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Fragments de figure à l'ensemble des plans

Fragments de figure à l'ensemble des plans
signed and dated 'Otto Freundlich 28' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 ¼ x 28 ¾ in. (91.8 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Mr & Mrs Julius Wissinger, Berlin.
Prof. Geheimrat Mie, Heidelberg, a gift from the above.
Mrs Berta Hildenbrand, Heidelberg, by whom acquired from the above, in 1949.
Anonymous sale, Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, 9 June 1972, lot 592.
Private collection, North Germany, by whom acquired at the above sale.
C.O. Jatho, 'Ausstellung der Kölner Kunst 1928', in Die Bauschau, vol. 3, no. 15, Cologne, 1928, p. 17 (illustrated).
H. Hoerle, ed., 'Ein Brief über Malerei', in A bis Z: Organ der Gruppe progressiver Künstler, no. 2, Cologne, November 1929, p. 7 (illustrated).
M. Seuphor, L'art abstrait, ses origines, ses premiers maîtres, Paris, 1950, p. 82 (illustrated; titled 'Peinture' and dated '1925').
M. Seuphor, L'art abstrait en Allemagne d'aujourd'hui, vol. 5, Paris, August 1953 (illustrated).
G. Aust, Otto Freundlich, Cologne, 1960, fig. 7, p. 51 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
M. Seuphor, L'art abstrait, vol. I, 1910-1918: Origines et premiers maîtres, Paris, 1971, no. 58, p. 213 (illustrated p. 59; titled 'Composition' and dated '1925').
J. Heusinger von Waldegg, Otto Freundlich: Monographie mit Dokumentation und Werkverzeichnis, Cologne, 1978, no. 141, p. 88 (illustrated fig. 62, p. 133).
Exh. cat., Otto Freundlich, Kosmischer Kommunismus, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2017, pp. 237 & 339 (illustrated p. 237).
Cologne, Kunstverein, Kölner Kunst, July 1928, no. 24.
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, Salon des Artistes Indépendants, 40e Exposition, January - February 1929, no. 1669, p. 145.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Otto Freundlich, Gemälde, Graphik, Skupturen, May - July 1960, no. 17, n.p. (with incorrect dimensions).
Basel, Galerie Liatowitsch, Die gegenstandslose Welt 1924-1939, February - March 1972; this exhibition later travelled to Milan, Galleria Milano, no. 62a.
Cologne, Kunstverein, Vom Dadamax bis zum Grüngürtel, Köln in den zwanziger Jahren, March - May 1975, p. 115 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions); this exhibition later travelled to Hamburg, Galerie Brockstedt, Die Progressiven, May - June 1975, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Komposition' and with incorrect dimensions).
Berlin, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Politische Konstruktivisten: Die 'Gruppe progressiver Künstler' Köln, June - July 1975, n.p. (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
Ingelheim, Museum-Altes-Rathaus, Der Traum von einer neuen Welt, Berlin 1910-1933, April - June 1989, no. 97, p. 172 (illustrated p. 171; with incorrect dimensions).
Munster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Otto Freundlich, Kräfte der Farbe, February - May 2001, no. 10, p. 19 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Lichtenstein, Kunstmuseum, May - August 2001.

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Lot Essay

'The curve is the primordial element of the physical, the three-dimensional; under certain conditions, it very much has a place here. It is the dam of the river without banks, the rock on which it breaks, the arm that points a direction, the echo that follows and the sound that announces the personal, the emissary of the earth in the vastness of space, space's love letter to our life on earth, the symbol of our connection with the cosmos' (O. Freundlich, 'Ideen und Bilder – Aufzeichnungen eines Malers' (1940-42), in U. Bohnen, ed., Otto Freundlich: Schriften. Ein Wegbereiter der gegenstandslosen Kunst, Cologne, 1982, pp. 221-249. Quoted in exh. cat., Otto Freundlich: Cosmic Communism, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2017, p. 222).

Like hardly any other visual artist at the beginning of the twentieth century, Otto Freundlich vigorously engaged with numerous artistic movements and befriended leading members of the European avant-garde – Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Orphism, Dadaism, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Cologne Progressives and abstraction. Living in Paris from 1924 onwards, the German artist forged his singular creative path as a painter, sculptor, stained-glass designer and writer, contributing to radical newspapers as for example Die Aktion: Zeitschrift für Freiheitliche Politik und Literatur and counting among the first members of the group Abstraction–Création in Paris in 1931.

Titles selected for his artworks, such as Fragments de figure à l'ensemble des plans, may initially seem opaque, but they are illuminated by the artist's own writings. Freundlich conceived his abstract paintings almost like stained glass patterns or mosaics. As he saw it, the meticulous alignment of autonomous shapes evinces a sense of underlying unity which is permeated with allegorical meaning. Freundlich's utopian œuvre is indeed guided by cosmic or universal correspondences, as he outlined in the following terms in 1927: 'All our research will be mere patchwork if we do not discover cosmic relationships and their effects in [the realm of] the earthly' (O. Freundlich, 'Gedanken des Malers' (1927), in U. Bohnen, ed., Otto Freundlich: Schriften. Ein Wegbereiter der gegenstandslosen Kunst, Cologne, 1982, p. 152. Quoted in exh. cat., Otto Freundlich: Cosmic Communism, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2017, p. 218).

This interplay between earthly and spiritual aspirations seems to be epitomised in this remarkable oil on canvas which is characteristic of Freundlich's constructivist vocabulary. Resembling a luminous church window, the composition is reigned by two central half arches which are on the verge of touching – a black curve rising below a blue-white one, both surrounded by an elaborate systems of colour modulations. The driving forces which are the black and white forms orchestrate the centripetal configuration and energise the rectangular colour fields which are interlocking in the background. Freundlich drew explicit analogies between the symbolism of colours and the course of life: 'As limit values, black and white stimulate the colors to unfold towards the limits. And we human beings, who are placed between the limits of birth and death, understand the all-encompassing nature of this process: an all-encompassing, powerful life, indeed perhaps the symbol of life itself' (O. Freundlich, 'Ideen und Bilder – Aufzeichnungen eines Malers' (1940-42), in Otto Freundlich: Schriften, op. cit., pp. 221-249. Quoted in Otto Freundlich: Cosmic Communism, op cit., p. 218).

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