A vivid imprint of a woman's torso and thighs boldly rendered in radiant International Klein Blue (IKB), Anthropométrie sans titre, (ANT 49) is a quintessential early example of Yves Klein's celebrated series of Anthropométries. Executed in 1960, it is a rare example of work that the artist signed on the front and is one of the first of this important and defining series of paintings. Conveying the vitality of a performance work with the enigmatic energy of abstract painting, the strong mark of the body pressed onto a mottled and shimmering blue surface encapsulates the artist's original intentions with this series, which concentrate his desire to directly translate human sensibility and life force to the surface of the picture-plane. Distanced from any traditional manner of figurative representation, this work remains one of the most powerful expressions of the uniqueness of the human form in both its ethereal and physical presence. With its unflinching focus on the trunk of the body, ANT 49 expresses the physical strength that lies at the body's core, as well as Klein's metaphysical conviction that this was where the "real universe" was to 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).
Just as Matisse reinvigorated the depiction of the human form with his Blue Nude II of 1952, Klein marks a bold reintroduction of the human figure into an art world that was at that time largely preoccupied by predominantly abstract painting. His Anthropométries were a sequence of works that radically merged aspects of painting and printmaking with conceptual and performance art. Under the artist's direction, these often startlingly dynamic works were created from the imprint of nude women coated in Klein's specially concocted IKB paint pressed directly onto the surface, with the dappled background produced by mixing pigment with resin. By directing his models to press against prepared surfaces of varying sizes, the women became what Klein termed his "living brushes" (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 187). Here, the model for ANT 49 has been instructed by Klein to straddle a cylindrical bolster-like support onto which the prepared paper has been laid, creating a strong impression that has a singular graphic clarity. Klein saw his Anthropométries as energized marks of the "moment states of the flesh," seeing in them a direct connection with his great passion, judo. Imprints of the body left 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.
The Anthropométries embody the confluence of several different ideas for Klein. They evolved from his explorations into the immaterial and the infinite, so powerfully expressed in his Monochromes, while continuing to develop his belief in the unique power of the color blue, a color that for Klein was able to represent the spiritual realms of the sublime. Developed towards the end of the 1950s, Klein's Monochromes were able to harness what Klein saw as the IKB's mystical and transcendental intensity, which developed into the beginning of Klein's "Blue Period" in January 1957. "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).
At the same time, Klein had begun filling his studio with models, taking inspiration from the naked human form rather that using it merely as a visual reference. It was the atmosphere evoked by the nude body that stimulated him. "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). Although originally skeptical of his process, the models became increasing seduced by the intense IKB Monochromes that Klein created in their presence, inspiring Klein to translate their sensual presence into art in a more direct way. As he related, "My models laughed more than a little when they saw how I created the exquisite blue monochrome, limited to one color, after their images! They laughed, but they felt more and more attracted to the blue. One day it was clear to me that my hands and tools were no longer sufficient to work with the color. I needed the model to paint the monochrome painting" (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publishing, 2007, p. 114). He began to organize events and happenings in 1960 and 1961 that involved his presiding over the creation of the Anthropométries, as Pierre Restany termed them, before an audience. In several, he would preside like a ringmaster in black tie, an orchestra in the background, as his naked models entered: "That way my hands stayed clean, 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).
Directly capturing the traces of movement and the energy of life itself in these intensely blue imprints, the Anthropométries vividly encapsulate Klein's desire to channel the essence of life and of the wider universe through art. With their specific, transcendental IKB coloration, the Anthropométries connect real, living "moments of the flesh," to the universe beyond the known world. The firm but momentary blue impression of the lone figure set against the elegant, mist-like pattern of the background are evocative of the full range of Klein's mystic vision, conveying the fleeting vitality of human life, dissolved of any individual identity, finally floating free within the wider cosmos.
Anthropométrie sans titre, (ANT 49)
Dry pigment and synthetic resin on paper laid down on canvas
The Quest for Excellence: One Private Collector's Passions
Signed and dated 'Yves Klein 1960' (lower right)
Yves Klein , 20th Century, Paintings, France, Post War
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, p. 15, 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).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
42 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (108.9 x 65 cm.)
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, 7 February 2007, lot 14
Siegfried and Sissy Loch, Berlin
Their sale; Christie's, London, 27 June 2012, lot 10
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner