• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 1107

    Post-War and Contemporary Art (Day Auction)

    14 February 2013, London, King Street

  • Lot 181

    Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)

    Composition bleue, rouge et mauve

    Price Realised  


    Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
    Composition bleue, rouge et mauve
    signed 'Serge Poliakoff' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    39 3/8 x 31 7/8in. (100 x 81cm.)
    Painted in 1963

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    This work is registered in the Serge Poliakoff Archives under no. 963056.

    Painted in 1963, Composition bleue, rouge et mauve exudes the compositional strength and understanding of form that is so characteristic of Serge Poliakoff's mature work. A professional musician until 1952, Poliakoff's paintings have a graceful asymmetry that results from his desire to create a picture in which all the elements - colour, proportion, form - are completely resolved. This poise and balance, what he referred to as le silence complet, is evident in how the irregular slabs of warm colour interlock on the canvas. There is a controlled energy to the piece; refined tonal contrasts and carefully modeled organic shapes create a painting that is arrestingly fresh and expressive. The work reflects the artist's belief that 'space, not the artist, must model the forms. They must be part-sculpture, part-architecture. Geometric form must turn into organic form, and it's the inward pressure of space that does that. Space makes form - not the other way round.' (S. Poliakoff quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p. 15).
    The brilliance of the colours employed by Poliakoff in this work testifies to the influence of his long standing friendships with the early exponents of abstraction, notably Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Vasily Kandinsky. 'If you let it, your colour will take charge of you.' Poliakoff once said. 'Similarly with your forms: the spontaneous form for an artist to use is always an organic one, but you've got to be in control of it. A child will use all the colours in the box at once, instinctively, and if you don't want to make that same mistake you've got to on studying hard and for a long time. There is no such a thing as a system of pictorial construction, but there are certain universal laws that you can find out for yourself if you study the big masters long enough. It's the law, not the 'system', that counts.' (Ibid., p. 13). By the early 1960s Poliakoff's reputation as one of the leading painters of his day was established; he had had numerous international solo exhibitions throughout the 1950s, and in 1962 a room of the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale was dedicated to his work and he was awarded the Order of 'Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres'. In 1963 he had his first major retrospective at The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

    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.
    VAT rate of 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium


    Galerie d'Eendt, Amsterdam.
    Peter Stuyvesant Foundation (acquired from the above in 1964).
    Their sale, Sotheby's Amsterdam, 8 March 2010, lot 31.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    H. Abrams and H. Jaffé, Adventure in Art, An International Group of Art Collections in Industrial Environments, Milan & Amsterdam 1970 (illustrated in colour, p. 124).
    A. Poliakoff, Serge Poliakoff, Catalogue Raisonné: 1963-1965, vol. IV, Munich 2012, no. 63-07 (illustrated in colour, p. 62).


    Amsterdam, Galerie d'Eendt, Serge Poliakoff, 1964, no. 12 (illustrated, unpaged).
    Le Havre, Nouveau Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Musée dans l'Usine, Collection Peter Stuyvesant The Art Gallery in the Factory, 1964 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Grenoble, Musée Fantin-Latour; Toulouse, Musée des Augustins; Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Aix-en-Provence, Pavillon de Vendôme; Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Luik, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten; Gent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten; Paris, Palais du Musée du Louvre, Pavillon de Marsan; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Stratford, Rothmans Art Gallery; Montreal, Museum of Fine Art; Saskatoon, Mendel Art Gallery; Victoria, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Edmonton, Edmonton, The Edmonton Art Gallery; Quebec, Musée du Québec; London (Ontario), London Public Library and Art Museum; St-John's, Art Gallery; Charlottetown, Confederation Art Gallery and Museum; Kingston, Agnes Etherington Art Centre; Calgary, Center of Allied Art; Sackville, Owens Museum; Toronto, O'Keefe Centre; St. Gallen, Kunstmuseum; Basel, Kunstmuseum; Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire; Belgrade, Museum voor Moderne Kunst; Ljubljana, Galerie voor Moderne Kunst; The Hague, Pulchri Studio and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum.
    Barcelona, Fundació Miró, El Arte Fundiona l'Art Fictif, 1992. This exhibition later travelled to Saragossa, Palacio de la Lonja; Valencia, Museo de la Ciudad and Paris, École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
    Zevenaar, Liemers Museum, Peter Stuyvesant Collectie, 2000.