ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)
ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)
ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)
ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)

Painted Screen

Details
ALLEN JONES, R.A. (b. 1937)
Painted Screen
signed and dated ‘Allen Jones ‘65’ (lower left), signed again and dated again ‘Allen Jones 73’ (on the reverse)
oil and household paint on panel, in five parts
72 x 85 ¼ in. (183 x 216.5 cm.) overall
Painted in 1965 with a later addition by the artist in 1973.
Provenance
Bert Stern.
Victor Lownes.
with Vanessa Devereux Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner, circa 1989.
Literature
M. Livingstone, Sheer Magic, New York, 1979, pp. 112-113, illustrated.
A. Jones and M. Livingstone, exhibition catalogue, Allen Jones: A Retrospective of Paintings 1957-1978, Liverpool, Arts Council of Great Britain, Walker Art Gallery, 1979, n.p., no. 20, illustrated.
C. Hemming, The Folding Screen, London, 1999, p. 98, no. 43, illustrated.
Exhibited
Liverpool, Arts Council of Great Britain, Walker Art Gallery, Allen Jones: A Retrospective of Paintings 1957-1978, March - April 1979, no. 20: this exhibition travelled to London, Serpentine Gallery, May - June 1979; Sunderland, Museum and Art Gallery, June - July 1979; Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, September - October 1979; and Bielfield, Kunsthalle, November - December 1979.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot will be removed to our storage facility at Momart. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Momart. All collections from Momart will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Lot Essay

While living in New York City in 1964-65, Allen Jones met the celebrated American commercial photographer and film-maker Bert Stern (1929-2013), now particularly associated with the photographs he took of Marilyn Monroe in the two months before her untimely death in August 1962. The introduction may have been through his friend the British abstract painter Richard Smith, who like Jones, showed with the Richard Feigen Gallery, and specifically Betsy Scherman, who had just married Smith in New York in 1964 and who had worked as Stern’s stylist and studio assistant from about 1960 to 1962 (email to Marco Livingstone, 13 July 2018, Betsy Smith wrote, 'I was Bert Stern's stylist and studio assistant for a couple of years and several times put Max Factor all over Marilyn Monroe's back and décolletage. She had very transparent skin with many blue veins showing, which unfortunately would photograph as blotchy and grey'). Stern lived in a Brownstone townhouse on the Upper East Side and asked Jones to make a painting in the form of a freestanding folding screen, inspired by the format of Japanese room-dividers, leaving it to the artist to determine the imagery. As the hinged panels needed to be stable and rigid in order to remain securely in place in whatever configuration its owner chose to display it, Jones elected to paint it on wooden sheets, a support that by chance he had just experimented with twice: Curious Man, painted in London in 1964 but transported to New York, and Curious Woman, produced in 1964-65 at his studio at New York’s Chelsea Hotel.

In conversation on 1 December 2019, Jones recalled that he had had some plywood columns fabricated for him in London prior to his departure for New York and that he shipped them there, along with the plywood panels used for Curious Man and Curious Woman, partly out of fear that he might experience the painterly equivalent of writer’s block:

Painted Screen was made at the Chelsea hotel. I had started using plywood in my work, bringing several curvilinear plywood columns with me from London that became my first excursions into sculpture. Within the avant-garde figurative art had been swept away by 'the march of Modernism from Mondrian to Minimalism' (Alfred Barr). Abstract Expressionsm made the ‘brushstroke’ itself the subject matter whilst asserting the objective fact of the canvas. I had noticed that if something protruded from the face or edge of a canvas its objective quality became self-evident, allowing the artist freedom to create whatever he wanted on the surface.’

In both Curious Man and Curious Woman Jones played with the materiality of the painted imagery against the exposed grain of the wood, which in itself provided a ready-made ‘all-over’ pattern as pleasingly complex a feast for the eyes as anything to be found in Abstract Expressionism. This pair of works marked a particular turning-point in Jones’s development in the building up of the surface – for the man’s phallic tie, jutting out suggestively from the picture plane, and for the woman’s breasts – extending the illusionism of the painted image into three dimensions and announcing his first forays into sculpture in 1965. This sensation of the fictional figure attempting to break through into the spectator’s space was to become a significant feature in Jones’s future work, as it is, indeed, in Painted Screen, which shows several high-heeled female figures – or, depending on one’s interpretation, a single woman shown moving across as in time-lapse photography or Futurist painting – bounding confidently through the space defined by the five wooden panels. There is a probably subconscious nod, too, to one of the seminal works in early modernism, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).

Jones recalled in 1978 that the wood support provided a kind of liberation in the degree of illusionistic modelling he could allow himself, in apparent contravention of the modernist insistence on respecting the flatness of the picture plane: ‘In the paintings on wood, you saw the image surrounded by real wood grain. By that token, it allowed me in a curious way to take more liberties with modelling the form. I could have modelled it until it looked like a Madame Tussaud’s figure and it still would have been safely on the surface’ (Allen Jones, in conversation with Marco Livingstone, 13 July 1978, quoted in Allen Jones: A Retrospective of Paintings 1957-1978, March - April 1979, no. 18).

As a student only half a decade earlier, Jones had become particularly entranced by the ways in which movement could be represented via the configuration of static images, and by the possibilities of building on the legacies of early modernism. Futurism, which he referenced particularly in his series of shaped Bus canvases of 1962, and Paul Klee’s witty conceit about ‘taking a line for a walk’, which (together with Wassily Kandinsky’s pre-war Improvisations) helped prompt his painting The Battle of Hastings 1961-62 (Tate Collection, London), were particularly important in this respect, but there were other influences, too. The floating figures of Marc Chagall, ancestors to the entwined couples of Wunderbare Landung 1963 (Ferens Art Gallery, Hull) and Hermaphrodite 1963 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), also come into play and paved the way for the free-style inventions of Painted Screen. One of Jones’s major canvases of the period, the vast Female and Male Diptych 1965, prefigures salient features of the screen in the sensations of the imaginary figures being freed from the constraints of gravity – their feet resting against the lateral edges of the separate canvases – and of the energetic but purely painterly way in which they appear to be travelling at speed across our field of vision.

A recurring feature in these works is the female head configured as a mandala, a diamond-shaped or circular form that represents the harmony between the individual and the universe. Jones came to the form especially through his reading of the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst C.G. Jung, who saw it as an indication of the quest for self-knowledge, of a deliberate embrace of the unconscious. It is perhaps not coincidental that a lithograph made by Jones in 1965, Woman, based on a Bert Stern photograph of Elizabeth Taylor, replaces the star’s face with a huge red four-pointed mandala with two pairs of floating lips, very similar to that painted in the upper register of the third and fourth panels of Painted Screen. The recurrence of that motif in the commissioned work thus subliminally incorporates homage to the photographer who at that very moment had given permission to Jones for the reinvention of one of his own images.

When the screen was sold by Stern in 1973 to Victor Lownes (1928-2017), the head of Playboy Europe and of the UK Playboy Clubs from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, Jones was asked if he would paint something on the reverse side, which had until then been left as plain wood. The phallic spear, again culminating in a red mandala, provides a masculine counterpoint to the determinedly female imagery on the recto side of the panels, completing the work with a return to one of Jones’s prime themes, that of the creative act as a synthesis of male and female energies.

More than half a century passed before Jones was to revisit, in a pair of works, the idea of a room divider or screen as an object that was both painting and sculpture, this time in an undulating form as a hybrid of the female figure and pure abstraction, a futuristic cyborg that is at once beguiling and slightly menacing. In Showtime 2008, which culminates in an outstretched female arm, the screen itself, in gleaming materials suggestive of the body work of luxury cars, becomes a voluptuous surrogate for the female body. However different in shape, materials and method of fabrication, it remains steadfastly the progeny of Painted Screen.

We are very grateful to Marco Livingstone for preparing this entry.

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