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Femme assise près d'une fenêtre

Femme assise près d’une fenêtre is a stunning and monumental image of Picasso’s ‘golden muse’, Marie-Thérèse Walter (fig. 3), and is among the most iconic images of his œuvre. Picasso's sensual paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse reign supreme as the emblems of love, sex and desire in twentieth-century art. It was in a series of paintings executed in 1932 that the artist introduced the young woman as an extraordinary new presence in both his life and his art. The present work depicts the serene model seated in front of a window, and is one in a series of defining paintings of this period. Devoid of the attributes that often accompany her in other compositions, such as a book (fig. 1) or a mandolin (fig. 2), in the present work Marie-Thérèse’s imposing figure and striking facial features are the main focus of the composition.  His muse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naïvety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for the girl brought about a wealth of images that have been acclaimed as the most erotic and emotionally uplifting compositions of his long career. Picasso's unleashed passion is nowhere more apparent than in the depictions of his muse seated or asleep, the embodiment of tranquillity and physical acquiescence. Patrick McCaughey wrote about the present work: ‘Marie-Thérèse embodied for Picasso an ideal type – love, model and goddess. She offered him a release into sensuality and inspired the series of reclining, sleeping nudes of the early 1930s. Through Marie-Thérèse, Picasso discovered a new amplitude of form; less solemn than the monumental neo-classical nudes of the 1920s and with a promise of abundance and pleasure. She was also the model for an extensive series of large sculpted heads (fig. 4) which progressively became more Sibyl-like – an image of eternal womanhood. Perhaps the most impressive of all Marie-Thérèse images is the solemn and luminous Woman seated by the window [the present work], 1932, where she fulfils all three roles of love, model and goddess. The sensuality of the figure, although fully clothed, is retained in the voluptuous, swelling contours of the body and drapery contrasting with the rectilinear chair, room and window. For all her monumentality and grandeur, Marie-Thérèse – dressed simply and set in the bare interior of the studio – assumes here the role of the companion, the female figure seen without the distractions of anguish or sexuality. The painting achieves a classical calm and repose, a temporary haven in a turbulent decade for Picasso’ (P. McCaughey in Picasso (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 1984, p. 211). Picasso first saw Marie-Thérèse on the streets of Paris in 1927, when she was only seventeen years old, while he was entangled in an unhappy marriage to Olga Khokhlova. 'I was an innocent girl,' Walter remembered years later. 'I knew nothing - either of life or of Picasso... I had gone to do some shopping at the Galeries Lafayette, and Picasso saw me leaving the Metro.  He simply took me by the arm and said, 'I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together' (quoted in Picasso and the Weeping Women (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles & The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 143). The couple's relationship was kept a well-guarded secret for many years, both on account of Picasso's marriage to Olga and Marie-Thérèse's age. But the covertness of the affair only intensified Picasso's obsession with the girl, and many of his pictures, with their dramatic contrasts of light and dark, allude to their secret interludes held under cover of darkness. The first major series of paintings depicting Marie-Thérèse was executed in January 1932 in anticipation of the major retrospective that Picasso was planning that coming June. It was during these preceding months that he first cast his artistic spotlight on the voluptuous blonde. Up until this point he had only made reference to his extramarital affair with Marie-Thérèse in code, sometimes embedding her symbolically in a composition or rendering her unmistakable profile as a feature of the background. But by the end of 1931, Picasso could no longer repress the creative impulse that his lover inspired (fig. 4), especially as his marriage grew increasingly unbearable. John Richardson explains that while Olga organised large holiday parties that December in an attempt to demonstrate family unity, Picasso was involved in an artistic blood-letting, painting violent or murderous depictions of his wife. The exercise was a catharsis, Richardson claims, that better enabled him to focus on a  'languorous, loving painting of a lilac-skinned Marie-Thérèse’ (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, Volume III, The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, New York, 2007, p. 466). Judi Freeman wrote about Picasso’s portraits of Marie-Thérèse in comparison to his arch-rival Matisse: 'In the 1930s these chair-bound women directly responded to Matisse's work as well. Matisse painted many of his models in lavishly decorated interiors [fig. 5], often seating them on elaborately upholstered chairs or on divans' (J. Freeman in Picasso and the Weeping Women, op. cit., p. 157). However while Matisse’s oils often focused on the exotic quality of both the sitters and their surroundings, Picasso presents a much more personal, tender and highly emotional rendering of his muse. Writing about Picasso’s paintings of Marie-Thérèse executed in 1932, Josef Palau i Fabre observes that during January of that year ‘the figure of Marie-Thérèse became spiritualized.’ She is often depicted sleeping, an almost unreal presence. Discussing the present work, he continues: ‘The profile of Marie-Thérèse, the surrounding air and the window are still unreal in Woman Sitting by the Window, in which it is the girl’s dresses, red, purple and blue, that seem most tangible’ (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., pp. 107 & 109). Indeed, the present composition is dominated by strong blocks of pure colour denoting her clothes and the wall behind her, while her exaggerated Grecian profile and her delicate hair and skin are rendered in soft pastel tones. Furthermore, the accentuated horizontal and vertical lines of the chair, widow and the blue wall provide a dynamic contrast to the curvaceous shape of her body. A major event that coincided with the execution of the present work was the large retrospective exhibition held at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in June-July 1932, and at Kunsthaus in Zurich from September to November that year. Picasso was closely involved in selecting works for the exhibition, and chose to hang his recent portraits of Marie-Thérèse alongside his earlier Cubist and Surrealist compositions. The retrospective was a huge success, drawing large numbers of visitors daily, and included many important works, among them the seminal Marie-Thérèse oil Le Rêve (fig. 7). It was on this occasion in Paris that Olga, upon seeing Picasso's numerous references to a specific face that was clearly not her own, was alerted to the presence of another woman in her husband's life. Until the exhibition, Picasso's relationship with Marie-Thérèse had been a secret affair, the evidence of which he had kept sealed away at the studio he maintained at Boisgeloup. He had purchased this property near Gisors in 1930 as a retreat, where he could escape from Olga and spend time alone with his mistress. The chateau at Boisegeloup was much larger than his studio in Paris, and the space allowed him to create the monumental plaster busts of Marie-Thérèse that were depicted in several paintings (figs. 8 & 10). Having been released into the public domain, after this exhibition Marie-Thérèse's features would become more readily identifiable in Picasso's art. Robert Rosenblum wrote about the young woman's symbolic unveiling: 'Marie-Thérèse, now firmly entrenched in both the city and country life of a lover twenty-eight years her senior, could at last emerge from the wings to center stage, where she could preside as a radiant deity, in new roles that changed from Madonna to sphinx, from odalisque to earth mother. At times her master seems to worship humbly at her shrine, capturing a fixed, confrontational stare of almost supernatural power; but more often, he becomes an ecstatic voyeur, who quietly captures his beloved, reading, meditating, catnapping, or surrendering to the deepest abandon of sleep' (R. Rosenblum in Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 342). Dated Boisgeloup 30 Octobre XXXII on a piece of the original stretcher affixed to the stretcher

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2013-02-05
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Untitled (New York City)

RHAPSODY IN BLUE: SHATTERING FORM IN UNTITLED (NEW YORK CITY)Cy Twombly’s majestic Untitled (New York City) of 1968 is the enduring material triumph of a simply unrepeatable moment in the history of art. An unparalleled exemplar of the artist’s most hallowed series of 'Blackboard' paintings, the present work stands as the phenomenal vestige of an exceptional epoch. Untitled (New York City) reflects a period of great convergence in postwar art, when the titanic modes of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Pop Art proposed competing philosophies for the grand trajectory of progressive innovation. Twombly’s reverberating loops refract these overlapping spheres of influence. Aesthetically, his painting announces a subjective and emotive expressivity; conceptually, it embraces a cerebral and minimalistic rationality; and in its essential spirit it broadcasts a new communicative universality. Within the remarkable arena of this specific canvas, Twombly forges a new visual language and ultimately achieves a visual poetry that is beyond sublime. Untitled (New York City) stands as tangible testimony to Twombly's staggering innovation and inimitable abstract aesthetic at this point in his career, as explicated through the work's visceral imagery, stunning color, compositional economy, and graphic intelligence. Having remained in the same collection for over forty years since it was acquired from the artist immediately after it was executed, Untitled (New York City) has never been loaned for exhibition, nor seen in public. The narrative of the painting’s acquisition affirms its rarity: upon introduction from a close artist friend, the present owner visited Twombly’s studio on The Bowery in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and personally chose Untitled (New York City) from among a selection of paintings that Twombly had unrolled for his viewing. In the same year that Twombly painted Untitled (New York City), he opened his first one-person museum exhibition in the United States at the Milwaukee Art Center—a pivotal period of artistic maturity that heralded his triumphant return to painting following a hiatus in his production from 1964-66. Crucially pre-dating a fundamental shift in Twombly’s status from promising young artist to established modern master, the present work enshrines an attitude of unadulterated innovation and artistic discovery. It is, in short, the very pure manifestation of Cy Twombly's indisputable genius. Spectacularly rare for the serenely beautiful blue color of its endlessly lyrical circular lines, and boasting a superb provenance, this canvas is unquestionably positioned as one of the great achievements of Cy Twombly's career. Spanning an immersive expanse of over twenty-eight square feet, it sits amongst an elite cadre of large-scale works of the series, and invites the spectator to become engulfed within its epic drama. Many of the paintings comparable in scale and execution belong to the world’s most renowned museums and institutions, including: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Menil Collection, Houston; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima. However, unlike every other 'Blackboard' painting that bears white loops, the rare colored marks here resound with great vivacity and drama—the present work is the only painting from the series executed in blue. The seemingly frenzied dispersion of graphic mark-making is in fact the result of finely-honed technical precision: the progressive march of elliptical repetitions is expertly rendered to achieve an irresistibly hypnotic urgency. This stark, graphic linearity cascades across a highly seductive gray ground rendered through a forceful assault of brushwork. The variegated tonal architecture of grisaille hues functions like geological strata, having trapped within its oil layers the shadows of drips, smears and strokes. Indeed, the sheer force of this painting's dynamic energy marks it apart from all contemporaneous examples of the grand cycle, and results in a panoramic expanse pulsating with the expansions and contractions of a certain organized chaos. The torrent of luscious vertical drip marks that cascade down the lower left quadrant of Untitled (New York City) enhance the expressiveness of the painting. This vigorous action results in a surface that exposes Twombly’s process of inscription and erasure, possessing a composition of loops that reveal their own creation. Despite a residual yearning to decipher these written marks as an inherently human need, Twombly's visual language has neither syntax nor logic: in the words of Pierre Restany, it is comprised of "furtive gestures, an écriture automatique," (Pierre Restany, The Revolution of the Sign, 1961) and function as a compulsory sensual and intellectual catharsis that is both universal and particular to the individual. Four years after the artist's death and with ever increasing perspective on the monumental arc of his six-decade career, it is possible today to reflect more substantively on the nature of his incomparable contribution to art history. Following his work as a cryptographer in the United States Army, it is clear from the nature of his early mark-making that he was fundamentally captivated by terms of visual communication, and determined to interrogate associative sign systems and Saussurian semiotics. According to the black and white paintings of the later 1950s, he was evidently drawn to boundaries between the figurative and the abstract, following the course of Picasso and de Kooning in charting an individualistic lens onto the natural world around us. His breakthrough in 1959 with Poems to the Sea, executed in a sudden cathartic outpouring in Italy, demonstrated his definitive debt to the great lessons of history, with European Antiquity and the Renaissance proving the ultimate benchmark and springboard to his art thence forth. This grand inquiry into the past was continued through the ecstatic Baroque paintings of the early 1960s, ultimately culminating with the cycle Nine Discourses on Commodus (Guggenheim Bilbao Museo), completed in the winter of 1963 following Twombly's return from an extended trip to Egypt, Sudan, and Italy. This group of nine canvases based on the murder of the Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus was shown in New York in 1964; the exhibition was received by scathing critical reviews, after which Twombly severely slowed his production. The artist made only 20 canvases in 1964 and none in 1965—a period of radically halted output from which the artist later emerged with a cycle of phenomenal grey-ground paintings. Twombly’s series of 'Blackboard' paintings—as they would come to be known following Robert Pincus-Witten’s seminal text in 1968—revived the artist’s career following a troubling period in the early part of the decade. In 1966, Cy Twombly abandoned the emotive use of color that had defined much of his earlier output to embark upon a cycle of gray canvases in search of a more expressive clarity. As Heiner Bastian has deftly explained, "Cy Twombly tries to shatter form as well as its concomitant intellectual and narrative history in a kind of relativism, reducing it to a rationality of 'black and white' that is at the same time the structural sum of all movement." (Heiner Bastian, ed. Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume III 1966-1971, Munich, 1994, p. 23) Extraneous literary and historical concerns were cast aside as Twombly sought to channel the vitality of his wrist towards exploring the expressive possibilities of autonomous rhythmic repetitions. He was fascinated by the musical theory of Counterpoint, Palmer handwriting drills, André Masson's automatic drawing and Paul Klee's Pedagogical exercises. The repetition of forms also recalls Futurist investigations into the photographic and cinematic decomposition of forms in motion, such as those exemplified in Umberto Boccioni's States of Mind III: Those Who Stay, and indeed by others such as Marcel Duchamp's with his kinetic Nude Descending a Staircase. Owing inspirational debt to the scientific notebook drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Twombly saw within the Renaissance master's innumerable scientific formula, scattered drawings and codes, a private poetry of obsession; something driven by an irrational demon of secret knowledge which struck a chord with Twombly's own aesthetic. Above all though, perhaps it was the realization that the Renaissance clarity and light so often used to describe Italian art were balanced by a darker, neurotic intensity. This is reflected by the destructive and turbulent themes of Leonardo's work to which Twombly was consistently drawn in the late 1960s: those of maelstroms and cataclysms. Twombly approached the issue of movement and time within pictorial space by reconsidering artists like Leonardo, Duchamp, and the Italian Futurists, who would conceive mythology and history through abstract principles. With his 'Blackboard' paintings, Twombly investigated the development of time and space within the picture plane; the spectacular scale of the present work and the exuberance of the blue crayon amplify the torrential storm of Twombly’s whirlwind shapes. Especially against their gray ground, the blue oval scrawls emerge from and recede into another in dense relief, teetering on the threshold of legibility while electrifying our sight with their vivid hue. Pulsing with an ineffable rhythm as the oblong loops splinter across the canvas, Twombly here investigates the definition and physical nature of a simple geometrical element in space as it erupts within the picture plane with cataclysmic graphic narrative. The six magnificent horizontal bands of loops increase in volume and expressive abandon, as the artist progresses down the length of the canvas—Twombly’s lassoed lines progressively lose regularity  and control, resulting in thrillingly increased drips, smears, and spatters toward the bottom of the picture. While the Futurist principle of movement in space was centered on the rational, quasi-scientific understanding of transformation and duration, Twombly appears to have reacted to the dispersion of forms in which painstaking precision comes into contact with an energetic abandon. With all the rough, fractured rawness of street graffiti, Twombly presents an entirely novel visual language that innovatively explores both the most elementary and the most sophisticated concerns posed by the genesis of creativity. The surface of Untitled (New York City) evokes a graffiti-scarred wall, characterized by accretive layers that in their very build-up and lush tonal variety divulge a sense of temporal progression. Atop a lustrous silvery ground of oil-based house-paint, Twombly used a blue wax crayon to impress a torrent of overlapping lassoes into the thin wet surfaces; his impressions are both positive and negative, oscillating between additive mark-making and reductive incisions tangled and together suspended in fractured continuum. In Untitled (New York City), Twombly hovers between inscription and erasure—the record of his process is captured in the luscious drips of diaphanous paint that spatter and cascade from the six horizontal bands. Pentimenti punctuate the surface of his painting like a chalkboard, resulting in a constant state of flux between writing and effacement, possessing a ripe wetness that lends the surface the urgency of the here and now. This graphic, primitive mode of expression is at once imbued with Twombly’s fascination with archaeological surfaces corroded over time, together with the schematic economy of prehistoric art. Moreover, the scrawled spirals invoke a sort of proto-handwriting: a primitive form of expression that strives toward resolution and legibility but is suspended in a perpetual territory of formal symbolism, akin to our contemporary reading of classical mark-making. Twombly said, “Generally speaking my art has evolved out of the interest in symbols abstracted, but never the less humanistic; formal as most arts are in their archaic and classic stages, and a deeply aesthetic sense of eroded or ancient surfaces of time.” (the artist quoted in Nicola del Roscio, Ed. Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich, 2002, p. 199) Twombly was conscripted to the military from November 1953 – August 1954. During these years of service, the artist was assigned first to Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, and then the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It was there that the artist worked as a Cryptologist, studying the art of writing and solving codes. The artist often drew at night after lights out, producing a group of works that initiated his motif of ‘scribbling’ and laid the foundation for much of his subsequent work. Drawing in the dark excised the sense of reason and rationality associated with the eye; instead, Twombly liberated his graphic activity from optical control and made his hand alone responsible for form, thereby encouraging instantaneity and the unanticipated. Such techniques evolved out of Surrealism—abandoning inhibitive self-consciousness, blind composition was a method of automatism taught by leading figures such as André Breton and André Masson. Around this time, Abstract Expressionist artists seized on the influence of European Modernism and adopted considerable interest in glyphs and modes of primitive communication. This attention to the symbols of archaic societies and their inherently expressive power were a natural point of departure for these New York School painters, for whom the power of simple expressive abstract signs to communicate held clear associations to their own modes of gestural abstraction at the time. Twombly found, in the relative coolness of the dark-ground style, an appropriate form of work to pursue in New York. Working from studios on the Bowery and Canal Street, the relative chasteness and severity of his new aesthetic compared to the sensual pleasures of the early 1960s seemed more in sync with contemporary trends in America. The present work ushered in a rediscovered Americanness in Twombly’s work, reflecting the contemporary artistic discourse in marked contrast to the Europeanness of his earlier works. In Untitled (New York City), the freedom of movement of course evokes the liberal energy of Jackson Pollock's action painting, while the all-over but low-pressure imagery is similar to Jasper Johns’ grey paintings. The immersive nature of vast canvas expanses and, as critically and uniquely broadcast in the present work, submersion in the force of color, afforded an experience comparable to that generated by Rothko and Newman. The pared-down aesthetic of this painting and an unobtrusive cool objectivity also owes a significant debt to the protagonists of Minimalism including Judd, Andre and Flavin. The resulting canvases, such as Untitled (New York City), are considered without a doubt the most powerful and lyrical works of his career. Chromatically sparse and formally reductive, the gray-ground pictures demanded new modes of reading Twombly’s work with relation to the artistic developments pulsing through New York City. The present work stands apart, however, for the vibrancy of its blue palette; a characteristic that reflects the artist’s richly colorful and expressive compositions from the first half of the 1960s known as Baroque Paintings. Kirk Varnedoe explains, “Just as those earlier pictures had represented a cooling shift away from painterly and erotic energies, these new canvases were lean and unemotional, in contrast to the baroque color and violence of the work of the early 1960s… That temporal aspect was then extended through the gray-ground works of the next few years, in the frequent imagery of analytically segmented movement… Twombly’s previous attraction to the evidence of deep, slow, ‘vertical’ time, in scarred surfaces, here is translated into a fascination for the forms of ‘lateral’ speed, forms and forces rushing by with their proliferation of marks more rationally divided than confoundingly layered.” (Kirk Varnedoe, ‘Inscriptions in Arcadia’ in Nicola del Roscio, Ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich, 2002, pp. 215-6) These are forms that insist on a progressive linear continuity, but simultaneously concede to isolated bursts of irregular activity. Unlike Twombly’s earlier canvases, in which episodes of personal expression are scattered across the picture plane, the artist here constricts his activity to a gestural framework—nevertheless, the lassoed bands give way to expressive subjectivity in their vigorously imprecise execution. Like the work of Minimalist artists who pursued a repetitive, doggedly systematic task—such as Kusama’s looped Infinity Nets, Lewitt’s serial pencil-drawn lines on the wall, or Uecker’s intricately nailed surfaces—Twombly’s painting experiments with the unplanned personal inflections that can arise from following strict conventions, a departure from ideals of purely spontaneous expression. At moments, the line is tight and dense; at others, Twombly loses control and his cursive energy drives off course, a high-speed choreography in which individual events of personal expression are sublimated into a greater whole of dense accumulations. Within this dichotomy lies the very brilliance of Twombly’s painting: reveling in the contradictions between the systematic and the irregular, the unruly and the cerebral, the premeditated and the intuitive, Twombly achieves a balletic complexity unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries. Twombly recalls being taught to write using the Palmer method, a strict technique of teaching handwriting that required pupils to repetitively practice rote drills keeping their fingers and wrists rigid while only moving their arms. In the lattice of tiered lateral ovals scoring the canvas, Twombly’s own gestural abandon erupts from the structural balance of the composition; while more precise and mathematical than the automatism of the Surrealists or the impulse of the Abstract Expressionists, Twombly’s subjectivity seeps through what appears to be mechanical labor. Like the individual strokes of encaustic that burst forth through the predetermined grids and formats of a Jasper Johns painting, Twombly’s loops similarly bely in subtle disobedience a totally objective geometric precision. With the rigid syntax and rudimentary forms of the grey-ground paintings, Twombly appears to deny the insouciance of personality; however, the tremulous inflections of each parabolic rise and fall inevitably give way to the signature intensity of the artist’s own hand. Varnedoe comments, “As before, Twombly courts the accusation that there is no mind involved—previously, because the manner seemed chaotically subjective, without sufficient ordering control, too episodic and too little marked by work; and now, because it seems mechanically rote and impersonal, too monotonous and too completely a matter of work. No familiar evidence of heroic spontaneity or intuited compositional judgment, nor any universal coordinate such as geometry, anchored the pictures’ claim to attention.” (Kirk Varnedoe, “Inscriptions in Arcadia” in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, 1994, p. 42) For Twombly the 'Blackboard' paintings represented emancipation from the associative constrictions of his preceding oeuvre: a new dawn in his epic art as attested by Robert Pincus-Witten in a contemporaneous review: "Handwriting has become for Twombly the means of beginning again, of erasing the Baroque culmination of the painting of the early 1960s... beautiful writing has been submerged within a Jasper Johns-like gray field. Put bluntly, it has been drowned in a schoolmaster's blackboard." (Robert Pincus-Witten, "Learning to Write," 1968, in Nicola del Roscio, Ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich, 2002, p. 56) Almost five decades after its creation, this remarkable triumph of twentieth-century Art History remains still an enduring means of "beginning again." Signed and dated NYC 1968 on the reverse

  • USAUSA
  • 2016-05-11
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Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)

Mark Rothko’s capacity to arrest the immeasurable forces of the cosmos remains the painter’s greatest triumph. In Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange), painted in 1955, Rothko forever immortalized the spellbinding and ephemeral magic of daybreak in paint. By the breathtaking ingenuity and absolute genius of his brush, the artist seized the immaterial and offers us the gift of slowed time. Captivating and mesmeric through the sheer exuberance of Mark Rothko’s most celebrated palette and a deeply enriching pictorial architecture, Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) belongs to the most pivotal moment of the artist’s career. Rothko painted only twenty-two works in the pinnacle year of 1955, thirteen of which reside in prestigious museum collections, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Rothko's challenge, to both himself and his audience, was to engage not only the eye, but also the mind and the spirit; Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) is a particularly moving exemplar of this ambition. The composition is compartmentalized in two principal rectangular fields of lustrous orange, each surmounted by a pale yellow band and stacked in Rothko’s archetypal formation on a field of glowing saffron gold. Each zone is indeterminately bordered by feathered edges that forge an exceptionally vibrant occupation of the pictorial space. While the overtly optimistic connotations of this ebullient palette immediately instigate a positive and even inspirational response, as with all great paintings by the artist there is no single aspect to this work’s character and the viewer may concurrently sense a deeper, more portentous tone, the duality of which invests this work with a supreme sophistication. In a 1959 Life magazine article, Dorothy Seiberling described one of the artist’s paintings and touched on his mystifying method: “Just as the hues of a sunset prompt feelings of elation mingled with sadness or unease as the dark shapes of night close in, so Rothko's colors stir mixed feelings of joy, gloom, anxiety or peace. Though the forms in the painting seem simple at first glance, they are in fact subtly complex. Edges fade in and out like memories; horizontal bands of ‘cheerful’ brightness have ‘ominous’ overtones of dark colors.” (Dorothy Seiberling, ‘Abstract Expressionism, Part II,’ Life, November 16, 1959, p. 82) Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) reverberates both optically and intellectually, engaging us with the artist's desire to create an aesthetic language that exceeds the very boundaries of painting, encompassing a transcendent, deeply affecting relationship between the viewer and the canvas. What is particularly exceptional about the present work are the articulate areas of defined brushstrokes that punctuate the surface of the color fields. Different varieties of orange are interspersed atop the primary zones of color, exposing the application of paint and imbuing the work with a heightened tactility revealing the artist’s process. David Anfam wrote specifically of Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) in the Catalogue Raisonné of the artist’s work, devoting in-depth analysis to this undeniably unique masterpiece of Rothko’s oeuvre: “Catching or absorbing the light, the polyphony of texture abets the disparate, rather small-scale rhythms of the brushwork. For although the size and sweep of Rothko’s canvases might lead to the supposition that they were realized with a concomitant breadth of touch, the reality is otherwise. Unified as the yellow-oranges of a 1955 Untitled (cat. no. 525) may aspire to remain, their almost monochromatic consistency is belied by the ubiquitous errant strokes, marks and incidents (witness those bordering the second field from the top) that disclose the artisanal, edgy manner in which they must have been applied. Dan Rice’s memory that Rothko wielded a ‘very busy brush’—though spoken with the Seagram murals period in mind—remains the canny final word in this regard… Rothko chose to brandish a comparatively small brush… By turns dulled or luminescent, silken or granular, still and firm or pulsating and mottled, the surfaces approximate a membrane—inherently unpredictable insofar as it is a layer or integument and prey to the tension, malleability and transience that affect any sheer covering.” (David Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 84) Rothko's revolutionary abstract paintings are deeply seeded in a profound art historical appreciation, as he both looked to the past for inspiration and forged ahead into an uncharted future. The artist’s profoundly sophisticated understanding of the possibilities of color was shaped in part by the influence of the work of Henri Matisse. Indeed, it is apparent from the articulate modules of incandescent color in Matisse's radical Le Bonheur de Vivre from 1905 that the painter was pivotal in encouraging Rothko to explore the possibility of creating paintings from powerful hues alone. Rothko also deeply admired the French painter Pierre Bonnard, and no doubt would have attended the artist's 1948 memorial show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Bonnard's paintings have a rich painterly effect that is in sympathy with the optical importance of Rothko's own brushstrokes that illuminate his canvases, and he drew on both Bonnard's rich palette and his treatment of light. His fascination with the effects and nature of light can also be traced to the Luminists – a tradition in American painting that dominated the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century. The principal tenets of Luminism were centered on the authority of light – works by artists belonging to the movement, such as John Kensett, confront the viewer with an empty vista that is focused more on colored light itself, rather than more concrete attributes of landscape. The blinding gold sunlight in Kensett's 1872 Sunset on the Sea, for example, is a potent metaphor for the unseen world or spirit. Light in these paintings became a primal source of energy, an idea that was central to the art of Mark Rothko and is encapsulated absolutely in the present work. As conclusively demonstrated by Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange), Rothko’s contribution to Art History readily overwhelms categorization to any singular dogma or style, including that of the colorist tradition. Following his retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1961, Rothko greatly appreciated Robert Goldwater’s essay in reviewing the show, which provides compelling insight to the role of color within the artist’s work: “Rothko means that the enjoyment of color for its own sake, the heightened realization of its purely sensuous dimension, is not the purpose of his painting. If Matisse was one point of departure… Rothko has since moved far in an opposite direction. Yet over the years he has handled his color so that one must pay ever closer attention to it, examine the unexpectedly joined hues, the slight, and continually slighter, modulations within the large area of any single surface, and the softness and the sequence of the colored shapes. Thus these pictures compel careful scrutiny of their physical existence… all the while suggesting that these details are means, not ends.” (Robert Goldwater, ‘Reflections of the Rothko Exhibition,’ Arts, March 1961, pp. 43-44) Eventually Rothko’s remarkable achievement was to create paintings that announce their own unique materiality and create an exalted viewing experience: Rothko’s feat, as defined by Robert Rosenblum, was “to provide a transcendental image that would take us beyond history.” (Robert Rosenblum, "Notes on Rothko and Tradition," in Exh. Cat., London, The Tate Gallery, Mark Rothko, 1903-1970, 1987, p. 21) Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) summons the full and unreserved vigor of the painter’s mind, wrenching the viewer from our corporeal environment and unearthing universal truths about humanity. Signed and dated 1955 on the reverse

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-11-10
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Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre

Cézanne’s magnificent Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre is a feast for the senses.  All of the elements of the composition are fresh and enticing, and Cézanne invites us to savor them as he leads our eye across the canvas. The soft, cornflower blue highlights of the tablecloth and the earthenware jar, the mix of deep greens, plums and ultramarines in background, and the juicy, vermillion pulp of the cut melons all evoke the tastes and smells of a late summer harvest.  We can even see that the apples, still bearing their stems and leaves, have just been picked.   This glorious picture dates from 1895, when Cézanne's radical experimentations with perspective and color were at their most sophisticated.   His still-lifes of this period focus on the inherent geometry of objects and explore the spatial problems of representing three-dimensional form.   Cézanne’s approach breathed new life into the time-honored tradition of still life painting at the turn of the century, and his aesthetic accomplishments would have a profound impact on artists for generations to come. Cézanne’s still-lifes, particularly those completed in the mid-1890s, are considered the harbingers of 20th century modernism, and their influence was the driving force behind the Cubist compositions of Braque and Picasso (see fig. 1).  Even while he was working with the Impressionists in the 1870s and 1880s, Cézanne demonstrated the promise and brilliant vision that would emerge in his paintings of the 1890s.  Writing about the still-lifes from these early years, the British critic Roger Fry noted that Cézanne “is distinguished among artists of the highest rank by the fact that he devoted so large a part of his time to this class of picture, that he achieved in still-life the expression of the most exalted feelings and the deepest intuitions of his nature.  Rembrandt alone, and that only the rarest examples, or in accessories, can be compared to him in this respect.  For one cannot deny that Cézanne gave a new character to his still-lifes.  Nothing else but still-life allowed him sufficient calm and leisure, and admitted all the delays which were necessary to him plumbing the depths of his idea.  But there, before the still-life, put together not with too ephemeral flowers, but with onions, apples, or other robust and long-enduring fruits, he could pursue till it was exhausted his probing analysis of the chromatic whole.  But through the bewildering labyrinth of this analysis he held always like Ariadne’s thread, the notion that changes of colour correspond to movements of planes.  He sought always to trace this correspondence throughout all the diverse modifications which changes of local colour introduced into the observed resultant…it is hard to exaggerate their (still-life’s) importance in the expression of Cézanne’s genius or the necessity of studying them for its comprehension, because it is in them that he appears to have established his principles of design and his theories of form” (Roger Fry, Cézanne: A Study of his Development, Chicago, 1927, pp. 37 and 50). As avant-garde as this painting was for its day, Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre finds its origins in the trompe-l’oeil compositions of the French old masters that Cézanne had studied at the Louvre (see fig. 2).    Much like his forbearers, Cézanne set out to capture the essence and allure of each object in his still-lifes.   But his approach was rooted in a truly modern belief that "Painting does not mean slavishly copying the object:  It means perceiving harmony amongst numerous relationships and transposing them into a system of one's own by developing them according to a new, original logic" (Paul Cézanne, quoted in Richard Kendall, op. cit., p. 298). The ginger jar depicted in the present work was an object that appeared in several of Cézanne's compositions from the 1890s, including the Metropolitan Museum's Nature morte, pot de gingembre et aubergines (see fig. 3) and the Barnes Collection's Le vase paillé (see fig. 4). But Cézanne's recurrent use of the objects in his studio (see fig. 5) never resulted in repetitive compositions.   "It is amazing to see how the artist continued to develop new picture ideas out of the same materials," Götz Adriani observed.  For Nature morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre he took the time to arrange these objects so that they presented  optimal challenges for his painting.  He overwhelms the table top with round, bulbous objects and a generously gathered cloth that drapes over its edge.  All of the fruits appear to be spilling off the cloth and into the foreground, but the vessel in the left corner anchors them all on the surface of the table.  Cézanne delighted in depicting contradictory perspectives, and his achievements to this end were the catalysts for the development of Cubism and even the colorful studio paintings of Matisse a decade later. Writing forty years after Roger Fry and from a considerably different viewpoint, Meyer Schapiro summarized the importance of the still-life in Cézanne's oeuvre: "Not only in the importance of still-life in general for Cézanne's art, but also in his persistent choice of apples we sense a personal trait. If he achieved a momentary calm through these carefully considered, slowly ripened paintings, it was not in order to prepare for a higher effort. These are major works, often of the same complexity and grandeur as his most impressive landscapes and figure compositions. The setting of the objects, the tables and drapes, sometimes suggest a large modeled terrain, and tones of the background wall have the delicacy of Cézanne's skies... Still-life engages the painter (and also the observer who can surmount the habit of casual perception) in a steady looking that discloses new and elusive aspects of the stable object. At first commonplace in appearance, it may become in the course of that contemplation a mystery, a source of metaphysical wonder. Completely secular and stripped of all conventional symbolism, the still-life object, as the meeting-point of boundless forces of atmosphere and light, may evoke a mystical mood like Jakob Boehme's illumination through the glint on a metal ewer" (Meyer Schapiro, "The Apples of Cézanne – An essay on the meaning of Still-life," Art News Annual, XXIV, 1968, p. 44).  In Ambroise Vollard's stockbook, this work was recorded as no. 3881 [A] Table chargé de petit melon -- dans une assiette plusieurs tranches un pot de grès fond gris bleu 46 by 61 . Nature Morte aux fruits et pot de gingembre remained in one private collection for decades and today is one of the last great still-lifes left in private hands. Fig. 1, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Cut melon and other fruit, circa 1760, oil on canvas, Musée de Louvre, Paris Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Le Bock, oil on canvas, 1909, Musée d'Art Moderne du Nord, Villeneuve d'Ascq Fig. 3, Paul Cézanne, Nature morte, pot de gingembre et aubergines, 1893-94, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Fig. 4, Paul Cézanne, Le vase paillé, circa 1895, oil on canvas, The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania Fig. 5, Objects, including the ginger jar, that Cézanne used for his still-life compositions.  Photograph by John Rewald, circa 1935

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-11-07
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Flag

“Say, the painting of a flag is always about a flag, but it is no more about a flag than it is about a brush-stroke or about a color or about the physicality of the paint, I think.” Jasper Johns in an unpublished interview with David Sylvester recorded for the BBC at Edisto Beach, South Carolina, Spring 1965, published in Exh. Cat., Oxford, Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), Jasper Johns Drawings, 1974, p. 13 One of the most influential paintings of the last century came to Jasper Johns in a dream. Johns dreamt one night of painting a large American flag and, as the legend goes, the next morning he subsequently set out to do so. Executed almost three decades later, Flag of 1983 unarguably represents the most mature and profoundly personal realization of Johns’ iconic subject. With every sumptuous inflection of paint, Flag reveals a hushed accumulation of gestures—every stroke meets a dead end and a fresh start. Thoughtful, deliberate, and earth-shatteringly moving, we stand enraptured before the painting’s astonishing ambition, sensational clarity, and sobering gravity. Acquired directly from the artist in the year it was made, Flag has remained in the same distinguished private collection for over 30 years. During this time, the present work has been on extended loan to a series of museums, including the Yale University Art Gallery, the RISD Museum of Art, and most recently the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it hung for seven years. While the flag is a subject that Johns returned to frequently over the course of his career in a variety of different media, including sculpmetal, bronze, lithography, drawing, and printmaking, the encaustic paintings remain the most rarefied and sought after realization of his iconic idea. Treasured in the most eminent personal collections and renowned museum collections around the world, variations on Johns’ Flag belong to such public institutions as the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne; the Kunstmuseum Basel; and the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna. Johns has described his persistent preoccupation with the Flags, Targets, and Numbers that launched his career in terms of their status as “pre-formed, conventional, de-personalized, factual, exterior elements,” and his pursuant attention to a certain neutrality or emotional disengagement in his work. (Johns quoted in an interview with David Sylvester, Spring 1965, cited in Richard Francis, Jasper Johns, 1984, p. 21) In Flag, what Johns achieved with great invention and uncanny intellect is a tautly thrilling ambiguity: what we see is both a flag and a painting of a flag, destabilizing traditional borders between the painted image and that which it represents. The painting’s materiality is made veritable by its densely defined surface, with the pliable encaustic paint conveying a fleshy and corporeal dimensionality. Possessing what has been called one of the most literal painterly minds, Johns conflated image and objecthood so as to entice the viewer into a carefully calibrated cerebral game of verisimilitude and concomitant anti-illusionism. In the artist’s own words, “I’m not willing to accept the representation of a thing as being the real thing, and I am frequently unwilling to work with the representation of the thing as, you know, as standing for the real thing. I like what I see to be real, or to be my idea of what is real. And I think I have a kind of resentment against illusion when I can recognize it.” (Jasper Johns in an unpublished interview with David Sylvester recorded for the BBC at Edisto Beach, South Carolina, Spring 1965, published in Exh. Cat., Oxford, Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), Jasper Johns Drawings, 1974, p. 15) In engineering an extraordinarily painterly facsimile of an image that is aggressively direct, Johns’ Flag makes strange something that is universally familiar. In the everyday barrage of visual stimuli, unconsciously we filter that which we will give our attention, ignoring the instantly recognizable images that our mind already knows. Yet, the luscious surface of the work—unusual to the typical treatment of a flag—draws our notice and makes us look again with renewed curiosity and bewilderment, emphasizing the metaphysical tension between what we see and what we know. Johns famously said, “Using the design of the American flag took care of a great deal for me because I didn’t have to design it. So I went on to similar things like the targets—things the mind already knows. That gave me room to work on other levels.” (Johns cited in Exh. Cat., London, Anthony D’Offay Gallery, Jasper Johns Flags, 1996, p. 15) The flag—a predetermined format in the 1950s of forty-eight stars and thirteen alternating red and white stripes with fixed internal proportions—became a vehicle for Johns to explore how an image is made through medium and method, concentrating thoughtfully on the means of picture-making rather than the end. Not having to invent a compositional structure as a starting point left Johns free to experiment in more radical ways. A flag, even unlike Johns’ Targets and Numbers, is an image with inflexible internal divisions and a strict organization of color. In representing such a comprehensively identifiable symbol, Johns harnessed the image’s inherent invisibility—by virtue of its ubiquity, it becomes for the viewer something that is “seen and not looked at.” (Johns cited in Michael Crichton, Jasper Johns, 1994, p. 30) By Johns’ intent, then, the viewer is not impeded by the need to comprehend the image; it is intrinsically legible, facilitating immediate absorption in the extraordinarily luxuriant physical and material properties of the painting. This competing tension between legibility and surprise, and between the whole image and its constituent parts, is the crux of Johns’ visual intelligence, providing us with an image arrested squarely in the process of its own creation both on the canvas and in our own minds. From within the pre-ordained parameters dictated by the flag’s strict design erupts a tightly controlled chaos of sharp staccato strokes. A handful of terse drips subtly disobey the boundaries set forth by the alternating stripes, while small unpainted areas among the spells of thickly encrusted impasto concede the painterly surface that lies beneath. With each of the forty-eight white stars firmly planted at their customary coordinates, the terrain of swift blue strokes in which they are embedded encircles them, disrupting their purported regularity: as the blue imperfectly borders on the five-point perimeter of every star, Johns’ hand trespasses the perfectly straight lines, covering some edges while leaving around others some hint of the raw support. Johns paints with encaustic, a method whereby pigment is dissolved in hot liquid wax that is then applied in strokes to the support; as explained by the artist, “I wanted to show what had gone before in a picture, and what was done after. But if you put on a heavy brushstroke in paint, and then add another stroke, the second stroke smears the first, unless the paint is dry. And paint takes too long to dry. I didn’t know what to do. Then someone suggested wax. It worked very well; as soon as the wax was cool I could put on another stroke and it would not alter the first.” (Johns cited in Ibid., p. 30) Unlike oils, which can be easily mixed and reworked once applied, encaustic hardens rapidly and requires nimble movement of the brush—Johns swipes his brush in quick, discrete strokes that upon drying bear the conspicuous record of their own making. Strikingly palpable in the present work, his brushstrokes don’t blend—each retains a distinct tone, volume, and direction. Within each stripe of red and white, one can easily discern the network of single strokes that preserve a compellingly temporal quality, making evident the time and effort spent during and between every consecutive mark that encompasses each star and stripe. Although Johns was a resolute innovator, experimenting in a range of materials, the richly indulgent surface of his encaustic paintings are his most singularly beloved. In 1962, Leo Steinberg wrote of Johns’ technique, “This is the way Cézanne used to paint, in broken planes composed of adjacent values; imparting pictorial flatness to things which the mind knows to be atmospheric and spatial. Johns, with that same type of brush work that hovers midway between opaque canvas and spatial illusion, does the reverse: allowing an atmospheric suggestion to things which the mind knows to be flat.” (Exh. Cat., London, Anthony D’Offay Gallery, Op. Cit., 1996, p. 12) Like the 1954-55 Flag, which disclosed a network of collaged newspaper clippings behind the painted image, the present example introduces a subtle tension between Johns’ encaustic and an untraditional foundation. Flag spectacularly sees Johns apply his encaustic to silk, a stark contradiction of textural interplay that pits the dense, heavily worked wax against the delicate fibers of the support. Close observation reveals cavities of unadorned silk, intoxicatingly divulging the tension of the wax interacting with the fabric beneath it. The Flag is not only Johns’ earliest subject, but it is the one with which this unanimously revered artist is most closely associated. The first Flag of 1954-55 was initially revealed to the public in a group show at Leo Castelli in 1957, and would later highlight Johns’ first one-person exhibition at Castelli early the next year, alongside the artist’s first Targets, Numbers, Alphabets, and his gray paintings of objects such as Canvas and Drawer. In a moment of artistic clarity and resolve, Johns destroyed all his work dating before 1955, intentionally positioning Flag as his very first painting—a remarkably mature and fully-realized conceptual expression from a man who had just turned 25. After Castelli saw Johns’ Green Target in the 1957 Jewish Museum exhibition Artists of the New York School: Second Generation, he mentioned the work while visiting Rauschenberg, who then promptly took Castelli downstairs to meet Johns. The gallerist was immediately overwhelmed by the astounding coherence and precocious ingenuity that he saw in the complete body of work at Johns’ studio. Alfred H. Barr acquired three works for the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection from Johns’ first solo outing at Castelli in January 1958, with the remainder being swept up by major collectors. Although Johns’ work was met with wide critical acclaim and instantaneous success, many observers were deeply unsettled by the artist’s ostensibly rudimentary language. Of the works that Barr selected, Flag of 1954-55 was not one of them—it only later found its way into the museum collection by way of a gift of the architect Philip Johnson. Similarly, the now iconic Target with Plaster Casts was also turned down by MoMA and the Jewish Museum, allegedly because the casts lining the top edge of the canvas included genitalia. Noted critic Leo Steinberg was dumbfounded and nonplussed by the show; unsure how to respond to Johns’ refusal to conform to any idea of what a painting should or could be, Steinberg described his reaction as one of “bewildered alarm.” As noted by Clement Greenberg, what one would consider representational—the image of the flag—became an abstract symbol in Johns’ hands, while what would generally be cited as abstract—the foregrounded brushstrokes and geometrically bound zones of color—were put to the service of representation. Most radical at this time, however, was that a painting could be as premeditated as Johns’ consciously disciplined, programmatic Flag; in subjecting his painting to the given structure and palette of the American symbol, Johns denied the faith that his predecessors wholeheartedly invested in improvisational compositions. Johns emerged in a period where the artistic climate was dominated by the hegemonic influence of New York School Abstract Expressionism. The achievement of artists like de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, and Still made American painting the discursive leader at mid-century. While these artists each staked out particular styles as their own—with action painting and color-field at the fore—they were united by a distinctly American male sensibility, shaping the identity of artistic practice by the large-scale macho expression of the self. In response to this overwhelming authority of Americana, Johns painted Flag, offering an alternative to Abstract Expressionism by reintroducing representation into painting while provoking the very tenets of the style so predominant at the time. Even in the face of its intentional neutrality, Flag was iconoclastic, causing a critical rupture in the foundation set forth for Johns and his contemporaries by the preceding generation of painterly heavyweights. Michael Crichton noted of the artist, “Johns has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to insinuate himself into spaces where there does not, at first, seem to be room for play, and this has been true from his earliest paintings. In terms of art history, one could simplify his stance and say that he has slipped in between Duchamp and Pollock, between the found object and the highly personal abstraction.” (Michael Crichton, Op. Cit., p. 86) Art history has plainly written Johns into the books as the crucial and convenient link between the all-over painterly surfaces of Abstract Expressionism, Pop’s appropriation of mass-market cultural imagery, and Minimalism’s stark literalness. Widely considered the progenitor of Pop Art, Johns’ use of the American flag as image opened up the discourse of ubiquitous cultural symbols and their representation before Andy Warhol ever picked up a silkscreen or Roy Lichtenstein painted his first benday dot. Johns’ painting, however, lacks the ironic bent endemic to Pop, instead maintaining a private and taciturn character of introspection. Meanwhile, the immediacy and autonomous wholeness of Johns’ Flag catalyzed early minimalist sculpture by artists like Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, who sought to remove any sort of representation from the arsenal of abstraction and focus wholly on material and its internal compositional relationships. As sculptor and conceptual artist Robert Morris wrote in 1969, “Johns took painting further toward a state of non-depiction than anyone else… Johns took the background out of painting and isolated the thing. The background became the wall. What was previously neutral became actual, while what was previously an image became a thing.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Jasper Johns: A Retrospective, 1996, p. 99) Operating in the tradition of the Duchampian readymade, Johns’ Flag revels in its familiarity, utilizing signs and symbols that require no compositional invention. However, Johns inverts the attitudes traditionally associated with the readymade—while Duchamp upended a urinal and called it art, in contrast Johns built two Ballantine ale cans in bronze with inordinate patience and painstaking attention, painting these objects in fantastic trompe l’oeil precision. In the exhaustive density of its surface comprised of laboriously applied individual brushstrokes, Johns’ Flag celebrates a passion for mark-making. Both Johns and Robert Rauschenberg have been discussed together as neo-Dadaists in their proclivity toward collage and the incorporation of the commonplace into art. Whereas Rauschenberg let the world into the picture plane by way of his hyper-personal Combines, Johns put the picture plane out into the world—all of his paintings maintain a familiar objecthood, as if they could be just the thing that they claim to represent. In an interview with David Sylvester in 1965, Johns said: “I’m interested in things which suggest the world rather than suggest the personality. I’m interested in things which suggest things which are rather than in judgments. The most conventional things, the most ordinary things—it seems to me that those things can be dealt with without having to judge them; they seem to me to exist as clear facts not involving aesthetic hierarchy.” (Richard Francis, Op. Cit., p. 21) From the very genesis of visual representation, spanning from the early paleolithic cave drawings to religious effigies of civilizations past, images have been invested with deep ontological power. On a primitive level, humans are still susceptible to believing that the image of a thing is irrevocably tied to the matter itself; that they are one and the same is however merely a construct that Johns’ Flag works to unravel. The painting oscillates at the juncture of abstraction and representation, positing the question of how to represent that which is already an abstraction. While the image of the flag derives from an ostensibly real thing, at its very formal and conceptual core the American flag is merely a construct. A symbolic representation of the nation and a significant body politic, the flag is an entity that carries a status exceeding its materiality, possessing a religious or otherworldly nature that is viewed by many as a physical microcosm of the state. Its significant allegorical power invests it with completely abstract, intangible value; moreover, if removed of its connotative quotient, the flag’s pictorial structure of stars and stripes is evocative of an early modernist picture, its sharp edges and bold colors evoking Malevich or de Stijl. Subverting our immediate reaction of familiarity with what appears to be a representational image, Johns’ Flag trespasses the mind’s presumptions of what is real, and actively engages our powers of perception: “I think that one wants from painting a sense of life…One wants to be able to use all of one’s facilities, when one looks at a picture, or at least to be aware of all of one’s facilities in all aspects of one’s life… like we were saying a while ago, a surprise. You may have to choose how to respond and you may respond in a limited way, but you have been aware that you are alive.” (Johns cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Op. Cit., p. 99) Signed and dated 1983 on the reverse

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-11-11
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A highly important and extremely rare ru guanyao brush washer northern

Finely potted with shallow rounded sides rising from a slightly splayed foot, exquisitely veiled in a luminous and translucent bluish-green glaze suffused with a dense network of glistening ice crackles, the glaze thinning at the extremities to subtly reveal the body beneath and pooling particularly along the cavetto and foot to an unctuous caesious colour, the underside with three delicate 'sesame-seed' spur marks A RU ICE CRACKLE BRUSH WASHER Regina Krahl Ru guanyao, the official ware of the late Northern Song (960-1127) court from the kilns in Ruzhou, in modern Baofeng county, Henan province, has in the course of nearly a millennium gained quasi mythical status. Ru ware is a part of Chinas history, an emblem of Chinas philosophy, a metaphor for Chinas aesthetics in short, an icon of Chinas culture. The small and unobtrusive ceramic pieces are considered the epitome of the Chinese potters craft, but they are far more than just that, they have a significant story to tell. They can be considered the crowning glory of any collection of Chinese works of art, but they are and always were virtually unobtainable. With its glowing, intense blue-green glaze, its luminous, complex interlaced ice crackle pattern, its classic, excellently proportioned shape, and its three fine sesame seed spur marks, the present brush washer, formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation in the Hongxi Museum, Taipei, is a picture-book example of Ru guanyao and incarnates to perfection the wares revered qualities. It would be difficult to find a better ambassador for Ru ware. Although Ru ware unlike guan ware of Hangzhou is very distinctive, it still shows great variation in the glaze, which can range from a pale milky-opaque green without any crackle, as seen on the brush washer sold in these rooms in 2012 (no. 29 in our list, below), to the intense, glassy blue-green with a light-catching crackle in superimposed, horizontal, flake-like layers, known as ice or broken ice crackle, found on the present piece. While some connoisseurs expressed a preference for the former, as, for example, the early Ming (1368-1644) writer Cao Zhao in his collectors handbook Ge gu yao lun [The essential criteria of antiquities], the latter seems to have been the ideal that the Hangzhou official (guan) kilns of the Southern Song (1127-1279) tried to recreate. Both types are extremely rare, and there are many variations in between, some rather matt and greyish, others with predominating, sometimes stained, crackle lines, that cut vertically through the glaze layer without reflecting light. Whatever ones taste in this matter, there can be no doubt that this ravishingly beautiful vessel represents one of the most desirable examples extant. Pieces closest to the present piece in glaze quality would seem to be one of the examples in the Sir Percival David Collection (53), one of the pair in the Röhsska Museum (57), and the piece in the Princessehof Museum (59). The list of preserved specimens suggests, that the best glazes were achieved on the smaller and simpler vessel shapes, while on the larger and more complex forms glazes often turned out less remarkable or even untypical, as on the famous pear-shaped vase in the Sir Percival David Collection, which Wang Qingzheng therefore went as far as doubting altogether (Wang et al., 1991, p. 116). The exquisite state of preservation of this washer would have required reverential handling over thousands of generations during its nine-hundred-year long history. The extreme rarity of Ru wares, which can hardly be overstated, is due to a combination of factors. When looking through the list of extant Ru pieces, it becomes clear that the Ru kilns did not practise large-scale series production. Of many shapes, only one or two examples are known, and vessels of the same basic form tend to differ in size and proportion and may be fired on three or on five spurs. Of the five extant bottles (nos 1-5), for example, only two are similar in form; the six narcissus basins (nos 6-11) come in at least two sizes; one of the three incense burners (nos 12-14) is much larger than the other two; and the thirty-three brush washers (nos 30-62) vary in profile and range in size from 12.3 cm to 16.7 cm, without any particular size predominating. Unlike in south China, where individual dragon kilns in the Longquan area for example, could extend to lengths of 100 m, Ru kilns were small bun-shaped (mantou) kilns less than 2 m long. Their capacity was further limited by the fact that Ru pieces were fired standing upright, each in its own saggar, rather than stacked upside down, like Ding wares, and the method of firing them, precariously balanced on rings or pads with three or five thin pointed stilts, undoubtedly led to many failures. In addition, pieces were generally fired more than once, first for the biscuit, and then at least once more for the glaze. Glaze crazing, originally an undesired effect of the different contraction of body and glaze during the cooling process, was first discovered as an asset on Ru ware; yet an attractive crackle pattern refracting the light, like in mineral formations occurring in nature, requires a happy coincidence of circumstances and cannot be produced at will. Ru ware evokes patriotic sentiments and nostalgic thoughts of glorious eras of Chinas past, such as the reign of the Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1125), one of Chinas greatest imperial art enthusiasts and connoisseurs; or that of the Southern Song (1127-1279) Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127-1162), who strove to recreate some of the dynastys lost splendour in the new southern capital Hangzhou, although this had just been intended as a temporary abode for the court, after it had been forced to flee from invading foreigners. Ru official ware was made for only a very short period of time, generally believed not to have exceeded twenty years, during the reigns of the Northern Song Emperors Zhezong (r. 1086-1100) and Huizong. The two decades from 1086 to 1106 put forward by Chen Wanli (Chen 1951) are still largely accepted as the most likely period of its production, even though some scholars have proposed slight variations. Although we have no indication of any direct imperial involvement in its creation, an imperial complaint about the unglazed rims of the white Ding wares from Hebei apparently led to an imperial order of green wares from Ruzhou in Henan instead, the first direct commission of ceramics by an imperial court, which until then had relied on tribute wares supplied by various manufactories. A taste for a ware so extremely modest and unspectacular could only evolve from a world view that propagated modesty and honesty over ostentation and pretence. This taste in ceramics manifested itself at a period, when the influential, idealist politician Wang Anshi (1021-1086) postulated, and practised himself, an austere and frugal lifestyle, and when amateur literati painters, whose concepts differed dramatically from those of the art academy professionals, pursued simplicity and artlessness in painting. Instead of displaying complex skills in elaborate compositions, they favoured natural and spontaneous depictions of humble motifs. As painters tried to render the atmosphere of a landscape at a specific moment, at a certain time of day or in certain weather conditions, potters were admired for achieving glazes of a specific shade (approaching the blue of the sky after rain), rather than for the shiny green surface in general that in the Tang dynasty (618-907) had evoked comparisons with jade. The non-precious ceramic material, the variation of hues achieved in the firing and the accidental crackle patterns appearing during cooling accorded perfectly with the new endorsement of simplicity, subtlety and spontaneity in art a form of understatement and connoisseurship that appealed to Chinas elite. With their discerning criteria for judging proportion, glaze structure, tonal range and tactility, Song connoisseurs in many ways anticipated modern design movements and Song ceramics still provide models of style and craftsmanship for potters today. Although this taste was originally borne by the class of Chinas educated scholar-officials, its sophistication at least as far as ceramics were concerned was fully embraced by the court. With the loss of the northern part of their empire to the Jurchen and the move of the capital to Hangzhou, the Song no longer had access to either the Ru or the Ding kilns a very visible reminder of lost territory. Since no southern manufactory was in a position to fill this lacuna, Emperor Gaozong, the first to rule out of Hangzhou, had new official (guan) kilns set up right inside the capital to make wares modelled on Ru ware for imperial use. It is exactly the glaze of the present washer, with its intense colour and broken ice crackle, that some of the most admired guan wares copied (compare, for example, some of the guan vessels in the National Palace Museum: Taipei 2016, pls II-2, II-7, II-11 and 12, II-42 and 43). When in 1151 a high civil official, Zhang Jun, who had moved south together with the Song court, made a gift of sixteen pieces of Ru ware to the Gaozong Emperor, it was a spectacular gesture that unmistakeably documented his power and wealth, as well as his allegiance to the Song court, and was duly recorded for posterity (in the Wulin jiushi, a book of memories of Hangzhou written by Zhou Mi, 1232-1308). How any official however powerful could have amassed such a large number of pieces that were notoriously difficult to come by, remains an open question, as only pieces rejected by the court were supposedly allowed to be sold, and it is unlikely that Zhang Jun would have offered the Emperor rejects of that kind. The high regard for Ru ware did not wane in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when the term sesame seed markings to describe the wares characteristic minute spur marks, appears to have been coined. It appears for the first time in print in 1591 in Gao Lians Zun sheng ba jian [Eight discourses on the nurturing of life]. Unlike other Song wares, Ru was, however, virtually not copied then, presumably because too few pieces were in circulation to provide models. One notable exception is a monochrome blue-glazed porcelain version of an oval narcissus basin of Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), created by the Jingdezhen imperial kilns perhaps after a drawing (Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, pl. 36). It was by sending originals from the palace in Beijing to the porcelain kilns in south China as models, among them a Ru narcissus basin, that the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723-1735) managed to revive Ru shapes and glazes. A list of different porcelains ordered to be made for the Emperor in 1732 lists Uncrackled Ru glaze with copper-coloured paste, copied from the colour of the glaze of two pieces of the Song dynasty, and Ru glaze with fish-roe crackle of copper-coloured paste, copied from the colours of the glaze of a piece of the Song dynasty sent from the imperial palace (Stephen W. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art: Illustrated by Examples from the Collection of W.T. Walters, New York, 1896; reprint London, 1981, pp. 194f.). According to an inventory of 1729, thirty-one Ru brush washers of various shapes and sizes, with and without inscriptions, were kept in special, probably Japanese, lacquer boxes (Taipei, 2006, p. 25), some of them identifiable through their inscriptions among pieces extant in Taipei today. Several Ru pieces are also included in the two handscrolls titled Guwan tu (Pictures of antiquities), painted in the Yongzheng reign in 1728 and 1729, respectively, which record art objects in the imperial collection, among them the narcissus basin with metal rim (no. 7 in the list below, see Regina Krahl, Art in the Yongzheng Period: Legacy of an Eccentric Art Lover, Orientations, November/December 2005, p. 65 top right), and the bowl from the Sir Percival David Collection (no. 17, see China. The Three Emperors 1662 1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, cat. no. 168 bottom left). The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) appropriated Ru ware by having twenty-two of the eighty-seven extant pieces engraved with his poems, thus contributing further to the fame of the ware, even though he did not always correctly identify Ru ware, and at least in one instance had a poem inscribed also on a Yongzheng copy (ibid., cat. no. 197). In 1923, after the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and before the opening of the Forbidden City as a public museum, a fire at one of the palace halls, supposedly deliberately planted by eunuchs in an attempt to hide that objects were missing, destroyed a storage area, where ancient works of art had been kept. From the burnt remains that were cleared by an outside company only some Ru wares, and some polychrome (doucai) porcelains of Chenghua mark and period (1465-1487) were apparently deemed worth keeping in spite of damage done to their glazes. Fifteen fire-damaged pieces are among the eighty-seven Ru pieces preserved world-wide. In the West, the identity of Ru ware came to be known through the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-1936, to which the Chinese Government lent ten examples identified as Ru, although by that time several Western collectors already owned some, without being sure about their identity. Ru pieces from the collections of Sir Percival David and George Eumorfopoulos were also included in the exhibition. The opportunity to inspect first-hand and to handle so many Ru pieces led David to study the historical sources and to publish his ground-breaking Commentary on Ju Ware in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society right after the exhibition (David 1936-1937). In China, many attempts had been made to locate the kiln site, but it was only in 1986 that a site considered to represent the official Ru manufactories was identified at Qingliangsi, Baofeng, Henan province, with the discovery of proper kiln remains following somewhat later. Besides a large number of sherds of typical Ru guanyao vessels that were recovered, the excavations have also shown that the potters were more ambitious than the heirloom pieces let one to believe. Whereas virtually all extant pieces of Ru official ware are small and plain, the kilns experimented with many complicated sculptural forms, openwork designs and detailed engraved decoration, of which no complete examples are preserved, or may ever have left the kilns. Other more recently excavated kiln sites are now sometimes mentioned in this context as possible official kilns of the Northern Song period, in particular the Zhanggongxiang kilns also in Ruzhou, Henan province (Beijing 2009), but almost no extant heirloom pieces can be matched to those manufactories. ________________________________________________________ THE WORLDWIDE PATRIMONY OF HEIRLOOM RU OFFICIAL WARES Regina Krahl For no other Song dynasty (960-1279) ceramic ware a complete list of extant examples could be compiled, like this is possible for Ru official wares. This is due not only to the fact that Ru represents by far the rarest category of Chinese ceramics; there are also two other important contributing factors: First, Ru wares always represented revered treasures, treated with diligent care and conspicuously handed down. Although the list of extant pieces got longer over the years, since pieces are still occasionally coming to light that have languished undiscovered in museum storerooms not surprising especially where no specialist curator is at hand, since Ru ware is at first glance unobtrusive it is becoming more and more unlikely that examples hidden, unrecognized, in private collections will be found. Second, Ru wares have never been so closely copied that later copies, or contemporary pieces from lesser kilns, could today easily be mixed up with the real wares, as would be the case, for example, when trying to establish a list of extant Song guan wares from Hangzhou. The only other Chinese ceramic ware, where the establishment of a catalogue raisonné has ever been attempted, by Julian Thompson, are the imperial porcelains of Chenghua mark and period (1465-1487); but whereas the number of extant Ru pieces amounts to less than one hundred, Chenghua wares probably run to at least six times that number. The exact figure of preserved Ru guan ware pieces has intrigued scholars for decades and recorded numbers have been rising. When in 1958 G. St. G. M. Gompertz compiled a list of extant Ru wares, he assembled thirty-one pieces outside of China, in addition to ten sent by the Chinese Government to the Royal Academy of Art exhibition in London 1935-1936 (Gompertz, 1958, p. 34). No other pieces from any Chinese collection were known at that time. Since then, many more specimens have been published, particularly pieces held in China, but also a few preserved in collections abroad, which had not been made public before. Although Gompertzs list of Ru wares included a few pieces which today would no longer qualify as such, his number was not far off the present mark of securely verified pieces abroad, which has increased only slightly to thirty-six recorded examples. In 1987, Wang Qingzheng published a list of sixty-five heirloom pieces of Ru official ware worldwide, enlarging it to sixty-nine in a revised edition in 1991, but including some pieces about which he himself expressed doubts (Wang et al., 1987, pp. 38-40; 1991, pp. 115-117). In the catalogue of an exhibition of Ru ware in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, in 2009, Degawa Tetsuro compiled a list of seventy reliable pieces (Osaka, 2009, pp. 279-87). In our last sale catalogue that presented a piece of Ru ware in Hong Kong in 2012, we were able to add nine further items to that list, arriving at a total of seventy-nine Ru pieces that can be considered heirloom, i.e. pieces that were never buried and excavated, but preserved and handed down above ground (Sothebys, 2012, pp. 40-43). These publications appear to have formed the basis for a yet more ambitious list included in a recent publication of the Palace Museum, Beijing (Beijing, 2015, pp. 260-305), where the museum made public for the first time several so far unpublished items from its collection, many of which had been damaged in the well-known palace fire in 1923 and thus had previously probably not be deemed worthy of publishing. This listing assembles a total of ninety pieces worldwide. Four pieces ought, however, be deducted from the list: a parrot-shaped fragment purchased by the Palace Museum, Beijing, in 2001 (Beijing, 2015, fig. 41); a brush washer donated to the Shanghai Museum, that was collected from and led to the discovery of the Ru kiln site (Beijing, 2015, fig. 42); a shallow bowl in the Guangdong Province Museum, which was reconstituted from a fragment (Beijing, 2015, fig. 54); and a bowl stand published and sold as Korean rather than as a piece of Ru ware (Guardian Hong Kong, 5.4. 2013, lot 414; Beijing, 2015, fig. 90). Although it is not always easy to establish beyond any doubt whether a piece has been excavated or was handed down, this author would also be inclined to suspend for the time being the inclusion in this list of four further pieces, whose heirloom status has not yet been verified: three brush washers included by the Palace Museum (Beijing, 2015, figs 34, 56, and 59) listed below as (88), (89) and (90); and one cup or small bowl that has recently come to light in Japan, listed below as (91). One further brush washer, which appeared in a publication in 1922 is presently unaccounted for, see (92) below. On the other hand, four vessels, whose status has been fully confirmed, seem to be missing from the Beijing list and can here be added: a third tripod incense burner in the Cincinnati Art Museum, here listed as 14; two brush washers in museums in The Netherlands and in Denmark, included below as 59 and 60, and a dish in the Shanghai Museum, 68 to bring the total number to eighty-seven. In 1986, when the kilns making Ru official ware for the Northern Song (960-1127) court were discovered and excavated in Qingliangsi, Baofeng county, Henan province, a large number of additional pieces, mostly damaged or fragmentary, was recovered from the kiln site. Since these pieces had obviously not been intended for delivery to the court, but were retained in the workshops due to perceived imperfection, or being unfinished (for example, in unglazed, biscuit-fired state), these are not included in our consideration here. Starting in 1940, no more than six Ru vessels have ever appeared at auction: The bottle from the Eumorfopoulos collection, now in the Sir Percival David Collection in the British Museum (no. 3), Sothebys London, 28th May 1940, lot 135. The narcissus basin with metal rim from the Ataka Collection, now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, (no. 10), Sothebys London, 17th March 1959, lot 26, and 24th February 1970, lot 1. The brush washer from the K. S. Lo Collection, now in the Hong Kong Museum of Art (no. 51), Sothebys London, 15th April 1980, lot 140. The dish from the Stephen Junkunc III Collection, now in the collection of Au Bakling (no. 80), Christies New York, 3rd December 1992, lot 276 (fig. 3). The reduced dish from the Stephen Junkunc III Collection, now in a private collection (no. 69), Christies New York, 29th March 2006, lot 401 (fig. 5). The lobed brush washer from the Alfred Clark Collection, now in a private collection (no. 29), Sothebys Hong Kong, 4th April 2012, lot 101 (fig. 4). What is most remarkable when looking through this list of eighty-seven heirloom pieces of Ru official ware, is that virtually all examples are now preserved in museum collections and no more than three pieces are left in private hands (figs 3-5). CATALOGUE RAISONNE OF EXTANT HEIRLOOM RU OFFICIAL WARES S nos refer to fig. nos in the Appendix of the Palace Museums Selection of Ru Ware, see Beijing, 2015, pp. 260-305 [ ] denotes heirloom Ru official wares preserved in private collections Bottles, angular, no foot (2) 1  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 22.4 cm, metal rim, fenghua and Qianlong inscriptions (S 1) 2  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 20.5 cm, reduced, Qianlong inscription on ground part of base (S 2) Bottle, globular (1) 3  Sir Percival David Collection, London, ex Eumorfopoulos: 24.8 cm, metal rim (S 60) Bottle, ovoid (1) 4  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: reduced, 17.9 cm, metal rim and foot, Qianlong inscription around ground centre of base (S 3) Bottle, pear-shaped (1) 5  British Museum, London, ex Alfred Clark: 20.1 cm (S 72) Narcissus basins (6) 6  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23 cm, Qianlong inscription (S4) 7  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23 cm, metal rim, Qianlong inscription (S 5) 8  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 23.1 cm (S 7) 9  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 26.4 cm, feet cut down, Qianlong inscription (S 6) 10  Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, ex Ataka: 22 cm, metal rim (S 83) 11  Jilin Province Museum: 23.2 cm, cut down, metal rim (S 53) Tripod incense burners (3) 12  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 24.8 cm (S 61) 13  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18 cm (S 22) 14  Cincinnati Art Museum: 17.8 cm (Ellen B. Avril, Chinese Art in the Cincinnati  Art Museum, Cincinnati, 1997, pl. 63) Warming bowl (1) 15  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 16.2 cm (S 8) Bowls (2) 16  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 17.1 cm Qianlong inscription (S 24) 17  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm, metal rim, Qianlong inscription (S 63) Bowl stands, lobed (2) 18  British Museum, London, ex Sir Harry Garner: 16.5 cm (S 73) 19  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm (S 62) Bowl stand, round (1) 20  Victoria & Albert Museum, London, ex Sir Harry Garner: 16.5 cm, metal rim, inscribed with palace name (S 77) Bowl stand, flat (1) 21  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex John Gardner Coolidge: 18.7 cm (S 82) Tripod stand (1) 22  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18.3 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 23) Basins (2) 23  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 15.9 cm, lost metal rim (S 16) 24  National Museum of China, Beijing, on loan from Palace Museum: 13.7 cm (S 35) Brush washers, oval, with twin fish (3) 25  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.2 cm (S 9) 26  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 14.2 cm (S 64) 27  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 14.5 cm (S 65) Brush washers, lobed (2) 28  British Museum, London, ex Alfred Clark: 13.6 cm (S 74) [29]  Sothebys Hong Kong, 4. 4. 2012, ex Alfred Clark: 13.5 cm (S 89, fig. 4) Brush washers, round (33) 30  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 13 cm, inscribed yi, (S 25, fig. 1) 31  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 12.9 cm, metal rim, inscribed yi, (S 26) 32  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.6 cm (inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 27) 33  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.4 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 28) 34  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.5 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 29) 35  Palace Museum, Beijing: 13.9 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 30) 36  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, fire damaged (S 31) 37  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S32) 38  Palace Museum, Beijing: 12.8 cm, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S33) 39  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.9 cm, inscribed jia, (S 10) 40  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 14.8 cm, inscribed jia, Qianlong inscription, (S 11) 41  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13 cm, metal rim, inscribed bing, Qianlong inscription (S 12) 42  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13.1 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 13, fig. 2) 43  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 12.9 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 14) 44  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 13.4 cm, metal rim (S 15) 45  National Museum of China, Beijing: 16.7 cm, metal rim, probably fire damaged (S 51) 46  Shanghai Museum: 13.5 cm, fire damaged (S 43) 47  Shanghai Museum: 12.6 cm (S 44) 48  Shanghai Museum: 12.6 cm (S 45) 49  Shanghai Museum: 12.3 cm (S 46) [50]  The present lot, ex Chang Foundation, Taipei: 13 cm (S 58) 51  Hong Kong Museum of Art, ex K.S. Lo: 13.5 cm, Qianlong inscription ground off (S 55) 52  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 13.7 cm, inscribed yi, fire damaged (S 66) 53  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 13 cm (S 67) 54  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 12.9 cm (S 68) 55  Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Sir Alan Barlow: 12.8 cm (S 78) 56  Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden: 13 cm (S 85) 57  Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden: 12.9 cm (S 86) 58  Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Meiyintang Collection: 12.8 cm, metal rim, inscribed bing (S87) 59  Princessehof Keramiek Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, ex Nanne Ottema: 13 cm (http://friesmuseum.delving.org/thumbnail/friesmuseum/princessehof/GMP%201981-111%20[01]/500) 60  Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark, ex A. Oigaard: 13 cm (Osvald Sirén, Kinas Konst under Tre Årtusenden, Stockholm, 1943, vol. II, fig. 324) 61  Philadelphia Museum of Art, ex Major General William Crozier: 13 cm (S 80) 62  Cleveland Museum of Art: 12.9 cm (S 81) Dishes, deep, rounded (7) 63  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 18.4 cm (S 38) 64  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 15.8 cm, inscribed jia, Qianlong inscription (S 17) 65  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 21.4 cm, metal foot, Qianlong inscription (S 18) 66  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 18.4 cm, Qianlong inscription (S 19) 67  British Museum, London, ex George Eumorfopoulos: 19.6 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 75) 68  Shanghai Museum: 12.3 cm (Wang et al. 1987, pl. 32; 1991, pl. 32 and cover) [69]  Christies New York, 29. 3. 2006, ex Stephen Junkunc III: 17.5 cm, reduced, fire damaged (S 88, fig. 5) Dishes, deep, flared (3) 70  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 19.3 cm, inscribed with palace name (S 36) 71  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 19.6 cm, inscribed cai (S 37) 72  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 19.5 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 70) Dishes, shallow, flared (12) 73  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 17.1 cm (S 39) 74  Palace Museum, Beijing, ex Qing court collection: 16.9 cm (S 40) 75  Shanghai Museum: 17.1 cm (S 47) 76  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 48) 77  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 49) 78  Shanghai Museum: 17 cm (S 50) 79  Tianjin Museum: 17.2 cm (S 52) [80]  Christies Hong Kong, 3. 12. 1982, Au Bakling, ex Stephen Junkunc III: 17.5 cm (S 57, fig. 3) 81  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 17 cm (S 71) 82  British Museum, London, ex George Eumorfopoulos: 18.4 cm, Qianlong inscription, fire damaged (S 76) 83  St. Louis Art Museum, ex Samuel C. Davis: 17.2 cm (S 79) 84  Tokyo National Museum, ex Kawabata Yasunari: 17.1 cm (S 84) Dishes, rounded, no foot (3) 85  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 12.8 cm, metal rim, inscribed fenghua (S 20) 86  National Palace Museum, Taipei, ex Qing court collection: 10.9 cm, inscribed bing and cai (S 21) 87  Sir Percival David Collection, London: 12.1 cm, fire damaged (S 69) Potential Additions to the List Heirloom status unverified (4) (88) Brush washer, Palace Museum, Beijing, donated 1965: 13 cm (S 34) (89) Brush washer, Muwentang Collection: 13.9 cm (S 56) (90) Brush washer, Guanfu Museum: size unknown (S 59) (91) Cup, Japanese Private Collection: 10.2 cm, repaired (S ji no bi/The Beauty of Song Ceramics, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2016, cat. no. 1) Present whereabouts unknown (1) (92) Brush washer, published as Korean, but probably Ru: 13 cm (Oscar Rücker-Embden, Chinesische Frühkeramik, Leipzig, 1922, pl. 43 a) ________________________________________________________ Selected Bibliography on Ru Official Ware David 1936-1937 Sir Percival David, A Commentary on Ju Ware, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 14, 1936-1937, pp. 18-63 Chen 1951 Chen Wanli, Ruyao zhi wo jian [My views on Ru ware], Wenwu cankao ciliao, 1951, no. 2 London 1952 Ju and Kuan Wares. Imperial Wares of the Sung Dynasty, Related Wares and Derivatives of Later Date, The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1952 Gompertz 1958 G.St.G.M. Gompertz, Chinese Celadon Wares, London, 1958 Wang et al. 1987/1991 Wang Qingzheng, Fan Dongqing & Zhou Lili, Ruyao de faxian/The Discovery of Ru Kiln, Shanghai, 1987; rev. ed. Hong Kong, 1991 Zhao et al. 1991 Zhao Qingyun et al., Ruyao de xin faxian/New Discoveries in Ru Kiln, Beijing, 1991. Ye & Ye 2001 Ye Zhemin & Ye Peilan, eds, Ruyao juzhen/Collection of Porcelain Treasures of the Ru Kiln, Beijing, 2001. Zhao 2003 Zhao Qingyun, ed., Songdai Ruyao [Ru ware of the Song dynasty], Zhengzhou, 2003. Taipei 2006 Lin Baiting, ed., Da guan. Bei Song Ruyao tezhan/Grand View: Special Exhibition of Ju Ware from the Northern Sung Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2006 Baofeng 2008 Baofeng Qingliangsi Ruyao/Ru Yao at Qingliangsi in Baofeng, Zhengzhou, 2008 Beijing 2009 Ruyao yu Zhanggongxiangyao chutu ciqi/Ceramic Art Unearthed from the Ru Kiln Site and Zhanggongxiang Kiln Site, Beijing, 2009 Osaka 2009 Hokus Joy seiji: Kko hakkutsu seika ten/Northern Song Ru Ware. Recent Archaeological Findings, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2009 Sothebys 2012 Regina Krahl, Ru. From a Japanese Collection, Sothebys, Hong Kong, 2012 Beijing 2015 Ru ci ya ji. Gugong Bowuyuan zhencang ji chutu Ruyao ciqi huicui/Selection of Ru Ware. The Palace Museums Collection and Archaeological Excavation, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2015 Taipei 2016 Yu Peichin, Gui si chenxing. Qing gong chuanshi 12 zhi 14 shiji qingci tezhan/Precious as the Morning Star. 12th-14th Century Celadons in the Qing Court Collection, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2016

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1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti

1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti Châssis type 520/B, n° 0674 Moteur type 141, n°0674, numéro interne 2 - Voiture exceptionnelle à tous points de vue - Pilotée par les pilotes les plus célèbres, dont un Champion du monde - Deuxième aux Mille Miglia 1957 - Victorieuse du Grand Prix de Cuba en 1958 - Dans la Collection de Pierre Bardinon depuis 1970 Introduction L'histoire de Ferrari est due à un homme - Enzo Ferrari - et à son talent inné à choisir les meilleurs ingénieurs et les meilleurs pilotes pour glorifier de manière historique ses bolides à l'occasion des plus grandes courses internationales. Il est évident que dans l'histoire de la marque, les voitures d'usine, celles qui couraient pour la Scuderia Ferrari elle-même, les voitures 'officielles' ont été projetées dans le patrimoine mondial de l'Automobile comme de véritables mythes. Elles ont remporté leurs lettres de noblesse entre les mains des plus célèbres pilotes, de Juan Manuel Fangio, en passant par Trintignant, Moss, von Trips, Taruffi, Musso, Hill plus récemment Schumacher, Regazzoni, Alboreto… Tous ont écrit l'histoire des victoires de la Scuderia, construisant, course après course le mythe de Maranello. Aucune autre marque ne peut s'enorgueillir d'une image plus puissante que celle de Ferrari. Aucune autre marque ne fait autant tourner les têtes. Aucune autre marque ne produit un tel choc musical à chaque accélération. Aucune autre marque n'a autant remporté de victoires que Ferrari. L'équipe d'Artcurial Motorcars est très heureuse de présenter un de ces bolides d'usine, LE bolide, celui qui a permis à Ferrari de remporter le Titre Mondial de Champion du Monde des Constructeurs en 1957. Grâce à sa conception exceptionnelle, sa robe au dessin parfait et à ses proportions charismatiques, ses époustouflants résultats en courses, ses pilotes - les plus célèbres -, à son historique limpide et à sa provenance des plus prestigieuses, cette Ferrari 335 S symbolise le Mythe et le Chef d'œuvre des années 50 dans l'histoire de la compétition automobile mondiale. Elle en est la quintessence. Contexte Dans les années 1950, le cœur des sportifs italiens bat au rythme de ce qu'ils considèrent comme "la plus grande course du monde", les Mille Miglia. Les marques les plus prestigieuses s'y affrontent et les pilotes les plus aguerris se lancent dans cette course folle au départ de Brescia, couvrant plus de 1 600 km de longues lignes droites, de routes de cols sinueuses et de traversée de villes historiques. Pour défendre ses couleurs devant Maserati et Mercedes, Ferrari s'est au milieu des années1950 appuyé sur ses modèles à moteur quatre-cylindres dont la dernière évolution est la 860 Monza, puissante mais brutale. En 1956, il revient au V12, avec sur sa 290 MM un moteur dérivé de celui qui équipe ses monoplaces de Grand Prix. Doté d'un arbre à cames en tête par banc de cylindres et d'un double allumage, ce moteur 3,5 litres développe 340 ch à 7 200 tr/mn. Dès le départ, il se montre bien né et permet à Eugenio Castellotti de remporter les Mille Miglia 1956, suivi de quatre autres Ferrari. Habillée par Scaglietti, cette voiture incarne la finesse, la pureté et la légèreté propres aux bolides italiens de cette époque. Rapidement, elle va évoluer en 290 S dont le moteur, bien que de cylindrée identique, comporte une distribution complètement nouvelle, à double arbres à cames en tête par rangée de cylindres, inspirée de la Lancia D50 Grand Prix conçue par Vittorio Jano. A la fois plus léger et plus puissant que son prédécesseur, il débouche rapidement sur une version 3,8 litres Tipo 140 correspondant à la 315 S, puis 4 litres Tipo 141 sur la 335 S. Cette version à quatre arbres à cames en tête, double allumage et ses carburateurs quadruple corps représentait le summum de la sophistication mécanique à l'époque. Sa puissance avoisine ainsi 400 ch, ce qui permet à cette voiture de défendre brillamment les couleurs de la marque au cheval cabré. La Ferrari 335 S #0674 de la vente Le châssis n°0674 sort des ateliers Ferrari au début de l'année 1957. Carrossée en barquette par Scaglietti et dotée d'un V12 Tipo 140 de 3,8 litres quatre arbres, elle fait partie des Ferrari 315 S d'usine. Pour sa première course, elle est engagée le 23 mars aux 12 Heures de Sebring, entre les mains de Peter Collins et Maurice Trintignant, à côté d'une autre 315 S pilotée par De Portago et Luigi Musso. Après avoir tenu la tête pendant 20 tours, la belle Ferrari rétrograde et termine finalement sixième, devant De Portago, la victoire revenant à la très rapide Maserati 450 S de Fangio-Behra. Mais après ce "galop d'essai", c'est au mois de mai que la Ferrari va se confronter à l'épreuve qu'attendent tous les italiens : les Mille Miglia. Elle est cette fois confiée à Wolfgang von Trips, qui complète l'équipe Ferrari et ses deux puissantes 335 S 4 litres. Ces voitures vont dominer l'épreuve et permettre la victoire de Piero Taruffi qui, après 14 participations, remporte enfin cette course mythique malgré une voiture dont la transmission donne des signes de faiblesse. Juste derrière, von Trips dont la monture portant le n°532 fonctionne parfaitement, respecte les consignes de Ferrari de ne pas attaquer son coéquipier et termine deuxième. Ce succès de la marque italienne est malheureusement terni par l'accident de De Portago, à 40 km de l'arrivée : l'éclatement d'un pneu provoque sa sortie de route et le décès de plusieurs spectateurs, ce qui entrainera l'arrêt définitif de cette incomparable épreuve. Juste après la course, la Ferrari châssis n°0674 voit son moteur passer de 3 800 à 4 100 cm3, avant d'être engagée à la plus prestigieuse course d'endurance : les 24 Heures du Mans, entre les mains de Mike Hawthorn et Luigi Musso. Hawthorn prend la tête dès le départ, devant les Maserati et les Jaguar, et franchit au trentième tour et pour la première fois le record historique de 200 km/h (203,015 km/h exactement) de moyenne au tour sur le circuit des 24 Heures. Mais une défaillance moteur contraint l'équipage à abandonner à la cinquième heure. Le 11 août, l'usine envoie la voiture en Suède pour le Grand Prix de Suède (les 6 Heures de Kristianstad), à nouveau avec Hawthorn et Musso, à côté de la 335 S de Peter Collins et Phil Hill. Une bagarre s'engage avec les Maserati 450 S et les Ferrari doivent s'incliner mais Collins termine deuxième. La voiture de Hawthorn-Musso, qui a été victime d'un début d'incendie, a pu repartir pour franchir la ligne d'arrivée en quatrième position. La voiture rentre ensuite à l'usine où elle bénéficie d'une modification de la face avant, dans le style des 250 Testa Rossa "ponton fender", dans le but d'améliorer le refroidissement des freins pour affronter les températures élevées d'Amérique du Sud, pour le Grand Prix du Venezuela le 3 novembre. La 335 S châssis 0674 reste entre les mains de Hawthorn et Musso, à côté de l'autre 4 litres de Collins-Hill et de deux Ferrari 250. L'issue de cette épreuve décidera du Titre Mondial entre Ferrari et Maserati, et la bagarre s'annonce rude. La malchance s'abat toutefois sur la marque au trident dont les trois voitures abandonnent successivement dans des circonstances difficiles, laissant le champ libre au rival de Maranello qui remporte les quatre premières places ! Le titre de Champion du Monde des Constructeurs est acquis et la deuxième place de Hawthorn-Musso, dans le baquet de "0674", y contribue très largement. De retour à l'usine de Maranello, la Ferrari reçoit un nouveau moteur tipo 141 de la 335 S, numéro interne 2, puis elle est vendue en janvier 1958 à Luigi Chinetti, l'importateur Ferrari basé à New York. Le 24 février, elle participe au Grand Prix de Cuba, à La Havane où Masten Gregory et Stirling Moss remportent la victoire, la voiture portant la livrée bleue à bande blanche du NART. Elle est ensuite louée par Chinetti à Mike Garber et prend part au cours de la saison 1958 à plusieurs épreuves américaines, entre les mains de Gaston Andrey et Lance Reventlow (créateur des fameuses Scarab), signant plusieurs beaux résultats dont une victoire à Road America 500 et sur les circuits de Thompson et Watkins Glen. Sa dernière course enregistrée a lieu le 7 décembre lors de la Bahamas Speed Week, à Nassau, où elle est contrainte à l'abandon. En 1960, elle est cédée à Robert N. Dusek, un architecte résidant à Solebury, en Pennsylvanie. Dix ans plus tard, en 1970, Dusek vend la voiture à Pierre Bardinon, un des collectionneurs Ferrari les plus avisés de la planète, qui a constitué au fil des ans une des collections les plus sélectives de Ferrari de course, dans laquelle il a réuni les modèles les plus titrés ou les plus emblématiques. Sa collection est basée dans son domaine près d'Aubusson, dans la Creuse, où il a fait tracer un circuit superbe fait de courbes, de côtes et de descentes, comme un mini Charade. En septembre 1981, Pierre Bardinon confie la voiture à la carrosserie Fantuzzi, à Modène, pour une restauration dans sa configuration d'origine, avec sa première face avant (nous n'avons cependant pas retrouvé de facture de cette restauration). La partie avant 'ponton fender' qui avait été transformée pour courir en Amérique du sud sera délivrée au futur acquéreur puisqu'elle a été restaurée et conservée à côté de la voiture au sein du Musée de Pierre Bardinon. En dehors du circuit sur place, la belle Ferrari sort peu mais elle apparaît dans la splendide exposition "Hommage à Ferrari" organisée en 1987 par la Fondation Cartier à Jouy-en-Josas. Dix ans plus tard, en 1997, elle participe aux évènements organisés à Rome et Maranello pour célébrer les 50 ans de la marque. Pierre Bardinon qui, au fil des années, a cédé un certain nombre des voitures de sa collection, s'est toujours refusé à vendre la 335 S, malgré toutes les sollicitations ; il la considérait comme une pièce essentielle de sa collection. Cette voiture apparaît en photo dans les livres les plus sérieux consacrés à l'histoire de la marque. Il est rarissime qu'une machine de course de ce calibre présente une histoire aussi directe, claire, sans ombre, et dont le nombre de propriétaires est aussi limité. Avec sa provenance, son palmarès et son historique, cette voiture fait partie des Ferrari les plus importantes de toute l'histoire de la compétition automobile. Les pilotes successifs de #0674 Peter Collins Britannique, Peter Collins entre chez Ferrari en 1956 où il pilote la Lancia-Ferrari D50 et remporte deux Grand Prix, à Spa-Francorchamps et à Reims. Il fait équipe avec Juan-Manuel Fangio, titré Champion du monde cette année-là. C'est aussi un excellent pilote d'endurance : il se classe deux fois deuxième aux 24 Heures du Mans (1955, Aston Martin DB3 S avec Paul Frère ; 1956, Aston Martin DB3 S avec Stirling Moss) et une fois deuxième aux Mille Miglia en 1956 (Ferrari 860 Monza). Il trouve la mort au Grand Prix d'Allemagne 1958, au volant d'une monoplace Ferrari. Maurice Trintignant Pilote extrêmement populaire au délicieux accent du midi, Maurice Trintignant est un des rares Français présents en Grand Prix dans les années 1950. Miraculeusement rescapé d'un très grave accident lors du GP de Suisse 1948, il court pour Amédée Gordini avant de rejoindre l'équipe Ferrari en 1954. Il remporte cette année-là les 24 Heures du Mans avec Froilan Gonzalez sur la 375 Plus et signe en 1955 son plus beau résultat, la victoire au Grand Prix de Monaco, à bord d'une monoplace Ferrari vieillissante. Il a fait vibrer toute une génération de passionnés à travers ses souvenirs raconté dans "Pilote de course". Il s'est éteint le 30 octobre 2010 à Nîmes. Wolfgang von Trips Issu d'une noble lignée allemande, Wolfgang von Trips fait ses débuts en course au volant d'une Porsche, puis passe chez Mercedes en 1955, participant au Championnat d'Endurance. Il pilote deux fois en 1956 pour Ferrari, décrochant une deuxième place avec une 290 MM au GP de Suède, avec Collins, puis s'engage en Formule 1 en 1957 au sein de la Scuderia Ferrari. Sa meilleure saison est aussi celle qui verra sa disparition : en 1961, après avoir remporté deux Grand Prix, il se tue à Monza au volant d'une Ferrari 156 "nez de requin". Il est couronné vice-champion du monde à titre posthume, à l'issue de la saison. Il a participé cinq fois aux 24 Heures du Mans. Mike Hawthorn C'est le premier pilote britannique à remporter le titre de Champion du monde de Formule 1, en 1958, pour Ferrari. Ce succès constitue un aboutissement de sa collaboration avec l'équipe de Maranello, dont il a fait partie en 1953, 1954 et partiellement en 1955 avant d'y revenir en 1957 et 1958, année de son couronnement. Au volant d'une Jaguar Type D, il a remporté les 24 Heures du Mans 1955, année marquée par le dramatique accident de la Mercedes de Pierre Levegh. Très proche de Peter Collins, il avait été très affecté par le décès de ce dernier, au Nürburgring, en 1958. Hawthorn se tue quelques mois plus tard dans un accident de la route, au volant de sa Jaguar MkII. Luigi Musso Ce pilote italien débute sa carrière avec Maserati, au volant des A6G et 250 F, en Sport et en Grand Prix. Il passe chez Ferrari en 1956, aux côtés de Peter Collins et Juan-Manuel Fangio. Au GP d'Argentine, il partage la victoire avec Fangio à qui il a cédé sa voiture, et ses plus beaux résultats comptent une victoire aux 1000 Km de Buenos-Aires en 1957 (Ferrari 290 MM, avec Masten Gregory et Eugenio Catellotti) et à la Targa Florio 1958 (Ferrari Testa Rossa, avec Olivier Gendebien). Lors du Grand Prix de France, en juillet 1958 à Reims, alors qu'il est deuxième au volant de sa Ferrari 246, il sort de la route et succombe à ses blessures. Stirling Moss Stirling Moss est un des pilotes les plus brillants de sa génération. Malgré 16 victoires en Grand Prix, il n'a jamais remporté le championnat du monde, terminant trois fois deuxième derrière Fangio, en 1955, 1956 et 1957. En sport, sa victoire aux Mille Miglia en 1955 au volant d'une Mercedes 300 SLR est célèbre, car il signe le record absolu de l'épreuve à 157 km/h de moyenne, mais il a par ailleurs remporté la Targa Florio (1955, Mercedes avec Collins), les 1000 Km de Buenos-Aires (1956, Maserati 300 S, Carlos Menditeguy), les 6 Heures de Kristenstad (1957, Maserati 450 S, Jean Behra) et quatre fois les 1000 Km du Nürburgring (1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, sur Maserati et Aston Martin). Aujourd'hui âgé de 86 ans, il est encore présent régulièrement lors des épreuves historiques. Masten Gregory Masten Gregory fait partie des pilotes américains ayant signé une belle carrière en Europe. Malgré quelques coups d'éclat en Formule 1 (dont une troisième place à Monaco en 1957, avec une Maserati), c'est surtout en endurance qu'il va bâtir son palmarès. De 1955 à 1972, il participe 16 fois aux 24 Heures du Mans sur des voitures extrêmement variées (Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Lola, Porsche), mais c'est en 1965 qu'il signe la victoire à bord d'une Ferrari 275 LM du NART, dans laquelle il fait équipe avec Jochen Rindt. Il raccroche le casque en 1972 et disparaît en 1985 à la suite de problèmes cardiaques. La participation aux enchères pour ce lot est soumise à une procédure d'enregistrement particulière. Si vous souhaitez enchérir sur ce lot, merci de vous rapprocher du bureau des enchères ou du département Motorcars minimum 48 heures avant la vente. Addendum : Comme affirmé dans le livre 'Ferrari 315 S' écrit par Antoine Prunet et édité par Cavalliera en 1994, après l'accident tragique de la 335 S #0646 de Portago aux Mille Miglia 1957, les deux autres 335 S de la course, #0674 de la vente et 0684 furent placées sous séquestre pour les besoins de l'enquête. Elles ne disputèrent donc pas les 1000 kms du Nürburgring. On retrouve les deux bolides aux 24 Heures du Mans 1957. Certainement pour éviter d'acquitter les droits de douane, ce qui était coutumier à l'époque chez Ferrari, l'usine avait envoyé au Mans, et pour cette course uniquement, la 335 S #0674 sous le numéro de châssis #0656, dont la frappe est encore partiellement visible. Voici donc la fiche de pesage de #0674, enregistré sous le numéro #0656 fournie par l'ACO. #0674 retrouvera son identité initiale au Grand Prix de Suède, début août 57. Chassis type 520/B, n° 0674 Engine type 141, n°0674, internal number 2 - Exceptional in every respect - Driven by the greatest drivers, including a World Champion - Second in the 1957 Mille Miglia - Winner of the 1958 Cuba Grand Prix - In Pierre Bardinon's collection since 1970 Introduction The history of Ferrari is down to one man - Enzo Ferrari - and his talent for picking the finest engineers and drivers to immortalize his race cars in the world's greatest events. Throughout the marque's history, the factory cars, those run by the Scuderia Ferrari itself, the 'official' cars, have been granted legendary status in the heritage of the Automobile. They won their spurs in the hands of the most celebrated drivers, Juan Manuel Fangio, Trintignant, Moss, von Trips, Taruffi, Musso, Hill and more recently Schumacher, Regazzoni, Alboreto…All these names have contributed to the history of the Scuderia's success, helping to build, race after race, the legend of Maranello. There is no other brand on earth that can boast a more powerful image than Ferrari. No other brand turns as many heads. No other marque can produce such a musical revelation with each press of the throttle. No other marque has as many victories to its name as Ferrari. The Artcurial Motorcars team is delighted to present one of these factory racing cars. THE racing car. The one that enabled Ferrari to win the Constructors' World Championship Title in 1957. With its outstanding engineering, perfectly sketched lines and charismatic proportions, with its breathtaking race results, its great drivers, its continuous history and prestigious provenance, this Ferrari 335 S symbolises the Myth and the Masterpiece from the 1950s in the history of motorsport around the world. This car has it all. Context In the 1950s, the heart of sporting Italians beat to the rhythm of what was, to them, " the greatest race in the world ": the Mille Miglia. The most prestigious car manufacturers fought with each other and the most experienced drivers threw themselves into the ring for this mad race. It started in Brescia, and covered over 1600 km of long straights, winding mountain roads and travelled through historic towns. In the mid-1950s, to defend its colours in front of Maserati and Mercedes, Ferrari relied on four-cylinder models, the last of which was the 860 Monza, a powerful yet brutal car. In 1956, it turned to the V12, using an engine for the 290 MM derived from that used in the Grand Prix single seaters. With an overhead cam per bank of cylinders and dual ignition, this 3.5-litre engine produced 340 bhp at 7 200 rpm. It proved itself from the outset, powering Eugenio Castellotti to victory in the Mille Miglia in 1956, followed by four other Ferrari. Bodied by Scaglietti, this car embodied the ultimate finesse, purity and lightweight of Italian racing machines of this era. Before long the car evolved into the 290 S with an engine that was the same size but featured a completely new set-up. This time there were twin cams per bank of cylinders, inspired by the Lancia D50 Grand Prix engine designed by Vittorio Jano. Lighter and more powerful than its predecessor, it was developed as a 3.8-litre Tipo 140 version for the 315 S, followed by a 4-litre Tipo 141 for the 335 S. This four-cam version, with double ignition and four-choke carburettors represented the most advanced engineering of its day. It produced some 400 bhp allowing this car to defend the Ferrari colours brilliantly. The Ferrari 335 S #0674 in the sale Chassis 0674 left the Ferrari workshops at the start of 1957. Bodied as a barchetta by Scaglietti and given a four-cam 3.8-litre V12 Tipo 140 engine, this was one of the Ferrari factory 315S. The car's first race was the Sebring 12 Hours, on 23 March, in the hands of Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant, and competing alongside another 315 S driven by De Portago and Luigi Musso. Having held the lead for the first 20 laps, this stunning Ferrari started slipping backwards and finally finished the race 6th, ahead of De Portago. The very quick Maserati 450 S driven by Fangio-Behra claimed victory. However, after this "trial run", attention turned to the event that all Italians were waiting for: the Mille Miglia in May. The car was given to Wolfgang von Trips to complete the Ferrari team featuring two powerful 335 S 4-litre cars. These machines dominated the event and victory was handed to Piero Taruffi who, after taking part 14 times, finally won this legendary race, despite suffering transmission problems. Just behind him came von Trips, whose car, number 532, performed perfectly. Respectfully abiding by Ferrari's principle of not challenging a teammate, he finished second. This success for the Italian marque was sadly overshadowed by De Portago's accident 40 kilometres from the finish: a burst tyre caused him to leave the road, resulting in the death of several spectators. This led to the end of the event itself. Immediately after the race, the engine of chassis 0674 was increased from 3 800 cc to 4 100 cc and the car was entered for the most prestigious endurance race of all : the Le Mans 24 Hours, driven by Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso. Hawthorn took the lead at the start, ahead of the Maseratis and Jaguars, and on the 30th lap broke the record for the average lap speed on the 24H Le Mans circuit, the first time anyone had exceeded 200 km/h (203.015 km/h to be exact). Unfortunately an engine problem forced the team to retire in the 5th hour. On 11 August, the factory sent the car to Sweden for the Swedish Grand Prix (the Kristianstad 6 Hours), driven once more by Hawthorn and Musso, alongside the 335 S of Peter Collins and Phil Hill. A battle ensued with the Maserati 450 S entries and the Ferrari had to give way, although Collins finished second. Hawthorn and Musso had to deal with a fire breaking out in their car, but nevertheless finished the race in fourth position. The Ferrari then went back to the factory where it was modified at the front, in the style of the 250 Testa Rossa "ponton fender", to help cool the brakes more effectively for the hot South American climate of the Venezuelan Grand Prix on 3 November. The 335 S, chassis 0674, remained in the hands of Hawthorn and Musso, alongside the other 4-litre car of Collins-Hill and the two Ferrari 250. The result of this race would decide the World Title, a battle between Ferrari and Maserati, and this battle was fiercely contested. Maserati suffered a run of bad luck, however, with all three cars retiring in difficult circumstances. This left the way clear for their rival Maranello, who finished 1-2-3-4! The Constructors' World Championship Title was theirs and the second place of Hawthorn-Musso in chassis 0674 had played a major part. Returning to the factory at Maranello, the Ferrari received a new engine - the 335 S Tipo 141, internal number 2 - and in January 1958 was sold to Luigi Chinetti, the Ferrari importer based in New York. On 24 February, the car took part in the Cuban Grand Prix, in Havana, sporting the NART livery of blue with a white stripe, driven by Masten Gregory and Stirling Moss who won the race. Chinetti then rented the car to Mike Garber, who entered chassis 0674 for various races in the US during the 1958 season, driven by Gaston Andrey and Lance Reventlow (creator of the famous Scarab). There were some excellent results including a victory in the Road America 500 and on the circuits at Thompson and Watkins Glen. The last recorded race entry was on 7 December, during the Bahamas Speed Week in Nassau, where 0674 was forced to retire. In 1960 the Ferrari was sold to Robert N. Dusek, an architect living in Solebury, Pennsylvania. Ten years later, in 1970, Dusek sold the car to Pierre Bardinon, one of the most knowledgeable Ferrari collectors in the world. Over a period of years, Bardinon put together a highly selective collection of Ferrari competition cars, bringing together the most successful and the most iconic models. His collection was based near Aubusson, in Creuse, where he built a private circuit, full of gradients and tight curves, like a mini-Charade. In September 1981, Pierre Bardinon entrusted the car to the workshop Fantuzzi in Modena, to be restored to its original configuration, with its first front nose (we have not been able to locate bills for this restoration). The 'ponton fender' front section that was transformed to run in South America will be delivered to the new owner, as it was restored and kept alongside the car in Pierre Bardinon's museum. Apart from trips out on the private circuit, this stunning Ferrari has not been seen much in recent years, although it did appear in the splendid exhibition "Homage to Ferrari" organised in 1987 by the Cartier Foundation in Jouy-en-Josas. Ten years later, in 1997, it participated in events organised in Rome and Maranello to celebrate the marque's 50th anniversary. Pierre Bardinon sold some of the cars in his collection over the years but always refused to sell the 335S, despite endelss appeals; he saw this car as an essential part of his collection. Photographs of this car appear in the most important books on the history of the marque. It is rare that a racing car of this calibre has such clear and direct history, without any uncertainty, and with a small number of owners. Such provenance, racing history and historical importance makes this one of the most important Ferrari in the history of motorsport. Successive drivers of #0674 Peter Collins Peter Collins, British, joined Ferrari in 1956, driving the Lancia-Ferrari D50 and winning two Grand Prix, at Spa-Francorchamps and Reims. His teammate was Juan-Manuel Fangio, who was crowned World Champion that year. He was also a talented endurance driver : he finished second twice in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race (1955, Aston Martin DB3 S with Paul Frère ; 1956, Aston Martin DB3 S with Stirling Moss), and also finished second in the Mille Miglia in 1956 (Ferrari 860 Monza). He died at the wheel of a Ferrari single-seater in the German Grand Prix in 1958. Maurice Trintignant An extremely popular racing driver with a wonderful southern accent, Maurice Trintignant was one of very few French drivers in Grand Prix racing during the 1950s. Having made a miraculous escape from a serious accident during the 1948 Swiss Grand Prix, he ran for Amédée Gordini before joining the Ferrari team in 1954. He won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race that year, with Froilan Gonzalez, in the 375 Plus and achieved his finest result in 1955, winning the Monaco Grand Prix in an ageing Ferrari single-seater. He inspired a whole generation of enthusiasts with his memories recounted in "Pilote de course". He passed away on 30 October 2010 in Nîmes. Wolfgang von Trips Descended from German nobility, Wolfgang von Trips started racing in a Porsche, moving to Mercedes in 1955 to take part in the endurance championship. During 1956 he drove twice for Ferrari, achieving second place in a 290 MM at the Swedish Grand Prix, with Peter Collins. In 1957 he joined the Scuderia Ferrari to take part in Formula 1. His most successful season was also his last: in 1961, having won two Grand Prix, he was killed in Monza at the wheel of a Ferrari 156 "Sharknose". He was awarded runner-up in the World Championship posthumously, at the end of the season. Von Trips took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours five times. Mike Hawthorn Mike Hawthorn was the first British driver to be crowned Formula 1 World Champion, driving for Ferrari in 1958. This success constituted the crowning glory of his collaboration with the Maranello team, that he had been part of in 1953, 1954 and part of 1955, before returning in 1957 and 1958, the year he became champion. He won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race at the wheel of a Jaguar D-Type in 1955, the year the event was marred by the dramatic accident involving the Mercedes of Pierre Levegh. He was very close to Peter Collins, and was deeply affected by the death of Collins at the Nürburgring in 1958. Hawthorn died a few months later in a road accident, at the wheel of his Jaguar MkII. Luigi Musso This Italian driver started his career with Maserati, driving an A6G and a 250 F, in sports car and Grand Prix racing. He moved to Ferrari in 1956, to join Peter Collins and Juan-Manuel Fangio. In the Argentinian Grand Prix, his win was shared with Fangio who took over the car from him. His finest results include a win in the 1957 Buenos-Aires 1000km (Ferrari 290 MM, with Masten Gregory and Eugenio Catellotti), and a victory in the 1958 Targa Florio (Ferrari Testa Rossa, with Olivier Gendebien). At Reims, during the French Grand Prix in July 1958, when he was running second in his Ferrari 246, he left the road and succumbed to his injuries. Stirling Moss Stirling Moss was one of the most outstanding drivers of his generation. Despite 16 Grand Prix victories, he never won the World Championship, finishing second three times behind Fangio, in 1955, 1956 and 1957. His victory in the Mille Miglia in 1955 in a Mercedes 300 SLR is famous, as he achieved the overall record for the event, with an average speed of 157 km/h. Other major wins included the Targa Florio (1955, Mercedes with Collins), the Buenos-Aires 1000 Km (1956, Maserati 300 S, Carlos Menditeguy), the Kristenstad 6 Hours (1957, Maserati 450 S, Jean Behra) and the Nürburgring 1000 Km four times (1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, for Maserati and Aston Martin). Now aged 86 years, he still attends historic motorsport events on a regular basis. Masten Gregory Masten Gregory was one of the American drivers who enjoyed a successful career in Europe. Despite a few moments of brilliance in Formula 1 (including a third place finish in Monaco in 1957 in a Maserati), it was in endurance racing that he really built his reputation. Between 1955 and 1972 he took part 16 times in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in an extraordinary variety of cars (Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Lola, Porsche). He won the race in 1965 in a NART Ferrari 275 LM, with his teammate Jochen Rindt. He hung up his helmet in 1972 and died in 1985 following heart problems. Participating in the auction on this lot is subject to a special registration process. If you would like to bid on this lot, please get in touch with the bidding office or the motor car department at least 48 hours before the sale. Addendum : As stated in the book 'Ferrari 315 S' written by Antoine Prunet and published by Cavalliera in 1994, following the tragic accident involving Portago's 335 S #0646 in the 1957 Mille Miglia, the two other 335 S from the race, including #0674, the car presented here, were impounded for the investigation by the Italian autorities. For this reason, the two race cars didn't take part in the Nürburgring 1000 kms, but reappeared for the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hour race. In all probability to avoid paying customs duties, customary at Ferrari at the time, the factory sent to Le Mans - for this race only - the 335 S #0674 under the chassis number #0656, the stamping of this number still being partially visible. So here is the weighing sheet for #0674, registered with the number #0656, supplied by the ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest). #0674 regained its initial identity at the Swedish Grand Prix at the start of August 1957. Estimation 28 000 000 - 32 000 000 € Sold for 32,075,200 €

  • FRAFrance
  • 2016-02-05
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An exceptionally important and fine doucai 'chicken cup' mark and

Arguably the most celebrated porcelain throughout the centuries, delicately potted with flawless translucent sides flaring out from the countersunk base to a subtly everted rim, the exterior painted in faint outlines of cobalt blue under the glaze and picked out in overglaze enamels of yellow, green, light and dark olive green, and two tones of iron red with a lively continuous scene of a red rooster and his golden hen out in a garden with their chicks, one side of the cup depicting the rooster with his head turned back to see the hen pecking at a red-winged insect on the ground as one of the chicks looks on, while the other two chicks chase each other around a small patch of leaves, the reverse with the proud rooster arching his neck forward raising his head with his beak slightly opened as if to crow, while the hen tends to their brood of chicks, the hen hunched over pecking at a red-winged insect on the ground as one of the chicks stands on her back and the other two peep for attention in the foreground, the two scenes divided on one side by jagged underglaze blue rocks and yellow lily flowers with bright green leaves, the other side with a rose bush issuing brilliant red flowers and lush leaves next to a blue garden rock, the entire cup painted in an artless style further reflected in the six-character reign mark in underglaze blue framed within double squares inscribed on the countersunk base, the immaculate porcelain body covered with a characteristic silky glaze, pooling on the base slightly veiling the mark The Meiyintang 'Chicken Cup' by Regina Krahl The term ‘chicken cup’, which denotes a tiny porcelain wine cup painted with cocks, hens and chicks, has for centuries evoked one of the most desirable possessions for connoisseurs of Chinese works of art – imperial and otherwise. A ‘chicken cup’ is the crowning glory of any collection of Chinese porcelain. Created in the Chenghua reign (1465-87), when quality was at its peak, ‘chicken cups’ are outstanding in their tactile material, their range of colours, and their charming, unmannered painting style. Since quantities produced were at that time rather low, it is today almost impossible to acquire a genuine Chenghua example, only three other examples being preserved in private collections. Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ were only ever offered for sale at auction at Sotheby’s, once during the 1960s, twice during the ‘70s, three times during the ‘80s, once during the ‘90s (the present cup), and none has been available since. A ‘chicken cup’ is not only celebrated as one of the finest and rarest specimens of Chinese ceramics – its materials, potting, painting and firing being of the highest quality – but it also is testimony to Chinese ceramic connoisseurship over the centuries and as such is a historical document that illustrates an aspect of China’s culture. Praised and desired by Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) emperors and other discerning literati collectors, ‘chicken cups’ have acquired a legendary aura that goes well beyond their immediate art-historical importance. The Chenghua reign stands out among China’s imperial porcelain production for the unmatched level of craftsmanship and artfulness of its creations. For the longest part of the reign the style of the Xuande period (1426-35), the last reign before Chenghua to have produced fine imperial wares, remained influential. Only the final years of the reign saw a new departure of Jingdezhen’s imperial porcelain industry. This is when all the fine wares peculiar to this reign were created, including the ‘chicken cups’. Two major surveys of Chenghua porcelain have been published by Liu Xinyuan and Ts’ai Ho-pi, who agree on this point (Liu Xinyuan, ‘Jingdezhen chutu Ming Chenghua guanyao yiji yu yiwu zhi yanjiu/A Study of the Site of the Chenghua Imperial Kiln at Jingdezhen and Related Archaeological Finds’, in the exhibition catalogue A Legacy of Chenghua: Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1993, pp. 18-87; and Cai Hebi [Ts’ai Ho-pi], Chuanshi pin Chenghua ci/Everlasting Chenghua Porcelain, Taipei, 2003). Cai and Liu disagree, however, on the exact years of and precise reasons for this innovation, although the involvement of the Emperor’s notorious favourite concubine Wan Guifei seems without doubt, and the production period seems in any case to be confined to the decade prior to 1485, when the imperial kilns halted production. The characteristic porcelains of the Chenghua period, those of this late period, tend to be small and unpretentious, and seem at first glance unassuming and modest. They were intended for individual appreciation and handling rather than for display, and need a connoisseur’s glance and touch to be taken in in all their magnificence. Given the strict supervision and precise stipulations by the court in this period, it is hardly surprising that the material quality was improved compared to previous reigns, but it is most remarkable that the painted decoration on these cups could become so free and uncontrived. The painting tends to be much less formal and predictable than in previous reigns, with an unprecedented softness and elegance. Liu Xinyuan considers the distinctive, somewhat naïve calligraphy of the Chenghua reign mark to be that of the young Emperor himself, and marks enclosed in a double square, which are characteristic of doucai wares, were an innovation of the late Chenghua phase. Exactingly shaped and carefully finished, a ‘chicken cup’ with its recessed base and lack of a foot sits particularly well in the hand. The sensuous pleasure of the touch of a piece of Chenghua porcelain is well known, and Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ are no exception in this respect. The extremely fine, tactile white paste of late Chenghua wares that has no match among Jingdezhen porcelains of any period, is due to refined body and glaze recipes, with increased levels of aluminium oxide and reduced iron oxide compared to those of the Xuande reign, enabling higher firing temperatures and resulting in a whiter, denser biscuit, as well as a lower content of iron and calcium oxide in the glaze, making it clearer and finer and giving it a distinctive, soft sheen. The doucai colour scheme was not developed but refined in the Chenghua period. Doucai, has been translated as contrasting, contending, interlocking, joined or dovetailed colours, referring either to the contrast of the mostly primary colours or the fact that overglaze enamels are fitted into underglaze outlines. When imperial kilns made their first polychrome porcelains in the Xuande reign, it was ritual vessels with lançainvocations for use in Tibet, in a context where bright primary colours were revered. The delayed appearance of multi-coloured wares for use at court was obviously by choice. For the best wares of the Chenghua reign, such as ‘grape’ and ‘chicken cups’, attempts were made to increase the palette. ‘Chicken cups’ show different tones of red, a light and a dark olive green (green and yellow superimposed), yellow as well as a shaded pale underglaze blue used as a wash. For the chickens’ plumage several enamels were superimposed to create a rich variegated effect. The repeat firings necessary for this process naturally would have reduced the number of successfully completed examples. The design of a cock and a hen with chicks in a garden is not encountered on porcelain before the Chenghua reign. The subject matter, however, was a well-known topic of Song dynasty (960-1279) painting and the Chenghua Emperor inscribed a poetic colophon about the subject on a Song hanging scroll of a hen and chicks (see Ts’ai Ho-pi in The Emperor’s broken china. Reconstructing Chenghua porcelain, Sotheby’s, London, 1995, p. 22, fig. 1) (Fig. 1). The Wanli Emperor (r. 1572-1620) is known to have admired Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ in particular, which made them expensive already at that time. During the Kangxi period (1662-1722) their value rose even further and is said to have surpassed that of the celebrated Song wares. The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-95) wrote an ode in praise of ‘chicken cups’. To own a Chenghua doucai cup at that time had become synonymous with enjoying a small fortune. In the novel Hong lou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin (died 1763) Granny Liu accidentally drank from such a cup, making it thus unusuable for other members of the family. The cup was therefore kindly offered to the poor woman so that she would be able to live out her days on the proceeds. The National Palace Museum, Taipei, holds eight authentic Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ together with many later copies, all of them listed in Gugong ciqi lu [Record of porcelains from the Old Palace], Taipei, 1961-6, part II, vol.1, pp. 253-5, of which six genuine examples were selected for the exhibition Chenghua ciqi tezhan/Special Exhibition of Ch’eng-hua Porcelain Ware, 1465-1487, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2003, cat. nos. 132-7; and two others for the exhibition Ming Chenghua ciqi tezhan [Special exhibition of Ming Chenghua porcelain], Taipei, 1977, col. pl. 1 and pl. 29, the latter illustrated again in colour in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Enamelled Ware of the Ming Dynasty, vol. I, Hong Kong, 1966, pl. 13. Five other museum collections can boast a Chenghua example: the British Museum, London, from the Sir Percival David Collection, included in the exhibition Flawless Porcelains. Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1995, cat. no. 22; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, illustrated in John Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, col. pl. 50; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from the Evill collection, published in the Museum’s Annual Report of 1965; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from the collection of W.W. Winkworth, sold in our London rooms, 27th November 1973, lot 308A, and again in our New York rooms, 4th December 1984, lot 332, and illustrated in Suzanne G.Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, col. pl. 24; and the Collections Baur, Geneva, from the George Eumorfopoulos and Mrs. Walter Sedgwick collections, sold in our London rooms, 2nd July 1968, lot 135, and illustrated in John Ayers, The Baur Collection Geneva: Chinese Ceramics, Geneva, 1968-74, vol. II, pl. A 141. The authenticity of two cups in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published as genuine in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 177, has been challenged by the late Julian Thompson, the world’s leading authority on Chenghua porcelain, who believed that there are no Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ remaining in mainland China. Only three other Chenghua ‘chicken cups’ appear to remain in private hands: two examples formerly in the collection of Edward T. Chow, one sold in these rooms 25th November 1980, lot 31, and illustrated in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London: The British Museum Press, 2001, p. 159 figs 2 and 3 centre; the other sold in these rooms 19th May 1981, lot 429 and now in the Au Bak Ling collection and included in the exhibition 100 Masterpieces of Imperial Chinese Ceramics from the Au Bak Ling Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1998; the third, formerly the pair to the present cup in the Dreyfus collection, exhibited together with it in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition 1957, and illustrated in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 30, 1955-57, pl. 46, no. 175 right, was sold in our London rooms, 2nd March 1971, lot 166. Even fragmentary ‘chicken cups’ appear to be rare among the excavations at the Ming imperial kiln site in Jingdezhen, where sherds of an unfinished cup, painted in underglaze blue only and still lacking the enamels, were recovered from the third and last Chenghua stratum, datable to the final years of the reign, and included in the exhibition The Emperor’s broken china. Reconstructing Chenghua porcelain, Sotheby’s, London, 1995, cat. no. 23. This clearly shows that the complete design was drawn onto the unglazed porcelain in pale underglaze blue before firing, even if some outlines were later hidden under the enamels. More recently sherds of enamelled ‘chicken cups’ have also come to light and one is illustrated in ‘Jiangxi Jingdezhen Ming Qing yuyao yizhi fajue jianbao/Brief Excavation Report on Imperial Kiln of the Ming and Qing Dynasties Located in Jingdezhen City of Jiangxi Province’, Wenwu 2007, no. 5, p. 25, pl. 78. A cup recomposed from sherds has been sold at Christie’s London, 16th November 1999, lot 195. The present cup comes now from the Meiyintang collection, one of the finest private collections of Chinese ceramics to have been assembled in the second half of the 20th century, and has a long history in the West, going back to the 1950s. It was then in the collection of Mrs. Leopold Dreyfus, a London-based collector, who owned an important but little known collection of Chinese ceramics, and lent to several exhibitions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, of which she was a member until the late 1980s. It comes in a box commissioned by the collector-dealer Edward T. Chow, and was probably once part of his vast holdings of outstanding ceramics, which are said to have included more than the two ‘chicken cups’ sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 1980 and 1981. Many copies of doucai ‘chicken cups’ were made in the early Qing dynasty, with genuine Kangxi, Yongzheng ((1723-35) and Qianlong reign marks as well as with spurious Chenghua marks, with hall marks or without any mark. They vary considerably in the details of the decoration, but usually follow the early Ming prototype both in form and in the painting of the cocks with three long tail feathers. Compare two examples with Kangxi and Yongzheng reign marks illustrated together with one of the Ming originals from the Edward T. Chow collection, which they closely follow, in Cécile et Michel Beurdeley, La céramique chinoise, Fribourg, 1974, col. pls. 71 and 72. It was only in the Yongzheng period that the pattern underwent an updating and was redesigned, resulting in a free interpretation of the fifteenth-century model, see the cup also in the Meiyintang collection, illustrated in Krahl, op. cit., no. 1745, and pp. 218-19, figs. 19b and 20b, and sold in these rooms, 14th November 1989, lot 230.

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2014-04-08
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Two Studies for a Self-Portrait

“…He was never more brilliant, more incisive or more ferocious when it came to depicting himself. In this he helped revive a genre, and Bacon’s Self-Portraits can now be seen as among the most pictorially inventive and psychologically revealing portraits of the Twentieth Century.” (Michael Peppiatt in Exh. Cat., Rome, Galleria Borghese, Caravaggio Bacon, 2009, p. 210) "The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards the scene of some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them." (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 99) “Confronted by Bacon’s paintings we are compelled by sensations. We are affected viscerally and physiologically, and they act on the nervous system before the intellect: we feel them before we analyze them, but they remain open to diverse modes of interpretation, resisting conformity with any one philosophical system.” (Martin Harrison, ‘Painting, Smudging,’ in Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: New Studies, Germany, 2009, p. 166) “Of course we are not certain that the depths really do harbor something—but whatever it may be, we each of us have in us that brutal gesture, that hand movement that roughs up another person’s face in the hope of finding, in it and behind it, a thing that is hidden there.” (Milan Kundera, ‘The Painter’s Brutal Gesture’ in Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, New York, 1996, p. 10) “Bacon’s portraits are the interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved being still remain a beloved being? For how long does a cherished face growing remote through illness, through madness, through hatred, through death still remain recognizable? Where lies the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self?” (Milan Kundera, ‘The Painter’s Brutal Gesture’ in Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, New York, 1996, p. 12)   There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; … And I have known the eyes already, known them all— The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?   T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1915 In 1970, Francis Bacon found himself at the pinnacle of his personal and professional lives. Months before the opening of his groundbreaking career-defining retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, the artist was 61 years old and in the throes of his torrid, passionate love affair with George Dyer. The breathtaking creative fecundity of the years up to and including 1970 was owed predominantly to the impact of Bacon’s relationship with Dyer, which began in 1964 when Dyer broke into Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews with the intent of burgling the place. Through the studio’s famous skylight, Dyer tumbled into Bacon’s life like a piercing ray of light, truly falling from above and forever altering the course of the artist’s work. Their relationship was marked by a polarity of extremes: ardent infatuation and enchanted desire, foiled by the progressive impatience Bacon felt towards the increasing aimlessness and erratic behavior that exacerbated his lover’s worsening alcoholism. This intensity of emotion resulted in paintings that wield the full force of Bacon’s vigor and pictorial authority, which reached its absolute crest in 1970—just one year before tragedy would strike Bacon once again, with Dyer’s death in 1971 driving him into a spiral of grief. The artist’s exhilarating 1970 diptych, Two Studies for a Self-Portrait, however, meets Bacon at a critical juncture before Dyer’s imminent death would consume him entirely. In these two portraits, we happen upon the artist caught in a transitional mental state, wrestling with the rapturous emotional depth and psychological complexity of his relationship with Dyer, all the while in the full swings of preparation for the most important milestone of his career. Two Studies for a Self-Portrait is indisputably the singular icon of the artist’s legendary canon of self-portraiture, having graced the covers of Milan Kundera and France Borel’s definitive 1996 publication Francis Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, and John Russell’s seminal 2001 monograph Francis Bacon. A treasure of inconceivable rarity, not only is this painting the lone work painted in 1970 ever to appear publicly for sale, but it is one of only three Self Portrait diptychs executed in Bacon’s famed 14 by 12-inch format. Exhibited only twice—first at the Grand Palais, and then in an exhibition of the artist’s Small Portrait Studies at Marlborough Fine Art in London in 1993, for which it was selected as the poster image—this unparalleled masterwork has remained out of the public eye in the same esteemed private collection for the past 46 years since having been acquired in the year of its creation. An exceptional work, therefore, that possesses an equally exceptional exhibition history, Two Studies for Self-Portrait was hand chosen by the artist for inclusion in the single most important exhibition in Bacon’s lifetime: the grand scale retrospective held at the Grand Palais in 1971 (an accolade only previously afforded to Pablo Picasso among living painters). Directly following this exhibition, the critic for Le Monde Michel Conil Lacoste, praised the “perfectly selected and installed masterworks”: “It’s more than a successful exhibition. Everything has come together for this retrospective, in preparation for the past two years, an event marked by exceptional signs: the power and the radical originality of a painter… the renewal he draws from an exploration of the human and the quotidian and the classical métier one thought was exhausted...” (Michel Conil Lacoste quoted in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain (and travelling), Francis Bacon, 2008, p. 36) Charged with sublime beauty and framed within an electric arena of brilliant color, these two portraits masterfully combine Bacon’s twisted, scraped, and gushed handling of paint with arresting intensity and consummate psychological depth. Exquisite pastel tones are entwined and offset by lush, electric swathes of orange, pink, and blue squeezed directly from the tube, further punctuated by alabaster accents that work to illuminate the entire painting. Alternating between thick smears of abstracted color and precise, naturalistic renderings of the artist’s own physiognomy, the present work sees the artist tussling with his own appearance. Here he oscillates between realism and the artifice of self-presentation; John Richardson remarked of Bacon’s faces, “Those strange revolving brushstrokes, that are so familiar from his pictures, would be rehearsed with Max Factor pancake make-up. He had a series of these Max Factor pots and he would take one and do a sort of smear across his face, and these are the smears that you see on so many of the faces of those early paintings.” (John Richardson quoted in Francis Bacon: Taking Reality by Surprise, London, 1996) Bravura brushwork and whipped impasto share the picture plane with elegant impressions of corduroy and torn cloth that imprint vigorous pattern onto the surface of the face; the striped passages weave around the curvature of Bacon’s head and extend seamlessly into his ruffled coiffure. In thrilling evidence is the artist’s distinctive forelocks of hair, those inimitable diagonal brushmarks which the esteemed French poet, and friend of Bacon’s, Michel Leiris described as “a reckless comma staunchly inscribed across his brow.” (Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon Full Face and in Profile, New York, 1983, p. 12) Unlike other examples of Bacon’s small-format portrait studies, Two Studies for a Self-Portrait does not convey an entirely mangled appearance: the savage brushstrokes and riotous color connote a dislocation of facial features, but the tenderness with which Bacon approaches his own face in this buoyant self-portrait evades utter disfigurement. Captured brusquely mid-motion, Bacon’s faces conjure a restlessness of inner thought and intense concentration, but avoid the bruised lacerations and wounded defacements that mark his more tragic self-portraits. With sumptuous inflections of paint, Bacon’s facial distortions interrogate the limits of the self. Amid the spectacular color and virtuoso brushwork, Bacon presents an ethereal and unearthly form of his visage that, while undoubtedly depicting the artist, is manifestly surreal. In the left panel, the artist’s right cheek is smeared with a single stroke of searing orange that swoops across his jawline, his entire visage reverberating with the velocity of the brush as if recovering from a blow to the face; in the right panel, the center of his head tremors with violent smudges. But, this is not a mark of pure brutality. While the pulpy arcs and swoops of oil paint rough up Bacon’s features, the artist’s insistence on chance, play, and radiant prismatic color invoke what Kundera refers to as ‘joyous despair’: a counter-balance between the artist’s serious confrontation with mortality and the intense desire and enchantment that these effusive pictures set forth. Two Studies for a Self-Portrait approaches the physical materiality of human existence in its insistence on the corporeality of flesh as real and concrete; Bacon expresses this pure, indisputable fact as enduringly in tandem with an inner, metaphysical essence. Kundera explains, “It is neither pessimism nor despair, it is only obvious fact, but a fact that is veiled by our membership in a collectivity that blinds us with its dreams, its excitements, its projects, its illusions, its struggles, its causes, its religions, its ideologies, its passions. And then one day the veil falls and we are left stranded with the body, at the body’s mercy…” (Milan Kundera, ‘The Painter’s Brutal Gesture’ in Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, New York, 1996, p. 17) What makes the present work so special is its insistent disavowal of pessimism: Bacon accesses his own mortality while privileging the magical quality of dream, chance, and the imagination, which surpass the evanescence of the physical body. The deeply striking instantaneity of the present work can be attributed greatly to the manner in which Bacon very deliberately painted the background. Bacon was a compulsive revisionist and very often traces of differently hued layers are visible underneath the final background coat. The individual panels of Two Studies for a Self-Portrait, however, reveal no such underpainting. Instead, the bright, flat lilac background follows closely the extemporaneous articulation of Bacon’s head and shoulders, leaving areas of grazed pigment that reveal the raw canvas beneath. Against this purposeful background, the interplay and great choreography of agitated brushstrokes in white, blue, and red posit this as a work of extraordinary elegance and vibrancy. The rich density of oils that comprise the facial forms are amplified in intensity against the flatness of the background and simplicity of his black jumper. Cut off from the natural world by its searing, pungent tonal spectrum, Bacon’s palette occupies the realm of the imagination. With dropped eyelids perched against his muscular cheekbones as if closed, and lips tightly pursed in deep contemplation, Bacon’s heads appear to be captured in a liminal state of mental reflection. His severely introspective expressions coupled with the enchanting color palette indicate a dream-like state nestled within his subconscious psyche. Martin Harrison discusses this crucial connection between Bacon’s technique of turbulent smudges and its greater philosophical resonance. Harrison in fact quotes Gaston Bachelard to suggest the smudged features in Bacon’s portraits indicate a state of transition: “Gaston Bachelard discussed the phenomena of dreaming and transitional states thus: ‘if it is true that the psychology of the imagination neither can nor should work upon static figures—if it can only learn from images that are in the process of deformation, it will be agreed that this most amorphous of objects must be one of the most valued oneiric themes. For does it not give access to a world of shapes in movement and deformed by movement, and lend itself to constructions whose constant mutations bring the formal powers of dreaming fully into play?’” (Martin Harrison, ‘Painting, Smudging,’ in Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: New Studies, Germany, 2009, p. 166) If Bacon’s portraits are indeed meant to affect a level of sensation beyond the purely physiological, there is perhaps no more intimate an investigation of the artist’s psyche than Two Studies for a Self-Portrait. Bacon was quoted at length describing how he instinctually pushed paint around to get as close as possible to a “deep well from which things are drawn out, a reservoir of the unconscious.” (Francis Bacon quoted in Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York, 1986, p. 110) It is perhaps Milan Kundera, however, who best described Bacon’s painterly triumph in his introduction for the publication Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, on whose cover the present work is featured. Kundera wrote: “Of course we are not certain that the depths really do harbor something—but whatever it may be, we each of us have in us that brutal gesture, that hand movement that roughs up another person’s face in the hope of finding, in it and behind it, a thing that is hidden there.” (Milan Kundera, ‘The Painter’s Brutal Gesture’ in Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, New York, 1996, p. 10) When faced with his own image, Bacon turned to the brush as a tool by which to excavate and discover a hidden layer of meaning from within his nervous system. Bacon explicitly declared his disavowal of religion and any existence of a soul, maintaining the uniform conclusion that mind, nervous system, and body exist as one. While delicately imprinted, the parallel lines that score Bacon’s doubled heads appear as scratches across his face, marking a state of deformity that perhaps best visualizes Kundera’s concept of “the brutal gesture”: it is as if the viewer bears witness to the artist clawing at his own corporeal being to dig out his inner essential subconscious. As Bacon remarked, “When talking about the violence of paint, it’s nothing to do with the violence of war. It’s to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself.” (Francis Bacon quoted in Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York, 1986, pp. 109-110) Rather than setting out to represent fact, Bacon’s self-portraiture approached distortion as a means by which to unlock what lies beneath the surface of appearance—a vehicle for observation into human nature. Moreover, what makes Two Studies for a Self-Portrait indelibly rare is that in comparison to the 21 single panels and 11 triptych self-portrait studies in the 14-by-12 inch format canvases, Bacon executed a total of only 3 self-portraits in this diptych format. The diptych remains a significant composition for Bacon’s portrait heads, presenting a duality of views that is particularly resonant in its binary composition. The single portrait head became Bacon’s principal subject in 1964, the year he first met George Dyer. In the early part of this year, Bacon commissioned John Deakin to photograph himself, and the other protagonists of his Bohemian Soho enclave, and in so doing was provided with an instant repository of visual cue cards to use as photographic source imagery for his studies. The proliferation of the diptych and triptych format can be attributed to the organization of the contact sheets Deakin provided to Bacon, which arranged each roll of film in four rows of three. This lateral sequencing allowed Bacon to explore not only the nuances of movement, but to probe multiple views of the same subject: a distinctly Cubist device used to Bacon’s advantage in order to depict an emotional, metaphysical complexity. Across these multiplied formats, his portraits—and subsequently, the essence of his subjects—develop before the eye like a photograph. Bacon seems to make the case against any singular perspective on the individual, instead privileging a layered understanding of the human psyche. John Russell described: “Bacon wrenched, reversed, abbreviated, jellified and generally reinvented the human image. The paint-structure was by turns brusque and sumptuous, lyrical and offhand, pulpy and marmoreal. Swerving, pouncing, colliding with itself, taking for granted the most bizarre conjunctions of impulse, it produced a multiple imagery which was quite new in painting.” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, New York, 1971, p. 168) Possessing the ability to catch a subject’s shifting position through both the double format, and the sweeping vertiginous brushstrokes within each panel, Bacon’s portrait studies present a revisionist take on the precepts of Analytical Cubism. Two nights prior to the opening of Bacon’s retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais, Dyer was found dead of an overdose in a bathroom at the Hôtel des Saints-Pères. Following Dyer’s passing, Bacon launched into a series of epic eulogies that would lead into his Black Triptychs, which bespeak the artist’s immeasurable loss and grief.  Bacon’s Two Studies for a Self-Portrait arrived on the cusp of this significant emotional transition. In the mid-1960s, Bacon was given a book written by Michel Leiris, where he underlined the following passage: “For Baudelaire, beauty cannot come into being without the intervention of something accidental… What constitutes beauty is not the confrontation of opposites but the mutual antagonism of those opposites, and the active and vigorous manner in which they invade one another and emerge from the conflict marked as if by a wound or a depredation… We can call ‘beautiful’ only that which suggests the existence of an ideal order—supraterrestrial, harmonious and logical—and yet bears within itself, like the brand of an original sin, the drop of poison, the rogue element of incoherence, the grain of sand that will foul up the entire system… On the right-hand side, a beauty that is immortal, sovereign, sculptural; facing it, the element of the left, sinister in the strict sense, since the left stands for misfortune, and for accident, and for sin.” (Michel Leiris cited in John Russell, Francis Bacon, New York, 1971, p. 142-3) Just like Leiris, Bacon saw two sides of beauty: both the stable and the unstable, the passion and the tragedy. It is from the tension between opposites and the struggle for balance between two sides that one finds true beauty. By very nature of a process of doubling, the diptych literally and formally articulates for Bacon the power of image and counter-image in dialogue. In two parts, Bacon fragments his appearance into two alike yet unlike images, heightening a plurality of self that is without restrictions. The ebullient hues and vortex of energy within his sweeping marks in Two Studies for a Self-Portrait relate Bacon’s painting to the outburst of color associated with the development of color field painting, post-painterly abstraction, and the ascendance of the brightly colored Pop Art in the 1960s. In the vivid fields of prismatic color that swerve into one another, Bacon’s faces evoke the deeply saturated chromatic intensity of Mark Rothko’s abstract sectionals from the early 1950s, while their Impressionist vigor and sense of motion recall the most accomplished of Claude Monet’s landscapes. Bacon’s iridescent palette in the present work recounts a heightened exuberance and magnificent imagination from a painter who staunchly opposed idealization, facing humanity for its overwhelming burden of traumas and pain. The bejeweled pinks, blues, and lavenders that erupt from Bacon’s doubled visage are notably present in Perry Ogden’s famed photographs of Bacon’s home and studio on 7 Reece Mews in London’s South Kensington neighborhood, where he moved in 1961 and remained until his death in 1992. As the artist scraped clean the radiant hues of his brush, reworking the layers of his intricate canvas surfaces, we can see the vestiges of his painterly process lining the interior of his studio. This irrepressibly effusive palette demonstrably held a privileged place in Bacon’s repertoire, appearing in a number of Self-Portraits from the late 60s. The 1960s also spawned a proliferation of Technicolor in the public mass media, where color photography, film, and magazines ascended to the status of the norm. Fascinated by color photography and color reproductions in books, Bacon reveled in the heightened artifice and falsified spectrum that the medium enabled: the rich kaleidoscopic color present in Two Studies for a Self-Portrait creates a sense of fiction that shears Bacon’s depiction from the natural world, emphasizing its distance from a photographic reality. Already the subject of major international retrospectives and critical scholarship across the globe by the time he painted Two Studies for a Self-Portrait in 1970, Bacon was deeply aware of his prominent status. A man of 61, time inevitably had its cumulative effects on his appearance, and yet in this depiction, Bacon’s features remain remarkably akin to those of a much younger man. This painting does not possess the carved tangle of physiognomic forms or time weariness evident in future self-portraits from the immediate years following the death of George Dyer in 1971; instead, it emanates youthfulness, a tone further embellished by the lively color palette. Alert, tightly jawed, and smooth-skinned below the impastoed sense of movement, Bacon’s painted face belies the age of its author. This indisputably favorable portrayal of his own appearance reflects Bacon’s deep concern with self-presentation, a factor further elaborated by Michael Peppiatt: “… Bacon continued to take great care of his appearance as he grew older, dyeing his hair subtle shades of reddish brown and applying liberal amounts of ‘pancake’ makeup to his face, even though it had not become deeply lined.” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, New York, 2009, p. 364) Successor to a genre of self-portraiture perfected by revered masters from Rembrandt to Picasso, Bacon was undoubtedly driven by an incessant compulsion to forge and carefully deliver a well-manicured personal mythology for the experience of his time. As a genre, self-portraiture purportedly reveals the private side of a public profession; nowhere can this be understood with such forthright candor than in Bacon’s oeuvre as viewed in the light of Rembrandt’s legacy. Rembrandt was the very touchstone of Bacon’s inventiveness in these small scale canvases; the endless variety and successive permutations of his own visage, which meld into almost abstract dissolving matter towards the end of his life, cast Rembrandt’s late self-portraits as a striking parallel to, and even art historical blue-print for, the present work. Bacon believed Rembrandt’s self-portraits to be “formally the most extraordinary paintings. He altered painting in a way by the method by which he dealt with himself and perhaps he felt freer to deal with himself in this totally liberal way… One always has a greater involvement with oneself than with anybody else. No matter how much you may believe that you’re in love with somebody else, your love of somebody else is your love of yourself.” (Francis Bacon quoted in David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 241) When viewed up close, Rembrandt’s heads seemingly disband into a mass of non-representational marks that were doubtless an inspiration to Bacon’s own savage expressivity. Like Rembrandt tallying his aged, lined and weary features with a congruent painterly treatment of disbanded corporeality, in the present work the vaporous dissolution of Bacon’s likeness tempers exigent facture with an intense yet reposed response to the concrete fact of mortality. Until a certain point in history, portraiture was a means by which to reach an absolute representation of an individual—direct, unambiguous statements of a person’s character and statehood, categorized by identifiers of dress, ownership, and other iconographic markers. At the turn of Modernism, however, artists displayed their disbelief in this structured view of human personality, turning away from a monolithic view of human nature defined by power, and instead to a variable, contingent expression of individuals characterized by flaws and ambiguity. As Bacon’s likeness refracts like a prism throughout and across Two Studies for a Self-Portrait, the spectral mirror of his canvases reveal entirely uncharted emotional depths and psychosomatic complexities buried within the very philosophy of self-reflection. Signed, titled and dated 1970 on the reverse of each panel

  • USAUSA
  • 2016-05-11
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Peach Blossom Spring

Signed YUAN, dated 1982, inscribed, with four seals of the artist, and one collector's sealINSCRIPTIONPlanting plum trees upon the twin streams,I grew old and weary of the noisy city;Who can believe when A Chao arrived,That earthly Peach Blossom Spring was just a dream.The plum blossoms grow exuberantly at Moye Jingshe. Friends who have seen them were full of praise and admiration, and described it as Paradise. They said that ever since I moved here, neighbours have settled in and grew flowers. One could hear their chickens cackle and dogs bark, and see the lights from their residence. How would I be able to escape the hustle and bustle of city life? We all erupted in laughter. As I paint this work, I compose a little poem to commemorate the happiness of the occasion, and inscribed it on this painting. The seventy first year of the Republic of China, the seventh day of the last lunar month. Yuan, at 84 years of age. Zhang Daqian Peach Blossom Spring: Property from the Mactaggart Art Collection The Mactaggart Art Collection was formed by Mr. and Mrs. Sandy and Cécile Mactaggart. The Mactaggarts began collecting Asian art in the early 1960s, with a particular interest in Chinese textiles and paintings. Over a period of forty years, the Mactaggart Art Collection grew to be one of the finest privately held collections of East Asian art in the western world. In 2005 they donated the bulk of their collection, a total of more than 1000 works of Chinese art, to the University of Alberta Museums in Alberta, Canada, their former residence. It was the largest single donation the University had ever received from an individual. Zhang Daqian's Peach Blossom Spring, however, was one of their favourite works and remained in their possession.

  • USAUSA
  • 2016-04-05
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Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground)

"A compact and chunky force of nature, with a vivid and highly unparsonical turn of phrase, he embodied a pent-up energy... a spirit of mischief, touched at times by melancholia... his wild humour, his sense of life as a gamble and the alarm system that had been bred into him from boyhood... George Dyer will live for ever in the iconography of the English face." John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, pp. 160-65. Within the grand theatre of Francis Bacon’s life and work, George Dyer inhabits a position of tremendous importance. Appearing in over forty paintings, with as many created following his death as executed during his lifetime, Dyer wields a power unlike any other. His portrayal spans the full extent of human drama: at once vulnerable, brooding, romantic, absurd, heroic and tortured Bacon’s painterly incarnations traverse the sublime to the ridiculous. Painted within the first year of their meeting, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) materialised at the height of Bacon’s affection and infatuation with his new lover. Charged with desire and framed within a serene pale ground, this mutating and vibrant portrait combines masterfully scumbled, scraped and diffused handling of paint with arresting intensity and consummate psychological depth. Importantly, there is only one other named work of George Dyer that precedes the moment of Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground)’s execution: this is the first 14 by 12 inch format triptych dated to the very end of 1963. Between 1963 and 1969, a furiously busy moment in his career, Bacon would paint only five triptychs of Dyer in this intimate scale: even though he would obsessively continue to paint Dyer’s likeness after his death, Bacon never again returned to a portrayal of Dyer in this close and highly psychological format after 1969.  As a result, these extraordinarily rare small portraits of Dyer represent a life-force that with his passing, were never to return. An exceptional work therefore that possesses an equally exceptional exhibition history, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) was hand chosen by the artist for inclusion in the single most important exhibition in Bacon’s lifetime, the grand scale retrospective held at the Grand Palais in 1971 (an accolade only previously afforded to Pablo Picasso among living painters). Sadly, this apogee in Bacon’s career would be the catalyst for Dyer’s inevitable demise. On the eve of the opening he committed suicide. In death, Dyer was exalted to the status of Romantic archetype, recurring incessantly in Bacon’s work despite of his absence from life. Conversely, painted within months of their first meeting, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) exudes passion and vitality, a fervent masterpiece in which Dyer emerges from Bacon’s bravura painterly marks as a force that is indelibly alive. Perhaps most significantly of all, it is in this work that we see for the very first time the characteristic profile that would become a powerful leitmotif in Bacon’s painting; the very first time in which John Deakin’s famous source images of George Dyer (found ripped, torn and paint splattered among the detritus of 7 Reece Mews) palpably and incontrovertibly emerge through Bacon’s dramatic painterly marks. This extraordinary triptych illustrates a seismic shift in Bacon’s methodology at the beginning of the 1960s: moving away from emblematic forms – such as those extrapolated from Velazquez’s Pope, Muybridge’s figures in motion, Van Gogh, and Eisenstein – the impetus to harness abstract forces and emanations beyond the realm of appearance yet staunchly anchored to the figure, began to consume Bacon’s practice. Realising the need for a physical armature upon which to hang this ‘energy’ and ‘living quality’, Bacon turned to his inner social circle. Alongside Dyer, the ensuing deluge of likenesses after Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud, Muriel Belcher and Henrietta Moraes acted as the predominant physical catalysts for Bacon’s translation of an inner bodily reality. In early 1964 Bacon commissioned his drinking partner, friend and Vogue photographer, John Deakin to photograph Dyer and the other protagonists of his Soho enclave and in so doing was provided with an instant repository of visual cue cards. The ensuing years would deliver a host of astonishing paintings in which the impact of Deakin’s photographs is made remarkably manifest; at the end of his life Bacon still possessed more than three hundred of his friend's images. Having already established a practice of reconstituting and melding photographic source imagery – from books, photographs and magazines – with memory traces and imagination, Bacon had long disposed of the need to paint from life. As he told David Sylvester, "I've had photographs taken for portraits because I very much prefer working from the photographs... It's true to say I couldn't attempt to do a portrait from photographs of somebody I don't know. But, if I both know them and have photographs of them, I find it easier to work than actually having their presence in the room" (Francis Bacon quoted in: David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 40). Bacon’s use of Deakin’s photos represents a coming together of the artist’s two methological tenets: source material and psychological familiarity. By the early 1960s, Bacon’s subjects were the people he knew best, and by wielding pictorial invention and drawing from the catalogue of photographs taken by Deakin, he produced some of the most arresting portraits of the Twentieth Century. The present work represents one of the very first incarnations that expresses the critical importance of Deakin’s photos. In Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) three of Deakin’s images of Dyer bear striking correspondences to the individual canvases. Where Bacon famously, though somewhat disingenuously, affirmed that he never made preparatory drawings, in many ways Deakin’s photographs – and the violent manipulation enacted upon them by the artist – take the place of such phantom provisional studies. In Deakin’s photos Dyer stands on a street in Soho, captured facing left, centre and right. When examining each canvas of Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) in view of these images, it is clear that they provided the essential armature for Bacon to hang the incredible impressions and pulsations that emanated from George Dyer. The congruence of the shirt collar, the line of Dyer’s shoulders, and the turn of each head finds remarkable correlation in each panel of this triptych. Utterly indebted to these invaluable documents, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) is the work in which the famous muzzle-like profile arrives for the very first time in full force. Born in 1934, George Dyer was twenty-nine when he first met Francis Bacon, who at the time was almost fifty-four. The story of their meeting is legendary: Dyer first made Bacon’s acquaintance when he broke into 7 Reece Mews through the famous skylight.  This was the autumn of 1963; by the middle of 1964 Dyer was firmly established as Bacon’s live-in companion, lover and muse. From London's East End, Dyer was a semi-literate man who possessed a criminal record. Having served spells in Borstal and then in prison for cases of theft and petty crime, Dyer was a crook (albeit a hopeless one) and outlaw whose unaffected character greatly appealed to a man who constantly strove for subversion and the ‘violence’ of existence. Bacon found Dyer, who was physically fit and possessed a stocky build, immensely attractive. His uncomplicated demeanor was a refreshing palliative to the verbose grandiosity of Bacon’s sometimes sophisticated social circles. Nonetheless, the ensuing years witnessed the progressively disastrous collision of their personalities: the artist’s intellectualism pitted against his muse’s rough innocence resulted in a highly charged, impassioned and tempestuous affair that ultimately was to end in disaster. Dated to the first half of 1964 (according to the Bacon Estate the work was first photographed in August of that year), this triptych was born of Bacon’s intense desire for and enchantment with George Dyer. Like a sequence of film stills, Dyer’s likeness eloquently unfolds from left to right, moving from asymmetrical three-quarter turn into full profile and ending with a frontal yet evasive final image. In contrast to the first small scale triptych of Dyer from late 1963, in which his highly wrought and twisted features emerge in green and purple like a spectre from deepest shadow, the present work is of an entirely different character altogether. There is a nimbleness of execution here that is enlivening and entirely fresh. Painterly sweeps punctuated by paroxysmal marks and contrasting gestures are deployed with commanding facility: structural shadows counterbalance exclamatory blows of thick white impasto all of which merge into the sfmuato caress of diffused orange. Limiting his palette to only three or four individual pigments – red/orange, black, white and a hint of inky blue – Bacon exercised seemingly effortless control and a deft formal economy. Worked up areas of loaded paint and viscid texture perform in concert with sketched outlines and gauze-like serpentine lines. Of these dramatic gestures it is the white brushwork that injects formal power into these paintings: with a wide brush Bacon has pushed, pummelled and even flung painterly matter onto canvas. From the structural sweep of the jaw in the central panel, the riot of daubed highlights of the right, through to the eruption of flicked impasto above the mouth in the left portrait, these violent painterly marks are mediated by the collage-like starched white collar. Typically dressed in immaculate and sober suits – gangster-chic made stylish in the 1960s by the Kray twins – Dyer’s suit collar provides a satisfying formal achor to each canvas; an almost Matissean cut-out clarity that echoes Bacon’s physical manipulation and cutting up of Deakin’s photographs. Where the unifying light ground was applied as an intermediary stage – marks that define Dyer’s features travel both underneath and over the top of this uniform backdrop – Dyer’s shoulders are delineated purely by raw canvas and provisional black brushwork. As a symposium of virtuoso expression, this triptych is a perfect balance of chaotic immediacy and syncopated rhythm that finds very few parallels within Bacon’s pantheon of small portrait studies. Unlike the Tel Aviv triptych from 1964 – a work with a prominently pink ground that finds later recapitulation in the last 14 by 12 inch triptych from 1969 – the present piece represents a bravura performance for which a repeat recital was utterly redundant. Remarkable for its clean vibrancy, the light ground of the present work is singular within the corpus of small portrait of Dyer. Alternately, this background treatment sets it in alignment with the larger body of ‘narrative’ canvases situated in anonymous rooms, particularly those created during Dyer’s induction into Bacon’s life. Works such as Portrait of George Dyer Crouching (1967) and Three Studies in a Room (1964): though he is not mentioned in the title, the latter is most likely the first full-figure depiction of Dyer. While sharing this engagement with his epic canvases, the rareness of the present work lies in the manner in which Bacon very deliberately painted the background. Bacon was a compulsive revisionist and very often traces of differently hued layers are visible underneath the final background coat. Close examination of the individual canvases of Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) however, reveals no such underpainting. Instead, the fawn-like tone follows closely the extemporaneous articulation of Dyer’s head and shoulders, leaving areas of grazed pigment that reveal the raw canvas beneath. Against this purposeful background, the interplay and great choreography of brushmarks in white and orange posit this as a work of extraordinary elegance, a real tribute to a man for whom Bacon’s enamour was fresh and enlivening. An intensely amorous response to Dyer’s looks is undoubtedly redolent in this work; these three portraits relay unbridled enthusiasm for the contours and landscape of his physiognomy, with the middle canvas capturing an almost Napoleonic swagger. The release of white impasto prevalent in the first panel is prophetic of later works from this period in which heavy streaks of white paint flare across the canvas. A convulsive and dicey exercise of throwing paint to counter the contorting twist of his brushwork, this formal invention has been likened to impassioned moments of libidinal expulsion; eruptions that underline the extraordinary suspension between tension and collapse, frustration and fulfilment that in turn echo the impact of George Dyer on Bacon’s life; it is in the portraits of Dyer that this painterly effect appears most frequently and fluently. Dyer’s downward spiralling propensity for turbulent fits of violent self-pity was tolerated, for the most part, by Bacon’s tremendous ardour for his looks. Deeply set eyes, closely cropped hair, a prominent nose and masculine but pleasingly regular features were complemented by a muscular physique. Dyer had, to quote Michael Peppiatt, “the air of a man who could land a decisive punch” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 2008, p. 259). The span of broad shoulders advertised across the width of each canvas finds alternate celebration in the extraordinary triptych of 1970, Three Studies of the Male Back. Described as "that hymn to George Dyer's virility" by David Sylvester, this work features the well-defined silhouette and round shouldered posture synonymous with John Deakin's famous photographs of Dyer seated in Bacon's studio in his underpants (David Sylvester, op. cit., p. 134). With little sense of purpose, except to live vicariously through his own painted effigy, Dyer became increasingly listless – an aimlessness that in turn exacerbated worsening alcoholism, erratic behaviour and the onset of depression. Over the years, Bacon became progressively more impatient and unsympathetic; his masochistic proclivities unfulfilled by a dependent partner prone to displays of helplessness. During the late 1960s this impatience and frustration found expression in Bacon’s work via an increasingly cruel assault on Dyer’s likeness. Take for example Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968) in which a reflection of Dyer’s face is cleaved in two while its corporeal anchor is reduced to a body atoped with a stump in place for the head. Or Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer from the same year in which our protagonist is accompanied by a miniature, violently pulled-apart and deformed simulacrum pinned in place to a black void. Dyer even appears as a clown-like figure in the brilliant yet absurdist portrayal Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966). The undoing of his muse via a fissured corporeal jumble in these large canvases intensifies with the progression of the decade. Towards the end of the decade this already unsteady companionship became destructively marred by Dyer's alcoholism and waning sense of purpose in Bacon's shadow. Indeed, the 1960s were the defining decade for Francis Bacon, and by the start of the next, the artist was at the very height of his fame: honoured as he was with a one man show at Paris’ prestigious Grand Palais. Bacon had inadvertently fuelled the younger man's paranoia of inadequacy by providing his 'kept' existence, and on the eve of the opening in Paris, Dyer died from an overdose of barbiturates. Found slumped on the lavatory in their hotel room at the Hôtel des Saints-Péres, this tragic event, to which Bacon initially reacted with a somewhat callous stoicism – continuing the mill of press interviews, dinners and social events seemingly unaffected – had a profound and lasting impact. The degree to which Bacon was consumed by loss and guilt would find equal measure only in the posthumous paintings of Dyer. Collectively known as the Black Triptychs, these harrowing epic eulogies powerfully speak of the tragic emotion that remained with Bacon for the rest of his life: "Time does not heal. There isn't an hour of the day that I don't think about him" (Francis Bacon quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Lugano, Lugano Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, sv. 44). Overwhelmingly direct and melancholic, these masterpieces relive the tragic-drama of Dyer’s final hours in the hotel suite in Paris. He is re-vivified as a ghostly spectre or writhing into an incomprehensible tangle of movement that approaches annihilation. Gone is Bacon’s impatience with Dyer as a burden: in death the painter casts him as paradigmatic ideal, an echo of the devotional portraits executed during the first years of their relationship; Bacon’s amorous tributes to Dyer’s strong looks and athletic physique. Though Bacon’s first great love, Peter Lacy, profoundly affected Bacon’s life, it was George Dyer who had the most significant and important effect on Bacon’s work. He described Dyer as the ‘most beautiful man he had ever met’, and his presence is at once the most pervasive, libidinal and inventive of Bacon’s entire oeuvre. The creative fecundity of these seminal years – both the decade prior to and following 1971 – is predominantly owing to the abiding and consuming impact of George Dyer. Painted obsessively, Dyer’s likeness utterly dominates Bacon’s production: as strongly present in this triptych, George Dyer fuelled the tortured and extraordinary powers of an artist at the height of his imaginative and technical powers.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2014-06-30
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A B, Still

Broadcasting a majestic vista of unadulterated abstract splendor, Gerhard Richter’s eminent masterwork A B, Still stands as a paragon of the artist’s treatise on the aesthetic and conceptual capacities of painting. Generated through an idiosyncratic alchemy, the artist’s simultaneous revelation and concealment of electrifying colors conjures a near transcendent experience of the chromatic light that emanates from the exquisitely ornate surface. Saturated with tonal vivacity, red, yellow and blue veils of lusciously viscous oil paint are spectacularly applied into a mesmerizing confluence of gestural tides. Stemming from the chronological apex of the period in which Richter perfected and centralized his use of the large-scale spatula or ‘squeegee,’ A B, Still ranks amongst the very finest achievements of the artist’s abstract output.  As one of the most elegant and fully resolved exemplars of this historically significant corpus, the engulfing scale of the piece transports the beholder into its unique realm of pure aesthetic ecstasy. Beyond the sensational presence that is a hallmark of this series, the present work also belongs to a limited number of important works that Richter titled specifically in reference to the direct inspirational circumstances surrounding their creation.  As a mesmeric vision that elicits a near spiritual encounter, here Richter actualizes the most metaphysical tenants of a practice: extending his continued dialogue between painting and photography, he captures the very aesthetic essence of a quiet moment of contemplation. In sum, A B, Still embodies the fine line between objective distance and subjective expression that is the defining conceptual inquiry of Richter’s oeuvre. Through coloristic harmony, the interplay of Richter’s dense impasto and ethereal washes invite the viewer to look both at and through the immense depth of his laminae of surface; a profound affirmation of painting as both corporeal substance and cognitive illusion. Forming a conceptual keystone of his oeuvre since the late 1960s, Richter’s iconic Abstrakte Bilder have performed a prolifically sustained philosophical enquiry into the medium of painting and the foundations of our contemporary visual understanding.  Peculiar, almost alien, to the history of painting as a result of Richter’s unique methodology, A B, Still offers a staunch provocation to consider the phenomenology of the medium.  We are asked to dissect the superficial appearances of the vibrant visual stimuli presented to us, as well as the ability of the artist to conjure moments of ocular deception that endow the canvas with a sense of depth that is not inherent to the physical oil paint itself. Distinguished from the inherent illusionism of the artist’s iconic photo-realist paintings, Richter’s extraordinary odyssey into the realm of a pure abstraction also shows his most extreme engagement with the ontology of the medium; a raw examination of the very nature of paint itself as a physical substance in both its original and manipulated forms. As such, the Abstrakte Bilder are often regarded as the culmination of Richter’s aesthetic inquiries and as Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has rightfully highlighted, Richter's position within the wider canon of abstraction is one of “incontrovertible centrality.” (Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Gerhard Richter: Large Abstracts, 2009, p. 9) Within Richter’s immense abstract corpus, the definitive compartmentalization of works into a discreet series is extremely rare. Whilst the artist meticulously catalogues his works and labels with successive numbers to indicate the temporal sequence of production, few are adorned with unique titles; the majority fall under the moniker of Abstraktes Bild. The present work however is part of a minority of select works in which a specific title is linked to a particular emotive evocation. Furthermore, the use of the A B prefix abbreviation marks it as an important precursor to the seminal series of fourteen London Paintings created in response to a trip Richter made to London in 1987 and which  were shown at Anthony d’Offay Gallery in 1988 – his first major commercial exhibition in London. Exhibited  a year before in New York by Marian Goodman – who  acted as a crucial mentor from the early 1980s – the present work originates from a period of soaring international success for the artist, heralding the production of what are considered to be the most arresting and extraordinary abstract pictures of his career. Attesting to their extreme significance, other early A B paintings from 1986 currently reside in international museum collections including: A B, Confus, at the Museum of Modern Art New York; A B, Courbet, currently housed at the MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg; A B, Mediation, in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; and A B, Mohn, housed in the Maramotti Collection, Reggio Emilia, Italy. Here, we find the early summoning of a distinctly ecclesiastical vision. Broad vertical and diagonal motions give an architectural integrity that demarcates the canvas as a sacred cerebral space. A rich and precious spectrum of pigments glow with the dignified solemnity of stained glass, as profound and mystical visions emerge from the shadowy demarcation of a subtly permeating black under-layer. Graced with a cascade of divine white light from the top of the canvas, this Caravaggio-esque drama of luminosity binds the work to the Baroque and Renaissance ancestry of illusionistic painting.  Yet, far from performing a narrative function, the work operates within an intensely imaginative dimension rooted in Richter’s sensory experience and his almost spiritual engagement with the paint; no sound, no signs, just pure visuality. What sets Richter apart from both his contemporaries and forebears is his abandon of the traditionally soft and nimble brush, surrendering instead to the uniformly firm rubber edge of the large scale squeegee - a groundbreaking technique that the artist had, by this point, mastered to yield hypnotic results. Tracts of color are dragged across the canvas, so that the various strains of malleable pigment suspended in oil are fused together and smudged first onto the canvas, and then layered on top of each other as the paint strata accumulates at different speeds and thicknesses. It is this remarkable technical aptitude that has cemented Richter’s reputation as one of the outstanding painters of our age. The present work marks an important point of transition away from free form and floating abstract shapes that delineated the corpus of nascent abstractions executed between the years of 1980-85. From 1986 onward Richter would relinquish any planned compositional elements favoring the indeterminate scrape and accretion of his tool. It is this striking treatment of the surface as a bound whole that allows a peculiar sense of illusionary depth to develop within the piece. Working in mystical synthesis with the artist’s idiosyncratic mastery of the squeegee, A B, Still embodies the profound balance of color which endows this majestic corpus with a unique aesthetic charisma. Vibrating with the abrupt tonal variations which are compacted into the painted surface at the point of its creation, the work boasts of distinct formal zones of block background colors which subtly imbue it with tectonic weight and structural gravity. The left side of the painting is dominated by a deep, fiery red.  Primal in its luscious appeal to the base emotions this is galvanized by a cool blue that dominates the right side of the picture.  The presence of yellow is more evanescent as it is scattered across the picture plane in various directions and permutations of wetness, so that it enlivens its tonal counterparts with both discreet highlights and voluminous blend. The overall sense of harmonious balance that Richter achieves through his intelligent composition of color seems curiously at odds with the incalculable results of his methodology; a revolutionary mode of painting which enlivens the medium with an almost Dada or ‘anti-art’ veneration of chance, faith and process. Whilst Richter could predict and anticipate effects based on the colors he used, the thickness of paint and the pressure he applies, an inescapable element of chance permeates the process and stands as crucial to his conceptual engagement with the medium as a whole. To understand the significance of chance in his practice, a counter-intuitive turn back to the artist’s other renowned visual mode – the photo-realist paintings – might be necessary. Whilst their soft clarity and uncanny realism seems distant from the Abstrakte Bilder, Richter’s most poignant innovation within this field was the crucial act of drawing a brush horizontally across the wet surface to give a now-iconic faded effect. This not only parallels the motion of the squeegee, but also reveals the crucial discourse of objectivity that drives Richter’s practice. The effacement of recognizable brushwork and pursuit of uniform gestural treatment in Richter’s Photo Paintings endows them with a crucially unexpressive and unbiased analysis of the subject, fulfilling both his desire and claims to paint “like a camera” (the artist cited in Christine Mehring, Jeanne Anne Nugent, and Jon L. Seydl, Eds., Gerhard Richter. Early Work 1951-1972, Los Angeles, 2010, p. 161) In the present work, however, we witness an uninhibited confrontation between this idea of objective representation and the subjective passion associated with contemporary painting.   Absorbed by the vast surface area of the canvas, the experience of viewing the work is evocative of confronting a monolithic masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism by Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock. As a profound monument to their moment of execution, the color choices express a deep personal sentiment and the uninhibited expression of the artist, yet his simultaneous abandon to the will of his tools allows Richter to draw his abstracts into the realm of the photographic record, in which aesthetic choices are filtered through the mechanical interpretation of an instance. This immeasurably influential turn invited the means through which Richter was able to instigate “photography by other means.” (the artist cited in "Interview with Rolf Schön, 1972" in Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Eds., Gerhard Richter, TEXT: Writings, Interviews and Letters: 1961-2007, London, 2009, p. 73) Embracing an element of automatism, kinetic energy is literally compounded into the painterly surface of A B, Still as Richter draws his far reaching tool across the canvas in successive layers. Subtly alternating direction as well as the density of paint application, the viscosity of the painted movements, and the drying time between each wipe, Richter indulges in an infinite and unknowable number of permutations born out of the precise interaction between the oil pigments. The detailed combinations of construction, modification and erasure to the color fields all stand to be manipulated by the intuitively felt variations of pressure and direction enacted by Richter as he draws the rubber face of the squeegee across this dense landscape. The resultant surface is boldly corporeal in its profoundly textured complexion, yet it simultaneously toys with our phenomenological capacities for viewing its structure, based on the historic visual tendency for viewing the painted plane as an illusory realm of depth. Richter performs a sensory shattering of the Renaissance idea of the painting as a clear window into a reality, as his distinctly cerebral abstract fields construct a peculiar sense of unstable spatial configuration. With an acute eye for the sensational interactions between colors, Richter advances the optical theories developed in the Nineteenth Century and most prominently harnessed in the pointillist paintings of French Neo-Impressionist maters such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Identified by Michel Eugène Chevreul, the law of simultaneous contrast describes the way in which the placement of two colors next to each other will affect our perception of them, made most noticeable with the juxtaposition of two colors from opposite ends of the color wheel.  In A B, Still, Richter’s insistency on the primary colors of red, blue and yellow allows raw and untainted examples of simultaneous contrast to occur. The semi-triangular block of red that envelops the left side of the canvas is the most consistent zone of color within the piece. Yet at intermittent points it is starkly interrupted by the glare of a rich turquoise – an oppositional tone on the color wheel. This mutual proximity enacts a vibrant enlivening of both colors which calculatedly plays with our perception of depth within the piece. The wash of marine blue that electrifies the right is dusted with strains of caustic yellow that seem to be instantly repelled and dance across the surface in kinetic frenzy. It is this harnessing of contrast that allows Richter’s surface to positively shimmer. In the words of Roald Nasgaard, “The character of the Abstract Paintings is not their resolution but the dispersal of their elements, their coexisting contradictory expressions and moods, their opposition of promises and denials. They are complex visual events, suspended in interrogation, and fictive models for that reality which escapes direct address, eludes description and conceptualization, but resides inarticulate in our experience.” (Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 110) This decisive focus on primary colors also serves a profoundly symbolic function as Richter alludes to the very nature of the practice of painting itself. Employing the three base tones which a painter mixes to create his spectrum, Richter performs an astute analysis of the medium as he tears apart its very DNA. More elusive in their presence, yet crucial in their ability to anchor and enliven the composition, we also witness an ethereal wash of white that is contrasted with an adjacent band of black that filters out to structure the registers of color from behind. As two key harbingers of light and dark within the practice of painting, the presence black and white aids this staunch dissection of the visual mechanics of a painting, endowing the interacting tones with depth, mystery and a sense of monumentality that anchors this interminable state of visual flux. With the happenstance of chance centralized in its execution and visualized in its appearance, the painterly triumph of the present work becomes somewhat independent of the artist and acquires its own aesthetic autonomy. In sum, A B, Still beautifully encapsulates Richter’s theory that with abstraction “there is no order, everything is dissolved, more revolutionary, anarchistic.” (the artist cited in Ibid., p. 108) Yet in its ability to dissect within its painterly surface the very nature of perception and cognition, A B, Still instigates a philosophical enquiry that encompasses the entire history of painting, the legacy of image-making technologies, and our very relationship with what it is that we consider to be a ‘picture.'  Thus reinstating and elevating the significance of the art form within wider visual culture, Richter's profound contribution to the history of painting firmly ranks him amongst the greatest artists of our time. Signed, dated 1986 and numbered 612-4 on the reverse

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2016-11-18
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Study for a Pope I

“…I think it is one of the greatest portraits that have been made, and I became obsessed by it. I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velázquez Pope, because it just haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings and areas of – I was going to say – imagination, even, in me… I think it’s the magnificent colour of it” Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, 1962, in: David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York 1981, p. 25. Heretical successor to a lineage inaugurated by Raphael, defined by Titian and epitomised by Diego Velázquez, Francis Bacon stands alongside art history’s consummate painters of the Catholic Church’s supreme Head and representative of God on earth: the Pope. Last in line to an ancestry of artistic one-upmanship that since the Renaissance has explored the earthly embodiment of divine power in paint, Francis Bacon took on the mantel of tradition and demolished it. Although they are presented within the gilt frames and monumental scale of the ‘Grand Manner’, Bacon’s popes are far from noble perpetuations of spiritual power: the calm magnanimity so apparent in Raphael’s Julius II is replaced for cowardice and fear; the honourable majesty of Titian’s Paul III is exchanged for ignoble carnality; while the imperious Innocent X by Velázquez is metamorphosed into wraiths that writhe with violent hysteria. Imprisoned in a windowless interior and manacled to the throne or Sedia Gestatoria, they are the last vestiges of an old order, they cower or shriek in isolation, and above all, they are godless and utterly alone. Bacon’s decisive un-doing of Papal infallibility delivers the ultimate expression of the Twentieth Century’s existential fall from grace; in the aftermath of two catastrophic World Wars they enact an irreversible sacking of spirituality. As notorious as Picasso’s Guernica, this is the very subject that announced Bacon’s genius at the beginning of the 1950s and would continue to obsess him for 20 years. Arriving just over ten years after the very first Papal incarnation – Head VI of 1949 (The Arts Council, London) – and eight years after his magnum opus, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X of 1953 (Des Moines Art Center), Study for a Pope I is an opulent masterwork of the highest order. This exquisite painting belongs to the series of six monumental works executed between the months of April and May 1961, specifically in preparation for the artist’s forthcoming retrospective at the Tate Gallery. Indeed, the series did not make its debut until the much-anticipated exhibition finally opened to rave reviews on 24th May 1962. As first in the series of six, Study for a Pope I exhibits painterly resolve, élan and dexterity, it depicts a moment of contemplative unease before the enthroned Holy Father is beset by the pain and hysteria redolent as the sequence progresses. In both regards, the present work bears a filial bond with the second version in the series, a painting that, somewhat ironically, now resides in the Musei Vaticani. Having itself once belonged to the renowned collector, Gunter Sachs, for almost 40 years, Study for a Pope I boasts an exceptional history that, besides the seminal Tate show of 1962 and its subsequent European tour, also entails the complete reunion of the series, a year after Bacon’s death, as part of the 1993 retrospective at the Museo d'Arte Moderna in Lugano. Above all however, it is Bacon’s faithfulness to the cardinal red of Velázquez’s original that distinguishes the present work and its counterparts within the artist’s oeuvre; these are the works in which Bacon’s dialogue with the tradition of art and his obsession with Velázquez’s canonical Portrait of Pope Innocent X are most fully brought to life. Following the early success of the first two masterworks, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Collection, London), and Painting 1946 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), the emergence of Head VI as part of Bacon’s first solo show in 1949 indefatigably announced the arrival of Bacon’s genius and primary subject – the human-animal as unadorned, despairing, and alone. Within this secular universe and imparting the ultimate visual manifestation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s figure of the ‘last pope’ in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), Bacon identified the figure of the Pope as the supreme vehicle for an expression of Modern Man’s godlessness. The following years thus witnessed an obsessive programme of systematic reiteration in which the implicit malevolence of Velázquez’s Innocent X was laid bare. Melded with borrowings from Eisenstein and Poussin, depicted behind the striated shuttering of diaphanous curtains (itself a quotation of Titian’s Portrait of Cardinal Fillippo Archinto of 1558) and even channelled through photographs of Pope Pius XII raised on this throne above the heads of his subjects or a grimacing image of Teddy Roosevelt, the works that ensued shook the very foundations of contemporary art in Britain. Presiding over these early paintings, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X is the quintessential image of Bacon’s career. In this painting, Velázquez’s Innocent appears as though clamped to an electric chair; his blood bespattered vestments and ghostly countenance reverberates with the silent cry that pierces every inch of the canvas. Created in 1953, this painting gave rise, during the very same year, to an eight-part sequence of popes that would become the single largest defined series of Bacon’s career: Study for a Portrait I-VIII. Executed in the same scale as the previous masterwork but in a progression of mutating poses in varying states of ‘unfinish’, these eight canvases were rapidly painted in preparation for the artist’s first show outside of England which was to be held at the Durlacher Brothers Gallery in New York. As the largest series in Bacon’s oeuvre, these works laid the precedent for the second, and last, series of Popes; following a reprieve of eight years Study for a Pope I-VI arrived in the full-bloom of Bacon’s genius. Similarly created in preparation for an exhibition, although this time the exhibition was his seminal 1962 Tate retrospective, these works demonstrate the maturity of an artist entering into his finest decade. The transition from purple to the cardinal red of Velázquez’s original is fully articulated in this series, and with it comes a heightened portrayal of the human form. Colour and the physicality of paint are brandished with a virtuosic flourish, indeed, it is not solely red that invigorates these canvases, but also the deployment of green which accents their white collars and articulates the monumental pared-back thrones. Above all however, it is the sensation of human presence that is here more tangible than ever before in Bacon’s work. In Study for a Pope I, Innocent X is enlivened by haptic swipes of white that are punctuated and grazed with smeared flesh tonalities and blood red; the pursed lips of his mouth are masterfully twisted underneath a large set of suspicious eyes that belie the piercing gaze of Velázquez’s original. Dwarfed by the thrones in which they are seated, Bacon’s 1961 popes are remarkably human; unlike the paper-thin wraiths of 1953, these figures are flesh and bone. More so than any of his numerous papal incarnations, it is these works that most authoritatively upturn the privileged status afforded to the Pope. Reigniting a painterly ambition that had meandered during the late 1950s, the present work and its counterparts narrate the very core of Bacon’s renewed powers of invention in the lead up