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Exceedingly rare, Modigliani's elegant stone carvings are among the most coveted works of modern art.  While the majority these sculptures are in the collections of museums, the present work is the finest remaining in private hands.  Tête that has the power to enthrall those who enter its realm.  Created in the likeness of an ancient totem or deity, this magnificient carving was created in Modigliani's open-air studio at the Cité Falguière in Montparnasse.  At night the artist would illuminate these sculptures by candlelight, creating a sacred space for his goddesses of stone.   Those faced with the spectacle could not escape the power and allure of this beautiful figure.  "The stone heads affected me strangely," confessed Augustus John, the British artist who purchased the present sculpture directly from Modigliani. "For some days afterwards I found myself under the hallucination of meeting people in the street who might have posed for them… Can ‘Modi’ have discovered a new and secret aspect of ‘reality’?"  Even Modigliani was not immune to its transfixing effect.  Jacques Lipchitz remembered that "Modigliani, when under the influence of hashish, embraced these sculptures."  And Jacob Epstein, after visiting the studio one night when it was filled with nine or ten of these elongated heads, recalled that "when we had left him very late, he came running down the passage after us, calling us to come back like a frightened child" (quoted in Meryle Secrest, Modigliani, A Life, New York, 2011, p. 143). Such is the bewitching effect of Tête, a venerable idol of the avant-garde. Modigliani's work on Tête was a product of a devotional mania towards sculpture as an act of carving, or the liberation of form from a block of stone.  His passion for this process was witnessed by many of his fellow artists at this time.  The English painter Nina Hamnett observed that Modigliani "always regarded sculpture as his real métier, and it was probably only lack of money, the difficulty of obtaining material, and the amount of time required to complete a work in stone that made him return to painting during the last five years of his life" (in Alfred Werner, Modigliani the Sculptor, New York, 1962, p. XIX).  Jacob Epstein, too, described Modigliani's fanatical approach to this medium and explained that his process was integral to his desired result:  "Modigliani, like some others at the time, was very taken with the notion that sculpture was sick, that it had become very sick with Rodin and his influence.  There was too much modeling in clay, too much 'mud.'  The only way to save sculpture was to start carving again, direct carving in stone... the important thing was to give the carved stone the feeling of hardness, and that came from within the sculptor himself ... he worked furiously... without stopping to correct or ponder.  He worked, it seemed, entirely by instinct - which was however extremely fine and sensitive, perhaps owing much to his Italian inheritance and his love of the painting of the early Renaissance masters" (reprinted in op. cit., p. 130). Modigliani’s passionate avowal of direct carving is especially evident in the extraordinary richly varied surface texture of the present work; with passages alternating between an extremely fine, smooth finish to roughly hewn and chisel-marked. This expressive handling emphasized the creative process and the artist’s dedication to his newly developed aesthetic. The present sculpture was created in 1911-12 from a single block of limestone known as pierre d'Euville, a porous rock quarried in a small town in eastern France.   Modigliani scavenged the material from construction sites around Paris, carting it in a wheelbarrow back to the studios he shared with Constantin Brancusi, who instructed him in carving.  While Brancusi's influence on Modigliani can surely be detected in his smooth carving here, another important influence was the streamlined, puckered-lipped Guro maskes from the Ivory Coast.  Modigliani had seen many examples of these African ritualistic objects at the Musée du Trocadéro, and their impact was clearly recognizable upon visiting the artist's work space: "His studio at that time was a miserable hole within a courtyard where he worked," Lipchitz remembered. "It was then filled by nine or ten of those long heads which were suggested by African masks and one figure.  They were carved in stone. I can see him as if it were today, stooping over those heads of his, explaining to me that he had concieved all of them as an ensemble.  It seems to me that these heads were exhibited later the same year (1912) in the Salon d'Automne, arranged in step-wise fashion, like the tubes of an organ, to produce the special music he wanted" (quoted in ibid.). Modigliani's theatrical and poetic leanings with regard to his sculpture were reinforced by his acquaintance with the young Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, with whom he had an developed an intense relationship between 1910 through 1912.  During the spring of 1911, Akhmatova was inseparable from Modigliani and wrote that "you could hear the knock of his mallet in the deserted alley" of his Montparnasse studio as he liberated the figures from their stone.  While Tête bears the linear and elongated facial features that would define the paintings of his later years, the face that perhaps can be credited as a main inspiration for this sculpture is that of the young and striking Akhmatova.  With her unusual Slavic beauty and taste for the melancholic poetry, Akhmatova left a lasting impression.  "You are for me like a haunting memory," he wrote adoringly to her in 1911.  Following their tour of the Egyptian Antiquities department at the Louvre that spring, Modigliani painted a portrait of Akhmatova dressed in the garb of an Egyptian queen, as well as several other representations of her with distinctly Egyptian embellishments. Her distinctive sharp profile became a constant feature in his production of this era, particularly in his representations of the Greek "princesses at the Temple of Diana," known as the Caryatids.  The elegant Tête, with its elongated nose, densely piled sweep of hair and intensely regal bearing, is readily identifiable as an amalgam of these influences and the artist's adoration of this specific type of beauty. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, Modigliani, Sculptor, Kenneth Wayne has written about the influence of antiquity on Modigliani's extraordinary sculptures: "Modigliani's sculptures share many characteristics with the Egyptian art that he loved so much and visited regularly at the Louvre.  A quiet solemnity, a profound air of mystery and spirituality, blocky forms, blank almond-shaped eyes, a beatific smile, an imposing frontality and forward stare, and decorative elements in the hair and forehead.  The blank eyes in Modigliani's sculpture also recall Greek and Roman sculptures as they have come down through time, with the painted elements worn off.  Even the rough, unfinished quality of some of Modigliani's sculptures gives them the look and feel of bruised ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures.  Modigliani's favorite material too, limestone, was the same used to make the Great Pyramid and Great Sphinx in Giza and some Egyptian and Greek sculpture" (K. Wayne, "Modigliani, Modern Sculpture and the Influence of Antiquity," op. cit., p. 76). Tête was exhibited at the Salon d'Automne of 1912 in the famous Salle des Cubistes, a landmark exhibition in the history of modern art. The photograph of the Salle des Cubistes published in L'Illustration of October 12, 1912 shows the present work taking the dominant position on the far left, in the semi-circular arrangement described by Lipchitz.  Modigliani's sculptures were on view alonside Cubist works by the pioneers of modernism including Léger and Kupka, and offered a sensual alternative to the more severe, geometricized works of his contemporaries.   Following the exhibition, the present sculpture was acquired by Augustus John, the celebrated British artist who met Modigliani in Paris in 1912.  In his memoirs John recalled the experience of first seeing this sculpture among its companion works in the artist's studio, where they had a lingering, transfixing impact on his consciousness: "D. [Dorelia McNeill] and I visited his studio in Montparnasse one day, and bought a couple of the stone heads he was making at the time. The floor was covered with them, all much alike and prodigiously long and narrow. Returning with us to Montparnasse after this transaction, “Modi” exclaimed, ‘Ah, comme c’est chic d’être dans le progrès!’ and pressed into my hands his well-thumbed copy of Les Chants de Maldoror. This was his bible" (Augustus John, Chiaroscuro, London, 1954, p. 96). John prominently displayed the work first at Alderney and secondly at his final home, Fryern Court. The sculpture was subsequently sold in 1955 to Dudley Tooth and thence through the Hanover Gallery to a private collector in Europe. As Erica Brausen noted in a letter to the purchaser  "In fact after Sir Augustus you are the only private collector to own it" (letter of 9th July 1956 from E. Brausen, Director of the Hanover Gallery, London).   Today, the present work is perhaps the finest stone carvings to remain in private hands.  With approximately two dozen known in existence, the vast majority are in prominent museums, including the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Tate Gallery, London; Kunsthalle, Karlsuhe, Germany; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Le Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Musée d'Art Moderne Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq.

  • 2014-11-05

Nu allongé I (Aurore)

Henri Matisse patinated bronze Conceived in Collioure in 1907 and cast by Bingen-Costenoble, Paris, circa 1908, this work is number 3 from an edition of 10 plus 1 artist's proof numbered 0/10.Phillips wishes to thank:Les Archives Matisse and Mrs Wanda de Guébriant for their expertise Mrs Elizabeth Royer for her extensive research on the provenance of this workDr Charles Stuckey for his contribution to the catalogue entry Number 1:Cast circa 1908In the collection of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou, ParisNumber 2:Cast circa 1908Private Collection Number 3:The present workNumber 4:Cast circa 1912In the collection of the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Room of Contemporary Art Fund, BuffaloNumber 5:Cast circa 1912Christie’s, New York, 9 November 1999, lot 504Number 6:Cast circa 1930In the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, MarylandNumber 7:Cast circa 1930In the collection of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, ParisNumber 8:Cast circa 1930Phillips, New York, 7 May 2001, lot 17Number 9:Cast circa 1948Private CollectionNumber 10:Cast circa 1951Christie’s, New York, 19 November 1986, lot 26In the collection of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Texas Number 0:Cast 1951In the Artist’s family collectionNu allongé I, finished in 1907, and first cast in bronze shortly afterwards, was singled out as 'one of Matisse's masterpieces' by perhaps the artist's best informed advocate, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, in his seminal, Matisse, His Art and his Public, 1951. As if to suggest that Nu allongé I is the quintessential Matisse sculpture, it was selected for the dust jacket of The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, the classic account by Albert E. Elsen, published in 1972. Posed with her muscular limbs twisting across her torso gymnastically to find equilibrium like a three‐dimensional seesaw, balanced from every point of view, Matisse's Nu allongé I introduces one of the hallmark motifs that Matisse returned to throughout his career.Many of his most ambitious pre‐World‐War‐I figure paintings feature variations on this same sinuous pose, several of these displayed prominently on the left side of his intensely self‐revealing Red Studio, 1911 (MoMA). Such iconic Matisse works as The Pink Nude (Baltimore Museum of Art), 1935; his great charcoal drawings of 1938; and even his 1952 paper cut‐out Blue Nudes are all reprises of the pose first perfected in Nu allongé I. Engaged by the sculpture's complexity, Pablo Picasso immediately began to develop his own versions of this abstract pose and continued to do so throughout his own long career. Hardly less modern with the passage of time, Nu allongé I takes pride of place among the paradigms of 20th‐century style celebrated in the art about art mural proposed by Roy Lichtenstein in 1997 for the Bellagio Hotel.The fundamentally traditional pose of a luxuriating female nude goddess from the Golden Age, alluding to famous images of Ariadne and Venus in Greco‐Roman sculpture and Renaissance paintings, appeared obsessively in Matisse's most ambitious exhibition works from 1905 with Luxe, Calme et Volupté. In the spring of that same year, the celebrated Auguste Rodin (to whom Matisse once showed his drawings for critique) presented his Ariane at the Salon des Beaux‐Arts, an armless reclining nude posed as she pivots her weight on her hip just like Matisse's Nu allongé I would do. And at the Salon d'automne of 1905 Renoir exhibited one of the monumental horizontal format paintings of a reclining female nude that preoccupied him now that bad arthritis prevented him from lifting his arm. It was at this same exhibition that Aristide Maillol won lavish praise for a sculpture eventually entitled La Mediterranée, a perfectly proportioned female nude, posed seated with her arms and legs in interlocking silhouettes.The figure of a nude reclining on the ground was again at the epicenter of Matisse's monumental painting, Le Bonheur de vivre, presented in 1906 at the Salon des Indépendants and acquired by the expatriate American writers, Gertrude and Leo Stein. These increasingly avid collectors famously patronised Picasso no less than Matisse, befriending them both and nurturing an essential dialogue between the two emerging leaders of modern art. Their brother Michael Stein and his wife Sarah acquired one of the three earliest bronze casts of Nu allongé I as part of the display of Matisse works in their Paris apartment. The present lot is likewise one of these rare early casts by Bingen et Costenoble, the foundry used by Maillol. Meanwhile Leo Stein acquired Matisse's nearly life‐sized Blue Nude (Baltimore Museum of Art), which was created in response to this same tabletop sculpture.By 1900 Matisse was seriously interested in making sculptures, but his output was sporadic throughout his long career. He first exhibited a few of them in early 1906, including a statuette of a standing female nude posed with her knee bent and her elbows raised to her head. Figures with raised elbows appear frequently in works by two of Matisse's favorite masters, Rodin and Paul Cézanne, largely predicated on Michelangelo's Dying Slave in the Louvre, and the reclining figure of Dawn from his Medici tomb complex in Florence. (Indeed, given the obvious similarities, Nu allongé I has sometimes been called Aurore.) Michelangelo's works were widely reproduced around 1875 to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of his birth. Matisse's interest in the raised elbow pose is first evident in 1903 when Matisse made a roughly modeled replica of a work then attributed to Michelangelo, a seated male nude with his left elbow dramatically elevated. Oddly, this raised elbow is missing from Matisse's fragmentary replica, as if it had broken off accidentally, but Matisse nevertheless wanted to preserve the visual impact of his work in its incomplete or damaged state. Nu allongé I was the last of four statuettes that preoccupied Matisse in 1906, one of three to feature raised elbows. Thirty‐five years after the fact Matisse still vividly recalled how Nu allongé I also suffered accidental damage.When asked about his work as a sculptor by writer and critic Pierre Courthion in 1941, (pp. 85‐86), Matisse explained that after he arrived for a long stay in Collioure in November of 1906, he often took the train to visit Maillol, in nearby Banyuls. Starting out as a painter, Maillol had only turned to sculpture in his mid‐thirties, but by 1906 he was acclaimed by Rodin as the finest sculptor of his generation. As he modeled Nu allongé I in clay, Matisse surely was mindful of Maillol's demanding criteria for modern figure sculpture in the round. That notwithstanding, Matisse was so absorbed in refining this time‐consuming work that one day he missed his train to Banyuls, and his sculpture in progress was damaged when it accidentally slid to the floor. The extended elbow would be especially vulnerable. Rather than continue, Matisse put Nu allongé I aside and painted his monumental Blue Nude (Baltimore Museum of Art), seemingly in response to Renoir's horizontal nudes with bodies that fill nearly the entirety of the canvas. Observed from above, the figure in Blue Nude is posed like Nu allongé I, but it seems restricted when compared with the sculpture that he had considered from every possible angle as if its different silhouettes were facets of a prism. 'The bronze is less imposing in size than The Blue Nude yet, in a sense, the big painting served as a study for the sculpture,' according to Barr. 'The sculpture is more powerfully composed, the distortions bolder, particularly in the bent but towering left arm. No sculpture by Matisse is more admirably designed to interest the eye and satisfy the sense of rhythmic contrapposto when seen from different points of view.' (p. 100). Nevertheless, the painting amounts to a full‐scale version of the tabletop bronze, as if Matisse was curious to see the impact of a monumental version of his sculpture. In his painting, Music Lesson (Barnes), 1916, Matisse indeed imagines a large version of Nu allongé I, as his garden sculpture.There are telling similarities and differences between Nu allongé I and Maillol's sculptures. Counterbalancing their models' bent and extended arms and legs in rhythmic harmonies, both artists treated the poses as abstract structural compositions rather than as familiar actions. But whereas Maillol sought perfection overall, in the proportions of his figures and the refinement of every detail from the navel to the toes, Matisse preferred to emphasize his own evident struggles as an artist in the process of obtaining perfect compositional harmony. Matisse ignored inessential anatomical details like fingers and in the spirit of Rodin he emphasised traces of his own finger marks as they added or removed clay from body shapes to get the right mass or silhouette. Concerned no less with his final form than with the process of its making, in his bronzes Matisse not only preserved traces of his fingers and scalpel or spatula in roughly handled textures, but he also preserved the seams of the moulds used in casting, as Rodin often did. Observed close up, the back of the Nu allongé I's left shoulder is full of imperfections that appealed to the artist, who was determined for his work to stand apart from tasteful figure sculptures. Starting around now for the remainder of his long career, no matter what medium he used, Matisse found ways to express the intimate theme of his own artistic process, a theme hardly less paramount for Picasso. A double image of awareness and self‐ awareness, Nu allongé I is as much, if not more, the image of the making of the sculpture as it is the image of a nude woman. For art historian Jack Flam Nu allongé I is 'one of Matisse's most dissonant works, characterized by extreme anatomical distortions and abrupt turnings of form in space.' Indeed, for Flam the exaggerated size of some body parts, like the left arm, and their lack of proportion to each other may be an indication of Matisse's enthusiasm for African figure sculptures with articulated limbs. Whatever the case may be, the upper torso of Nu allongé I, with its too widely spaced breasts, appears too large in relationship to the figure's waist, and from some angles the raised left elbow appears strangely as large as the hip and thigh. It is the perfectly integrated composite of separate, imperfectly matched, parts into a final abstract whole of stunning harmony that makes Nu allongé I so masterful.Matisse's personal satisfaction with Nu allongé I is evident from how during the next ten years he included the (now lost) plaster cast of his sculpture into a series of remarkable still‐life paintings and domestic scenes, as if his sculpture should be understood as a special touchstone, a miniature three‐dimensional muse at ease presiding in his abstract depictions of two‐dimensional pictorial spaces. With these still‐lifes Matisse paid ongoing hommage to Édouard Vuillard who included a plaster of Maillol's statuette Leda alongside cut flowers and other domestic items in several still‐lifes from the early 1900s. As for Picasso, his immediate response to Nu allongé I has often been noted in the series of abstract nudes with raised elbows and twisted poses that he made in 1907, culminating in his historic Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. But it is not until 1998 that critic Yve‐Alain Bois first analysed Picasso's second, seemingly delayed reaction to Matisse's sculpture around 1930. He pointed out how Matisse's sculptures returned to Picasso's attention thanks to a special feature in a 1928 issue of the lavish art periodical Cahiers d'art, illustrating sculptures made by modern painters and shortly afterwards in the summer of 1930 by an exhibition of Matisse's sculptures at the Galerie Pierre. Picasso immediately embarked on a group of profoundly abstract figurative sculptures at his new Boisgeloup studio, including a reclining nude with her elbow raised, consisting of interlocking body parts disproportionate to one another, many out of place with reference to the rules of anatomy with respect to one another. These sculptures led directly in 1932 to a series of paintings of Picasso's young mistress Marie‐Thérèse Walter in poses similar to those used by Matisse.By the most fortunate coincidence this sale also includes Picasso's masterpiece, La Dormeuse, (see lot no. 10) a monumental horizontal format image made on March 13, 1932, that represents the young woman asleep, the outlines of her body captured in arcing lines for the arms and buttocks, with stylized signs for her breasts and vulva, her anatomy distorted to display every side of her nudity at once. Traces of slightly all but erased lines show where Picasso first thought to position the breasts more prominently. More important these erasures seemingly document the artist's need to revise his portrayal of her as her body turned and twisted while she slept, her face at first turned up, and subsequently turned down to rest against her arms. Sharing Matisse's profound interest in representing the creative process itself, with traces of the needed corrections, Picasso in La Dormeuse seems once again to respond to Matisse's great Nu allongé I. Indeed for the remainder of their careers both artists felt compelled to make figures that twist to reveal themselves in every way at once. Matisse most explicitly revisited his Nu allongé I, not to mention Picasso's versions of similar poses, with Pink Nude, 1935, documenting the stages of its evolution in a series of twenty‐two photographs, the reclining nude’s arms and legs twisting now one way, now another. No wonder that when Matisse visited Antibes in April 1948 to see recent works by Picasso in the Palais Grimaldi, he was especially intrigued with a horizontal work on plywood representing a reclining nude with her elbow raised over her head.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-03-08


Although, as previously noted, Rothko never abandoned bright colors in his works on paper, the vibrant late works on paper contain a force not experienced in the earlier small worksThese late creations, with their dense unmodulated surfaces, do not flicker with light; rather, they generate a strong, constant glow.(Exh. Cat., New York, American Federation of the Arts, Mark Rothko: Works on Paper, 1984, p. 54-55) Illuminating the room in a captivating shimmer of chromatic vibrancy and incomparable painterly finesse, Mark Rothkos Untitled of 1969 is an indisputably dazzling embodiment of the artists legendary color-field compositions. Emerging from a saturated ground of blazing scarlet, two fields of varied tonality, one a pearly white and the other a glowing orange, radiate the steady heat of glowing embers; built up of innumerable delicate strokes, these luminescent multiforms emphatically attest to the singular mastery of light, color, and form achieved by the artist in his revered corpus of works on paper. A rare, exquisitely vibrant example from a period characterized by a predominantly somber palette, Untitled exemplifies Rothkos work in a medium that bore an increasingly profound significance in the twilight years of his legendary career when, tirelessly seeking to broaden the horizons of his prodigious practice, he focused his energies upon exploring the absolute limits of painting on paper. Conjuring the radiant sublimity of his most esteemed monumental canvases, Untitled is amongst the most emphatic embodiments of Bonnie Clearwaters description of the late works on paper: Although, as previously noted, Rothko never abandoned bright colors in his works on paper, the vibrant late works on paper contain a force not experienced in the earlier small worksThese late creations, with their dense unmodulated surfaces, do not flicker with light; rather, they generate a strong, constant glow. (Exh. Cat., New York, American Federation of the Arts, Mark Rothko: Works on Paper, 1984, p. 54-55) An exquisite, jewel-like summation of the artists signature strategies, Untitled represents the breathtaking culmination of Rothkos career-long pursuit of aesthetic transcendence through the conflation of pure color and light. While predominantly known and revered for his corpus of towering abstract canvases, Rothko produced a number of exceptional paintings on paper throughout the entirety of his career which, in their subtly variegated hues and inherent luminosity, rank amongst the richest orchestrations of color within his prodigious output. Remarkable illustrations of paper's unique capacity to both absorb and reflect light, the vibrant hues of the late works are infused with an unprecedented vitality. Describing the significance of the medium within his oeuvre, Clearwater reflects: throughout his career, [Rothko] produced many lesser known works on paper which share characteristics with his canvases while exhibiting their own special qualities. These works.are essential to a fuller understanding of Rothkos career. Together with the canvases, the works on paper chart the artists quest for an elemental language that would communicate basic human emotions and move all mankind. (Ibid., p. 17)  In the late 1960s, after completing the two commissions whose magisterial brilliance cemented his status as one of Americas most revered abstractioniststhe Seagram Murals, and the Rothko Chapel paintings commissioned by John and Dominique de MenilRothko pursued the intricate subtleties of painting on paper with unprecedented focus. Evincing the artists incessant artistic probing, Rothko described the impetus behind this shift in his practice from canvas to paper with the following: to whom a certain medium becomes too easy and who runs this risk of becoming too skilled in that medium, to try another which presents more difficulties to them. (Ibid. p. 59) Against the ground of sumptuous crimson, the richly painterly forms of Untitled suggest both fevered motion and ethereal tranquility, emanating a bewitching tension that invites the viewer to lose him or herself completely in the diaphanous fields of unadulterated hue. Dominating the upper region of the canvas, the pulsating, feather-like edges of the glowing white rectangle push out into the red depth that surrounds them, resulting in a sense of undeniable movement and compositional vitality; in stark contrast, the glowing orange of the lower area subtly structures the composition, blending seamlessly with its red background and statically asserting its foundational presence. The work's resultant dynamism necessitates the viewer's constant attention and provides an elegant visual manifestation of the artists 1953 statement: "Either their surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or their surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these two poles you can find everything I want to say." (Mark Rothko in 1953, cited in James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography, Chicago, 1998, p. 301) Here, chromatic resonance is attained through the meticulous aggregation of translucent veils of brushed pigment, with especially close attention paid to the spaces between forms and the edges of the canvas. Both despite of and due to their stark disparity, the two color fields equilibrate: the shimmering, incandescent purity of the one is countered by the headier glow of the other as they reverberate over scarlet ground. Amongst the most spectacular manifestations of the artists work on paper, Untitled emanates a luminescent vibrancy utterly impossible to reproduce in illustration; to the viewer, bathed in its heady glow, it is almost as if this extraordinary painting is brilliantly illuminated from within, transformed from mere pigment into a translucent vessel of pure color and light. The following work is being considered for inclusion in the forthcoming Mark Rothko Online Resource and Catalogue Raisonné of works on paper, compiled by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Signed, dated 1969, and variously inscribed on the reverse

  • 2018-05-16


Franz Kline oil on canvas Painted in 1959. Embodying the extraordinary compositional balance of energy and restraint that catapulted Franz Kline to critical acclaim, Sawyer is the paradigm of the Abstract Expressionist artist's pictorial idiom. Like an immense architectural structure seen up close, Sawyer towers over the viewer with its all-absorbing, heroic scale. Kline's signature black gestures, etched as deeply into the landscape of post-war art as Jackson Pollock's “drips” or Barnett Newman’s “zips”, are here thrust across the vast canvas to form a grid-like structure. Painted in 1959 at the peak of Kline’s career, the painting exemplifies the artist’s seminal move toward color just three years prior. Subtle but dominated by black and white, the work is enlivened by gesturally painted impastoed passages of cream, ochre, peach, chalky whites and greys that infuse the composition with a soft, atmospheric tone. This gives rise to a sensation of infinite, limitless space, while simultaneously pushing the immense black form forward towards the viewer. In 1960, the same year Kline represented the United States at the 30th Venice Biennale, Sawyer was debuted in Kline’s solo exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, alongside some of the artist’s now most esteemed masterpieces, including Black, White and Gray, 1959, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Dahlia, 1959, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Orange and Black Wall, 1959, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Orleans, 1959, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The works exhibited here stand as remarkable examples of the bravura of Kline's late oeuvre, which tragically ended with his premature death just two years later in 1962. It is testament to Sawyer’s significance within Kline’s oeuvre that it was celebrated in the artist’s first posthumous institutional retrospective exhibition in the United States at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 1968-1969.Heroic GesturesIn its sweeping gestures, Sawyer powerfully speaks to the liberation of line that Kline achieved with his black and white paintings nearly a decade earlier. It was in 1950 that Kline, radically shifting from the small scale and semi-representational nature of his earlier work, achieved his mature style. According to none other than Elaine de Kooning, Kline famously arrived at his artistic breakthrough upon seeing the magnified proportions of his figurative brush drawings projected on a Bell-Opticon projector in Willem de Kooning’s studio. Towering nearly seven feet tall, Sawyer epitomizes the radical distillation of line and monumental magnification that had almost instantaneously catapulted Kline into the limelight of the then still emerging group of Abstract Expressionist artists encompassing Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock, amongst others. Motherwell commemorated this pictorial innovation shortly after Kline’s death, noting “Kline’s great black bars have the tension of a taut bow, or a ready catapult. And his sense of scale, that sine qua non of good painting, is marvelously precise” (Robert Motherwell, “Homage to Franz Kline”, August 17, 1962, in Franz Kline. The Color Abstractions, exh. cat., The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1979, p. 43). With paintings such as Sawyer, Kline amplified the intimacy of drawing on a monumental scale in order to, as Albert Bomie argued, “expand his sense of himself in the world – to sing at the top of his voice rather than speak in a hoarse whisper” (Albert Bomie, Franz Kline. The Early Works as Signals, exh. cat., State University of New York, Binghamton, 1977, p. 20).An American flâneurWhile the grid-like structure in Sawyer points to such non-referential precedents as Kazimir Malevich’s grid and Josef Albers’ square, Kline’s paintings are firmly rooted in his lived experience. Born in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country in 1910, Kline moved to New York City in 1938 after studying in Boston and London. It was here that Kline became fascinated with the city's virile power as embodied in its towering skyscrapers, roaring automobiles and freighters and the industrial riverside structures in lower Manhattan. Though Kline rejected any claims to symbolism or literalism, his powerful abstractions are the distillation of the known and recognizable. As Kline himself acknowledged of the referential associations his beams conjured, “I think that if you use long lines, they become — what could they be? The only thing that they could be is either highways or architecture or bridges” (Franz Kline, quoted in David Sylvester, “Franz Kline 1910-1962”, in Living Arts, no. 1, 1963, p. 7). Kline’s refined abstractions of the urban environment speak to the lasting influence of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s drawings of riverfront life in London in the early 1900s, which had already informed his early sketches of New York’s bridges and barges in the 1940s, as well as to Kline’s creative dialogue with his friend and photographer, Aaron Siskind. Whether evoking the architectonic tension of the modern metropolis, his native coal country or persons in his life, Kline’s crashing painterly paeans translate his individual experiences of the rapidly changing world around him into more existential meditations on modernity. Though the relationship of titles to paintings in Kline’s oeuvre are never quite clear-cut, Sawyer arguably recalls an episode that occurred in the artist’s studio in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Kline had purchased a house in this Cape Cod seaside village at the beginning of 1959 and it was here that works such as Provincetown II and Sawyer were painted in preparation for his solo show at the Sidney Janis Gallery in the following year. Renowned for its sparse natural beauty, Provincetown had attracted a number of Abstract Expressionists including Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb and Jackson Pollock, who rented the same cottage that would be Kline’s studio in 1944. According to Fielding Dawson, a former student of Kline’s at Black Mountain College, the formal resolution of Sawyer was achieved when a door in Kline's new Provincetown studio caught the artist's attention. Whereas Kline had previously been reworking the canvas without, frustratingly, achieving the desired composition, “midstream he changed his picture, painted a vertical, rather squarish rectangle, later called it Sawyer” (Fielding Dawson, An Emotional Memoir of Franz Kline, 1967, in Art in America 1945-70, 2014, p. 283). “Sawyer” was in fact the name of the carpenter who had built the door and with whom Kline developed a friendship. Though Dawson notes that this episode occurred in 1960, it undoubtedly refers to the present work’s creation as it is the only known painting with this title, and the related work on paper Sawyer Garden Barber was also created in 1959. Giving both a sense of pictorial depth and infinite space, Sawyer presents the viewer with an after-image of sorts — one that is anchored in abstraction, but simultaneously evokes, albeit ambiguously, the realm of the known. It is almost as though Sawyer distills Kline’s experience of contemplating the door in his studio anew; its architectural outlines distilled into elementary forms as though seen through eyes re-adjusting to the bright Cape Cod daylight filtering into the light-suffused studio. Painter in ActionAs with Kline’s greatest works, Sawyer pulsates with a palpable rawness and immediacy that suggests it to be the intuitive, quick and unrevised result of the artist’s full body movement. Yet, as Dawson’s previously mentioned anecdote underlines, Sawyer is in fact the culmination of a typically laborious process of continuous re-vision that recalls the painting method of Kline's fellow artist and close friend Willem de Kooning. “Some of the pictures I work on a long time and they look as if I knocked them out,” Kline acknowledged only to point out that, "The immediacy can be accomplished in a picture that’s been worked on for a long time just as well as if it’s been rapidly” (Franz Kline, quoted in David Sylvester, “Franz Kline”, 1960, in Interviews with American Artists, New Haven, 2001, p. 71). Though Kline’s great diagonals were seldom the result of a single inspirational impulse and often instead painted with small brushstrokes based on sketches and drawings across several sessions, they nevertheless expressed the ultimate attainment of an inner vision. As Kline explained in 1957, “If I feel a painting I’m working on doesn’t have imagery or emotion, I paint it out and work over it until it does” (Franz Kline, quoted in Franz Kline 1910-62, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, 2004, p. 110). Painting in Technicolor“It was Kline’s unique gift,” as Elaine de Kooning so poignantly observed in 1962, "to be able to translate the character and the speed of a one-inch flick of the wrist to a brushstroke magnified a hundred times. (Who else but Tintoretto has been able to manage this gesture?) All nuances of tone, sensitivity of contour, allusions to other art are engulfed in his black and white insignia, as final as a jump from the top floor of a skyscraper” (Elaine de Kooning, quoted in Franz Kline 1910-62, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, 2004, p. 345). Sawyer epitomizes how Kline’s embrace of color as a compositional element starting around 1956 heightened the sensation of utter monumentality and amplified the expressive force of his distilled slashes and slabs. Though Kline had already explored the potential of color sporadically earlier in his career with works such as Yellow Square in 1952, this uninterrupted return to color was a radical move for an artist whose signature black and white style was widely acclaimed as the ultimate formal embodiment of his abstract endeavors.Sawyer exemplifies Kline's particular interest in the subtle qualities of sand, ochre and gray hues. While there are passages of black pigment that collide sharply with the lighter passages, Kline here has allowed for diffused areas to arise where white, black and colored impasto mix together as he continuously slathered layer upon layer of paint atop each other with varying degrees of intensity. The feathered strokes loosen the composition and infuse it with a poetic ambiance, while the ochre, peach and cream-colored passages push the black grid-like form forward. At the same time, the subtle variances of hues within the black structure itself illustrate Kline’s expressed admiration for the great masters of chiaroscuro such as Velazquez, Tintoretto, Rembrandt and Goya.Whereas in 1956 Kline commented to art critic Leo Steinberg “I'm always trying to bring color into my paintings, but it keeps slipping away”, by 1959, the year Sawyer was created, he had arrived at an undisputed confidence in the tectonic co-efficiency of color in his compositions (Franz Kline, quoted in Harry F. Gaugh, Franz Kline, New York, 1985, p. 132). Looking back, Elaine de Kooning wrote of Kline’s triumph, “Then, as he kept struggling…his color made its breakthrough and entered the dynamism of his imagery as an equal actor. The stage was set, the new action had started” (Elaine de Kooning, quoted in Franz Kline Memorial Exhibition, exh. cat., Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D. C., 1962, p. 18). Here was a painter at the peak of his creativity, ready to build on the pictorial innovations ushered in with works such as Sawyer — only to be tragically cut short in his ambitions by a premature and sudden death due to heart failure in 1962, at only 51 years of age. More than 50 years later, Sawyer still offers an awe-inspiring phenomenological experience, one that transcends the literalness of in its inception and becomes a more fundamental meditation on the precarious human condition in a fast-paced and ever-changing world.

  • 2017-11-16

Le peintre et son modèle

Painted in 1964, Le Peintre et son modèle is a powerful example of Picassos highly expressive late work on a magnificent scale. Throughout his career Picasso chose to paint subjects that represented his life as an artist, and the theme that came to symbolise his own life and work most evocatively was that of the painter and his model. The male figure, a recognisable amalgamation of self-portrait, paints a female nude reminiscent of the women seen in canvases by Rubens and Ingres. With its foundation in this trajectory of art history, Le Peintre et son modèle is a monumental and dynamic depiction of this historic theme. During the autumn and winter of 1964, Picasso executed an extensive series of paintings on the theme of the painter and his model. Le Peintre et son modèle was completed on 9th November, and is among the most monumental of the series of over forty painter and model pictures executed during this period. Picasso painted, drew and etched this subject so many times in his life that, as Michel Leiris has remarked, it almost became a genre in itself like landscape or still-life. In 1963 and 1964 he painted almost nothing else, the painter armed with his attributes, palette and brushes, the canvas on an easel, mostly seen from the side. Like a screen and the nude model seated or reclining in a space which presents all the characteristics of an artists studio, the big window, the sculpture on a stool, the folding screen the lamp, the divan, etc. All these stage props have nothing to do with Picassos real situation; he always painted without a palette and without an easel, directly onto a canvas laid flat. This is therefore not so much a record of his own work as an "epitome" of a profession (Marie-Laure Bernadac, Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 74). Throughout this series of large canvases, the figure of the painter almost exclusively occupies the left-hand side of the composition, while the nude female model occupies the right half. Never tiring of exploring visual means of depicting erotic tension, in the years to follow Picasso developed a number of variations on this theme, always characterised by a great spontaneity in brushwork and coloration, and an extraordinary creative energy. While in the later variations of this theme men and women are seen in assorted costumes and performing various activities, such as musicians or musketeers, in the 1963-64 series the protagonists are unmistakably the artist himself and the model he is painting. However, rather than dedicated solely to the process of painting and modeling, the two figures are involved in the game of seduction, with the artists brushes and palette wittily suggestive of the mans desire for his female subject and of the erotic tension between them. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his production throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. His series of musketeers, commenced several years after Le Peintre et son modèle began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, when Picasso started to study Rembrandt. Picassos interest in Rembrandts work, however, was longstanding and its influence crucial to the development of the theme of the painter and his model in the late work. In 1963 he executed a large canvas entitled Rembrandt et Saskia (fig. 3), which Michael Fitzgerald states, was 'based on the Dutch masters portrait of himself and his wife (c. 1635; Dresden). Picasso had admired Rembrandts art (particularly his prints) since at least the thirties. During his last decade he showed a particular appreciation for two, apparently contradictory, aspects of his predecessors work the unflattering realism of Rembrandts late style, particularly self-portraits and depictions of the female nude, and the ornamental costumes of his early phase (M. Fitzgerald, Picasso, The Artists Studio (exhibition catalogue), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford & Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 2001-02, p. 57). The motif of the female nude fascinated Picasso throughout his career, providing the inspiration for many of his greatest works. In various periods of his life, Picassos art was closely related to his personal relationships and the women depicted in his paintings were always influenced by Picassos female companions at the time. In Le Peintre et son modèle, the female figure is inspired by Jacqueline, the last love of his life, whom Picasso married in 1961. Although she is not a direct likeness of Jacqueline, with her characteristic hairstyle and almond eyes she bears the key features with which Picasso usually portrayed his last muse. The essence of Jacqueline, who never formally posed as Picassos model, is always present in his portraits of this period, including the present work. Signed Picasso (lower left); dated 9.11.64. on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-06-19

Tête de femme

Picasso’s dynamic, three-dimensional Tête de femme is among his most powerful interpretations of the human face and one of his strongest achievements in the medium of sculpture. This larger-than-life bust portrait conveys the model’s strength of character and imposing presence as a figure in Picasso’s life following the war. The model for the present work is the artist's lover and muse from this period, Françoise Gilot. Within the trajectory of Picasso's portraiture, Françoise's visage has come to signify a time of intense happiness for the artist. The two artists met in May 1943, while Picasso was still in his tumultuous relationship with Dora Maar, and it was not until 1946 that they settled in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France. The period that followed was marked by great personal fulfilment, during which Picasso was, probably more than at any other time, devoted to his family, including the couple's two children, Claude and Paloma. This happiness in private life spilled into the artist's work, resulting in a number of portraits of his muse and their children. With triumphant presence and exceptional confidence, Tête de femme conveys the sense of optimism characteristic of Picasso’s post-war oeuvre. Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, often conveying a sense of fecundity and grace. Françoise's youthful spirit and her interest in art not only inspired Picasso, but also encouraged a new direction in his portraiture. The French photographer Brassaï met Françoise at Picasso's studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins in December of 1943 and was instantly taken with the young artist: "Very young -- seventeen or eighteen years old -- passionate about painting, eager for advice, impatient to prove her talent... I was struck by the vitality of this girl, by her tenacity to triumph over obstacles. Her entire personality radiated an impression of freshness and restless vitality" (Brassaï, quoted in William Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Paris, Grand Palais, 1996-97, p. 415). With Françoise by his side, Picasso gradually abandoned the high-keyed palette and distortive figuration that had dominated his wartime portraits of Dora Maar and embraced a more liberated approach. This sensibility imbues Tête de femme with elegance and clarity. The figure here adopts an almost formal pose, looking straight at the viewer.  As Frank Elgar pointed out: "The portraits of Françoise Gilot have a Madonna-like appearance, in contrast to the tormented figures he was painting a few years earlier" (Frank Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123). Her arresting gaze forms the focal point of the sculpture, engaging the viewer in an unavoidable dialogue. The present work was executed in Vallauris, a coastal extension of Antibes in southeastern France where Picasso lived from 1948-1955. Picasso’s Vallauris period was undoubtedly the most productive sculptural period within his oeuvre. From his legendary collages made with chair caning and newspaper to his sculpture of a bull's head made from a bicycle seat, Picasso's most ingenious works of art were often created from objects that he found in daily life. By the 1950s, he had taken this process a step further – assembling objects that he found in the environs of his home and casting them in plaster, and then casting the completed sculpture in bronze to unify the piece with a homogeneous medium. Picasso often made preliminary sketches of these works, which detail how he would implement the miscellaneous objects within the body of the composition. While working in his studio of Le Fournas in Vallauris between 1950-53, the artist executed a considerable number of these sculptures in the forms of goats, birds and other animals, creating a veritable menagerie from objets trouvés. Commenting once to his wife Françoise Gilot on this production, Picasso explained, "My sculptures are plastic metaphors. It's the same principle as in painting. I've said that a painting shouldn't be trompe l'oeil…but…trompe l'esprit. I'm out to fool the mind rather than the eye.  And that goes for sculpture too" (quoted in Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1966). Tête de femme exemplifies Picasso's intentions to challenge the mind's perception of the visual. Tête de femme was cast in an edition of two at the Valsuani foundry; one unnumbered cast and no. 2/2. There is also an original in plaster and fired clay which measures 51 cm in height. Numbered 2/2 and stamped with the foundry mark C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE 

  • 2016-11-15

Port de Cette, Les Tartanes

Painted in 1892, Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was executed at the height of van Ryssleberghes artistic production and is one of his acknowledged masterpieces. The artists mastery of the pointilliste technique is fully evident in this visually dazzling work, and is further enhanced by his original painted frame. From the late 1880s to the end of the 1890s van Rysselberghe developed a distinct form of Neo-Impressionism, based on the style of the French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, yet with a distinct leaning toward the Symbolist sensibilities of the leading Belgian artists of the day. Portraits, exquisitely rendered in dappling colors applied in small dots of paint, were the most prominent part of his output until 1890 when landscapes came to the fore.  Van Rysselberghe was a founding member of the Brussels-based Neo-Impressionist group known as Les XX (sometimes written Les Vingt). The group was founded by van Rysselberghe along with Emile Verhaeren and Octave Maus in 1883, and was named after its twenty members. Van Rysselberghe played an important role in organizing the groups annual exhibitions and was considered by many to be its leading artist. His extensive connections with other painters and writers enabled him to exhibit widely and travel extensively himself. Van Rysselberghe completed a number of oils of maritime subjects in the years around 1890, many drawing inspiration from the river Scheldt near his native Antwerp and others from excursions further afield. These paintings included a portrait of his friend and fellow painter Paul Signac at the helm of his sailing boat. The two men shared many common interests, not least sailing and painting, and their relationship provided the most substantial connection between the Sociéte des Artistes Indépendants based in Paris and the Belgian group Les XX  to which Signac was elected in 1891. Allied by their friendship and artistic ambitions, they each nonetheless cultivated their own Neo-Impressionist style, with van Rysselberghe particularly interested in imbuing his compositions with a rich sense of atmosphere. In March of 1892, van Rysselberghe boarded Signac's boat the Olympia. Writing about this particular excursion, van Rysselberghe declared "I leave tomorrow for the south coast - with Pierre Olin - He will leave me in Bordeaux and Signac will join me. And then: the Canal du Midi: Montauban, Carcassonne, Toulouse etc, then Sète, Marseille, Toulon and off to sea! Ah, it's going to be really topping! (quoted in Théo van Rysselberghe (exhibition catalogue), Op. cit, 2006, p. 135). Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was one of the products of this adventurous voyage. Writing about the skill and impact of this work, Marina Ferretti Bocquillon opines "This seascape [the present work], begun by van Rysselberghe with Signac at his side, splendidly demonstrates his artistic audacity. During the early years of Neo-Impressionism the Belgian would produce a series of canvases, veritable blueprints for landscapes, characterized by an almost abstract sense of composition, rhythm and colour, which in this writer's view are among his best works. Far from being a mere diversion from his portrait work, his seascapes show a freedom from nature absent from works where he is intent on conveying aspects of a personality. The rigour of Neo-Impressionist principles obliging the artist to discipline an innate facility and brio, he here gave the best of himself, expressing an uncommonly refined and subtle modernism" (ibid., p. 135). Port de Cette, Les Tartanes depicts numerous boats in the harbor of Cette (since 1928, known as Sète), situated along the Mediterranean coastline of France at the opening of the Canal du Midi. Known as the 'Venice of Languedoc,' Sète's position as one of the hubs of the Bassin de Thau, with its associated shellfish cultivation, in addition to is proximity to the inland canals and the sea, have long made it a center of trade as well as a popular destination for visitors. The tartanes referenced in the title of the present work were small ships used for trade and fishing along the Mediterranean coast. Of relatively simple design and featuring just one mast, tartanes were ubiquitous for centuries, though by the time van Rysselberghe painted the Port de Cette, Les Tartanes they were soon to be supplanted by other vessels. In 1893 the present work was featured in the final exhibition of Les XX held in Brussels at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. This was the first show to introduce divisionism or pointillism to a northern European audience. Many of van Rysselberghes best works were then shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris later in the year, marking the first of many international exhibitions to include Port de Cette, Les Tartanes. In 1899 van Rysselberghe was invited to participate in the third exhibition held in the Secession building in Vienna. Van Rysselberghe was also accorded the honor of having an article written about his work by Verhaeren which was published in the chronicle of the Vienna Secession Ver Sacrum. To have been so chosen by Viennas leading artists was indicative of van Rysselberghes rapidly growing international reputation, as well as their sensitivity towards his particular approach to painting and depiction of atmosphere. The Austrian Secessionists, in particular Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll, were well aware of the pointillist techniques employed by van Rysselberghe and other Neo-Impressionists, and like van Rysselberghe, they were intrigued by the way in which applying paint in a pointillist manner could imbue their subjects with greater animation and atmosphere. Port de Cette, Les Tartanes has subsequently been included in several major individual exhibitions and Neo-Impressionist group-exhibitions and was at one time part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The present work has extraordinarily important early provenance and was acquired by John Hay Whitney by 1961. John Hay Whitney was a renowned American ambassador, publisher, philanthropist and art collector who was once the President of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Whitney donated the present work to the Museum in 1983, who later sold it to the present owner in 2005 to benefit their acquisitions fund.

  • 2017-11-15


Painted in 2009 Rudolf Stingels spectacular mountain range wears the guise of cold disinterest and inhumanity. It is an inhospitable landscape and ersatz Caspar David Friedrich without the humaninsing presence of the Rückenfigur (a figure seen from behind). Desolate and forbidding, this work is nonetheless devoid of the traditional painterly signs of heightened emotion that would encourage a reading of the Romantic Sublime. In place of this there is a paradoxical banality about Stingels depiction of one of the most extreme and drama-laden landscape subjects on the planet: a quotidian demeanour that is located in the appearance of faithfully rendered signs of wear. Exuding a distinctly object-like quality, this is a painting of a photograph. With photorealistic veracity Stingel has reproduced in paint the granular surface of an old gelatine silver print; its deterioration and silver-mirroring; its negative scratches, dust, creases, and crumpled three-dimensionality of the original image-object. Indeed, this is painting in memoriam. Soft-focus and faded, Stingels source image is unmistakably vintage, much-used and badly preserved. Moreover, owing to the location photographed  the Tyrolean Alps  this painting is unmistakably autobiographical and tinged with remembrance. Belonging to a corpus of approximately twelve different yet equally monumental mountainscapes, Untitled was first exhibited with many others from the series as part of Rudolf Stingel: LIVE at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; one example from the series is owned by the museum. Together these pieces share nuanced signs of wear and individuated traces of age rendered in paint with minute monochrome precision. The result is paradoxically affecting: these works call upon the emotive via authorial absence and the mediating expression of process-based painting. It is this manner that the present work ingeniously reinvigorates Romanticism for the post-modern and post-photographic age. Born in 1956 in the Alpine town of Merano in Italy, Stingel grew up just a few miles south of the Austrian border; as a young man of 20 he would go on to do his national service there in 1976. Indeed, the present work is not the first or only instance of Stingels recourse to his alpine heritage: only three years before Untitled was created, Stingel had chosen his Tyrolean back-story as the subject for a giant self-portrait based on his military identity card. In Untitled (Alpino 1976) Stingel is dressed in uniform and wears a small beard a privilege afforded to Tyrolean alpine soldiers. The official nature of this image is destabilised and made peculiar however, by the young Stingel who, unusual for an official form of ID, has his eyes closed. Akin to the present work nonetheless, this painting bears the marks of its age and object-ness: the staple holes and regulation ink-stamp operate as mediators between artist as subject and the final painted image. Following years of exploring the remit of painting outside of recognisable imagery or traditional subject matter, the arrival of Stingels photorealist paintings marked a watershed moment in his career as an artist. Comprising immersive installation, employing the use of unlikely media and painterly materials, and inviting the hand of others into the execution of his work, Stingels practice has consistently tested the parameters of painting since the mid-1980s. In 1987 Stingel moved to New York and began his career as an artist. He developed a line of inquiry that, aligned with a concurrent backlash against neo-expressionist tendencies in painting, pioneered a process-focused approach to the medium. In 1989 he released his seminal Instructions: a limited edition artists book that explained in minute detail the process by which anyone could produce their own Rudolf Stingel artwork, namely the acclaimed series of monochrome Instructions paintings the series of breakthrough works that achieved the artists first critical acclaim during the late 1980s. Subsequently, Stingels practice developed along a conceptual approach to painting that considered the fusion of pictorial and architectural space using a host of non-traditional materials. In 1991 Stingel installed a bright orange carpet on the floor for his show at the Daniel Newburg Gallery, New York; two years later another orange carpet appeared on the wall at the 1993 Venice Biennale as part of the Aperto 93 exhibit. Interested in the human traces that these carpets preserved and displayed  marks he considers to be both autonomous and painterly  Stingel pursued this investigation further still with a number of floor-to-ceiling carpet and celotex installations that the general public was invited to touch, walk around in, and leave their mark upon. Then in 2000, he would begin the related series of immaculately white styrofoam paintings imprinted with tread-marks of the artists boots. Concerning these pieces, Stingel looked to expand both the activity of painting and its formal limitations: curator Gary Carrion-Murayri has cogently explained that in shifting some of the burden of artistic labour from himself to the public, Stingel is directly confronting the romantic attitude towards the painterly gesture that was a hallmark of Abstract Expressionism (Gary Carrion-Murayari, Untitled in: Exh. Cat., New York, Whitey Museum of American Art (and travelling), Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 111). When he began making a new series of Instruction Paintings circa 2002 works depicting ornate wallpaper and carpet patterns Stingel set his espousal of non-individualist painting against a paradoxical score of autobiography. The opulent designs of these works hark back to the Orientalism of the Northern Italian Baroque; the vestigial legacy of which is still palpable in the alpine town of Stingels birthplace, Merano. This juxtaposition of automated process with idiosyncratic narrative not only became the focal point of Stingels career from this point onwards, it also marked a seismic shift in the painters practice. In 2005 Stingel began creating monumental and hyper-real self-portraits. The incorporation of photorealism into his painterly vocabulary bound verisimilar images to the artists previously abstract investigations. Based on a series of carefully choreographed vignettes captured by photographers Roland Bolego and Sam Samore, these works established Stingels re-presentation of a picture of a picture. As in Untitled, the self-portraits enlarge and transmute pre-existing photographs into paint on canvas, and in doing so articulate a decidedly post-modern response to authenticity, referentiality, and semblance. The legacy and lifes work of Gerhard Richter is an unavoidable comparison here. Beginning in the 1960s Richter looked to assert the critical agency of painting in an age of photrographic reproduction by mimicking its aesthetic: the artists blurred Photo Paintings forged a revolutionary new pathway for painterly abstraction and figuration via an approach that simulated the mechanical, privileged chance, and rejected authorial expression. Indeed, Richters paintings successfully function, not as a backlash against the camera, but precisely because of it. In light of this, Stingels self-portraits, his portrayals of Baroque religious sculpture, and the mountain scenes are undeniably indebted to Richters indomitable legacy. The difference, however, is the way in which these paintings square up to emotion and individualism. Within their hard-edged conceptualism and Richter-esque rigor there lies is a deeply autobiographical impetus. Stingels first large self-portrait was exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in 2006 around the time of his fiftieth birthday. Whilst the series of works that followed only infer a narrative rather than actualising one, the artists anguish and despondence at this mid-life point act as an underlying subtext. This inherent sense of isolation and emotional disconnect is reflected in the clear and impassive aesthetic of these paintings. Devoid of gestural expressivity yet highly introspective, the turn to self-portraiture whether in the guise of self-images, Baroque religious sculpture, or sublime vistas of his native mountainous Tyrol underscores the deeply contemplative and even existential bent of Stingels art. The mountains thus seem to circle back to a distinctly Romantic evocation of feeling. However, rather than instilling awe in the face of sublime nature, the muted greyscale aesthetic, its faithfully transcribed markers of age and deterioration, and its evocation of the past, impart a dynamic of psychical melancholia. In Untitled there is an evocation of something lost, an irrecoverable past that is couched in the artists own biographical recollections. Stingels reference to himself is nonetheless interrupted by intermediary authorship; by using and painting photographs taken by someone else, these works remove, to quote Carrion-Murayari, the possibility of insight into the artists psyche (Gary Carrion-Murayari, 'Untitled, in: Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Rudolf Stingel, 2008, p. 112). Indeed, twice removed from the artist through staged photography and the hands of studio assistants, Stingel achieves a poignant level of detachment from his work. This is the means by which Stingel has been able to insert a vision of himself within his paradoxical post-authorial painterly trajectory. Depicting a crumpled vintage photograph that has been re-photographed and enlarged, its inconsistencies, faded tonalities, and soft-focus greyscale faithfully transcribed, this work bespeaks a deep nostalgia that enunciates the passing of time. In Untitled we are presented with a post-Richter recuperation of the Romantic in the guise of automated painting. The emotional void and clinical focus of Richters work with its aim to paint like a camera has been recovered and overturned by Stingel in the form of a deeply emotive expression of collective melancholia: a psychical living death and attachment to what has been lost and what no longer is. Stingels is an artform increasingly concerned with salvaging something of the emotional quality that was filtered out of artistic gesture during the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Having spent a career exploring the limits of painting via base materials and traditionally non-art mediums, Stingels photorealistic works present an eminent and natural extension of this established and acclaimed career arc. Within the memory traces marked upon his carpets, styrofoam paintings, celotex installations, and more recently in the guise of the painted-photographic, Stingel invokes human presence through its very absence and ruin. As resolutely qualified by Untitled, the work of Rudolf Stingel is concerned with painting as an index for the passage of time. Signed and dated 2009 on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-03-07

Parent I

‘She is very female obviously, she is voluptuous, if she isn’t carrying a child she has had about twenty…’ The Artist, 1972 Barbara Hepworth was one of the most ground-breaking and forward-thinking artists of her generation. She carved a path as a world recognised sculptor, a stature that no female artist had ever achieved. These accomplishments were recently celebrated with a major exhibition at Tate Britain in London in 2015. Parent 1 belongs to the magnificent group of nine sculptures produced in the last decade of her life collectively known as The Family of Man (originally named Figures, and sometimes referred to as Nine Figures on a Hill). The group of sculptures are undoubtedly the crowning achievement of her final years and take on an added dimension as they were each individually titled with subjects that were clearly of intimate importance within the context of Hepworth’s own life: Young Girl, Youth, Bride, Bridegroom, Parent I, Parent II, Ancestor I, Ancestor II, and Ultimate Form. The series of nine large-scale bronzes were intended to function as both single forms and as a group - four individual casts were produced of Parent I and it is significant that the other three casts are held in public collections (The Hepworth Wakefield; Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh and The Hawaii State Foundation). Two complete sets of The Family of Man were also produced (see fig 1), both currently on display to the public, one at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the other at the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden at PepsiCo, Purchase, New York.  The monumental standing form, Parent I, is one of the central figures of the group. Although abstract in form, its totemic composition of stacked irregular shaped lozenges is endowed with a human and spiritual quality – she explained in a statement in 1970: ‘I’m not exactly the sculpture in the landscape any more. I think of the works as objects which rise out of the land or the sea, mysteriously. You can’t make a sculpture without it being a thing – a creature, a figure, a fetish…. Any stone standing in the hills here is a figure, but you have to go further than that. What figure? And which countenance?... I like to dream of things rising from the ground  - it would be marvellous to walk in the woods and suddenly come across such things or to meet a reclining form’ (The Artist, quoted in Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, Lund Humphries, 1971, p.13). With nine monumental figures, the series thus becomes a universal survey of humanity, acknowledging both civilisations past and present and also humankind’s aspirations for the future. Hepworth wanted people to identify with these sculptures and considered them very much as a group of several generations, including the ancestor figures who ‘are right in my bones’. Like the family to which they allude, the form of each figure resembles one another through recurring motifs, but the composition of each form also becomes more complex, rising from two to four distinct components as they mature. The vocabulary of these sculptures are undoubtedly reminiscent of her early works and pierced carvings such as Pierced Form (1932, BH35) and Pierced Form (1931, destroyed) – Hepworth’s introduction of piercing greatly enriched the possibilities of abstract sculpture by abolishing the concept of a closed, and thus entire, form and brought the individual sculpture firmly into the environment within which it was placed. She spoke frankly about what she hoped to achieve: ‘I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes… the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension…’ (The Artist, ‘Approach to Sculpture’, The Studio, vol.132, no.643, October 1946). Although cast in bronze, the surface texture of Parent I appears hand finished and reflects the method Hepworth devised enabling her to both carve and cast: using an expanded metal armature (fig 2), she then covered this in large quantities of plaster which could then be carved back. Once cast, the intricately worked surface could be further enlivened with the application of a coloured patina creating dynamic contrasts between differing elements of each work. The monumental majesty of each figure recalls the influence of prehistoric menhirs and stone circles which had inspired her since she moved to Cornwall in 1939 (fig 3). As such, Parent I evokes a timeless, totemic quality in its solidity and curvilinear formation. Although harking back to prehistoric times, this epic work is also decidedly modern: the individual components are not layered facing forward, but at varying angles, making Parent I an almost semi-animate form, caught mid-movement, slowly turning as if responding to a call. Hepworth considered Parent I as the universal mother of the family and the female characteristics can be seen in the curves and softness of her forms when compared with the father figure, Parent II, with its imposing stature and in Hepworth’s own words ‘terrific spikey sturdiness’. Speaking about Parent I in 1972 she asserted: ‘she is very female obviously, she is voluptuous, if she isn’t carrying a child she has had about twenty’. Drawing on her own personal experiences as a parent, mother, sculptor and wife, Parent I unites all the artist’s principal concerns throughout her life, exploring old concerns anew and bringing a freshness and vitality rarely seen in the twilight of a career. Signed, numbered 2/4 and inscribed with Morris Singer foundry mark

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2016-11-23

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