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La Marseillaise (ANT 138)
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La Marseillaise (ANT 138)
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About the item

As heroic as she is beautiful, Yves Klein’s exquisite La Marseillaise (ANT 138) stands among the most magnificent works from the artist’s paradigmatic Anthropometries. With her arm upraised and hair flowing as though caught in a blast of sea spray, this extraordinary work conjures a multitude of dialogues that span the gamut of art history. Implied by her name, La Marseillaise at once evokes the mythological ideal of Venus born of the sea, the Arcadian female bather of neoclassical and impressionist masterpieces, and an allegorical expression of liberty and la patrie. In the guise of Klein’s revolutionary monochrome inquiry and articulated in the trademark pigment – International Klein Blue – her curvaceously serpentine form presents a paragon of female beauty. Within the artist’s prolific yet tragically curtailed oeuvre, this piece is one of only three works of similar facture, dimensions, and appearance, and yet is the only work from Klein’s practice bestowed with the highly evocative title: simultaneously meaning ‘woman of Marseille’ and the namesake of the French national anthem –a shortening of chanson Marseillaise or ‘Marseille song’. Remarkably well defined and articulated with rare intricacy, the present example effectively serves as an unconventional portrait of the artist’s wife, Rotraut Uecker. Not yet married at the time of the work’s creation, Rotraut first met Yves Klein in 1958 and shortly after became his studio assistant. Although used as a model for a number of the Anthropometries, none possess the degree of exquisite definition and resolution exemplified by La Marseillaise. Executed in 1960 – the very year Klein patented the IKB pigment and made the first Cosmogonies – one year later in 1961 La Marseillaise was acquired by the legendary Gunter Sachs. For the next fifty years this extraordinary painting was prized as a jewel of Sachs’s famous and frequently exhibited collection. Immersed within diffuse layers of Klein’s celestial IKB, Rotraut appears to hover within clouds of concentrated pigment, an exquisite emanation and outstanding testament to Klein’s groundbreaking practice and iconic series. A native of the seaside village of Cagne-sur-Mer near Nice, Yves Klein grew up amidst the paradisic environs that had attracted so many artists for centuries. This was the place to which Klein and Rotraut would return during the summer months, as she recalled, “…in the South of France there was always a magical mood in the air. In the morning we often went fishing and swimming. Yves was an enthusiastic skin diver and loved the silent world in its characteristic colours and movements into infinity. I often sat on the beach and enjoyed the early morning mood, sometimes also the evening sky above the sea, while he fished and dived underwater.” (Rotraut Klein-Moquay in conversation with Greta Tullmann and Hannah Weitemeier in Exh. Cat., New York, Danese (and travelling), Yves Klein: The Anthropometries, 1997, p. 12) Twinned as pillars of the Cote d’Azur, Nice and Marseille frame the French Riviera’s Mediterranean glow, an atmospheric quality that inspired the Impressionists to capture the glorious coloristic effects of its changing light. Importantly, it was here that Renoir painted his voluptuous famous nudes languishing within the idyllic landscape. Entitled La Marseillaise or Woman of Marseille, Yves Klein’s glorious painting can thus be interpreted within the context of Southern France and this art historical trope of the female bather. Perhaps most associated with the mythological depictions of the Birth of Venus or the goddess Diana by Botticelli and Titian, this classical archetype was rejuvenated in the Neoclassical art of Ingres, whose serpentine female nudes revitalized the depiction of the female form, and was later transformed during the late Nineteenth Century by Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir whose realism recontextualized the classical le beau ideal in the context of modernity. Emerging as a windswept Venus against sea-dashed rocks, La Marseillaise’s silhouette seems to materialize out of a diaphanous spray of aqueous IKB pigment. Reminiscent of Ingres’ La Source with her arm raised above her head holding a vessel from which water pours and flows, the present work sits within a timeless tradition utilized by centuries of artists to innovate new attitudes and approaches to the living form.\nWith her arm upraised as though in valiant salute, Klein’s La Marseillaise appears as a twentieth century embodiment of the kind of heroic and lofty ideals invested in this anthem and associated with the national figure of Marianne – a revolutionary symbol of Liberty and Reason conceived to represent the Republic. Today a ubiquitous emblem prominently adorning the public monuments of Paris, a reading of Marianne is at stake in the abstract and eternal beauty of Klein’s heroic La Marseillaise. Indeed, fiercely marching over a field of fallen bodies, the feminine allegory of perhaps the most famous incarnation of this symbol, Eugène Delacroix’s masterpiece, Liberty Leading the People (1830), finds a visual and spiritual echo in Klein’s composition. Commemorating the 1830 July Revolution, Delacroix’s bare breasted Marianne triumphantly holds the Tricolor aloft; her civic countenance and strong upraised arm became the quintessential archetype of Republican Independence that later inspired the pose for the Statue of Liberty. Significantly, Delacroix was of particular importance and influence for Yves Klein. He considered himself an acolyte of the nineteenth-century artist’s principles and innovation of color theory – a pioneering engagement that went on to greatly influence the development of Impressionism. As Klein stated in his diary of 1957, “My monochrome propositions are the landscape of freedom. I am an Impressionist and a disciple of Delacroix.” (Yves Klein, "Some Excerpts From My Journal of 1957," in Overcoming the problematics of Art, the Writings of Yves Klein, New York, 2007) La Marseillaise therefore presents an image of abstract femininity replete with associations and allusions that through a reading of the history of France and symbolism of Liberty lead into a dialogue on the origins of Klein’s essential artistic inquiry, the emancipation of pure color.\nHaving first observed the powerful chromatic effect of pure powdered pigment while in an art supply shop in London in 1949, throughout the 1950s Klein experimented with various fusions of asphalt, plaster, cement, sand, tar and other materials to develop the legendary International Klein Blue, a synthetic medium that preserved the pigment as if it were pure powder. This pigment was employed to create the first purely monochrome canvases, which marked the beginning of The Blue Period, officially inaugurated at an exhibition of purely monochrome paintings at Galleria Apollinaire in Milan 1957. For Klein blue represented the key to the absolute, a plastic base for grand emotion and an expression of the immaterial dimension of the universe. On August 5th, 1955, Yves Klein wrote to a friend that monochromes conveyed “an idea of absolute unity in perfect serenity.” Following the acclaimed Monochrome and Relief Éponge works that first propelled Klein to prominence, the Anthropométries extended the qualities of unity and serenity to the human body. Building upon philosophical beliefs that Klein encountered in his study of Judo and Zen Buddhism, his incorporation of nude females as collaborators – or ‘living brushes’ who painted over a white background – gestured to the body as a center of physical, sensorial and spiritual energy. The first Anthropométries were orchestrated by Klein on June 5th 1958 at an informal performance on the Île Saint-Louis, in the apartment of his friend Robert Godet during a dinner party. In 1960 their creation achieved new heights, in an epic performance at the Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris. Conducted by Klein who was immaculately dressed in a tuxedo for the event, several nude models were covered in paint and using their bodies imprinted blank paper-surfaces lining the walls and floor before an audience of Parisian guests. The entire occasion was enacted against a performance of Klein’s Monotone-Silence Symphony, in which a twenty minute drone of a single note was played by cellists, violinists and chorists, followed by twenty minutes of silence.\nUniquely placed to understand the philosophical ideals behind the creation of the Anthropométries paintings as well as the actuality behind their manifestation, Rotraut played a key role in the realization of these works, even when not acting directly as a model. She recalled of her working relationship with Klein during the creation of the first examples from the series that “Yves had made a drawing beforehand and I worked with the models and showed them how to do it… I myself never participated publicly in making these paintings, but only privately. I must say that with the method with which Yves brings the body onto the paper, he makes a direct contact. The body leaves behind traces of its being in the painting. It is much more than painting a representation of the body … Each time I see a painting again for which I was the model, I sense that I am that painting. You feel a perfect identity, even after many years….” (Rotraut Klein-Moquay in conversation with Greta Tüllmann and Hannah Weitemeier, Op. Cit., p. 17) Klein first met Rotraut Uecker – the sister of German artist Günther Uecker - in Nice in 1957, while she was staying in a house belonging to Arman. All three artists were closely affiliated in terms of creative and philosophical ideals, seeking to challenge the boundaries of conventional media and move beyond the confines of artistic convention: whilst Uecker was closely involved with the ZERO group alongside Klein, Arman and Klein also worked together to form Nouveau Réalisme in 1960. Rotraut became heavily involved in the activities of these young and pioneering artists very quickly, becoming Klein’s assistant the very same year they met. Rotraut recalled her first impressions of Klein in an interview in 1994: “He was a handsome young man who smiled spontaneously, and started to flirt immediately. With his big radiant eyes he seemed to me rather like a young god.” (Rotraut Klein-Moquay, Ibid., p. 5)\nInitiated during the very same year as the revolutionary first performance of the Anthropométries, Yves Klein’s Cosmogonie series equally harnessed natural forms to create striking monochromatic surfaces. Experimenting with the incorporation of organic processes and textures, Klein would use methods like bamboo reeds bending in the wind, or rain droplets falling through a fine mist of IKB pigment, and even Rotraut’s hair to elucidate marks on a blank ground. In the case of La Marseillaise, the soft diffusion of IKB droplets and body imprints together create a balance between positive and negative; appearing here as an ethereal IKB glow, an aura seems to emanate from Rotraut’s negative form. La Marseillaise thus stands as a powerful representation not just of the feminine form but also succeeds in capturing the very essence of life’s force: a triumph of the spiritual over the physical.\nPowerful and heroic yet sensitive and delicate, La Marseillaise represents a coming together of multitudinous engagements and symbolic allusion. A portrayal of Rotraut Uecker, who in 1962 became Rotraut Klein, this painting can also be viewed as a magnificent testament to their symbiotic relationship: “We lived intensely in this world but also in completely different worlds. We worked from our own lives and our own creative experiences, spent a lot of time at home together and viewed our material situation – which, for many young artists, was rather unresolved – with an unshakeable optimism for new paths and pioneering experiences in art.” (Rotraut Klein-Moquay in conversation with Greta Tullmann and Hannah Weitemeier, Op. Cit.,  p. 9)\nSigned and dated 1960; titled on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Dry pigment and resin on paper laid on canvas

creator

Yves Klein

condition

This work is in excellent condition. The surface is fresh and well preserved, with only a tiny pinhead-sized spot, potentially incipient foxing, 2 ½" from the bottom and 5 ½" from the left edge. There are a very few intermittent instances of slight wear to the extreme edges, and the tips of the bottom left and right corners are lifting very slightly. The edges of the stretcher mount are covered with brown paper strips that exhibit circular discoloration at regular intervals corresponding to the nails beneath the paper. The work is framed under Plexiglas in a wood frame with gilt facing and 2 ½" float with silk lining. There is also an interior gilt strip flush with the mounted work. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

25 x 20 1/4 in. 63.5 x 51.5 cm.

exhibition

Munich, Modern Art Museum, Sammlung Gunter Sachs: Ausstellung, September - October 1967 Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Gunter Sachs - Große Retrospecktive: von Kunst, Kult und Charisma, August - September 2003 Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs: Die Kunst ist Weiblich, March - June 2008 Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs, October 2012 - February 2013 Schweinfurt, Kunsthalle Schweinfurt, Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs, November 2013 - March 2014

literature

Paul Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1969, cat. no. ANT 138, p. 114, illustrated

provenance

Galerie Tarica, Paris Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1961) Thence by descent to the present owner

signedDate

Signed and dated 1960; titled on the reverse

consignmentDesignation

Property from an Important European Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1928 - 1962





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