• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2773

    Twentieth Century Art

    4 December 2007, Amsterdam

  • Lot 44

    Sandor Bortnyik (HUNGARIAN, 1893-1976)

    A motoros

    Price Realised  

    Sandor Bortnyik (HUNGARIAN, 1893-1976)
    A motoros
    signed and dated 'Bortnyik/1928' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    80.5 x 70.5 cm.


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    Provenance

    Galerie Gmurzynska-Bargera, Cologne.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Sandór Bortnyik was one of the most all-round 20th century artists in Hungary. He was the most remarkable representant of Activism within Cubo-expressionism, an important researcher of contemporary art, a designer of books and posters, teacher to the Hungarian Bauhaus and principal of the Academy of Fine Arts.
    Starting out as naturalistic newspaper illustrator, he changed rapidly after joining the MA magazine circle in 1917, grouped around artist Lajos Kassak. In the spirit of the emergent cult of innocence and spontaneity, Bortnyik simplified his figures and other motifs (houses, hills) until they almost looked like children's drawings, only to place them into a dynamically agitated and dissected spatial framework. After his "primitive" phase his art became more expressive, and the wedge-like forms that diagonally split his faces made his graphic work considerably more turbulent and tense. In his works from 1919 the influence of Picasso and Bracque's early landscapes is clearly present, but Bortnyik spreads out, fan-like, the tectonic formal components into a dynamically rhythmic plane, while his addition of a spot of red and the subordinated factory smokestack, machine or smoke ring creates symbols out of them. (G. Andrasi ed., The History of Hungarian Art in the Twentieth Century, Budapest 1999, p. 64-65).
    In the early 1920s he followed Kassak's constructivist ideas and even left for Weimar, where he met Dutch Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg. After a while though he tired of this vocabulary which he found too esoteric, and partly turned against the Bauhaus attempts to create a new world of form. Under the influence of Van Doesburg, he begins to study the space of a painting, placing figures in an imaginary space, consisting of intersecting planes.

    The artist accepted the idea of Bauhaus, that art should reflect and serve modern life, but did not consider this concept as universal or definitive. His pictures continued to translate his strong doubts between the utopia of a new society and his lucid vision of reality.
    His paintings from the mid 1920s, like the present lot A Motoros, are a meld of Constructivism and the coolness of Neue Sachlichkeit, permeated by his own satiric tone: the mannequins and dandies paraphrasing the new humankind they had dreamed of are an expression of the disillusionments of an avant-garde generation that had higher hopes. (Andrasi, op.cit. p. 70-71).