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    Sale 2168

    Post War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 149

    Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992)

    Composition Number 1

    Price Realised  


    Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992)
    Composition Number 1
    signed 'RPousette-Dart' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    40½ x 80 5/8 in. (102.9 x 204.8 cm.)
    Painted in 1943.

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    "I strive to express the spiritual nature of the universe. Painting is for me a dynamic balance and wholeness of life; it is mysterious and transcendent, yet solid and real." (K. Hubner, "Richard Pousette-Dart's Early Work and its Origins" in Richard Pousette-Dart, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 2007, p. 21)

    It is in the 1940s that Pousette-Dart's role as a leading New York School artist began to take shape. Finding inspiration in Oceanic, Northwest Indian and African Art, the artist took refuge in the archetypal and elaborated in his many notebooks on the universal signifiers in his own work, "circle of spirit, square of matter, circle of G-d, square of man" (K. Hubner, "Richard Pousette-Dart's Early Work and its Origins" in Richard Pousette-Dart, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 2007, p. 19). Pousette-Dart incorporated this self-prescribed symbolism into his work while concurrently applying his paints to the canvas in an urgent manner that paid respect to the composition in its entirety. It is with a keen interest in Eastern philosophy, the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism that Pousette-Dart approached his most critical works. The philosopher Henri Bergson, an early influence on Pousette-Dart, provided a literary model for the artist in his promotion of '" the creative role of intuition and it's primacy over analytical thinking."'(Ibid., p. 18). This sentiment resonates in the present lot, Composition Number 1 of 1943. The youngest of the founding members of the New York School it is generally granted that Pousette-Dart "holds title as the first to 'Paint Heroically' on a monumental scale." (L. Stokes Sims, "Richard Pousette-Dart and Abstract Expressionism: Critical Perspectives" in Ibid., p. 29). This distinction elevates the artist's early works to a status of respectability that defies conventional criticism.

    Composition Number 1, 1943 is a powerful painting closely related aesthetically and structurally to the artist's masterpiece Symphony Number 1, The Transcendental, of 1941-1942 in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both works share an opaque surface of broken forms punctuated by bright colored passages. Alluding to the bejeweled face of gothic stained glass and the machinations of a new atomic reality; these two works are more than a synthesis of modern ideas, they are spiritual conquests for a new age-they are modern talismans of an aggressive spiritual pursuit.


    Knoedler & Company, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private American Collection


    S. Hunter and J. Kuebler, eds., Richard Pousette-Dart, The New York School and Beyond, New York, 2005 pp. 78-79 (illustrated in color).


    Indianapolis Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Arts; Columbus Museum; Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Richard Pousette-Dart: A Retrospective, October 1990-April 1992, no. 46, p. 75 (illustrated in color).