Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)
Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)
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Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Souvenir de la maison d’Autriche (Remembering the House of Austria)

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)
Souvenir de la maison d’Autriche (Remembering the House of Austria)
signed and dated ‘Mathieu le 2 Fev 78’ (lower right); titled and dated ‘Souvenir de la maison d’Autriche 2/2 1978’ (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
98 3/8 x 236 ¼ in. (250 x 600 cm.)
Painted in 1978. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Comite Georges Mathieu.
Collection of the artist
Estate of the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Vision sur les Arts, no. 121, September-October 1978, p. 39 (illustrated).
G. Mathieu, Mathieu, Paris, 1993, p. 145, 148 and 151 (illustrated in color).
G. Mathieu, Mathieu, 50 ans de creation, Paris, 2003, p. 297, 299, 304, 306, 451 and 464 (illustrated).
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Mathieu, Quelques oeuvres peintes de 1963 a 1978, April-June 1978, pl. 40 (illustrated).
Aix-en-Provence, Nouvelle salle des Fetes, Mathieu, Peintures 1949-1978, July-August 1978, pl. 23 (illustrated).
Avignon, Palais des Papes, Mathieu, Retrospective et Oeuvres recentes, August-October 1985, pl. 55 (illustrated in color).
Chateauroux, Abbaye des Cordeliers, Oeuvres monumentales (1958-1978) et Peintures recentes (1989-1990), June-September 1990, pl. 12 (illustrated in color).
Versailles, Petite Ecurie du chateau de Versailles, Mathieu a Versailles, May-July 2006, pl. 5 (illustrated in color).
Saint-Louis, Espace d’Art Contemporain Fernet-Branca, Georges Mathieu, December 2006-February 2007, pl. 5 (illustrated in color).
New York, Nahmad Contemporary, Georges Mathieu: Monumental Paintings, January-February 2019, pp. 6-9, 11-13 and 17 (illustrated in color).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful. Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Georges Mathieu catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Comite Georges Mathieu (n°GM70045).

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

Georges Mathieu’s Souvenir de la maison d’Austriche (Remembering the House of Austria) is a monumental painting that celebrates the exuberance of colour and form for which his work is so renowned. One of seven large-scale paintings completed in 1978 for a major retrospective organised by the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, the complex composition knits together chromatic ribbons with architectural elements to build an active and striking composition. Considered to be the founder of a movement known as Lyrical Abstraction, he was one of the first artists—along with Jackson Pollock—to apply paint to the surface of the canvas directly from the tube. Mathieu was also well-known for working at a frenetic pace, often completing large-scale paintings such as the present work in a single day. His paintings were admired by many of the American Abstract Expressionists, with the celebrated critic Clement Greenberg describing Mathieu as the transatlantic painter whose work he admired the most.

The present work belongs to a series that Mathieu began on January 27th 1978. The first painting (which he completed in just a few hours), comprises of an elaborate architecture of black and white forms on a grey ground. “First, I wanted to prove that my painting would hold itself up in just black and white,” Mathieu recalled, and satisfied with the result he then began work on the present painting. With Souvenir de la maison d’Austriche (Remembering the House of Austria), the artist unleashes a new kind of energy, with a profusion of colors blazing from powerful brushstrokes.

The composition is a well-balanced yin-yang, with a polychromatic ‘Big Bang’ style concentration of forms in the right half of the canvas. Here, Mathieu loosely delineates forms, unleashing ribbons of paint directly from the tube, spreading heavy impastos, drips and splashes against a dark ground. The surface vibrates, dances, and fizzes with a vitality that revels in the liberated gestures of the artist’s hand. Following his previous monochromatic canvas, in the present work Mathieu celebrates colour; “Each time I execute a painting, I force myself to use an opposite approach in the next, because in order to invent a new language, one must negate his previous one” (Georges Mathieu quoted in Demoriane H., 1978, ‘Mathieu au Grand Palais’, Le Point, 17 April). After six weeks, the artist had completed the remaining five remaining works of the series, one of which is today in the permanent collection of the Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Family legend had it that Mathieu’s mother descended from the legendary French nobleman Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lorraine and one of the leaders of the First Crusade in 1096. Such an extraordinary family tale shaped the young artist’s mind, making him a fervent monarchist and history aficionado. His illustrious descent would determine, among other things, his choice of titles referring to great battles and regal families. Souvenir de la Maison d’Autriche (Remembrance of the House of Austria) is undoubtedly a tribute to the House of Habsburg, one of the most influential and distinguished sovereign dynasties that rules Europe from the fifteenth to the early twentieth century.

His taste for grandeur is found not only in his paintings’ monumental formats but also in the execution of his spectacular and bold works. The same year as he completed the present example, Mathieu appeared live on national television to paint a three by ten meter canvas in just an hour and a half, immediately afterwards destroying the painting saying that he wanted no-one to possess it. Georges Mathieu was this kind of man: impulsive, theatrical, hypersensitive, all qualities reflected in his paintings. Exalted and exuberant, rebellious and turbulent, lyrical and cosmic, the performative and experimental aspects of his work was often associated with the Gutai artists, with whom he shares artistic affinities. Indeed, the Gutai Manifesto stated as early as 1956 that its members “highly regard the works of Pollock and Mathieu because their work seemed to embody cries uttered out of matter, pigment and enamel” (Yoshihara Jiro, ‘Gutai bijutsu sengen’ (The Gutai Manifesto), Geijutsu Shincho 7, no. 12, December 1956, pp. 202–04).

Souvenir de la Maison d’Autriche stands out as one of Georges Mathieu’s seminal works. Specially created for his retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1978, this museum-quality work encapsulates Mathieu’s immense energy, iconic style and unbridled freedom.

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