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Georges Vantongerloo (BELGIAN, 1886-1965)
Christie's charge a premium to the buyer on the fi… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
Georges Vantongerloo (BELGIAN, 1886-1965)

Fonction de lignes-noir rouge

Georges Vantongerloo (BELGIAN, 1886-1965)
Fonction de lignes-noir rouge
signed, dated, inscribed and inscribed with title 'G. Vantongerloo Paris 1936' (on the reverse)
oil on plywood
82 x 100 cm.
Hilla von Rebay, thence by descent.
Exh.cat. Georges Vantongerloo oeuvre catalogue, Brussels, 1980, no. 92 (ill.).
Jan Ceuleers, Georges Vantongerloo, Antwerp 1996, no. p. 136 (the gouache ill.).
C. Blotkamp (ed.), De vervolgjaren van de Stijl 1922-1932, Amsterdam/Antwerp 1996, p. 362, no. 288 (ill.).
Paris, Association Artistique des Surindépendants Paris, Indépendance discipline, Neuvième Exposition, 1938.
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Konstruktivisten, 1937.
Paris, Galerie Bucher (according to the artist).
Paris, Galerie de Bessi, Exposition Georges Vantongerloo 1909-1939, 1943.
Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Antoine Pevsner, Georges Vantongerloo, Max Bill, 1949.
Washington, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Georges Vantongerloo, 22 April-17 June 1980.
Dallas, Dallas Museum, Georges Vantongerloo, 16 July-14 September 1980.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Georges Vantongerloo, 9 October-28 December 1980.
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Georges Vantongerloo, 4 May-15 June 1986, no. 92.
Bottrop, Moderne Galerie Quadrat, Georges Vantongerloo, 7 September - 12 October 1986, cat.no. 92, p. 49.
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Lot Essay

Vantongerloo was interned in the Netherlands during the Great War, where he acquainted Theo van Doesburg. In 1917 he joined the De Stijl and soon after he became a frequent contributor to its magazine. His name can be found among the first signatories of the first Stijl manifest in November 1918. But already in 1921 he left the movement and went to live in Menton, France, remaining there until 1927, when he settled in Paris. Exactly how and when he got in touch with the De Stijl and, more specific, with Van Doesburg is not clear.
To Vantongerloo art was nothing more than expressing pure objective elements. Any reference to other things, like for example his state of mind, should be eliminated. Unlike Mondriaan he based his works on mathematical calculations, formulas that govern proportional progression of rectangular forms or cubic volumes.
While in the 1920's the most advanced explorations in art had taken place in Germany, Holland and Russia, during the 1930's Paris reasserted its position as the focus of modernist art. This was to a large degree due to the new impetus given to geometric abstract art, from around 1927 on, by the presence in Paris of foreign artists of the older generation, like Mondriaan, Kandinsky, Van Doesburg and some new proponents like Domela, Herbin, Arp and Vantongerloo. However, the public at large, more interested in Surrealism, was indifferent to geometric abstraction. The artists therefore felt it necessary to create a unified front that would add strength to the movement, bring into public focus and overcome the general apathy. This objective was realized in 1930 through foundation of he group Cercle et Carré, soon succeeded by a grouping with a broader scope and impact, Abstraction-Création. Founding member and long serving chairman of Abstraction-Création was Georges Vantongerloo. (see also; Exh. Cat. New York, The Museum of Modern, 'Contrasts of Form, Geometric Abstract Art 1910-1980, 1984, p. 153-154).
Pictures by Vantongerloo are extremely rare. Between 1929, the year in which he moved to Paris, and 1936, he only produced 30 of them. And in 1936, the year of date of the present lot, Fonction noir, rouge, he painted 9 pictures. In his compositions it was his ambition to come to a completely impersonal, almost machine-like finishing, in order to avoid an individual brushstroke that would distract the viewer from the essence. Several layers of paint were, each time they had dried, meticulously rubbed down with carborundum-paper, resulting in extremely smooth yet mat plains.
Vantongerloo's works from the 1930's are generally considered conversations with, or reactions to art from his fellow abstract artists from the same period. Jan Ceuleers considers Mondriaan's compositions as a kind of repoussoir when he writes: 'Vantongerloo does apply thin instead of thick black lines to mark off the colour plains with white and grey, and he does use colours from the spectrum and thus does not confine to primary colours only, but like Mondriaan the orthogonal composition is supported by strategically applied forms of colour, separated from each other by white and light grey fields. Judging from the titles he still feels a necessity to distinguish himself from Mondriaan's intuitive way of working, by means of mathematically variable methods. The results are more elegant than Mondriaan's work from that same period, which seems radical and even dramatic (...)'.
And when the English painter Marlow Moss and Mondriaan, each in a different context though, introduced the double line in their compositions in 1932, Vantongerloo immediately reacts with coloured bars, arranging the plain rhythmically.' (Ceuleers, op.cit. p. 132-136.)
Blotkamp and Hilhorst even go further by stating that his emphasized use of coloured bars, was of stimulating influence on the development of Mondriaans' later American oeuvre, in which the black lines were replaced by coloured ones. (Blotkamp (ed.) op.cit, p. 265).
Against the reduction of the use of colours to the three primary colours, Vantongerloo opposed the spectrum; when others consequently researched the last of the formal possibilities and thus risking ending up with nothing, he recaptured Pythagoras' dream of a harmony based on mathematics. As a result, Vantongerloo built up an oeuvre of sculptures and paintings that stays intriguing and fascinating.

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