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FURNITURE FROM THE COLLECTION OF SIR JAMES STIRLING (LOTS 111-120)
Sir James Stirling (1924-1992) was a giant of 20th century British architecture; he was that rare creature - a passionate advocate of the modern with a deep appreciation of the past and with a true connoisseur's understanding of the historical styles from which he drew inspiration. Works from his collection presented in this and other sales at Christie's this season illustrate his eclectic, individualistic sensibility. Stirling surrounded himself with furniture, pictures and objects that reflect his friendships, his work and the spirit of the age. We find works that illustrate the explosion of Pop and the emergence of a talented group of artist contemporaries, objects that reflect the 1960s revival of interest in Art Nouveau, and clues to Stirling's own search for essential architectural forms. In his Belsize Park home, examples of British neo-classical and gothic revival furniture were in dialogue with Tiffany lamps, a sculpture by Henry Moore, a bust of Queen Victoria, prints by Eduardo Paolozzi and Joe Tilson, and a dramatic Pop Art banner by Roy Lichtenstein. From a furnishing perspective, it was the clarity of line found in Regency furniture by George Bullock and the designs of Thomas Hope that attracted Stirling to engage with the principles of an earlier era.
Stirling came under the influence of the modern movement when a student at the Liverpool School of Architecture. By the 1950s, now established in London, he shared his revisionist ambitions with a radical group of artists and architects that included Richard Hamilton, Peter and Alison Smithson, Edouardo Paolozzi and Colin St John Wilson. Greatly influenced by Le Corbusier, his early masterpiece, completed in 1963, is the Engineering Faculty building at Leicester University, an uncompromising triumph of modernism. This success brought him several related commissions, but his strong signature style found limited support in his own country. His practise faced some challenging years until he won the commission to build an extension to the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie, the Neuestaatsgalerie (1977-1984). This building is generally considered to be his mature masterpiece and was an essay in combining the pared down modernist approach with neo-classical references. Stirling drew inspiration from Schinkel's Altes Museum in Berlin. With its bright colours and curving glass walls, this building was categorised by many as 'post-modernist', a label Stirling rejected. Stirling's unique vision found considerable favour in Germany and America and the best projects from his later years are to be found in Berlin, Melsungen, Harvard and Cornell, although he is celebrated for the Clore Building at Tate Britain and the posthumously completed office building in the City at 1 Poultry.