Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)

Pintura constructiva

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Pintura constructiva
signed 'J Torres GARCIA' (upper left) and dated '30' (upper right)
oil on canvas
18 3/8 x 22 in. (46.7 x 55.9 cm.)
Painted in 1930.
Manolita Piña de Torres collection (no. 349).
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (1980).
Campochiaro, Buenos Aires.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 1983, lot 29 (illustrated in color).
Royal S. Marks, New York.
Twenty Works by Joaquín Torres-García from the Estate of Royal S. Marks, Sotheby's, New York, 20 November 1989, lot 7 (illustrated in color).
Galerie Marwan Hoss, Paris.
Acquired from the above.
E. Jardí, Torres-García, Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, 1973, p. 170, no. 227 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Paris, Galerie Marwan Hoss, Hommage á Torres-García: Oeuvres de 1928 á 1948, 1990, p. 46 (illustrated).
J.M. Faerna García-Bermejo, Joaquín Torres-García, Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, 2002 (illustrated).
New York, Knoedler Contemporary Art, J. Torres-García, February 1974.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Paintings, Reliefs and Drawings by J. Torres-García, 4- 29 of October 1977, no. 6.
Paris, Galerie Marwan Hoss, Hommage á Torres-García: Oeuvres de 1928 á 1948, May 1990.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Mrs. Cecilia de Torres for her assistance in cataloguing this work.

Joaquín Torres-García is one of the more significant and complex figures of early modernist movements in Latin America. In 1935, he founded the Asociación de Arte Constructivo in Montevideo and was at the forefront of what came to be known as La Escuela del Sur. However it was as a mature artist that Torres-García left his mark on his native country and Latin America. Though born in Uruguay in 1874, in 1891 Torres García moved with his parents and siblings to Mataró and later to Barcelona, where he would train as a painter at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Barcelona and the Academia Baixas. The first two decades of his production were marked by a wide range of influences, from the work of Post-Impressionist artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec to the work of Puvis de Chavannes, and the classicist revivalism of Catalonian noucentisme. In the late 1910s, his work took a departure from the classical and pastoral motives of his noucentisme-inflected production and the modern city, with its dynamic movement and fragmentation of perspectives, began to make an appearance in his paintings. While this was not a radical turn towards abstraction one can appreciate as early as 1917 a fragmentation of the picture plane that did away with perspective, as if the city and its buildings, streets, cars, cafés and pedestrians became part of a vortex or rapidly succeeding images, what Torres-García and fellow Barcelona-based Uruguayan painter Rafael Barradas called vibracionisme (vibrationism).

Constantly suffering from financial difficulties, the artist left Barcelona for New York, where despite continuing economic woes he participated in group exhibitions at the Whitney Studio Club in 1921 and 1922 and made the acquaintance of artists and intellectuals of the New York avant-garde scene, including the Whitney sisters, Max Weber, Edgar Varese, and Marcel Duchamp. After a brief period in Italy the artist moved to Paris in 1926. It was there that his work finally matured into his signature style, what he would later define as universalismo constructivo (constructive universalism). In Paris, he met Michel Seuphor, with whom he founded the group Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) in 1929, and published the homonymous magazine in 1930, of which only three issues were published before the group disbanded to become the highly influential group Abstraction Création in 1931. The group, which also included Georges Vantongerloo, Piet Mondrian, Luigi Russolo, Le Corbusier, Amédée Ozenfant, Pere Dauma, and Antoine Pevsner, among others, also organized a landmark exhibition in 1930. Both Cercle et Carré and Abstraction Création advocated a structural rigour and schematic approach radically opposed to Surrealist tendencies which favored automatism and oneirism.

The work Pintura constructiva (1930) was made during this particularly effervescent period. Since the early 1920s his work had been gradually progressing towards a more schematic form of abstraction, the earlier vibrationist style had given way to a structural division of the picture plane, in which color and line were separated, marked by the inclusion of elements and symbols that would then consistently appear as a graphic repertoire in his paintings-- objects such as clocks, anchors, carriages, trains, boats, as well as human figures, numbers and letters. In Pintura constructiva, a conglomerate of lines and color suggests a busy urban landscape with the figures of a man and a woman on the lower left hand corner, the presence of the clock on the right side and letters in the center of the painting. The work already suggests the almost gridlike structure that would characterize his later works and is representative of the artist's desire to give order to reality, his singular constructive approach.

Julieta González, independent curator

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