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    Sale 7702

    Impressionist/Modern, Day Sale

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 441

    Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957)

    Figures surréalistes

    Price Realised  


    Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957)
    Figures surréalistes
    signed and dated 'O.Dominguez 39' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    13¼ x 9½ in. (33.6 x 24.1 cm.)
    Painted in 1939

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    Mrs Ana Vázquez de Parga has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

    Figures surréalistes was painted in 1939, during Óscar Domínguez' so-called 'Cosmic' period. This picture has traces of the strange, drapery-like folds that made up his cosmic landscapes, yet is clearly rooted in a more figurative universe. The strange, interlocking forms appear to have been eked out from a combination of chance- and automatism-prompted brushstrokes, gradually evolving into an image filled with the hallmark atmosphere of sexuality and violence that inform all of Domínguez' greatest works. The strange assemblage that dominates the canvas appears in one sense to be tent-like, a construct of drapery, flesh and the dragon plants of the artist's native Canary Isles held in place by a series of strings. At the same time, those same strings may be pulling these figures apart. In the swirling midst of this skin, flesh, greenery and drapery, elements that recurred through many of Domínguez' paintings teeter on the brink of recognition such as the coxcomb in the upper right and the chicken's head that appears to be materialising within the form of one of the feet, adding a strange and disruptive dimension of readability to this chaotic, nightmarish form.

    Domínguez had formed, alongside other Spaniards such as Dalí and Buñuel, a reinvigorating second wave to the Surreal movement. He was the inventor of decalcomania and pioneer of the objet surréaliste; his insatiable appetites, both gluttonous and sexual, his unpredictable sense of humour and the atmosphere of imminent violence that often surrounded him meant that he perfectly encapsulated the ethos of this anti-movement, living the acts that others celebrated. He would wave guns at people just to instil panic at parties, would fire revolvers in his studio, and when throwing a bottle during an argument accidentally caused the loss of Victor Brauner's eye. For all the violence, he was affable and much loved by his colleagues, a man of extremes who had embraced the Surreal life before even knowing what it was.

    Looking at Figures surréalistes, one can perceive hints of the styles of some of Domínguez' friends and contemporaries. The upper portion's organic appearance recalls the pictures of Max Ernst, who would later adopt Domínguez' decalcomania to such great effect, while the arms echo Masson's paintings. Meanwhile, the almost elephantine feet and legs as well as the drapery in Figures surréalistes, the viewer is reminded of some of the monumental classical characters who appeared in fellow-Spaniard Pablo Picasso's paintings of the early 1920s. This perhaps indicates some of the intense reverence Domínguez felt for his compatriot, whose artistic influence became particularly apparent in his own work during the 1940s and 1950s. However, the Picasso precedent has here been dissected and flayed. The skin and tunics of those earlier figures appear to be pulled in various directions in some elaborate torture, revealing strange masses of flesh and uncanny hollows within the bodies. Domínguez has used various styles and techniques, combining them and distilling them in order to create an intense and visceral image that blends dream, the subconscious and chance brushstrokes in order to create a picture that is racked with both the tensions of the troubled artist and of the world at large at the dawn of the Second World War.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 16 December 1977, lot 92.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.