This work will be included in the forthcoming Volume IV and Supplements of Volume I, II et III of the Moïse Kisling catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Marc Ottavi.
French-Polish painter Moïse Kisling is famed for works that burst with vibrant colour and exude vitality. The present lot belongs to a series of energetic works that celebrate the delicacy and charm of the mimosa flower. From the early 1920s, Kisling’s œuvre was pervaded with still-lifes of the flower. Most frequently associated with philosophy and problem solving, and having been the subject of artistic endeavour for centuries, the dynamic yellow of the mimosa evokes the warm light of its native climes. In 1910, Kisling had moved from Poland to Paris, where he lived and worked in Montparnasse, and was part of its renowned artistic community, largely made up of emigre artists from Eastern Europe, America and Britain. At the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered for service in the French Foreign Legion. After being seriously wounded in 1915 in the Battle of the Somme, he was awarded French citizenship. Returning to Montparnasse after the war, Kisling took a studio where he lived for the next twenty-seven years, becoming close friends with artists such as Amedeo Modigliani and Jules Pascin. While in Paris, Kisling would venture out into the surrounding countryside in search of the fields blanketed with the striking yellow flower.
On the symbolic significance of the mimosa, Robert Maniquis stated, ‘It became a popular cliché in metaphors for human sensibility, both delicate and empathising, but also a literary emblem, completely Romantic, that often implied in sensitivity not only a state of feeling but also one of being’ (R. M. Maniquis, The Puzzling Mimosa: Sensitivity and Plant Symbols in Romanticism, 1969, p. 129). Kisling’s translation of this sense of being and feeling was often executed through his use of colour. Of his father, his son Jean Kisling declared, ‘As a colourist, he did not set a fixed boundary when it came to juggling nuances, contrasts, or the connection between tonalities: he paid great attention to the quality of pigments. I can still hear him say: 'Do you find this beautiful?... Yes, but you will see in three-hundred years! One must paint for posterity. One must allow for the viewer to read the joy that the painter felt upon the creation of the work' (J. Kisling, ed., Kisling, 1891-1953, Landshut, 1995, p. 51).
In the present work, the splaying playful bouquet of mimosas effervesces with energy. The flowers emerge from a red vase on a background of earthy colours. The broad wash of natural tones in the background is offset with the exquisite delicacy of each yellow impasto head, dangling from its bough. The mottled ground gives the flowers a surrounding glow and gives them an illusionistic quality that pushes them to the very foreground of the work. Jean Kisling recalls that the Mimosa paintings were the most labour intensive of his father’s works. He remembers his father painting each yellow sphere one by one by quickly rotating his brush, which had been generously coated with colour, and then retracting his hand with some speed in order to pull the paint into a low point. As a result, the trompe-l'œil spray emerges out of the centre of the canvas and into a tangible relationship with its viewer.