Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)
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Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)

Homenaje a Goethe I (Homage to Goethe I)

Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002)
Homenaje a Goethe I (Homage to Goethe I)
signed and incised with the artist's monogram 'CHILLIDA' (on one side)
21 x 29 x 27in. (53.3 x 73.7 x 68.6cm.)
Executed in 1975
Galería Theo, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in May 1976.
M. Fernández-Braso, 'En el taller', in Guadalimar, no. 50, 1980, p. 50. S. Amón, Chillida. Escultures, Obra gràfica, Barcelona 1980, pp. 4-5.
E. Chillida, O. Paz & H. Schneider, Eduardo Chillida: Skulpturen, Hanover 1981, p. 77.
La obra artística de Eduardo Chillida, exh. cat. Bilbao, Caja de Ahorros Vizcaína, 1988, p. 69.
Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1999, p. 86. P.V., Gómez, T. Llorens, K. Schmidt & K.M. de Barañano, Chillida, Barcelona 2003, p. 43.
Pittsburgh, Museum of Art Carnegie Institute, Chillida, 1979, no. 228 (illustrated, p. 169).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Eduardo Chillida, 1980. Madrid, Palacio de Cristal, Exposición antológica de Eduardo Chillida, 1980, no. 8, p. 21.
Barcelona, Galería Maeght, Chillida, Esculturas, Obra Gráfica, 1980, no. 228, p. 169.
Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Chillida, 1981, no. 31, p. 20.
Madrid, Palacio de las Alhajas, Correspondencias 5 Arquitectos 5 Escultores, 1982, p. 72.
Madrid, Galería Elvira González, El hueco es la luz. Eduardo Chillida, 2008, no. 8, p. 21.
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Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Museo Chillida-Leku, under number no. 1975.011

'Working with light showed me that I had found myself on the territory of Goethe' (E. Chillida, in conversation with F. Mennekes in C. Lichtenstern, Chillida und die Musik: Baumeister von Zenkner und Mario Terés, Cologne, 1997, p. 19).

With its three cubic limbs protruding into space, carved from a single rough-hewn block of alabaster, which is excavated to its hearth to maximise its light giving quality, Homenaje a Goethe I (Homage to Goethe1) is the first work in a stunning series of five alabaster sculptures dedicated to the great Romantic author and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that Chillida made between 1975 and 1979. It is this series of works that in many ways represent the culmination of Chillida's achievements in this unique and lustrous medium. Articulating many of the central ideals of Chillida's work as a whole, each of these five magnificent translucent stone sculptures has been carved from a single, rough-hewn block of alabaster to form a smooth, radiant and near-luminescent architecture of form that embraces the concept of inner space and light existing within the very heart of a solid stone mass.

Each work is a variation on a theme of alternating cubic rectangles of space and solid stone interacting with one another in a dance of form and void that seems to emanate from unseen vortex in the centre of the work. When light is shone through these vast stone forms, their imposing physical mass is brought alive by the vein-like rhythms of organic form running through the archaic geometry of their sculptural architecture. Most significantly, it is in their expression of this light as one of the fundamental and indivisible building-blocks of life, of it being an element intrinsically related to both space and matter, that these five well-known sculptures relate to Goethe.

Goethe's famous experiments and theories on light and colour argued that light and darkness were ultimately not separate or distinct entities, but in fact, as Chillida himself believed of space and matter, polar opposites representing different extremes of the same thing. Space for Chillida (as for many sculptors) was a material, what he once described as 'a quick material... (one)... so quick in fact that we have the impression that there is nothing there... The space concerned with the work is always surrounding the work. In the alabaster works the problem is that the space goes into the stone and then you have space, the void, inside the stone. (E. Chillida, quoted from the film Chillida RM Arts and ETB Euskal Telebista (Basque Television) 1985).

Goethe, in his theories on colour and light had even gone so far as to assert that 'light', similarly, was the 'simplest, most undivided, most homogenous being that we know'. For Chillida, it was the idea that light and darkness, like space and matter (or solid and void), were all ultimately indivisible from one another and interrelated that most appealed to him about Goethe's theories and this which he recognized as relating directly to his own sculptural practice.

Alabaster - a stone with the unique quality of seeming to hold both light and space within itself, within its own material nature - offered itself as the perfect material with which to express these ideas. Chillida first began to work in alabaster in 1965 following a trip to Greece. Having been originally inspired by Greek architecture and the sculptures of the Parthenon which he had seen in London, Chillida had at first sought to emulate the architectural mastery of solidity, light and void discernible in Greek temple architecture by using marble for own stone sculptural expressions of this concept of the integral correspondence between light, solid and void. With marble however, Chillida found that its material nature belonged ultimately to what he has described as 'the white light' of the Mediterranean, and this was a light he felt uneasy working with. 'I was working in a material' he later said, 'which was not suited to enter into a relationship with the light to which I belong, it is to the black light that I belong.' (E. Chillida, quoted in K. Barañano, Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Madrid, 1998, p. 76).

In contrast to this pure white marble of Paros that for Chillida reflected the 'white light' of the Mediterranean, he discovered in the misty, interior translucence of alabaster an embodiment of the foggy, grey, 'black light' of his own Atlantic-coast homeland in the Basque region. More than this however, with its innate internalized quality of seemingly being able to trap light within itself, alabaster was a stone that awoke also a mystical sense of the physics of light, solid and volume and of the extraordinary ability of light to seemingly reside within a material or mass. 'I have read a great deal about mysticism, the German, the Indian, the Oriental and the Christian in general' Chillida once told Friedhelm Mennekes,' And I must admit to you that I believe my work has a great deal to do with this thinking.' (E. Chillida, 'In Conversation with Friedhelm Mennekes' quoted in C Lichtenstern, op cit., p. 18).

It is essentially this mystical idea of light as an innate entity that, like space, is able to inhabit and affect solid mass that so distinguishes Chillida's alabaster sculptures and which is also the prevailing theme of much of the artist's work throughout the last decades of his life. Like his parallel series of works (also often though not always executed in alabaster) entitled Lo profundo es el Aire, - a series of works that articulate the concept of exterior light penetrating an interior mass and transforming it into a polarising realm of space and light - the guiding principle of all the Homenaje a Goethe sculptures is centred on the concept of the mystic potential of light and space to transform apparently inert, solid matter and infuse it with the mysterious medium of emptiness.

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