpoint to the blood-curdling despair of Study from Innocent X or Three Studies for a Crucifixion, this painting’s quintessential Baconian violence is concentrated within the corkscrewing body, phallic power, and virtuoso facture of the face: scraped into a wide grimace, a row of bared incisors underlines a viscous stratum of corrugated oil paint that coalesces to form this painting’s locus of psychological torment. Herein, Portrait of 1962 can be seen to anticipate the artist’s remarkable pictorial inventions and career-defining body of portraiture that was soon to emerge following the supreme success of the Tate show. When it opened in May 1962, the contemporary press lauded this exhibition with glowing reviews. “It would be both unwise and unjust to write briefly about the retrospective exhibition of work by Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery” wrote Eric Newton for The Guardian, “beauty is there throughout. A casual glance into any of the five rooms in which these pictures hang, reveals shapes that are noble in themselves, and color schemes that are enchanting. It is only when we begin to examine them for subject matter that one begins to experience the frisson that is Bacon's special gift.” (Eric Newton, "Mortal Conflict," The Guardian, 24 May 1962) The high praise continued in an indepth profile of Bacon in The Observer which celebrated the painterly virtuosity on view at the Tate: “few people will visit the Tate without being stunned by Bacon’s really tremendous power to convey the underworld of tension and suffering – humanity with the lid off.” (Anon. "The Observer Profile" in: The Observer Weekend Review, 27 May 1962, p. 23) While Nigel Gosling’s review declared Bacon as “the most interesting” of “all the living painters I know.” (Nigel Gosling, "Report from the Underworld," Ibid., p. 27) Significantly, Gosling’s piece accorded special recognition to Bacon’s new work by referring to “the exciting new paintings which crown this splendidly chosen and displayed exhibition.” (Ibid.) As part of the retrospective’s dramatic climax, these new works (which included Portrait, Study from Innocent X, and Three Studies for a Crucifixion) announced Bacon’s latest innovations in portraying the human condition. Boasting geometric simplicity, sumptuous use of color, a heightened sense of painterly spontaneity and fleshy voluptuousness, the originality of these works would directly renew his approach to the human body as a site of exuberant excess, pain, and brutal release. Three years prior to this, Bacon had begun to explore the classical theme of the reclining nude in a number of anonymous, androgynous, yet erotically charged "Lying Figure" paintings created during a three-month stay in the Cornish seaside village of St. Ives. Indeed, the composition and color palette of the present work finds its genesis in this small corpus. Presaging the contorted and provocative nudity of Portrait these upside-down figures lie prostrate on a sofa and form corporeal fleshy jumbles that languorously writhe. Although short, Bacon’s time in St. Ives would have a dramatic impact and would furnish the transition away from the grisaille half-light and tank-like interiors of his previous 1950s output. Immersed in a local artistic milieu that was predominantly centered on contemporary debates surrounding abstraction, Bacon, who had previously dismissed this branch of contemporary art as merely “decorative”, nonetheless began to apply Newman and Rothkoesque fields to engender a new kind of spatial depth through color (the artist cited in Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 1996, p. 223). Pitched against these enlivened and increasingly flattened planes, which, as in the present work, imbued his paintings with a heightened environmental presence and actuality, Bacon’s treatment of the human form underwent a correlative transformation. The ghost-like pallor of his figures fell away and was replaced by a depiction of human flesh as living and bleeding: muscle and bone turned inside out. A more immediate developmental stage in the creation of Portrait can be traced to a sketch published in Martin Harrison’s In Camera: Francis Bacon, Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting (published in 2005). Although Bacon famously never admitted to drawing or premeditating his works, it is widely known that he did write lists and, more infrequently, made rapid short-hand studies for potential compositions. Dated to 1962, and etched onto frontispieces of Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human Figure in Motion (1955 edition), a quickly worked thinned-oil sketch of a figure reclining on a sofa/chaise faces a list in Bacon’s typical hand of ideas for future works. At the top of the list ‘Portrait of Peter as opposite’ seems to confirm that this sketch – and by association the present work which contains an almost identical pictorial schema, pose, intimation of a dais or raised platform, and intersecting pattern of background curves – depicts the object of Bacon’s first and greatest love affair, Peter Lacy (Martin Harrison, In Camera: Francis Bacon, Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, London, 2005, p. 181). In Portrait, the outstretched arms and seated position, the structure of the head, the contortion of the facial features and the sinister grimace, are all characteristics familiar to Bacon’s portrayal of Lacy. An older man and ex-RAF pilot with a tendency for violent outbursts, Lacy was Bacon’s romantic ideal. It was a destructive relationship that fed equally upon Lacy’s appetite for sadism and Bacon’s masochistic cravings. Although their turbulent relationship had come to an end in 1958, Bacon, who had also continued to frequently visit Lacy where he had settled in Tangier, continued to conjure his likeness in paint. Having titled the work Portrait Bacon leads us to believe that this painting is indeed a rendering of someone, and considering the phallocentric eroticism and subtle menace on show, it can be inferred that Lacy is most probably the subject of the present work. Lacy appears in a number of guises throughout Bacon’s production; he is the model for Bacon’s terrifying Papal father figures in the 1950s, the dominant lover in the violently sexual Two Figures of 1953, and subject of countless portraits including the first official small canvas triptych in the 14 by 12 inch size, Study for Three Heads of 1962. Of the latter, this painting was executed in mourning of Lacy’s death in Tangier, news of which reached Bacon on the very first day that his Tate retrospective opened to the public. Herein, Portrait is arguably the last painting of Lacy executed whilst he was still alive. Ultimately however, that the identity of Portrait is left anonymous leaves interpretation entirely open to reading a host of disparate linkages. The interlacing and corkscrewing limbs, the voluptuous flesh and ample musculature in Portrait invokes the importance of Michelangelo in Bacon’s imagination. Of the many artifacts excavated from Bacon’s Reece Mews studio were countless leafs taken from books on the Renaissance master, particularly of drawings depicting the male body which was his primary focus as an artist.  The tangible bulk of Bacon’s subject in Portrait is fundamentally Michelangeloesque: the undulating curves of the arms, the sculpting shadow that defines the right pectoral and the hefty posterior emulate the muscled tension of Michelangelo’s idealized male forms. However in Bacon’s imagination the work of Michelangelo was tied up with images by the pioneering documentary photographer Eadweard Muybridge. “Actually Muybridge and Michelangelo are mixed up in my mind together” explained Bacon, “and so I perhaps could learn about positions from Muybridge and learn about the ampleness, the grandeur of form from Michelangelo.” (the artist cited in Margarita Cappock, Francis Bacon’s Studio, London and New York, 2005, p. 116) Published in the late Nineteenth Century, Muybridge’s pseudo-scientific photographic treatises on human and animal locomotion presented for the first time an aid for artists in capturing split-second images of moving bodies. Sold as plates and eventually published in volumes, Muybridge’s motion studies were populist, voyeuristic, and undeniably eccentric; the gratuitous display of nude and well-muscled male bodies climbing stairs, running, jumping, boxing, playing tennis and cricket, fencing and wrestling appealed massively to Bacon, not only for their vital authenticity as documenting the human body in motion, but also for their undeniable homoerotic content. For Bacon, Muybridge and Michelangelo represented two sides of the same coin; although separated by centuries and entirely different objectives, these two were bound in Bacon’s mind owing to the wealth of taut muscled poses prevalent in the work of both. For Bacon, these images of the male body were libidinous and unlocked ‘valves of sensation’ that acted as a key cipher onto which he could apply and improvise his own painterly record of impassioned embodiment. That Bacon outlined this preliminary working through of Portrait on a copy of Muybridge’s Human Figure in Motion further emphasizes the fact. Furthermore, as images presented in sequence the latent sense of the cinematic within Muybridge was not lost on Bacon; indeed, film was of massive consequence and truly formed him as a painter. As explained by art historian David Alan Mellor: “From almost the time of the first critical writing on Bacon, in 1949, film was seen to be the indispensable point of reference for any understanding of him.” (David Alan Mellor, “Film, Fantasy, History in Francis Bacon” in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain (and travelling), Francis Bacon, 2008, p. 50) From Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), Luis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou (1967) through to Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour (1959), the powerful imagery of film fed directly into Bacon’s “pulverizing machine” and symptomatically emerged in his painting; the most famous example of which is the screaming nanny motif from Potemkin which finds almost endless repetition in Bacon’s early work (the artist cited in John Russell, Ibid., p. 71). A true cinephile, Bacon immersed himself in film’s burgeoning history, its developing field of critical literature, and its exciting contemporary development. As Mellor has explained, in parallel with the ascent of creative film-making “something in painting withered as a result. Bacon’s purpose has been to bring that something back to life.” (Ibid.) From the work of Fritz Lang, D.W. Griffith and Abel Gance, through to the more novel and experimental trends in popular culture, Bacon was open to every development in this new and exciting genre. Indeed, the red and green accents outlining the body in Portrait seem to reflect the contemporaneous craze for 3D images and film, which beginning in Hollywood in 1953, had swept across Britain by the late 1950s. Martin Harrison alludes to this fact in In Camera and points to the concurrent appearance of red and green combinations in a number of works from the 1960s (Martin Harrison, ibid., p. 150). However, as the history of Portrait’s ownership relays, the direction of this stream of influence has since changed current. Within the last 50 years or so, the influence of Bacon’s work on the arena of film is undeniably palpable. As opening testament to this, the first owner of Portrait was the Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, who alongside Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Alain Resnais pioneered a new wave of European art-house cinema that emanated a distinctly contemporary ennui. Subversive and influential in equal measure, Antonioni had made his name by 1960 with L’Avventura (1959), which along with a further two films (La Notte and L’Eclisse) released in 1960 and 1962 respectively, explores the thematic of modern day alienation and emotional abandonment through narrative disjoint and striking camera work. It is for the 1966 Blow-Up however that Antonioni is best known; set within swinging London, the film loosely follows a fashion photographer who believes he unknowingly captures evidence of a murder when photographing two lovers in a public park. Fittingly for Bacon’s work, this film scrutinizes how our perception of reality and fact is increasingly channeled through the proclaimed ‘truth’ of a photographic image. That Portrait, and largely Bacon’s work in general, would have struck a chord with Antonioni is therefore unsurprising: chilling renderings of distinctly modern and alienated human beings reside at the very core of both artists’ work. Whether Bacon influenced Antonioni or vice versa is undocumented, however, evidence of Bacon’s impact on a host of more recent cinematic heavyweights affirm the truly epic scope of Bacon’s remarkable creative vision. In the controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972) starring Marlon Brando, director Bernardo Bertolucci juxtaposed the film’s opening credits alongside two of Bacon’s paintings, one of Lucian Freud reclining in a manner that echoes the pose in Portrait, and another of Isabel Rawsthorne sitting on a chair; both were painted in 1964. During the filming of Last Tango in 1971 Bertolucci visited Bacon’s retrospective in Paris at the Grand Palais multiple times, even taking Brando, whom he encouraged to look at Bacon’s provocative portrayal of male flesh as inspiration for his character Paul – an older man who enters into an anonymous and sado-masochistic relationship with a young woman. The writhing, straining, and tormented quality of Bacon’s figures, whose provocative flesh is hungover with aggressive sexuality, is carried across to the psychologically perturbed and sexual abandon of Bertolucci’s protagonists. Indeed, there is even something of the sadistic/seductive tone of Portrait inherent within Brando’s character. On a more holistic level however, it was the color of Bacon’s paintings that affected the overall look of Last Tango in Paris: the cinematography is characterized by a predominance of orange, icy white, cool grey and flashes of red, a palette that was sourced directly from hues found in Bacon’s work. Where for Bertolucci the influence of Bacon was specific to Last Tango, Bacon’s incredible arena, at once grand and claustrophobic, resonates throughout the entire career of David Lynch. The importance of Bacon for Lynch is undeniable: from the heavily curtained room of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks (1990-91), the pig carcass hanging outside the butchers shop in The Elephant Man (1980), the unconstrained primal shrieks of Dennis Hopper’s sadistic Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (1986), not to mention the body horror of Lynch’s first critical success, Eraser Head (1977), there is a Baconian menace that infiltrates every pore of this director’s production. As explained by Lynch: “Francis Bacon is, to me, the main guy, the number one kinda hero painter. I saw Bacon’s show in the 1960s at the Marlborough Gallery and it was really one of the most powerful things I ever saw in my life… The subject matter and the style were united, married, perfect. And the space, and the slow and the fast and, you know, the textures, everything.” (David Lynch cited in Erica Sheen and Annette Davidson, Eds., The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions (Directors' Cuts), New York, 2004, p. 139) Intriguingly, where David Lynch had first started as an artist before his foray into film-making, Bacon reflected upon a similar reversal of his own ambitions: “You know, I’ve often said to myself that I would have liked to have been a film director if I hadn’t been a painter.” (the artist cited in Margarita Cappock, Op. Cit., p. 117) The filmic dimension of Bacon’s art is thus entirely beyond reproach and continues to profoundly impact the vision of filmmakers today. Perhaps the most famous and recent example of which is Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, for which Heath Ledger’s Joker makeup in The Dark Knight (2008) was directly inspired by the “worn through [and] sweaty” quality of Baconian flesh. (Christopher Nolan in conversation in “Film meets Art – Chris Nolan inspired by Francis Bacon”, Tate Video, 02.19) Ambitious in scope, theatrical in scale, and foreboding in presence, the sense of a majestic cinematic entity is played out powerfully across the large-scaled golden-framed triptychs and single paneled paintings that would send Bacon’s reputation into the stratosphere during the coming decade. Having first resided with one of the most pioneering visionaries in the history of film, Portrait is utterly indicative of the very beginnings of this ambitious project, which following the 1962 retrospective and the innovative works that Bacon made for it, would set the standard and format for the rest of Bacon’s long and illustrious career. Furnishing the very incipit of this transition, Portrait is an extremely passionate and accomplished piece of painting. Conferring unrestrained intensity of feeling, this painting is a lustful soliloquy to Peter Lacy that is a simultaneous masterwork of compositional balance: steamy eroticism is cooled by a sedate chromatic palette. Muscular, powerful and sexually charged, inviting and yet simultaneously menacing, this is an image that extends far beyond the simplicity of its title. Titled and dated 1962 on the reverse

  • 2015-11-12

Untitled (Rome)

“He smears the colour on with his fingers or applies it directly from the tube onto the canvas as a physical act: colour becomes raw condition or ‘materia nuda’, human presence of gods and heroes like flesh and blood in pink and red.” Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly: Paintings 1952-1976 Volume I, Berlin 1978, p. 43. Cy Twombly’s breathtaking painting Untitled (Rome) of 1964 brings together in perfect concert all the spectacular drama, enveloping scale, stunning colour, sublime confluence of line and form, and sheer emotional urgency that characterise the most irresistible achievements of his prodigious oeuvre. Executed in the artist’s thirty-sixth year, this major triumph of his groundbreaking 1960s output belongs to a critical moment in his long and illustrious career. Created in Rome, Twombly’s beloved adopted home, it was acquired in Italy forty-five years ago and has remained in the same important private European collection ever since. Never before exhibited publically, Untitled (Rome)’s monumental scale, surpassed by only one other work of 1964, sets it apart as among the most physically impressive canvases of Twombly’s entire canon. The canvas spans in excess of two by two and-a-half meters, and to stand before it first-hand is to enter an experiential arena limited only by the beholder’s imagination. Untitled (Rome) precisely distils Twombly’s revolutionary idiom, combining ethereal strokes of graphite, brilliantly coloured graffito lines, and visceral clumps of impasto to conjure the suggestion of a plethora of influence and remembrance. In contrast to paintings of the preceding 1961-63 period, which frequently took a specific Classical myth as their inspiration, Untitled (Rome) embodies what Roland Barthes termed Twombly’s “Mediterranean effect”: a topology of references constituting  “an enormous complex of memories and sensations… a historical, mythological, poetic culture, this whole life of forms, colors and light which occurs at the frontier of the terrestrial landscape and the plains of the sea” (Roland Barthes, ‘The Wisdom of Art’ in: Nicola Del Roscio, Ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich 2002, p. 19). It is a work of art that exists in and of itself, encapsulating Heiner Bastian’s description of Twombly’s 1961-65 corpus; “Everything about the paintings… above all, their permeation with antiquity and the Mediterranean world – sets them apart from the larger body of artistic theory of the latter half of this century” (Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1961-65, Vol. II, Munich 1993, p. 21). The composition beautifully unites two pillars of Twombly’s practice, painting and drawing, in terms simultaneously as emphatic as they are economical. The delicate pencil strokes connote an essential and sensitive linear architecture that proves an unlikely yet precise counterbalance to the explosive passages of vibrant colour. Indicating a demarcation of the composition into three vertical sections, the sharply incised horizontal and vertical graphite lines suggest both the design of a triptych, and even more specific formal iconography, such as the raised central platform or step that is common to Renaissance triptych altarpiece paintings that present a central protagonist, elevated above their supplicants. Moreover, Twombly’s composition continues the unremittingly free association between painting and language, with a short vertical line of text sitting above the central white form, which is intended to be virtually indecipherable but which could read “A Lesson’s end.” The indeterminate yet vibrant white form at the centre of the composition comprises a richly aggregated matrix of looped marks; impasto oil paint squeezed, scratched and gouged in repeated circular lines. This woven mass both recalls Frank O'Hara’s 1955 description of Twombly’s work: “a bird seems to have passed through the impasto with cream-colored screams and bitter claw-marks… this new development makes the painting itself the form” (Frank O'Hara, 'Cy Twombly,' ARTnews, vol. 53, no. 9, January 1955, p. 46); as well as evidently anticipating the looped mark-making of the revered ‘blackboard’ paintings that were to come later in the decade. Twombly had first moved to Italy seven years earlier in 1957, establishing a studio in Rome that overlooked the Colosseum. In 1959 he married Tatiana Franchetti in New York, thereby formally becoming integrated into his wife’s Italian family. In early 1960 the couple moved into a grand new home in a seventeenth-century Palazzo on the Via di Monserrato in Rome and Twombly’s life became infused with the antiquarian splendour and sensually overwhelming experience of the heart of the city among Classical stimuli and evocative urban topography. As Nicholas Cullinan has described, “To encounter the past is to put into question the present. This sense of awe and perplexity at overlaid tenses and times and encountering places only previously known in the imagination…offered for Twombly a palimpsest of past, present and future; layered, intertwined and interpenetrating each other like archaeological strata” (Nicholas Cullinan in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008, p. 74). Concurrently Twombly’s style became increasingly visceral, with thick and florid colour enunciating Classical references, such as in the Ferragosto paintings executed in the summer of 1961. Working in his studio on Piazza del Biscione through 1962, he became more focused on mythological subjects, as demonstrated through his paintings Birth of Venus, Hero and Leander, Leda and the Swan, and Vengeance of Achilles. These thematic developments culminated at the end of 1963 with a series of works called Nine Discourses on Commodus, an epic portrait of the violently megalomaniac Roman emperor. He spent the Spring of 1964 in Greece and during July and August he worked in Castel Gardena in the Dolomites on a series of drawings which he entitled Notes from a Tower. When he returned to Rome he painted the major triptych Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later), the extraordinary second version of School of Athens, now in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and the masterful Il Parnasso. It was in this context that Twombly created the present work; a crescendo of the visceral imagery, compositional economy, and graphic intelligence that define a staggering innovation and inimitable abstract aesthetic. Approaching the Classical tradition broadly, Untitled (Rome) magnificently and concisely illustrates the dialectic underlying classical art, as outlined by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in his defining work The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Beyond an historical analysis, Nietzsche aimed to identify universal principles of tragic art, which he saw as stemming from the tension between ordered Apollonian self-concern and Dionysian states of destructive communal abandon. Nietzsche’s description of this interplay speaks to the visual encounter of Untitled (Rome): “And behold! Apollo could not live without Dionysos… Let us now imagine how the ecstatic sounds of the Dionysiac festival, with its ever more seductive, magical melodies, entered this artificially dammed-up world founded on semblance and measure, how in these melodies all the unmeasurable excess in nature found expression in pleasure, suffering and knowledge, in a voice which rose in intensity to a penetrating shout; let us imagine how little the psalm-singing artist of Apollo and the ghostly sound of his harp could mean in comparison to this daemonic popular song!... The individual, with all his limits and measure, became submerged here in the self-oblivion of the Dionysiac condition and forgot the statutes of Apollo. Excess revealed itself as the truth; contradiction, bliss born of pain, spoke of itself from out of the heart of nature” (Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ in: Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs, Eds., Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, Cambridge 1999, p. 27). More than any other painter of his generation, Twombly captured the aesthetic of excess (though always in tension with restraint). The proto-architectural drawing along the horizon of Untitled (Rome) can thus also be seen to function as a minimal theatrical set – an Apollonian backdrop – before which violently rendered paint marks perform. Its ruled lines abstractly bespeak a stepped wall or edifice; the pencil a necessary foil to bright and explosively painted oil pigment. Hand prints in various states of resolve – sometimes with a palm, but elsewhere dotted or dragged marks by errant fingertips – showcase Twombly’s tactile painting style. Elsewhere, these personal gestures dissolve into anonymous energetic brushstrokes, which constitute bright knots of crimson red or brilliant white. The palette utilised in Untitled (Rome) can significantly be found on ancient pottery and statuary from the classical Mediterranean: bright orange and red, cobalt blue, yellow, black and white, are all pigments that archaeologists have determined originally adorned the now purest white marble statues and temples. By its recourse to Classical history, the immediacy of its painted finger marks, and insistently representational composition, Untitled (Rome) evinces how Twombly differed from contemporary Abstract Expressionism. Nevertheless, it equally illustrates Thomas Crow’s observation that Twombly and the Abstract Expressionists were affined by having “extinguished explicit figuration the better to retain the formal characteristics of heroicizing art from the past: large scale, expansiveness of effect, the rhetoric of ambition and risk… In this sense, their art was old-fashioned in its ambition, a throwback to the seventeenth century… when art could confidently summon up belief in Vir Heroicus Sublimis” (Thomas Crow, Modern Art in the Common Culture, New Haven 1996, p. 191). The immersive dimensions, arresting colour scheme, and aggressively painted surface of Untitled (Rome) unmistakably convey its ambitions as a truly heroic work of art.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2014-02-12


Executed in 1902, during his second and last visit to the South Seas, Deux femmes or La Chevelure fleurie epitomises Gauguin’s fascination with his idyllic surroundings, and presents a peak of the artist’s life-long search for the primitive achieved in his last years. 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 dynamic, vivid palette of the present painting evokes the richness of nature that excited the artist, and the warm, golden yellow of the women’s bodies contrast the purple hues of the background. The particular appeal of this work lies in the tension between the overt sensuality of the two semi-nude figures and the mysterious quality of the overall atmosphere. Having spent two years in Tahiti, in July 1893 Gauguin 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 at 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. In 1901 Gauguin finally carried out his old intention of moving even further to the islands of Marquesas, and on 10th September left Tahiti on the steamship Croix de Sud. He settled on the island of Hivaoa, where life was more savage and scenery far wilder than in Tahiti. Furthermore, its inhabitants had a reputation for being the most handsome people in the South Seas – taller, slimmer, and with elegant, elongated features. The artist himself wrote: ‘I am certain that in the Marquesas, where models are easy to find (while in Tahiti it is getting more and more difficult), and where in addition there are landscapes to discover – new and more primitive sources of inspiration, in fact – I can do fine things. My creative powers were beginning to flag here, and moreover the art public was getting too familiar with Tahiti’ (quoted in Bengt Danielsson, Gauguin in the South Seas, London, 1965, p. 228). It was on this remote island, where Gauguin was to stay for the rest of his life, that the present work was painted. After months of financial struggle and deteriorating health, the beginning of 1902 saw a period of relative prosperity for Gauguin, and it was probably during this time of increased enthusiasm and artistic creativity that he painted Deux femmes. Showing two semi-nude female figures in an interior setting, it depicts the atmosphere of languor characteristic of the tropics, and its strong, vibrant tones demonstrate the artist’s fascination with the warm, lush colours of the sunlit island. The depiction of the two figures reflects Gauguin’s admiration of the golden yellow skin of the Marquesan women (fig. 1), and their proportionate bodies, more elegant than the muscular, androgynous physique of the Tahitian women (fig. 2). He wrote about the Marquesan type: ‘Their beautiful bodies, without any whalebone to deform them, move with sinuous grace under their lace and muslin chemises’. Whilst still fascinated with the wilderness of the island and its nature, Gauguin became more interested in the mythical, spiritual quality of his surroundings during his second stay in the South Seas, and his imagination and creative energy often focused on compositions that transcended the particular place in which they were painted. He created his own mythic universe which was a conflation of the religious traditions of the East, West and Oceania, of beliefs both ancient and contemporary. The artist’s personal mythology, combining the physical with the spiritual into an idyllic, harmonious world, reached its most accomplished expression in Gauguin’s monumental Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? of 1897. In the present work, the physical beauty of the figures, rendered with lush, vibrant colours, is imbued with an air of spirituality and otherworldliness typical of Gauguin’s late works. The praying figure depicted in the top right corner adds a note of mysticism, its blue tonality, usually associated with the spiritual, in sharp contrast with the lush tone of the women’s bodies. Another curiosity in the present composition is the fox appearing in the doorway, often interpreted as a symbol of perversity. George T. M. Shackelford compared the fox in Deux femmes with a wooden relief Soyez amoureuses vous serez heureuses of 1889 (fig. 3), also showing the animal among a number of exotic figures: ‘The odd relationship between the relief of 1889 and a painting of 1902 is underscored by another canvas completed in the same year, Two Women [the present work], in which the Breton fox sits outside the door of a Polynesian dwelling. Within the house, two figures sit in curious juxtaposition, with a strange “carved” figure perched at the upper right of the composition’ (G. T. M. Shackelford, in Gauguin Tahiti. The Studio of the South Seas (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 254). Apart from painting and wood carving, during this time Gauguin executed a number of transfer drawings (fig. 5), often used either as studies for his paintings, or to recombine aspects of paintings thus arriving at new images. In his account of the artist’s final years, Richard Brettell wrote: ‘In 1901, Gauguin moved to the even more distant island of Hivaoa, part of the most remote island group on earth. From the tiny village of Atuona, where he lived the last two years of his life, he kept abreast of world news, followed artistic and literary events throughout Europe, and busied himself with the decoration of his last total work of art, the famous House of Pleasure. After years of struggle, he came to a financial agreement with Ambroise Vollard who, in exchange for a more-or-less regular income, imposed a certain level of productivity upon Gauguin. Since his works were then in demand, he finished them relatively quickly and sent them in batches to France … the rapidity with which he worked had a liberating effect on Gauguin. His compositions became more varied, and he experimented even more dramatically with relationships of color’ (R. Brettell, in The Art of Paul Gauguin (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 395). Whilst many artists from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century– from Symbolists to Fauves and German Expressionists – followed Gauguin’s example in their quest for the ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’, he was the one to have ventured furthest in the pursuit of these ideals. A fascinating and highly accomplished image of harmony between man and nature, Deux femmes is a powerful testament not only Gauguin’s own creative vision, but also the artistic and spiritual ideal of his time. Fig. 1, Paul Gauguin, Et l’or de leur corps, 1901, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris Fig. 2, Paul Gauguin, Te faaturuma (I) (La Boudeuse), 1891, oil on canvas, Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts Fig. 3, Paul Gauguin, Soyez amoureuses vous serez heureuses, 1889, painted wood, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Fig. 4, Paul Gauguin, Contes barbares, 1902, oil on canvas, Museum Folkwang, Essen Fig. 5, Deux marquisiennes, circa 1902, transfer drawing printed on paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Signed P. Gauguin and dated 1902 (lower left)

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2006-02-07

Very important fancy intense pink diamond

The pear-shaped fancy intense pink diamond of fine colour weighing 16.00 carats, mounted as an earring with a pear-shaped and a brilliant-cut diamond, post fitting. Certainly, the occurrence of any gem-quality diamond is rare, but the discovery of a pink diamond is exceedingly unusual. Of all diamonds annually submitted to GIA, no more than 3% are classified as coloured diamonds; less than 5% of those coloured diamonds are predominantly pink, according to the Gemmological Institute of America. 'The Artemis Pink' has been determined as type IIa. According to the GIA Laboratory, the 16.00 carat Pear Modified Brilliant diamond has been determined to be a type IIa diamond. Type IIa diamonds are the most chemically pure type of diamond and often have exceptional optical transparency. Type IIa diamonds were first identified as originating from India (particularly from the Golconda region) but have since been recovered in all major diamond-producing regions of the world. Excerpt from the Type IIa classification letter On 4 April 2017, Sothebys Hong Kong sold the Pink Star, a magnificent Fancy Vivid Pink Internally Flawless diamond weighing an outstanding weight of 59.60 carats, for a record price for any diamond, any gemstone and any jewel at US$ 71.2 million. The current record price ever paid at auction for a fancy intense pink diamond is The Graff Pink, a superb 24.76 carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond, which sold at Sothebys Geneva in November 2010 for US$46.16 million. Accompanied by GIA report no. 1172688201, stating that the diamond is Fancy Intense Pink, Natural Colour, VVS2 Clarity, together with a Type IIa classification letter. 

  • CHESchweiz
  • 2017-05-16

Untitled (Bolsena)

“By moments, all sense of the concrete is lost in the movement of an invisible, spellbinding, received spaciousness – and the imagery appears as enlarged details of a storehouse of distant apparitions and flux.” Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume III, 1966- 1971, Munich, 1994, p. 32 In the summer of 1969 Cy Twombly worked in isolation on the shores of Lago di Bolsena, about eighty miles north of Rome, to create a cycle of grand, epic paintings that have long been recognized as an outstanding and seminal series of his oeuvre. As definitively attested by the present work, which steadfastly remained in the artist’s own collection for over four decades, the Bolsena canvases are unlike anything else of his groundbreaking 1960s output. Executed during a “long and often lonely siege of work” – clearly catalyzed by a fevered and inexorable will to innovate in the summer heat of central Italy - this painting marks a significant departure from the predominant trends of repetitive elegiac inscription and tonal solemnity of the so-called ‘blackboard’ paintings that occupied much of his attention during the latter part of the decade (Kirk Varnedoe, ‘Inscriptions in Arcadia,’ in Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, 1994, p. 43). As with the very best works by Twombly, this painting signals an urgent and fractured transmutation of diverse stimuli through its lyrical fits of stuttering marks, numbers, fluttering forms and explosive scribbles. Yet, this work is also entirely archetypal of the specific characteristics of the Bolsena series, as precisely defined by Nicholas Cullinan “Flow, segmentation, sequence and lateral speed assume centre stage… Tumbling forms, calculations and scribbled-out numbers like incorrect sums proliferate...[The] topic of ascent and descent is particularly applicable to the Bolsena paintings.” (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and travelling), Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008-09, p. 112) Much of the radical shift in Twombly’s oeuvre embodied by the Bolsena works can perhaps be accounted for by his ceaseless travel during this time: an apparently insatiable wanderlust, which concords with the markedly different aesthetic characteristics and pictorial traits of the various series he produced during this entire period. At the end of 1967, the thirty-nine year-old Twombly travelled by boat from New York to Naples, but by May and June 1968 he was back in New York, working in a studio on the Bowery where he created the Orion and Synopsis of a Battle pictures, and the first large-scale version of Treatise on the Veil and Veil of Orpheus. He spent August 1968 in Castel Gardena before returning to New York City for the autumn. In December he was in Captiva Island, Florida, where he worked on a series of collages, as well as in Los Angeles where he had his first exhibition at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery. From there he travelled to California and then on to Mexico and he spent the month of January 1969 on the Caribbean Isle of Saint Martin. Thus his arrival in Bolsena in May 1969 marked the end of a period of enduring transition, and he would remain in the ancient Italian town in comparative solitude for six months until October. A small town infused with the rich shadows of an endless history, Bolsena provided Twombly an environment of certainty and longevity, which so often sparked his ability to create breathtakingly unprecedented art. Thus as with other works executed in Italy, Untitled is a reflection of a place that Twombly perceived as being lost to history. Forged in an inherently classical environment, this painting is inevitably a personal manifestation of ancient landscapes, though through Twombly’s vision this becomes a metaphysical landscape that is limited only by the imagination. As Cullinan has noted, Bolsena would have been known to Twombly through Raphael’s fresco The Mass at Bolsena (c.1512-13) in the Stanza di Eliodoro of the Vatican Palace (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and travelling), Op. Cit.) Through the summer of 1969 Twombly worked in the Palazzo del Drago in Bolsena, which had been built as an imposing palace in 1543 for Tiberio Crispo, a nephew of Pope Paul III. In these magnificent surroundings Twombly created some of the most innovative works of art of the post-war period, beautifully summarized by Heiner Bastian: “The series of large-format light canvases Untitled painted between May and September on the shore of the Lago di Bolsena, transform the reduction and discipline of the grey paintings into the gesture, citation and fragmentation of pliability and transparency. In these paintings reside real as well as imagined confrontations, lit by the reflection of actual things as if by a radiance cast by marvelous happenstance; and all within freely changes temper as it navigates pathways warped by a reeling, gravimetric tow.” (Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume III, 1966- 1971, Munich, 1994, p. 32) Untitled encapsulates Twombly’s signature technique and tremendously influential aesthetic wherein the traces of creation and erasure are left bare on the face of the composition: the narrative of addition and subtraction builds up like archaeological strata to create an artwork of endless intrigue. As explicated by Bastian, “By moments, all sense of the concrete is lost in the movement of an invisible, spellbinding, received spaciousness – and the imagery appears as enlarged details of a storehouse of distant apparitions and flux.” (Heiner Bastian, Op. Cit.) Twombly often speaks of “irresponsibility to gravity” as being central to his work, describing his interpretation of Classical mythology as a realm of shadowless imagination without weight or constraint. As Twombly enters into a physical dialogue with the corporeal and unseen, myth is manifest as sensually tangible experience. Expressed through the violent metamorphosis of mutating, ever fateful identities and thoughts, the poetry and mythology of Classical antiquity - its sense of tragedy and transformation – emerge invigorated and renewed. With an incomparable surface and cascading sense of destabilized forms, the surface of Untitled pulsates with a frenzied sensuality that reaches beyond allegory to the absolute itself. Sumptuous in opposites and allusion, Untitled offers an allegorical appeal to form and its ongoing transformation. The agitation of Twombly's hand and gesture stands in opposition to the solidity of objects: the imperceptible growth of a tree branch and the challenged stability of stone architecture are suggested by the frenetic pencil graphite and oil paints that are applied with an aggression that is more akin to erasure than creation. It is in this space between negation and suggestion that Twombly's works find their powerful resonance. And through the opposition of these binary qualities, Twombly gives new possibilities to the expressiveness of painting. Signed, inscribed Bolsena and dated 1969 on the reverse

  • 2013-05-13

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