Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
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Henri Laurens (1885-1954)

La femme à la guitare

Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
La femme à la guitare
Height: 23¼ in. (59 cm.)
Executed in 1919; this work is unique
Galerie de l'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1919.
Anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 March 1928, lot 62.
Galerie Simon, Paris (no. 10398), by whom acquired at the above sale.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1958.
M. Laurens, Henri Laurens, Sculpteur, Paris, 1955 (illustrated p. 79).
C. Green, Cubism and its Enemies, Modern Movement and Reaction in French Art, 1916-1928, New Haven and London, 1987, p. 24 (illustrated fig. 27).
W. Hofmann, The Sculpture of Henri Laurens, New York, 1970, p. 217 (illustrated p. 81).
S. Kuthy, Henri Laurens, 1885-1954, Freiburg, 1985, no. 15 (illustrated p. 66).
D. Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, London, 1999, p. 258 (illustrated p. 259).
Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Henri Laurens, Sculptures en pierre 1919-1943, October - November 1958, no. 4 (illustrated).
New York, French Cultural Center, Laurens et Braque: les donations Laurens et Braque à l'Etat Français, 1971.
Rome, Accademia di Francia a Roma, Henri Laurens, November 1980 - January 1981, no. 29 (illustrated p. 65).
Marcq-en-Baroeul, Fondation Anne et Albert Prouvost, Henri Laurens, May - October 1982, no. 5.
London, The Tate Gallery, The Essential Cubism, Braque, Picasso & their friends 1907-1920, April - July 1983, no. 208 (illustrated p. 399).
Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Henri Laurens, 60 Oeuvres, 1915-1954, June - July 1985, no. 6.
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Henri Laurens, August - October 1985, no. 15.
Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Henri Laurens, Escultures i dibuixos, March - May 1989, no. 42.
Biron, Château, Henri Laurens, July - September 1990, no. 7.
Lille, Villeneuve d'Ascq, Musée d'art moderne, Henri Laurens, rétrospective, December 1992 - April 1993, no. 39 (illustrated p. 143).
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Lot Essay

Executed in 1919, La femme à la guitare belongs amongst Henri Laurens' first Cubist works to be sculpted fully in the round, and arguably ranks as one of his finest sculptures. Laurens became an early adherent of Cubist aesthetics shortly after forming a close friendship with Braque in 1911, initially engaging the geometrical analysis of form in constructions comprised of complex intersections of thin planes of wood or metal. After this period of experimentation, Laurens returned to traditional sculptural techniques in 1918, using the method of direct carving in stone to interpret the multidimensional forms of his constructions into a single dense core.

Like other celebrated Laurens sculptures from this period, such as Homme avec le Clarinet, (1919, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington) and Femme á l'oiseau (1921-22, Centre George Pompidou, Paris), La femme à la guitare simplifies the typical Cubist motifs of the human figure and still life to create a rigorous architectonic structure broken but not divided by angles and planes. This unified and clearly articulated planar system is devised to preserve the frontality of the object, and yet, through its variation of angles and the interpenetration of one form by another, Laurens succeeds in persuading the eye to move around the entire mass. The tilted surfaces and austere geometric volumes of La femme à la guitare reassemble dramatically different aspects of his subject, providing a variety of visual experiences that is perfectly complimented by the light harnessing quality of the delicately pitted white stone. Laurens' virtues as a sculptor were even praised by Giacometti, who described him as, 'one of those rare sculptors who render what I experience in front of living reality, and that is why I find a likeness in his sculpture, a likeness which gives me reason to love and admire it', (cited in D. Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, London, 1999, p. 262).

La femme à la guitare has passed through the hands of some of the most prestigious art dealers of the Twentieth Century and was first acquired by L©eonce Rosenberg's progressive and influential Galerie de l'Effort Moderne immediately after its completion. The sculpture was then eventually purchased by Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, who sold his collection and the Galerie Simon to Louise Leiris before fleeing to Switzerland following of the Nazi occupation of Paris. The sculpture subsequently was acquired by a private collector with whom it has remained for the past fifty years.

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