David Lévy - Modern & Contemporary Art

Page 1

D av i d L ĂŠ v y &


m o d e r n a rt

D av i d L é v y &


m o d e r n a rt

Avenue Albert 199 – B-1190 Brussels – Belgium Tel. +32 475 661225 – info@levydavid.com www.levydavid.com

selected works 1883-1963


Auguste rodin


Ève, petit modèle

Version with square base, also known as aux pieds plats. Conceived in 1883. This cast with bronze’s green patina made in 1941-1942. Signed on the right side of the hollow rock: A. Rodin. Foundry mark on the rear right: Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris. Inside stamp signature. 76 x 24.5 x 35 cm. 29.9 x 9.6 x 12.2 in.



Paris, Musée Rodin, inv. 365.

This work will be included in the Critical Catalogue: Sculptures by Auguste Rodin, currently being prepared for the Galerie Brame & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay (reference 2013-4275B).

Private collection, acquired from the museum on 6th October 1945. Private collection, by descent from the above, Troyes. The sculpture first appears in the Museum records in May 1945, though the work was produced earlier in 1941-1942 but it’s registration was delayed due to the War.


Auguste Rodin Ève, petit modèle

“It shrivels like burning paper, it becomes stronger, more concentrated, more animated. That Eve [which] was originally to be placed over The Gates of Hell, stands with her head sunk deeply into the shadow of the arms that draw together over the breast like those of a freezing woman. The back rounded, the nape of the neck almost horizontal. She bends forward as though listening to her own body as a new future begins to stir. And it is as though the gravity of this future weighed upon the sense of the woman and drew her down from the freedom of life, into the deep, humble service of motherhood.” Rainer Maria Rilke (1903).

This evocative description of Rodin’s sculpture Ève was written by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and vividly illustrates the sense of movement, emotion and drama captured in this frozen moment. The sculpture exhibited here, was cast in bronze after Rodin’s death in 1941-1942 and depicts the moment from the Old Testament when Ève, realizing her nudity, covers herself in shame. Rodin created a large cast of this subject and two small depictions completed by 1883 (sometimes referred to as Petite Ève), but throughout his career the artist’s interest in depicting The Fallen Woman persisted and manifested itself in many forms. Rodin worked predominantly in Paris during the second half of the 19th century and was a contemporary of the Impressionists. Though his main medium was sculpture, he managed to retain some of the energetic, fleeting transience that was so inherent to the paintings of his peers Monet and Renoir. Since his early training Rodin became heavily influenced by Michelangelo, but especially after his several

trips to Rome around 1876. Nonetheless, as his artistic experimentations progressed he became far less concerned with monumental expression than with individuality and emotion. His sculptures, therefore centered around rendering character and the malleability of flesh, thus implying emotions subtly through textured surfaces, gestures and the interaction of light and dark. Though his works were initially met with some resistance from the traditional academy supporters, by 1900 his fame and success was undisputable. Powerful private clients actively sought Rodin’s work after his successful exhibit at the Exposition Universelle (1903), and even the artistic community that had at first been wary of his style, began to appreciate his works. He was invited to Paris Salons by friends including writer Léon Cladel and gradually became a frequent partaker in these social events. The French statesman Léon Gambetta met Rodin at a salon and was so impressed that he recommended the artist to several government ministers, likely including Edmond Turquet, the undersecretary of the ministry of fine arts. Rodin’s relationship with Turquet, as a result of this, was invaluable and won him the 1880 commission to create a portal for a planned museum of decorative arts. This sculpture of Eve is one study for this project, which Rodin dedicated most of the next four decades to. The portal, Les Portes de l’Enfer, remained unfinished however, as the museum was in fact never built. Many of the sculpted figures produced for this project became iconic independent sculptures, including Rodin’s renowned Le Penseur and Le Baiser.

This sculpture of Ève sensually depicts the mother of humanity sheltering herself in her own embrace. For Rodin, every part of the human body was a means of expression – a contorted torso, the crease of a furrowed brow, the pulsating muscles of a vigorously outstretched arm – all of these became instruments contributing to a harmonious orchestra channelling emotions. Eve’s moment of realisation of her nakedness that marked the end of innocence is emphatically displayed in the figure’s body language. The psychological impact of Eve’s revelation is manifested visually through the striking physicality of her pose. Despite the fullness and beauty of her figure, Eve is contorted by fragility and helplessness as seen in the way she “shrivels

1 A. Alhadeff, Rodin: A Self-Portrait in the Gates of Hell in The Art Bulletin 48 (3/4), 1966, pp. 393-395.

Les Portes de l’Enfer

Adam, photo Jean de Calan

Ève, petit modèle

Dante’s Inferno was the main inspiration of Rodin’s groupings for this portal, nevertheless the artistic influence on the aesthetic of many of the sculptures owed much to his idol Michelangelo. In his later sculptures Rodin mirrored the pose of Michelangelo’s Eve from The Expulsion from Paradise, on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512). Rodin’s pendant to Ève is a sculpture of Adam (1880-1881), who is equally traceable in the section of the fresco The Creation of Adam.

like burning paper” in the words of Rilke. The way her left hand remains open by the side of her face acts as a microcosm for her physical exposure. It is not possible to determine the exact number of models made for this sculpture, Jérôme Le Blay believes that it was created together with the other versions featuring a square base and flat feet; around 40 casts were rendered by smelters François Rudier in 1886 followed by Griffoul & Lorge, Léon Perzinka, Alexis Rudier, and then Georges Rudier at the request of Rodin and the Rodin Museum until 1967. One can tell that this bronze was cast by Alexis Rudier’s metal-works as it uses the “fonte au sable” technique. Rodin’s working model for the final sculpture of Eve was a life-size plaster that he never completed. Whilst working and reworking his studies for Les Portes de l’Enfer, Rodin achieved other lucrative commissions, but the portal composing of a total of 180 sculptures always remained in his creative mind. During his lifetime, Rodin was compared to Michelangelo and it is unsurprising when one looks at the beauty and vivacity of his sculpted figures that appear to breath life and break out of the stone or bronze from which they are born.  1 ––



Juan Gris


Carafe, verre et damier

July 1917. Charcoal on paper. Signed, dated, located and dedicated upper left: A Madame Huidobro / Respectueuse Amitié / Juan Gris / Paris 7-17. 47.5 x 31 cm. 18.7 x 12.2 in.



Gift from the artist to Madame Huidobro, Paris, 1917.

Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Juan Gris, curated by Gary Tinterow, 20th September - 24th November 1985, no. 147, repr.

Huidobro collection, by descent, Santiago de Chili. Private collection, Belgium.


Juan Gris Carafe, verre et damier

“I consider that the architectural side of painting is mathematics, the abstract side; I want to humanise it”.  1

Juan Gris was born José Victoriano Carmel Carlos González Pérez in Madrid in 1887 and is known as one of the most successful Cubist artists. Shortly before permanently moving to France in 1906, José González Pérez adopted the pseudonym Juan Gris. The name Gris (Grey) is often thought to be ironic as Gris is most known for his brightly coloured Cubist paintings, however it has been argued he chose the name because gris means the same thing in both Spanish and French, reflecting his new dual national identity.  2 Gris began his artistic training studying mechanical drawing at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas in Madrid from 1902 to 1904. Within this period he also contributed drawings to the local periodicals and eventually went on to study painting with the artist and academic José Maria Carbonero. Upon moving to Paris in 1906, Juan Gris solidified his reputation as a professional caricaturist, his satirical works being included in journals such as Le Rire, L’assiette au beurre, Le Charivari and Le Cri de Paris, however this was predominantly out of a need to earn money.  3 The moulding moment for Gris in Paris proved to be his interactions with artists such as Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, the contacts being made through his friend, Pablo Picasso, with whom he lived in the same building in Paris. It was through Picasso that Gris first became involved in the Cubist movement. Gris is often described as being

the more classical Cubist, his work retaining a certain level of clarity and lucidity that helped his aesthetic style retain visible shapes and figures in works, whilst still experimenting with Cubism. The insistence on “purity” in Gris’ practice was linked to the general claim that: “Cubist art was not so much an art of representation as one of ‘creation’, and that it transcended naturalism in such a way that the intellect and imagination could work freely on a ‘poetic’ level”.  4 An artist valued for the depth and consistency of his approach rather than as an innovator, he is recognized for his independent and distinctive approach to Cubism and as one of its most influential later practitioners and theoreticians.


After the start of World War I in 1914, Gris, as a foreigner in France, was one of the few artists able to continue with his work. Gris worked with undiminished energy throughout the war time period, producing an extraordinary œuvre of work. From 1925 he was given support by Léonce Rosenberg, with whom a contract was signed in April 1916. Gris’ subject type in this period varied little from his preferred still life subject matter. During the difficult times of the First World War, Gris was left in charge of maintaining the ideals and life of the Cubist movement as most of the main figures were absent, whilst others such as Picasso began to drift from the movement, focusing on more classical imagery and line.


By the end of the war Gris was at the centre of what Jean Cocteau called the “return to order” in French culture. Whilst with Picasso this took the form of a literal return to clas-

J. Mai, Juan Gris’ Compositional Symmetry Transformations, Bridges 2012, p. 285. 2 Mai, ibid, p. 283. 3 G. Tinterow ed, Juan Gris (1887-1927), Ministerio de Cultura y Banco de Bilbao, Madrid, 1985, p. 17.

G. Tinterow & D. Cooper, The Essential Cubism: Braque, Picasso & Their Friends, 1907-1920, Tate Publishing, London, 1983, pp. 134–97.

Carafe, verre et damier 5 A. Temkin, Juan Gris (1887-1927), ed. G. Tinterow, p. 303. 6 A. Temkin, ibid, p. 304.

sical subject type and drawing technique, Gris maintained his use of the Cubist style though laid a heavy focus on still life harking back to the tradition of Spanish still life painting, also known as “bodegas”. His work was repeatedly compared by later critics to the calm orderliness yet crisply lit factuality of Spanish Baroque still-life painting, especially that of Francisco Zurbarán. The drawing Carafe, verre et damier, completed in 1917 has often been compared to a similar study in the Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller collection, Bouteille et verre completed in 1916. This period captures the time in which Gris was most deeply involved in the Cubist movement. Gertrude Stein, an avid fan of Gris’ work, believed that the only real cubism was that of Picasso and Gris. She believed what Picasso and Juan Gris had created permeated clarity and exaltation. In his first Cubist style Gris achieved a new combination of flattened Cubist structure and a lucid depiction of objects. He is known for his use of linear grids as a means of controlling the depiction of features from different vantage points, allowing the composition to then reflect an overall flat structure. Gris’ use of light and shadow in his drawing give the surface of the work a carved relief like appearance, the raking light lifts the subjects off the page whilst also giving the background depth through the different points of perspective. The carafe and glass have been created out of contrasting volumes, in adhe-


rence with the Cubist style and are as such, juxtaposed upon one another. The forms of the subject are simple, angular and at times combined with circular forms, allowing the transition from one object to the other to occur harmoniously. This simplicity in form and perspectives is what is readily assigned to the very particular style of Juan Gris. Gris’ preferred medium to use when drawing was limited to pencil and charcoal, what art historian Ann Temkin describes as being: “soft mediums that allow a slow and deliberate realisation of the subject”.  5 Many of Gris’ drawings and studies were often passed on by him to friends and confidants; this particular drawing was dedicated to the wife of the Chilean surrealist poet Vicente Huidobro who was staying in Paris in 1917. Huidobro, a friend of Juan Gris, was also acquainted closely with other intellectuals and artists of the period such as Apollinaire, Breton, and Eluard. By giving his drawings to people he held close to his heart and who inspired him, Gris subsequently placed great importance on the subject matter within his images. Temkin explains: “The continued presence of the community of individuals in the pages of his drawings are assigned to his very intimate world of the omnipresent bottles, grapes and guitars. Every object is important because Gris has said so. He has literally inscribed it upon his drawings through the emotional dependencies that nurtured a language of pure art”.  6 ––


fernand lĂŠger


La Ville

1920 Watercolour on paper. Signed with initials and dated lower right: F.L 20. 29 x 22.2 cm. 11.4 x 8.7 in. The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Madame Irus Hansma on 10th October 2005.

Provenance Baron Henri Marie Petiet collection. Private collection, Paris. Galerie Beres, Paris. Private collection, Belgium.

La Ville

“Watches are set. On every side the transatlantic liners move towards their destinations. There is semaphore signal. A blue eye opens. A red closes. All is at once colours. Interpenetration. Disc. Rhythm. Dance. An orange and a violet consume each other”. Blaise Cendrars  1

Post-war Paris was the inspiration for writers, poets and painters alike; by the late 1910s when this watercolour was painted, the city was defined by industrial revolution, mechanical progression, a visually prominent media and a faster pace of life. Blaise Cendrars’ 1917 tribute to the jarring reality of modern life Profond Aujourd’hui, can be interpreted as a poet’s preface to Fernand Léger’s La Ville (though many other writers of that time contributed to the artist’s fascination with the city).  2 Reading Cendrar’s quote above and looking at Léger’s watercolour, their joint interest in rendering a vivid picture of the colours and lights of the city can be seen. The importance of this theme is evident in Léger’s own comments: ”In La Ville, I composed the picture solely with pure flat colours. Technically in terms of plasticity, this picture was revolutionary. Depth and dynamism were achieved without modulations or half tones. Advertising was the first to draw lessons from it. Colour had become free and was now a reality in itself. Its field of action became a new one, completely independent from objects which, prior to this period, had the role of both containing and being identified with it.”  3 In fact, Léger created a rich series of works around the topic La Ville, which this watercolour belongs to. Moreover, the watercolour exhibited here has most compositional

similarities with two oil studies of the same title (Bauquier, vol. 1903-1919, no. 161 et no. 160).

Bauquier no. 160, private collection

fernand léger

Bauquier no. 161, ex. Bar tos collection


1 B. Cendrars, Profond Aujourd’hui, Paris,

The watercolour version of La Ville was produced at the final stages of the development of this theme, thus, in a sense it encapsulates the artist’s efforts to purify and tighten the fractured segments that make up what is essentially a cityscape. Throughout the project Léger moved progressively towards a more complex simultanist visual language (illustrating his awareness of the existence of an infinitude of interconnected states of being). He did so by morphing pre-established motifs into something new by constantly adding elements in a free manner.  4 As Léger increased the number of city references within his compositions, the sharpness of his “slices” of imagery and the energy of his contrasts became more and more analogous to the effects of the city he was depicting. The angular lines could represent the artificial light of streetlamps cutting a building’s façade into sections of light and shadow. In this late watercolour many recognizable architectural forms can be deciphered. The highly articulated composition is made up of compressed strips of buildings that clash together and overlap; the steel tracery of girders, staircases, windows and posters define this as an urban landscape. Nonetheless, the silhouetted red figure near the centre indicates that this is not just a mechanical city, but instead an inhabited one. All of the overwhelming elements of the city engulf the human who appears lost behind these restricting structures. Léger’s La Ville does not embody a visionary or idealistic view of

1917, in Aujourd’hui, pp. 10-13. 2 C. Green, Léger and the Avant-Garde, London, 1976, p. 174. 3 F. Léger quoted in P.D. Francia, F. Léger, Yale, 1983, p. 45. 4 P.D. Francia, ibid, p. 177.

P.D. Francia, ibid, p. 46. 6 http://www. artandantiquesmag. com/2013/10/fernandleger-masterpiece/ 7 C. Lanchner, Fernand Léger, MoMA, New York, 1998, p. 267. 8 C. Green, ibid, p. 178. 9 C. Green, ibid, p. 179. 10 Ibid.

Bauquier no. 163, Philadelphia Museum

La Ville 5

a 20th century city instead it brings to light the battle between conventional order and rampaging modernity.  5

to sell a proportion of his works through the gallery.  7 This inevitably led to an extreme rivalry between Rosenberg and Hoppe.

Léger trained initially as an architect from 1897 to 1899 and much of his architectural linearity and clarity permeated his later painterly experimentations. It is therefore, unsurprising that architectural structures lay at the heart of many of his compositions. The artist frequently discussed architecture in his letters and papers that he often shared with his lifelong friend, Le Corbusier. The latter impacted Léger’s artistic production particularly in his post-war stage through his active involvement in the founding of Purism just a year before La Ville. The curator from the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Vallye, wrote of the importance of Léger’s encounters with Le Corbusier, Theo van Doesburg, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Alexander Archipenko during this specific period in Paris – 1919 to the end of the 1920s.  6 Similarly, the years surrounding the La Ville works marked important exchanges between the artist and several prominent dealers and galleries. In 1918, Léonce Rosenberg (the owner of Galerie de l’Effort Moderne in Paris) and Léger negotiated a contract. By February 1919 their first exhibition Œuvres par Fernand Léger opened. Later that year, Léger travelled to Oslo, Norway for an exhibition at the Galerie Tivoli at the invitation of Ragner Hoppe. In 1920 however, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler returned to Paris to rebuild his art dealing business, thus reopening his gallery that September under a new name – Galerie Simon at rue d’Astorg. Léger reestablished his work with Kahnweiler and agreed agreed

La Ville embodies much of Léger’s previous artistic ambitions and marries these with his post-war sensibility in a way that signifies most coherently his simultanist interests – it is a “comprehensive statement” of Léger’s artistic œuvre as portrayed in the subject of the modern city.  8 One example is the insertion of the coloured “disc” that characterized his disc paintings. In this watercolour however, the disc (shown near the centre) is distorted by what appears to be a cutout of a poster and fragments of buildings that dissect its form; it becomes just one contributing part of Léger’s artistic experimentation. Completed early in 1920 the final painted version of La Ville (version unknown) was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in February of that year and its striking scale – over two metres by three metres – is a: ”measure of the all-embracing importance which it held for Léger”.  9 Another version of La Ville of a similar scale (236 x 305 cm, Bauquier no. 163) belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since then, the significance of this subject has been the centre of much academic discourse and writing on Léger and in 2013, the Philadelphia Museum of Art dedicated an exhibition to the importance of cityscapes in his career entitled Modern Art and the Metropolis. It is unsurprising that Léger’s La Ville is generally considered to be his most: “ambitious public attempt to declare, in simultanist terms, the return to subject matter”.  10 ––



frantiŠek kupka


Autour d’un point

1920-1925. Watercolour on paper. Signed lower right: Kupka. 27 x 29 cm. 10.6 x 11.4 in. The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Pierre Brullé on 27th June 2001.



Gertrude Stein Gallery, New York.

Berlin, Galerie Stolz, Von linie und farbe, May 2006, no. 28, repr.

Galerie Stolz, Berlin. Private collection, Belgium.


frantiŠek kupka Autour d’un point

František Kupka (1871-1957) born in eastern Bohemia (now Czech Republic), begun his artistic career in Paris in the 1890s working as a cartoonist and graphic designer specializing fashion designs, posters and illustrations. His early training started at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, after which he moved to the Académie Julian and then studied with Jean-Pierre Laurens at the École des BeauxArts in Paris. Though his style developed in many different directions, aesthetic traits of his graphic training inevitably can be found in even his latest works. The emphasis on construction, line and colour characterizes many of his paintings. While Kupka’s early works were founded in realism, his later more famous works delved purely in the abstract. Thus, he played an important role in pioneering abstract art as well as reflecting scientific theories of the time through his artistic production. Kupka was in fact the first painter to exhibit fully abstract pictures in Paris in 1912 at the Salon d’Automne and became a prominent figure for breaking with tradition. Furthermore, he refused to be placed under the banner of movements such as Orphism or Purism, but in 1931 became a founding member of Abstraction-Création. This watercolour, Autour d’un point (19201925) beautifully embodies Kupka’s later style and his life-long interests in the sciences. The artist’s own view on the influence of science on contemporary art is summarized best in Kupka’s words: “the findings of modern science have an obvious influence on modern artists. Many of them are not infrequently, either consciously or subconsciously, pupils of the latest thinkers. Artists, as participants

in the modern tragedy are obliged to understand being and matter by means of analytical examination and strive to grasp their common significance.”  1 To do so, Kupka actively became involved in expanding his knowledge on all the sciences – he was an avid reader of literature on mechanics, physics, optics, chemistry, biology, physiology neurology and astronomy. At the Sorbonne in Paris he not only attended physiology lectures but also worked in the university’s biology laboratories. This fascination with scientific advancements that were occurring around Kupka, are displayed perfectly in this watercolour, which is part of a series of works produced between 1911 and 1930 around the theme Autour d’un point. The painted canvas of the same title and from the same time period, currently hangs at the Musée national d’Art moderne, centre Pompidou. Kupka’s Autour d’un point highlights the artist’s interest in visually responding to a theory on dynamic systems written by Henri Poincaré. A quote from this theorist links profoundly to the visual forms on display in Kupka’s watercolour work: “Does not everything that located the point in space seem to us as inadvertent, as our very self, assuming that we regard it as the centre of its surroundings, where is it only an illusory point? How can we define an absolute situation in a space of which each of us regards himself at the centre, in which our consciousness thinks it is located at the positive centre.”  2 The work has moreover, been linked to Newtonian ideas of gravitation in the way the entire composition appears to be drawn to a point as a result of a dragging force; this gravitational

1 Kupka quoted in D. Kosinski, Painting the Universe Frantisek Kupka Pioneer in Abstraction, Dallas, 1997, p. 87-88. 2 Henri Poincaré quoted in D. Kosinski, Painting the Universe Frantisek Kupka Pioneer in Abstraction, Dallas, 1997, p. 104.

Autour d’un point

pull seems to be made visible in the curvilinear vortex of forms that makes up the surface of this watercolour. The pattern-like quality of the rotating circular shapes that spiral across the paper harks back to many of Kupka’s canvases where his interests in line, colour and abstraction lay at the core of his artistic ideology.

Autour d’un point

Kupka’s Autour d’un point however, is a strong example of his works from the 1920s – generally regarded as his most fruitful and important years for many reasons. It was in this decade that Kupka met his most devoted supporters: the industrialist and art collector Jindrich Waldes who would support him both financially and as a friend for the next two decades, as well as the artists AntoinePierre Gallien and Félix Del Marle. In 1921, around the time of this work’s inception, Kupka held his first one-man show in the


gallery owned by Povolowsky on the corner of rue du Bonaparte and rue des Beaux-Arts. Here, Arnould Gremilly presented a talk that formed the basis for the artist’s first monograph, published in 1922. Two years later, Kupka exhibited his works at galerie La Boétie and in 1926 had his Quatre histoires de blanc et noir printed. Emmanuel Siblik published his biography of the artist in 1929 – the same year Kupka was asked to participate at the Expositions sélectes d’art contemporain at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Growing recognition for the artist inevitably meant these years were crucial in his development both as a public figure and an artist. Thus, Autour d’un point acts as a visual reminder of this groundbreaking point in Kupka’s career that would define his position in French art during the first half of the 20th century. ––


francis picabia



1928. Oil on plywood. Signed lower left: Francis Picabia and titled lower right: Lunaris. 122 x 97 cm. 48 x 38.2 in.



Auction, Palais Galliera, Paris, 7th June 1973, no. 65.

William Camfield, Francis Picabia His Art Life and Times, 1979, no. 311, repr.

Maurice and Rose-Marie Weinberg collection, Paris. Galerie 1900-2000, Paris. Private collection, New York. Rachel Adler Gallery, New York. Private collection, Spain.

Exhibitions Paris, Grand-Palais, Francis Picabia, 23rd January - 29th March 1976, p. 31, 189, no. 188, repr. Paris, Didier Imbert Fine Art, Picabia, 1990, no. 42, repr. Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions privées, 1995, no. A24-1, p. 256-257, repr. Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum, 1997, no. 359, repr.

Maria-Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, Paris, 1985, repr. p. 366, no.740. Pierre Arnauld, Francis Picabia : la peinture sans aura, Paris, 2002, p. 234-235, repr.


Francis Picabia Lunaris

Lunaris is a striking example of Francis Picabia’s “transparencies” – an important body of works the artist created between c.1928 and c.1931. Though the artist played a significant role in Dadaism and was inspired by Cubism and Orphism in the earlier stages of his career, by 1925 he returned to his figurative style. This moment is marked most emphatically by two series – the Espagnoles, portraying archetypal Spanish women and the Monsters that depicts altogether more eerie and threatening creatures. In the hazy dreamlike layers of visual imagery typical of these “transparencies”, Picabia offered a unique dialogue between modern and classical art. In these works his references are broad – ranging from Antiquity to the Renaissance – and often juxtapose the sacred with the profane. The compositions draw on mythology, religion, nature and ideas of beauty, however the fantastical combination of symbolic imagery and warped sense of perspective and scale give these paintings a surreal quality. Furthermore, these works were produced after Picabia’s trip to Catalonia so much of the visual iconography that he came across during his travel – especially medieval imagery – can be found here. In addition to the central female figure that appears to morph into three female faces viewed from different angles, Picabia includes various motifs in this painting, which form the wide vocabulary of symbols he reused in his transparencies. Dislocated hands, wispy foliage, delicate flowers, glowing moons and snake-like forms, are repeated in Lunaris,

as well as other paintings from this body of work. Recently historians discovered a small book entitled L’Atlas de poche des papillons de France, Suisse et Belgique that Picabia had in his library in which the derivation of many of his titles for the transparencies can be found; Lunaris is in fact the name of a small beetle. Picabia’s long-lasting interest in photography and film inevitably influenced much of his artistic production, but with the transparencies this is perhaps made all the more clearer. The term “transparency” harks back to photographic transparencies, thus indicating the artist’s preoccupation with and knowledge on the notions of optics. Picabia plays on innovations in cinematographic techniques he had explored in 1924 in the film Entr’acte particularly the ambivalent fading together and overlaying of separate stills. This collaborative project was produced a few years before this painting with director René Clair and composer Érik Satie and contains many aesthetic similarities with the artist’s painted transparencies. The artist imbues his transparencies with an ethereal quality not only through the visual connection of disparate imagery that seem to bleed life from one section of the canvas to another, but also through his painterly techniques. By layering paint with other mediums including varnish, Picabia achieves a depth in his works that almost makes the viewer feel like they are looking through glazy water. Furthermore, the dark patina as a result of his elaborate technique acts as testament of Picabia’s impressive skill as a draughtsman

Lunaris 1 C.F. Howard, Tracing the line: Francis Picabia’s Transparencies in context, Texas, 2012, p. 20.

and more specifically, his mature style. Its woody tones certainly reinforce the link to the Old Masters that Picabia was exploring in his figurative works of this period. There is a strong sense of nostalgia in these pieces that give these paintings their characteristic serene melancholy – evident throughout the series of works.

2 W. A. Camfield, Picabia, New York, 1970, p. 41.

Looking at Picabia’s transparencies however, one should also see these as a natural progression of his earlier artistic experimentations as opposed to a complete departure from his earlier abstractions. “Dimensionality, appropriation, figuration, and a rigorous commitment to individualism are all themes from Picabia’s acclaimed work in the 1910s and early 1920s that continue into the Transparencies. Particularly relevant are the multivalent interpretations of the spatial fourth dimension – scientific, philosophical, and occult – that Picabia had first encountered in the context of Cubism and the Stieglitz Circle and, later, in his friend Marcel Duchamp’s optical experiments.”  1 Through the compositional elements Picabia employed in the transparencies, the painter managed to both deny linear perspective and suggest multiple dimensions within his highly


articulated painted surfaces. In 1936, Picabia signed Charles Sirató’s Manifeste dimensioniste thus confirming his interest in the avant-garde concerns with dimensions. Gertrude Stein, who became one of Picabia’s closest friends in the early 1930s, was fascinated by the artist’s transparencies in particular. Her accounts of their friendship and Picabia’s paintings can be found in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Everybody’s Autobiography. Both texts reveal the profound impact Picabia had on Stein at a turning point in her career. Picabia’s transparencies however, had a wider profound effect both on the artist and those around him. The artist was hugely influential and successful by the time he had produced these works; living in Cannes during this period, his exhibition openings there became important events in the social season. Additionally, his frequent exhibitions in Paris also meant he regularly visited the capital where this constant artistic exposure made his works sell rapidly. Picabia exhibited a few transparencies in the autumn of 1928, however the first major exhibitions of the series took place the year after and resulted directly in a contract with the prominent dealer Léonce Rosenberg.  2 ––


jean arp



1939. Original plaster. Height: 34.1 cm. 13.5 in.



Virgil Thomson collection, New York, gift from the artist.

Arie Hartog, Kai Fischer, Hans Arp, Sculptures, a Critical Survey, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012, no. 61, repr. p. 88.

Auction sale, Sotheby’s, New York, “Property from the estate of Virgil Thomson, sold for the benefit of the Virgil Thomson Foundation”, 3rd October 1990, lot 107. Robert Sweet collection, New York, purchased from the above. Private collection, New York, by descent from the above. Galerie Hopkins Custot, Paris. Private collection, Belgium.

Carola Giedion-Welcher, Jean Arp, New York, 1957, bronze version with stone base repr. no. 61, p. 94. S. Polay, Hans Arp. Die Formensprache im plastischen Werk, Stuttgart 1978, bronze version with stone base repr. no. 120, p. 85.


jean arp Étoile

“I prefer to think of the artist’s work as dreams rather than work. Love also is more likely to be called dream than work”.  Jean Arp

A pioneer of abstract art, Jean Arp played a pivotal role in founding Dadaism and contributed vehemently to Surrealism and Constructivism. His works were in fact displayed in the first exhibition of the Surrealist group at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. The majority of his art took the form of sculptures, though his early career featured collages and reliefs that often incorporated waste materials in their compositions. Much of Arp’s artistic production however, contains his characteristic biomorphic forms, whose seemingly viscous appearance had inspiration in natural forms. This fluid aesthetic deriving from organic matter became equally important to Joan Miró and other abstract artists of this period. In 1931 nonetheless, Arp separated from the Surrealist movement in order to found Abstraction-Création. Together with this Paris-based group he created works and contributed to the periodical, Transition. This sculpture, entitled Star, was produced just a few years after he joined Abstraction-Création and encapsulates wonderfully Arp’s long-lasting fascination with ever-morphing forms. Pieces from this period appear to expand from their cores into the world that surrounds them – reaching out into corners like a growing plant. The rounded shape created in the middle of this piece nods back to Arp’s works of the 1930s that were characterized by their circular, curving forms. What seemed to fascinate the artist was the sheer possibility of innumerable valid faces as a result of the rounded form. The

organic quality of Star reflects the analogy Arp himself made: “Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother’s womb”. The strands that appear to emanate from the central void of this sculpture mimic the rays of light emitted from stars. Plaster was ideal for creating such an effect precisely because in its liquid form the material flows into every corner and then expands a little (hence why it was ideal for casts). The material had a long-standing role in academic tradition thus, by using it Arp made a conscious reference back to artistic tradition, whilst simultaneously breaking away with it in his irregular appropriation of the medium. Arp was fascinated by the possibilities of plaster and frequently employed it – sometimes producing the same work in bronze after the initial plaster version; Star is one such example. The start of Arp’s intense involvement with plaster was marked in 1929 by an article in the Belgian magazine Variétés that publicized two of these works. It is the sculptures of the following two decades (1930s and 1940s) that gained the artist most public attention and the interest of buyers and dealers alike. These were the works that defined Arp as a “living classic of modern art”. The most popular sculptures were those that seemed to be recognizable abstractions of nature. Carola Giedion-Welcker expanded on the notion that artists including Arp, Constantin Brancusi and Paul Klee did not render: “incomprehensible avant-garde art but, rather, their art carried archetypal, universally comprehensive messages for people of all kinds. Such thinking determined the great success of modern art after 1945”.  1 ––

1 K. Fischer, Hans Arp – A Critical Survey, Berlin, 2012, p.13. 2 W. H. Robinson, Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí, Yale, 2006, p. 86.

Jean Arp



otto wols


Les Pieds

1939. Watercolour and ink on paper. Signed lower right: Wols. Noted, entitled and dated on the back by Gréty Wols: Photo 553, 1939. Début de la guerre. 32 x 24,5 cm. 12.6 x 9.6 in. The authenticity of this drawing has been confirmed by Dr. Edward Rathke on 15th April 2011.



Gréty Wols collection.

Shigeo Chiba, L’œuvre de Wols, Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1974, p. 143.

Marc Johannes collection. Paris, Aponem auction, 15th June 2011, Marc Johannes estate, lot no. 98. Private collection, Brussels.

ExhibitionS Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Wols : peintures, aquarelles, dessins, 19th December 1973 - 3rd February 1974, no. 53. Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Wols : dessins, aquarelles, peintures 1932-1951, June - July 1974, no. A56. Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Wols : dessins, aquarelles, peintures 1932-1951, 2nd July - 30th September 1974, no. 30. Paris, Galerie Beaubourg, Wols : dessins, aquarelles, peintures 1932-1951, November - December 1974. Dunkerque, Musée des Beaux-Arts (LAAC), 12th May - 16th September 2012, Wols : dessins, repr. p. 33.


otto wols Les Pieds

“With eyes closed, I often consider that which I see”.  1

Born Alfred Otto Wolfgang Shulze in 1913, Wols has been considered one of the leading figures in the development of a new pictorial language broadly categorised by the term ‘l’art informel’. Dying at the young age of 38 the artist’s life spans the turbulent times of World War II and includes three different periods of art, the culminating point being Wols considered as one of the inventors of Tachisme. Ewald Rathke, biographer of Otto Wols explains that the artist had an impressive scope and range of work in his short, fifteen-year career: “It moves from Surrealist-inspired beginnings to groundbreaking abstraction in his last years – from playful fantasy worlds to abstract structures”.  2 Wols, born into an upper middle class family, was exposed to art and culture from a young age. His disciplinarian father surrounded Wols with artists, scientists and intellectuals whilst he was growing up, enrolling the artist into drawing and music classes. An exemplary student, Wols was encouraged to pursue law by his father, however upon his father’s death in 1929, Wols left school without finishing his exams deciding to follow the Bauhaus movement, moving from Dessau to Berlin in 1932. After spending six months in Berlin during the expiring days of the Bauhaus movement, Wols moved to Paris in 1932 immediately being introduced to artists such as Léger and Ozenfant, after being recommended to do so by MoholyNagy. Working as a photographer, Wols went on to meet in 1933 his life long partner and

window in the Surrealist movement, Gréty Dabija. After spending short periods of time between Paris and Spain, where he started focusing on his skills as a draftsman, Wols settled down in Paris in 1936.

1 O. Wols in Wols Retrospective, ed. Grunenburg. C & Helfenstein. J, Munchen Hirmer,

Wols soon came under the influences of artists such as Tanguy, Miró, Masson, Brauner, Ernst and Dalí. Whilst all artists instigated stylistic changes within the artist’s oeuvre it is Tanguy who is considered the greatest influence. One can see the artists influence in Wols’ utilisation of the axial structure in his drawings as well as the fine concise lines of pen-and-ink drawing. Ewald Rathke explains: “Immediately the paintings and even more the drawings of Yves Tanguy from the second half of the 1920’s come to mind, the same shadowless imaginary landscapes with motif details strewn apparently indiscriminately over the picture surface, standing in relationship to one another and seeming to tell a story yet not conveying any message“.  3 It was after seeing the Exposition internationale du surréalisme in Paris on the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré, that Wols first experienced the autodidact that he would later use to express himself. Rathke explains, that from the outset Wols was a draftsman, he selected pen, paper and watercolours as his mediums at first that required the greatest concentration: “because it creates facts on paper that allowed no correction. Watercolours, used only sparingly for accentuation at first, quickly work in conjunction with the pen-and-ink drawing to heighten the expression. It follows logically that although the

Munich, 2013, p. 10. 2 E. Rathke, “On the Biography of the Art of Wols” in Wols Retrospective, p. 35. 3 Rathke, ibid, p. 42.

Les Pieds 4 Rathke, ibid, p. 44.

drawing is always the first act of realisation the number of pure drawings in his œuvre is comparatively small.”  4

5 Rathke, ibid, p. 46. 6 Rathke, ibid, p. 47.

The German painter adopted his nickname Otto Wols from a misaddressed telegram in 1937. In the following years, the artist, who became a close friend of Sartre, Jean Paulhan and Merleau-Ponty, decided to dedicate his life to the work of, linking art, science and philosophy. This connection begins to become evident in Wols’ watercolour and experiments with the Surrealist style and movement. After the declaration of World War II in 1939, Wols was transferred to three different camps. During this period the artist was cut off from the world and stopped working for a few months, however in the later parts of the year, his wife Gréty managed to acquire some watercolour, allowing him to start working again. Rathke observed: “The motifs for his visual ideas flow to him from the rich source of his memories, interwoven with impressions of the atmosphere and daily life in the Camp des Milles (Aix-en-Provence) and the occasional day releases to Marseilles. This reality too is rewritten as vocabulary in his art; for example, the brick wall that appears as a set piece several times, o the camp bar, and bottles and glasses repeat what he saw in the Montargis camp, a former glass factory.”  5


Les Pieds, painted in 1939 is known to be one of the watercolours executed by the artist during his time in the camps. In his watercolours, Wols generally constructs his works around a latent central vertical axis with the areas to the right and left of it in balance, this can be seen in Les Pieds. The composition lies perfectly in balance, the blue adding an aura to the surreal subject. The individual elements of the composition are embedded in a frame of likewise latent verticals, horizontals and diagonals. The lines become increasingly fine in Wols’ watercolours helping the artist to heighten precision. The watercolour adheres strictly to the outlines and lets the individual motifs become parts of the surrealist puzzle. Rathke explains: “Although it negates the central perspective, the staggering of the motifs one behind the other generates space. Panoramas spread before us, but various barriers block our access.”  6 After 1942, when the Germans occupied large parts of France, Wols fled to Dieulefit, a small town near Montélimar. It was in this period that Wols developed a new style of painting. Wols final act in the art world was to play with the relationship between the material and the traces left by the brush. His work became an exploration of a network of spots, weaves and traces. It was this experimental form of painting that would later be called Tachisme. ––


joan miró


Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil

17th April 1942. Gouache, ink wash, pen and India ink, frottage, watercolor and pencil on paper. Signed lower left: Miró Signed, dated, titled, located on the back: Joan Miró/Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil/X/Palma Majorque/17-4-1942. 32.4 x 41 cm. 12.7 x 16.1 in. The authenticity of this drawing has been confirmed by l’Association pour la Défense de l’Œuvre de Miró (ADOM), on 6th December 2012.

Provenance Rose Rablow, San Francisco. Private collection, USA, by descent.


joan miró Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil

“I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within”.  1

Often considered one of the leading members of the Surrealist movement and hailed so by none other than the founder, André Breton himself, Joan Miró i Ferrà was born on the 20th of April 1893 in Barcelona. Miró demonstrated an artistic flair from a young age and studied at the prestigious La Llotja School of Fine Arts in Barcelona where Pablo Picasso had studied a few years earlier. Miró was trained by Modest Urgell and Josep Pascó and was taught how to draw by simply feeling objects instead of seeing them. However, Miró’s father soon pressured him to become a businessman, later enrolling him into the Barcelona School of Commerce between 1907 and 1910. Soon after completing his studies Miró took a job as a bookshop keeper. Not suited to the life of a business man, in 1911 Miró had a nervous breakdown pushing his parents to realise he was not suited to the business working world. Miró’s parents sent him to Mont-roig to recuperate from his attack, hoping the rural air would calm his mind. This move proved to have the biggest influence on Miró’s artistic career, the countryside inspiring his artistic symbols and simplified images. On returning to Barcelona Miró went on to study at Francesc Gali’s Escola d’Art in Barcelona, where he met life long friends and artistic companions Joan Prats and Josep Llorens Artigas. Miró also took drawing lessons at the Cercle Artistic de Sant Lluc, founded in 1893 by a group

of progressive Catalan artists led by architect Antoni Gaudí.

1 M. Rowell ed., Joan Miró: Selected

While searching for a personal style, Miró became familiar with the artistic experiments of the European avant-garde movements. He read Guillaume Apollinaire’s collection of poems, Calligrammes, and through Dalmau met artists Robert Delaunay and Francis Picabia. These encounters encouraged him to move to Paris to further his artistic expression. Upon first visiting Paris in the spring of 1921 Miró said: “This Paris has shaken me up completely. Positively, I feel kissed, like raw flesh, by all the sweetness here”.  2 Over the next 15 years he was to split his time between Paris and Mont-roig. However, it was in 1921 when Miró’s work first became informed by the Surrealist movement after meeting André Masson who lived and worked in the studio next to his, and introduced him to Surrealism. Though most would argue that Miró’s artistic transition was a result of the contact he had with the Surrealist circle in Paris, Jacques Dupin, Miró’s personal biographer believed that it was solely down to Miró’s own artistic genius that his work changed so radically. The shift came in 1924, Miró explains: “Hunger gave me hallucinations and the hallucinations gave me ideas for paintings”.  3 Among these ideas, the major one consisted of transforming the canvas into a neutral, indeterminate surface where figures could float free as dreams- like signs within a transfigured world. Miró later declared: “I was no longer subjected to a dream-dictation, I created my

Writings and Interviews, New York, 1992, p. 186. 2 I. Candela, Joan Miró, Tate Publishing, Florence, 2011, p. 9. 3 I. Candela, ibid, p. 11.

Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil 4 I. Candela, ibid, p. 13.

dreams through my paintings”.  4 Nevertheless, he always maintained his work was not abstract but strongly anchored in reality.

5 M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, p. 182. 6 J.J. Clavero, Fundació Joan Miró Guide of the Foundation, Ediciones Polígrafa, Spain, 2010, p. 78. 7 J.J. Clavero, ibid, p. 86. 8 J.J. Clavero, ibid, p. 82.

The start of the Civil War in Spain meant Miró was in exile in France until 1941 after which he was forced to return to Spain by the impending invasion of the Nazi’s in France. Miró then moved back to Mont-roig for the summer of 1941. During his stay, he was reminded of all the things he loved about his land, stating: “Upon my returning again to Mont-roig and reviewing my work, it seemed to me to be very strong, very much a product of this place. When I saw the countryside around the farm, with those planes that are so grand in their simplicity, I realised that much of my work is simple, grandiose, and brutal, and rightly so; even the symbols of bird songs, the sound of wind, of a turning cart wheel, of a human cry, or the barking dog are very schematic… what I loved twenty years ago and tried unsuccessfully to capture then, I will capture now.“  5

9 J. Dupin, Joan Miró, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, 2009, p. 25.

After the summer of 1941, Miró went into self-imposed exile in Mallorca for two years, which is where Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil was executed. In 1942 Miró decided to concentrate on a series of works on paper themed around the arrangement Femme, Oiseau, Étoile. For Miró the act of drawing, using a range of materials, offered the widest possible spectrum for experimental expression. Femmes et oiseau devant le soleil is a prime example of Mirós delight at the possibilities of drawing. Mixing pencil, different inks and varied appli-


cations of pigment, Miró achieved a richly ornamented surface. The surface of the drawing represents Miró’s primary concern in this period, experimentation, apparent not only in his drawings but also his writings.  6 He was interested above all in form – a form simplified to the maximum on an unobtrusive white ground. Miró’s language becomes more consolidated: the signs impose themselves, and delicate, precise lines are combined here and there with more expressive brushstrokes. The titles emphasise the principle terms of his particular universe, in which woman is undoubtedly primordial: “What I call woman is not the creature woman, it is a universe.”  7 Of his obsession with birds as subjects, Miró explains: “Birds fly through space, they can lift us off the ground to higher things, to the world of fantasy and the imagination, which is not earthbound”.  8 The varying thicknesses of ink create either neat, precise lines, or are bled into the paper. The two areas of primary colour are treated in entirely opposing ways: the strongly delineated red sun is applied with evenly applied pure thick gouache, whereas the blue cloud appears as a thin diaphanous mist, which seeps at the edges. The horizontal zigzags stand out against their carefully scoured grounds creating layers of working, which adds depth to the sheet. What is evident in this work as Dupin explains is: “The world of the imagination and the subconscious, rather than being an end in itself, was for Miró a way of giving shape in his paintings to his lived experiences and his memories”.  9 ––


alexander calder





Signed and dated lower right: Calder 49.

Mr. & Mrs. William Chess collection, Connecticut, purchased directly from the artist.

52 x 65.4 cm. 20.5 x 25.7 in.

Private collection, USA, by descent.

Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum, Calder in Connecticut, 28th April - 6th August 2000, no. 105, repr. p. 96 (cat. text by Eric Zafran).

1949. Black ink and gouache on paper.

This gouache is registred in the Calder Foundation archives under ref A18763.


alexander calder Composition

Alexander Calder played a significant role in the development of sculpture in the 20th century and retained a high artistic profile both in America and Europe throughout his career; as the art historian James Johnson Sweeney wrote, Calder had: “the widest international reputation of any American plastic artist of his generation”.  1 Though born in North America, Calder’s art evolved most in the creative buzz of Paris where he became friends with Miró and Pascin, and joined the group Abstraction-Création in 1931 after moving there in 1928. Calder had initially trained as an engineer, until in 1923 he enrolled to study painting at the Art Students League in New York. His visit to Mondrian’s studio in Paris in 1930 made a large impact on the artist whose late art still contained traces of Mondrian’s linear elegance and his simple colour schemes. Like Mondrian, Calder craved for an art that mirrored the mathematical laws of the universe, but for him such art could not be stiff and static. The notion that the universe is in constant movement but held together

through the power of balancing forces first inspired Calder to construct his mobiles. He hung various shapes and colours off a metal frame, making them sway gently in the air. Duchamp gave the name to these suspended works, “mobiles”, while the name “stabiles” for his sculptures which did not move, was later suggested by Arp. Delicate poise and a preoccupation with balance characterizes Calder’s œuvre – both sculptural and painterly.

1 J.J Sweeney quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p. 15. Sweeney met Calder in Paris in 1933 and organized an important retrospective at the MoMA in New York in 1943.

From the beginning of 1946 to the end of 1953, Calder produced over 150 gouaches on paper and around 100 oil paintings. “These exuberant compositions contain Calder’s familiar imagery of spirals, disks, and biomorphic shapes, but the forms are embedded in a painterly matrix that makes these compositions Calder’s most expressionist and gestural to date; with their ample applications of black, they are also some of his least cheerful.”  2 The gouache exhibited here falls into this category. Rendered in 1949 it embodies Calder’s scientific inclinations as the hieroglyphic marks take the form

2 M. Prather, ibid, p. 229.

Composition 3 Mellquist, Art Digest, 1952, quoted in M. Prather, ibid, p. 233.

of stars, moons, planets and swirling patterns that imply motion or the undulation of sound waves. Though a flat work, the dark outlines and primary colour scheme Calder employs in this composition resemble his mobiles. Calder endured great success both during his lifetime and after. His first one-man exhibition at the Weyhe Gallery, New York, 1928 was followed by a vast number of shows both in America and Europe. The year he painted this gouache was also significant because it was the same year he constructed his most ambitious mobile to date, International Mobile, for the Third International Exhibi-


tion of Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Two months after this, the Buchholz Gallery / Curt Valentin, New York, opened the exhibition Calder. The exhibition catalogue featured not only reproductions of Calder’s works, but also The Studio of Alexander Calder by André Masson. In 1952 he was awarded the main prize for sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale and the First Prize for Sculpture at the 1958 Pittsburgh International. The twenty-three works displayed at the Venice Biennale formed a “triumphant room devoted to Calder” and highlighted the artist’s important status as a leading sculptor of this period.  3 ––


jean dubuffet


Personnage XXX

13th December 1964. Gouache on paper. Signed with initials and dated lower right: J.D. 64. Numbered on the back by the artist: H 137. 26.7 x 21 cm. 10.5 x 8.3 in.



Dr. and Mrs. John A. Cook collection, New York.

Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXI : L’Hourloupe II, éditions de Minuit, 1968, no. 50, repr. p. 33 (incorrectly mentionned).

Sotheby’s auction, New York, 11th May 2005, lot 137. Private collection, New York.


jean dubuffet Personnage XXX

“I believe very much in values of savagery; I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness.” Jean Dubuffet, 1951.

Jean Dubuffet emerged on the Paris art scene in 1942 at the age of forty-one. Though he had studied painting at the Académie Julian in 1918, he abandoned in by 1923 and devoted his time to running his father’s wine-selling business. It was not until 1942, when he started exhibiting his works that he fully immersed himself into art once more. His impact on the Paris art scene, however caused great disarray for critics and curators who were shocked by his clear disregard for artistic traditions and conventions. Dubuffet’s aim was to break the boundaries of the time through his aesthetic and materials – choosing a raw style unadulterated by cultural arts and using unorthodox media such as sand, asphalt and household paints as the basis of his compositions. What Dubuffet found so refreshing about the art of the amateur or non-professional was the raw nature of their art – boundless, free and honest – like a barely containable raw emotion exposed on canvas. He coined the term “art brut”, which encapsulated this style. As Klaus Ottmann described: “It was the rebellion of a highly educated artist against overly intellectual art”.  1 Despite Dubuffet’s keenness in ridding art of all unnecessary intellectual baggage, his writings expressing his thoughts on the matter are highly erudite and eloquently written, thus showing his own intellectual qualities. Though Dubuffet became close friends with Juan Gris, Andre Masson, Fernand Léger and

strongly connected with the artistic circle around the surrealist Masson, his art was best received and recognized away from these influential figures in America. The well-respected art critic Clement Greenberg inevitably influenced the artist’s inclusion in the American Abstract Expressionists cause. Greenberg praised Dubuffet saying: “He is the most original painter to have come out of the School of Paris since Miró”.  2 While his reputation remained debated in Paris, he became the most prominent and frequently discussed French artist in New York. As testament of this success, Dubuffet was the only French artist to be included in the highly esteemed series of articles published in ARTnews during the early 1950s. Stylistically Dubuffet’s art went through many changes not just in medium but also in tone – ranging from dark, tumultuous canvases in thick impasto to light-hearted patterned designs in jovial hues. This gouache, Personnage XXX, is a perfect example of Dubuffet’s works from the period after 1962 when he only used red, white, blue and black. Nonetheless, it is particularly rare because of the medium used, as many of the surviving pieces from this period are marker on paper. The child-like colour scheme and primitive forms embody the artist’s interest in implementing a brut art form. The ever-morphing forms outlined in solid black are hatched in blue and red giving the composition a pattern-like quality. This gouache was rendered as a study for the painting Vieil Homme à la canne (Loreau, fasc. XXI, no. 59, p. 37) that helped form the series entitled L’Hourloupe. The Hourloupe series reflected

1 K. Ottmann, Angels, Demons and Savages Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet, Washington, 2013, p. 3. 2 K. Ottmann, ibid, p. 5.

Personnage XXX J. Dubuffet, Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, New York, 1973, p. 10.

the culmination of Dubuffet’s pictorial aspirations. The form used in these paintings, as Dubuffet explained in 1969, was that of a continuous and uniform winding script (as can be seen in this gouache). Thus, all individual characteristics – all categories that define the subject – are eradicated through the use of this homogeneous script that is applied indiscriminately to all things. Dubuffet managed to reduce all the visual elements to their simplest form. As the artist himself summarized: “My operation is to erase all categories and regress toward an undifferentiated continuum”.  3

Around the time Dubuffet produced the Houloupe series he had a streak of successful exhibitions. 1964 marked his first exhibition in the Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, where he continued to show his art regularly until 1971 and again from 1982. The year after he had his first exhibition in the Galerie Beyeler, Basel (where he exhibited regularly until 1976) and then in 1966 Dubuffet had several retrospectives in America, Dallas and Minneapolis, London, Tate Gallery, and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, and displayed his art, L’Hourloupe, in the Guggenheim Museum, New York. ––

Vieil homme à la canne



We wish to express our deap gratitude for their research and contribution to this catalogue: Bojana Popovic and Jasmine Chohan B.A. Hons. M.A., London, Dominique Choffel, Paris, research and coordination, Laure Bertrand Pudles, Brussels, graphic designer, Antoine Bechet, Paris, framing, Chantal Quirot, Paris, restorer, Alain Roger, chef des travaux d’art, BNF, Paris, Nicolas Lemmens Studio, Brussels, Thierry Ollivier, Paris, Luc Schrobiltgen, Brussels, Jean-Olivier Rousseau, Paris, photographies.

Printing by Paperland, Belgium. © SABAM Belgium 2014 © Successió Miró / SABAM Belgium 2014

Syndicat national des antiquaires

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.