• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 12243

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    6 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 40

    Per Kirkeby (b. 1938)

    Rückblick II (Restrospect II)

    Estimate

    Per Kirkeby (b. 1938)
    Rückblick II (Restrospect II)
    signed, titled and dated 'PER KIRKEBY 1986 Rückblick II' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    78¾ x 78¾in. (200 x 200cm.)
    Painted in 1986


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    ‘There is a hidden reality and it is the real reality. We only see it in glimpses. A painter can sometimes see it … and if I paint at all, it is only because I have those glimpses’
    —P. KIRKEBY

    ‘I believe that Cézanne makes a connection in the way he speaks of the insight into Nature that one achieves later in life, which is also an insight into the nature of the picture. The picture, too, is nature. The forces that pile up in Mont Sainte-Victoire are no different from those that organize the picture’
    —P. KIRKEBY

    In Rückblick II (Retrospect II), Per Kirkeby builds a vast, richly-layered portrait of his Scandinavian homeland. Rendered in deep, earthbound hues, thick swathes of pigment unfold across the canvas, swept into dense strata and liquidated into fine rivulets. From certain angles, the composition suggests an aerial view of the landscape, its geographical contours captured from high above. From alternative perspectives, its passages of pigment evoke a subterranean world: a close-range cross-section of soil, roots and sediment. Executed in 1986, it is one of three paintings of the same title, another of which is held in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Originally a student of geology, Kirkeby channels his fascination with earthly phenomena through an organic, gestural language that hovers between figuration and abstraction. His works are less depictions of specific locations than visceral rhapsodies that attempt to capture the ebb and flow of natural processes. Resonating with the aesthetic of German Neo-Expressionism, in particular the work of Georg Baselitz, Kirkeby’s paintings engage with their subject matter on an emotive, rather than a literal, level. Deeply inspired by the majestic topographies of his native Denmark, the artist’s enigmatic pictorial surfaces seeks to invoke the magic and mystery of nature, capturing the elemental flux of form, colour and texture. Included in the artist’s major retrospective at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in 1987, the work’s title – Rückblick – speaks directly to the strains of nostalgia that lace his practice. ‘There is a hidden reality and it is the real reality’, the artist explains. ‘We only see it in glimpses. A painter can sometimes see it … and if I paint at all, it is only because I have those glimpses’ (P. Kirkeby, quoted in Per Kirkeby, Brussels, exh. cat., Galerie Phillipe Guimot, Brussels, 1991, p. 64).

    Following on from his early sculptural practice, Kirkeby conceived his paintings as ‘collapse structures’ – a metaphor borrowed from geological theories of landslide and slump. His former engagement with three-dimensional media is evident in his tactile handling of pigment, recalling the corporeal gestures of Baselitz’s Fingermalerei (Finger paintings). ‘I like to get pictures going with some form of battleground in which certain things have to be defeated in order that something else may emerge’, he explains (P. Kirkeby, Samtaler med Lars Morell, Borgen 1997, p. 142). Though his work invites comparison with the languages of Tachism, Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism, among others, Kirkeby identifies particularly strongly with the work of Paul Cézanne: most notably the French master’s ability to create a lasting synergy between subject matter and execution. ‘I believe that Cézanne makes a connection in the way he speaks of the insight into Nature that one achieves later in life, which is also an insight into the nature of the picture’, he writes. ‘The picture, too, is nature. The forces that pile up in Mont Sainte-Victoire are no different from those that organize the picture. Perhaps, this is why his last pictures are built up like a hewn stone wall’ (P. Kirkeby, Håndbog, Borgen 1991, p. 150). In the same way, Kirkeby’s submission to the raw properties of paint allows him to enact the processes he seeks to describe. In the rivers, coagulations and residues of Rückblick II, the artist creates a piece of natural history: a landscape inscribed with traces of its own evolution.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
    Galerie Lelong, Zurich.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION


    Literature

    O. Granath, Per Kirkeby - einen Raum Schaffen, Hellerup, 1990 (illustrated in colour, p. 51).
    Per Kirkeby: Gemälde, Arbeiten auf Papier, Skulpturen 1977-9, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, 1990, p. 109, no. 13 (illustrated in colour, p. 18).
    Per Kirkeby: Bilder, exh. cat., Hannover, Kestner- Gesellschaft, 1991, p. 189, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
    Border Crossings: Fourteen Scandinavian Artists, exh. cat., London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1992, p. 155, no. 49 (illustrated in colour, p. 108).
    P. Kirkeby, Per Kirkeby. Samtaler med Lars Morell, Copenhagen 1997 (illustrated in colour, p. 157).
    P. E. Tojner, Per Kirkeby: Maleri, Copenhagen 1998 (illustrated, p. 169).
    P. E. Tojner, Per Kirkeby Painting, Cologne 2003 (illustrated in colour, p. 169).
    Per Kirkeby: Figur, exh. cat., Odense, Kunsthallen Brandts, 2006 (illustrated, p. 7).
    A. Hejlskov Larsen, Per Kirkeby: Paintings 1978- 1989, Cologne 2016, no. 873 (illustrated in colour, p. 454).


    Exhibited

    Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Per Kirkeby: Retrospektive, 1987, p. 159, no. 71 (illustrated in colour, p. 115).
    Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Per Kirkeby, 1988.
    Cologne, Galerie Michael Werner, Per Kirkeby. Neue Arbeiten, 1988.
    Winterthur, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Per Kirkeby - Werke 1983-1988, 1989, p. 54, no. 14 (illustrated in colour, p. 27).