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Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red)
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About the item

An exceptionally large and rare example of Wolss small corpus of works on canvas, estimated at only 80 paintings, Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red) is distinguished by extraordinary provenance and exhibition history. Included in the artists 1947 exhibition at the gallery of René Drouin, who suggested Wols commence working in oil for the first time the previous year, the work was acquired by the esteemed dealer Alexander Iolas, from whence it passed to Helène Anavi, the legendary collector of Surrealist masterpieces. Bought from Sothebys in 1984 by the present owner, the work has not been seen in public for 35 years. Composed along a vertical central axis, it is an elegant synthesis of colour and mark making. Drip marks running in all directions indicate that the artist turned the canvas as he worked on it, and the vibrant red lines that run across the composition, rendered brighter through their juxtaposition with a complementary green, speak to his essential compositional genius. As Georges Mathieu wrote when he reviewed the 1947 exhibition, Forty masterpieces! Each more shattering, more thrilling, more wounding than the others: a great event, surely the most important since Van Gogh. I walked out of the exhibition entirely shattered. Wols has destroyed everything Brilliantly, irresistibly, irrefutably After Wols everything has to be done over from scratch (Georges Mathieu cited in: Werner Haftmann, Ed., Wols: Watercolors, Drawings, Writings, New York 1965, p. 27). Despite this vociferous endorsement, it is notable that owing to the difficulty of articulating the elemental power of his works, critical interpretation of Wolss oeuvre has tended to focus on the close alignment of his life and art. His works have been interpreted as responses to the collective trauma of the Second World War and the onset of the Cold War, to notions of impending doom and destruction, as well as to the turmoil of his personal life. However, such is the mystery and false recollection that shrouds Wolss life that it is hard to determine exactly what happened to him. Born to a comfortably bourgeois family and raised in Dresden, the young Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schultze was described as a sensitive, musically gifted boy with overbearing parents. However, upon the death of his father in 1929, which coincided with Wols dropping out of school aged 17, stories begin to diverge. According to family mythology, as chronicled by the artists sister writing in 1989, his post-high school career was predominantly characterised by a series of wide-ranging successes. Wols was offered a job as concert master for the Cologne orchestra aged 18, made great waves working at the Mercedes factory in Dresden, deeply impressed ethnologist Leo Frobenius despite his lack of formal training, and received patronage from Fernand Léger and Amedée Ozenfant in Berlin. However, as Wols expert Ewald Rathke points out, much of this appears highly implausible An 18-year-old concert master who has not completed a course of training as a musician Is that even possible or conceivable Is it not, perhaps, just another passage from an imaginary resumé (Ewald Rathke, On the Biography of the Art of Wols in: Exh. Cat., Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen; Houston, The Menil Collection, Wols, 2013, p. 40). More likely, this was a fabrication by the family to disguise the failings of the prodigal son; whereas Joseph Beuyss mythology was self-imposed to cement his shamanic status, Wolss was imposed by his family to hide their shame at his chosen career.\nAlthough there can be no doubt about some of Wolss movements a move to Paris in 1932 was followed by a short sojourn in Spain, which ended in a brief unexplained incarceration and a return to Paris, where Wols remained until his early death from food poisoning in 1951 there is too much ambiguity over the facts to rely so heavily upon this information. Rather, it pays to examine Wolss formal development from the start of his career in the 1930s to the lyrical abstractions of the late 1940s. Those later works, of which Vert Strié Noir Rouge is a truly exceptional example, are rightly considered the progenitors of tachisme, the European answer to American Abstract Expressionism, and in that context, it is helpful to observe the close alignment in trajectory of the two greatest proponents of both movements Wols and Jackson Pollock. Quite aside from their respective struggles with alcoholism towards the end of their lives, there are multiple striking parallels in their development, even though by the time of Wolss first exhibition of works on canvas in 1947 very few paintings by the American Abstract Expressionists had been shown in Europe.\nPerhaps most intriguingly, both Wols and Pollock's early work is deeply indebted to Surrealism, with Wols drawing on the work of Yves Tanguy, Giorgio de Chirico and Max Ernst, and Pollock on the latter as well as Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Of course, once both artists reached the moment in their career for which they are best known, the divergence is unmistakable. Whereas Pollocks drip canvases are vast and engulf the viewer, Wolss paintings are small, rarely larger than the span of the artists arms, and in contrast to his American counterpart, whose sheer physicality and movement is pivotal to our understanding of the work, Wols brushed stained his pigments into the weave of the canvas with small, wrist-driven movements (Toby Kamps, Seeing Wols in: ibid, p. 64). Perhaps most importantly, while Pollocks work is defined by an all-over composition, Wolss paintings, as in the present work, coalesce in the centre and weave outwards towards the edges, creating voids that stare back towards the viewer. But despite these differences, the foundational importance of Surrealism is pivotal. André Breton defined the term in his first Surrealist manifesto as pure psychic automatism in its pure state, and the shift to abstraction in the case of both Pollock and Wols was a movement to permit their id to act according to its primal instincts (André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924, trans. A.S. Kline 2010, online resource). Like Pollock in New York, Wolss inventions during the latter part of the 1940s for abstraction in Europe cannot be overstated, and the fact that both men drew heavily upon Surrealism, and thus the primacy of the unconscious, suggests that there is some universal norm to which they both reverted.\nImposing in scale, Vert Strié Noir Rouge epitomises the work of an artist who prized not self-assertion but a Taoist-inspired passive acceptance (Toby Kamps, Seeing Wols in: op. cit., p. 65). The centripetal composition is entirely characteristic of the small body of paintings executed for the 1947 show, and the influence of those works on artists such as Jean Fautrier, Hans Hartung and George Mathieu cannot be overestimated. A masterpiece of European abstraction by an artist who  should be considered as the natural successor to pioneers of the movement in Europe such as Wassily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich, the work epitomises Wolss practice, where nothing is created according to a pre-planned schema, but rather arose from his own creative compulsion to penetrate the expanses and depths that connect the worlds outside and within (Patrycja de Bieberstein Ilgner, Expansive Pictorial Worlds in: ibid., p. 76).\n\nThe authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Dr. Ewald Rathke, Frankfurt.\nSigned
GB
GB
GB

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Wols

condition

Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the colours are slightly brighter and more vibrant in the original and the illustration fails to fully convey the textured nature of the painted surface. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report. "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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

100.4 by 81.3 cm. 39.5 by 32 in.

exhibition

Paris, Galerie René Drouin, Wols, May - June 1947 Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Tendances Actuelles 3, January - March 1955, n.p., no. 124 (text) Brussels, Palais International des Beaux-Arts, 50 Ans d’Art Moderne, April - July 1958, p. 166, no. 342, illustrated (incorrectly titled) Berlin, Nationalgalerie; and Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Wols: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, September 1973 - February 1974, n.p., no. 12, illustrated (Berlin); and no. 13 (text), (Paris) 

literature

Ione Robinson, ‘Wols à batons rompus’, L’oeil, No. 60, December 1959, p. 73, illustrated Shigeo Chiba, ‘L’oeuvre de Wols’, Thése, 1974, pp. 108-09 (text)

provenance

Galerie René Drouin, Paris Alexander Iolas, Paris Hélène Anavi Paulhiac, France (acquired from the above) Sotheby’s, London, The Hélène Anavi Collection of Surrealist and Post-War Art, 27 March 1984, Lot 55 (consigned by the above) Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

signedDate

Signed

artist_range_end

1951

artist_range_start

1913

consignmentDesignation

Property of a Distinguished Private Collector

creator_nationality_dates

1913 - 1951


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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