• Post-War & Contemporary Art Da auction at Christies

    Sale 12245

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Auction

    7 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 355


    Line (Figures with Flowers)


    Line (Figures with Flowers)

    oil on canvas
    78 x 93in. (198 x 236.5cm.)
    Painted in 1983

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    “My objective in painting is to clean up, to remove, to eliminate, to wash. I have the same attitude towards ‘the line’ as I have toward ‘the word.’ The lines are meant to indicate the other lines that you don’t see, rather than to be taken literally. There’s a form of imbalance in my work which once made someone say I know nothing of composition, which I thought was very amusing as it’s probably true. On the other hand, It’s very distinctive, how I move across the limits of the canvas across paper.” (F. CLEMENTE,quoted in ‘Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Pamela Kort’, in Francesco Clemente, Palimpsest exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2011, unpaged)

    An entanglement of human limbs tumbles down the central plane of Francesco Clemente’s Line (Figures with Flowers), instilling the work with a powerful kinetic and corporeal energy. Executed in 1983, it is a captivating example of the artist’s early oil paintings, characterised by a delicate handling of paint and subtle symbolism embedded within a dreamlike landscape. A central figure sits amidst a violet blue background, rendered with the exaggerated expression of a caricature. His body parts are translucently depicted, exposing the background and evoking a ghostly apparition. Although his contemporaries came to be associated with Arte Povera and conceptual art, Clemente renounced the formalism of these styles. As a fixture of the New York art scene throughout the 1980s and a mainstay of the Roman avant-garde, he spearheaded the Italian Transavanguardia movement, which heralded the return of figuration to art. His captivation with existentialism and identity is articulated in the ephemeral appendages that exude from the man’s body, as if personifying his subconscious. ‘I don’t believe in eternal life, but I do believe in timelessness’, the artist explains. ‘I do believe that it is a vital human need to be confronted with pauses and timelessness, and paintings can provide that’ (F. Clemente, quoted in ‘Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Pamela Kort’, in Francesco Clemente, Palimpsest, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2011, unpaged).

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    Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    in Beaux Arts, February 1986 (illustrated in colour, p. 88).


    Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Francesco Clemente: Bilder und Skulpturen, 1984-1985, no. 27 (illustrated in colour, p. 52).
    Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Von Twombly bis Clemente. Ausgewählte Werke einer Privatsammlung, 1985, no. 98 (illustrated in colour).
    Sarasota, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Francesco Clemente, 1985-1987, no. 7 (illustrated in colour). This exhibition later travelled to Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art; Berkeley, University Art Museum; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art.
    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Francesco Clemente - Antoni Tàpies, 2010.