• Post-War and Contemporary Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2833

    Post-War and Contemporary Art

    1 December 2009, Amsterdam

  • Lot 224

    Asger Jorn (1914-1973)

    Imbécilité sous-développé - Underdeveloped imbecility

    Price Realised  


    Asger Jorn (1914-1973)
    Imbécilité sous-développé - Underdeveloped imbecility
    signed 'Jorn' (lower right), and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    80 x 59 cm.
    Painted in 1961

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    Imbécilité sous-développé or Underdeveloped imbecility was painted in 1961 during a period widely considered as Jorn's best. Guy Atkins, the author of the oeuvre catalogue of Jorn's work, writes: "The period from 1954 to 1964 has been called the 'crucial years' in the title of this book, because these years encompass Jorn's emergence as a major figure in European art. In the middle years of the decade, i.e. from 1956 to 1969, he produced art of the highest quality". (see G.Atkins, p. 10)
    From 1958 on there was commercial success as well, with one-man shows all over Europe, many of them sell outs. This enabled him to buy a house and studio in his beloved Albisola, Italy, where he painted the present lot (see illustration).
    A stranger side effect of his commercial success is the fact that many more pictures than in the beginning of his career now have a title, as insisted by dealers. Jorn's titles often have a special literary flavour of their own, although he claims to have chosen them without anything of that sort in mind. He even admitted asking friends and family to come up with titles for his works. What worried and annoyed him though was that titles were quite often taken as the starting point for the interpretation of the pictures.
    In 1961 the term 'underdeveloped' was in vogue and supplied some amusing associations: Underdeveloped fertility, Underdeveloped ferocity, etc.
    In Underdeveloped imbecility everything seems to be in a constant state of flux. Textures and colours merge and begin to define themselves in the same way that figurative elements can often be perceived in his work without being clearly definable. Jorn seeks to create a dynamic tension between his forms that brings the whole to life. This was a conscious aim of his art that is often reflected in the deliberately ambiguous titles he gave to his work.
    As Jean Dubuffet described him, Jorn "excelled at producing meaning during the course of creation being careful not to intervene too much, so as not to lose anything of the spontaneous, vital flow. He likes to keep 'meaning' speculative. He was in love with the irrational which in all his works he continually faced." (J. Dubuffet as cited in J. Atkins, Asger Jorn: The Final Years, 1965-73, London 1997, p. 15).
    "Art is life form: beautiful, ugly, impressive, disgusting, meaningless, grim, contradictory, etc.- It makes no difference, as long as it is life, vigorously pouring forth."
    (A. Jorn quoted, exh. cat., Asger Jorn, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, 2003).

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    Galleria Arte Borgogna, Milan.
    Galleria d'arte Sant'Ambrogio, Milan.
    Galerie Sander, Darmstadt.


    Guy Atkins, Asger Jorn. The crucial years 1954-1964, Copenhagen/London 1977, fig. 171 (illus.) and no. 1339 (illus.).


    Florence, Palagio di Parte Guelfa, Umanesimo, disumanesimo nell'arte Europea 1890/1980, 20 September - 30 November 1980.
    Locarno, Pinacoteca communale Casa Rusca, Asger Jorn, 14 April - 18 August 1996.