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    Sale 5391

    20th Century British Art including Works from the Collection of Bannon & Barnabas McHenry

    17 December 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 67

    Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984)

    Seeing is Believing (L'Ile Invisible)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984)
    Seeing is Believing (L'Ile Invisible)
    signed 'R Penrose' (lower right), signed again and dated 'R.Penrose/'37' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.3 cm.)


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    Hair had been an important theme for Roland Penrose before he met Lee Miller when he created a Surrealist object titled The Dew Machine (destroyed in the war) made from the head he sawed off a mannequin (see fig. 1). He had a wig made of long blonde straight hair, added false eyelashes, and completed her transformation to life by painting the eyes, lips and flesh tones. The head, elegant but banal, hovers upside down above a baseboard and the kind of funnels used by chemists are inserted into the neck, filled with coloured beads. Thin strings connect the funnels to a stick that passes through the hair that caresses the baseboard. A further wine glass shaped apparatus completes the object, and strengthens the conjunction between the forces of arcane magic and the magic of science. It is easy to imagine the object scaled to a gigantic size, the funnels loaded with mysterious substances feeding the hair that softly trails across the countryside wherever dew is needed (fig. 2).

    A reprise of The Dew Machine greets us from within his painting Seeing Is Believing also titled L'Ile Invisible. Here the head reaches down from the sky where day and night are simultaneous, and the tresses caress a small island densely covered by houses and a small port with the masts of sailing boats. A strand of hair tumbles from a street like surf. Perhaps the town refers to Cassis, and if this is so it is also interesting to note the head in the preparatory drawing has a resemblance to Valentine (the first wife of Roland Penrose), but the painting is more a copy of the mannequins head. On the back of the drawing Roland began another study. The profile of a mans face, strong and suggestive of a Greek warrior, has text written over it;

    MIND
    150000000 FOR GUNS
    0 FOR LOVE
    MINED

    MIND!

    The events of the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Fascism were never very far from his mind.

    Special Notice

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


    Provenance

    Max Ernst.
    Monsieur Maurice Lods, Aigueze, France.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the additional exhibition details for this lot: Paris, Galerie Beaux-Arts, Exposition internationale du Surréalisme, January - February 1938, no. 176.


    Literature

    E. Skira, Minotaure, Paris, Winter 1937, no. 10, illustrated.
    Exhibition catalogue, Roland Penrose: Paintings and Collages, London, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980, p. 17, pl. 19, illustrated.
    R. Penrose, Scrapbook 1900-81, London, 1981, p. 91, pl. 222.


    Exhibited

    London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Roland Penrose: Paintings & Collages, July - August 1980: this exhibition travelled to London, ICA, August - September 1980; and Bristol, Preston and Hull.
    Barcelona, British Council, Fundació Joan Miró, Roland Penrose: pintures, dibuixos, collages i objectes, February - March 1981, no. BC21.