Details
FERNANDO ZOBEL
(Filipino, 1924-1984)
Bodegón con Ventana Blanca (Still Life with a White Window)
signed 'Zobel' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'Bodegón con ventana blanca Zobel Nov 10 1967' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
89 x 115.7 cm. (35 x 45 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1967
Provenance
Gift from the artist to the Joslyn Museum, Nebraska, USA
Private Collection, Chicago, USA

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

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Lot Essay

Fernando Zobel is remembered as one of the most progressive abstractionists to emerge from Asia. Born in Manila to a prominent business family, the young Zobel was originally trained in medicine and turned to sketching during his confinement for a spinal condition. During his studies at Harvard, he was introduced to the major American abstract artists: those of the Boston school such as Hyman Bloom, and more significantly, Mark Rothko, whose pared down reductionist works were to influence Zobel throughout his life. Zobel later moved to Cuenca, Spain, where he became an active participant in the artistic climate of the city and eventually also a teacher and mentor to the rising generation of art students, founding the Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol. It was in Cuenca where Zobel embarked on the second definitive series of his career (the first being Saetas), the translucent gold-hued abstracts with an expanse of spatial latitude inspired by the river Jucar.

Bodegon con Ventana Blanca (Lot 1174), painted in 1967 and part of his White Paintings series, immediately preceded the Jucar series. Within the composition of this work, we can see Zobel's use of translucent colours and elimination of representational forms starting to emerge, as he portrayed the prisms of light filtering through the window of his studio in Cuenca. He also started to espouse the grid system to section planary space, which was to become the structural basis for the majority of his Spanish works.

"The grid, like the construction scaffolds which inspired his Saetas , was the cornerstone of Zobel's sense for order, not always in its rigid mechanical form, but often manipulated to create more spatial variations. Any movement within his paintings occurred within the context of axial references set by Zobel's grid."
- Dr Rodolfo Paras-Perez

The passages of space - within this work, divided into symmetrical but differently weighted quarters - are not intended to be mathematically precise. Rather, they are meant to provide a containing framework for the free flow, abstract yet restrained movement of natural light source. The 'dynamic symmetry' of Zobel's mid-career works still reflect the early inspirations of Rothko's liminal rectangular boundaries, limiting and ordering the soft washes of colour across an otherwise unrestrained canvas.

The gossamer-like interplay of the rich bronze hued shades of light against the delineated strands of the window's Spanish screen (reminiscent of the syringe-lines of Saetas) juxtapose Zobel's shifting perspective and sensitivity to colours against the visual logic of a barely geometric character. This 'net' or 'catchment of light' effect is reproduced within other seminal works of this period and is foundational to later developments in the Jucar series.

Bodegon con Ventana Blanca was a gift to the Joslyn Museum in Nebraska, after the curator witnessed Zobel's 1965 exhibition at the Bertha Schaefer gallery in New York. To be precise, Zobel agreed to exchange an artwork of significant quality for thirty six books from the Joslyn Museum's art reference library; planning to donate these to the Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol in Cuenca to simultaneously improve his students' knowledge of American art and command of English.

La Ventana: Santander (Lot of 1175) painted in 1968, is another window abstract based on the geometric grid. The entire canvas bears warm, muted golden tones, with a finely balanced line, the subtle suggestion of some minimally present form, pivoting across the central axis. Upon perfecting the still life compositions of the window works and confident in his capturing of the shifting light source, within the next two years Zobel gradually moved on to the subsequent challenge of depicting the same light source upon the dynamic movement of the Jucar's flowing water.
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