Rendered in his proprietary International Klein Blue, Yves Klein’s Anthropométrie sans titre (ANT 49) is an early example of the artist’s sensuous rendering of the female form. A rare case of Klein’s work which is signed by the artist on the front of the sheet, the soft contours of the woman’s body are accentuated by the vibrancy of the deep blue pigment. Combining aspects of figurative painting, abstraction and performance, Klein’s Anthropométries are the result of the artist’s desire to incorporate the spiritual, dynamic and visceral nature of the human body into the surface of his paintings.
Unlike traditional figurative paintings in which models are used as subjects, in his paintings Klein incorporated his models as an intrinsic part of the creative process. The models applied the IKB pigment directly onto their bodies and would then embrace a cylindrical bolster covered with the artist’s chosen support. In this way, the models became what he described as ‘human brushes,’ with the pigment picking up the various anomalies of human body which were then transferred directly to the surface of the work.
Thus, works such as Anthropométrie sans titre (ANT 49) become an intensely personal, yet highly abstracted depiction of the human body; we see everything, yet conversely at the same time, we see nothing but the essential nature of the human spirit. In choosing to focus on the core of the body, Klein has deliberately chosen to convey its physical strength. It was here that the artist felt the essence of human nature could be found, where the immaterial energy of human life is generated beyond our conscious control. “It was the block of the body itself,” Klein said at the time, “that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful and non-thinking. The head, the arms, the hands are only intellectual articulations around the bulk of flesh that is the body! The heart beats without thought on our part; the mind cannot stop it. Digestion works without our intervention, be it emotional or intellectual. We breathe without reflection. True, the whole body is made of flesh, but the essential mass is the trunk and the thighs. It is there that we find the real universe, hidden by the universe of our limited perception” (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 186).
Yves Klein paintings of the human body are part of an art historical continuum which celebrated the female form. Traditionally, the reclining nude has been one of the most recognizable subjects, but beginning in the 20th century artists have been seeking to make this traditional subject more contemporary and relevant. Blue Nude II, Henri Matisse’s 1952 cut out radically reexamined the nature of the female form and just under a decade later, Klein further advanced the genre with his Anthropométries. Rather than mere depictions of the female form, the artist saw his paintings as energized marks of the ‘moment states of the flesh,’ seeing in them a direct connection with his other great passion, judo. Imprints of the body left on the mat while practicing judo provided a deep inspiration for Klein and often were featured in the films he made and other of his works long before this series came into being. These residual marks symbolized the body as a physical and spiritual center of energy and its inherent power.
Anthropométrie sans titre (ANT 49) brings together many of the theories and ideas that Klein was working with during this pivotal period. The deep, vibrant blue pigment was part of his investigations into the immaterial and the infinite which began in earnest with his Monochromes. With these expanses of high keyed, intense blues Klein represented what he believed was the spiritual realms of the sublime. Developed towards the end of the 1950s, Klein professed to believe that the color possessed unique, almost supernatural, properties. “What is blue,” he asked, discussing the unique power of this particular color. “Blue is obscurity becoming visible. ...Blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions” (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 40). In parallel to these explorations, the artist began to introduce an aspect of performance into his creative process. Accompanied by a small orchestra, and watched by an audience of elegantly attired guests, Klein invited female models into the Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, they covered themselves in Yves Klein’s IKB pigment and they applied their bodies onto the surface of a canvas which was laid on the floor and fixed on the wall. “That way my hands stayed clean, he stated, “and I no longer dirtied myself with paint, not even the tips of my fingers. The work completed itself there in front of me, with the absolute collaboration of the models, and I was in a position to show myself worthy of it by welcoming the work into the tangible world in a fitting manner wearing a tuxedo” (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 188).
Unlike traditional depictions of the human body, Klein was not concerned with the outer appearance in terms of its contours or pictorial resemblance, instead he was intent on capturing the body’s living energy. As he would later confirm with his Fire paintings, he wanted to convey a sense of the presence of absence in his work. “The shape of the body, its lines, its colors between life and death are of no interest to me. It is the emotional atmosphere that I value” (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 186).
Anthropométrie sans titre, (ANT 49)
signed and dated 'Yves Klein 1960' (lower right)
Yves Klein (1928-1962)
New York, The Jewish Museum, Yves Klein, January-March 1967.
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Yves Klein, February-March 1968, p. 13, no. 39 (illustrated in color).
Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Yves Klein in Nürnberg, April-May 1968, pp. 15 and 24, no. 43 (illustrated in color).
Prague, Narodni Galerie, Yves Klein 1928-1962, 1968.
Paris, Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs et Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Yves Klein 1928-1962, January-March 1969, p. 33 (illustrated in color).
Bremen, Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst, Paint in Blue: ACT Art Collection Siegfried Loch, March-May 2007, pp. 74-75 (illustrated in color).
London, Gagosian Gallery, Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute, April-June 2016, pp. 6-7 and 140 (illustrated in color and installation view illustrated in color).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Nude: from Modigliani to Currin, September-November 2016, pp. 88-89 and 184 (illustrated in color).
P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1969, p. 105, no. ANT 49 (illustrated).
Interventions..., exh. cat., Paris, Centre national d'art contemporain, 1969, p. 33 (illustrated in color).
M. Zawisza, "Collectioner la Performance," L'Oeil, October 2013, p. 135 (illustrated in color).
Galerie Karl Flinker, Paris
Private collection, Paris, 1974
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, London, 07 February 2007, lot 14
Siegfried and Sissy Loch, Berlin
Their sale; Christie's, London, 27 June 2012, lot 10
Private collection, Europe
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 13 May 2014, lot 24
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner