ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974)
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974)
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La Rêverie: The Collection of Sydell Miller
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974)

Pictograph

Details
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974)
Pictograph
signed 'Adolph Gottlieb' (lower right)
oil on canvas
48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1942.
Provenance
Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, New York
Knoedler & Co., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1998
Literature
S. Kootz, New Frontiers in American Painting, New York, 1942, pl. 31 (illustrated).
B. Newman, "La Pintura de Tamayo y Gottlieb," La Revista Belga, April 1945.
A. Valente, ''Adolph Gottlieb: An Individualistic Artist Who Decries The Unintelligible in Modern Painting," Promenade, February 1949.
M. Davis, ''The Pictographs of Adolph Gottlieb: A Synthesis of the Subjective and the Rational," Arts Magazine, November 1977.
A. Hudson, "Adolph Gottllieb: An Artist Who Is Surviving," Arts Magazine, March/April 1978.
W. Rubin, Primitivism in 20th Century Art, New York, 1984, p. 616 (illustrated).
E. Kennelly, "Gottlieb’s Message Expresses in Symbols and Signs," The Washington Times, 9 October 1994.
A. Wallach, ''A New Light on African Creations," New York Newsday, 7 July 1995.
D. Anfam, ''New York and Little Rock: Adolph Gottlieb," Burlington Magazine, January 1996.
D. Belgrad, The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America, Chicago, 1998, p. 65 (illustrated).
D. Kuspit, ''Adolph Gottlieb: Knoedler and Company," Artforum, XXXVII, September 1998 (illustrated).
Surrealistas en el Exilio Y Los Inicios de la Escuela de Nueva York, exh. cat., Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, 2000, p. 27 (illustrated).
I. Sandler, Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation, New York, 2009, p. 94 (illustrated).
Exhibited
New York, Artists Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb: Paintings, December 1942-January 1943.
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Art Associate of Montreal; San Francisco, de Young Memorial Museum; Cleveland Museum of Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Art in Our Century, 1949, p. 106, pl. 37 (illustrated).
Alberta, Edmonton Art Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery; Calgary, Glenbow-Alberta Institute; Art Gallery of Windsor; Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal and Art Gallery of Ontario, Adolph Gottlieb: Pictographs, November 1977-September 1978, no. 4 (illustrated).
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb Pictographs, 1941-1953, March-April 1979, n.p. (illustrated)
Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum; Phoenix Art Museum; Manchester, Currier Museum of Art and Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Adolph Gottlieb Paintings 1921-1956, May 1979-June 1980, p. 30 (illustrated).
Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; The Tampa Museum; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery; Flint Institute of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and The Tel Aviv Museum, Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, April 1981-January 1983, p. 91, no. 37 (illustrated).
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Portland Museum of Art; The Brooklyn Museum and Little Rock, The Arkansas Arts Center, The Pictographs of Adolph Gottlieb, September 1994-January 1996, pp. 71 and 137, no.4 (illustrated).
New York, Knoedler Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb Pictographs: A Selection from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, March-April 1998, n.p. (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Rachael White Young
Rachael White Young Vice President, Specialist, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot essay

Sydell Miller, together with her late husband Arnold Miller, was the founder of Matrix Essentials Inc, which became the largest manufacturer of professional hair and beauty products in America. After Mr. Miller died in 1992 Sydell Miller took the helm alone, pushing the company to new heights, selling the business in 1994 to Bristol Myers Squibb and retiring in 1996 to devote herself to her family and to Philanthropy. Chief amongst Mrs. Miller’s causes is the Cleveland Clinic where the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion houses the Miller Family Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute. In addition to being celebrated as a Philanthropist Mrs. Miller is also recognized as a major collector of both Fine and Decorative Arts which were housed in her sumptuous home in Palm Beach, La Rêverie. The current sales, to be held during the New York 20/21 Marquee Sales on May 12 through the 14th will offer a selection of Fine Art including paintings and sculpture by Joan Miro, Joan Mitchell Jean Dubuffet and other masters while a further sale on June 10th will incorporate a selection of superb Eighteenth Century French Furniture and Decorations, alongside Art Deco and Contemporary design including a rare Elephants table by Francois-Xavier Lalanne. The Furniture, so skillfully installed at La Rêverie is united by it’s reflection of the avant-garde taste of both the Eighteenth century and of the Twentieth Century. The sale also includes a number of pieces of furniture supplied by Peter Marino Architect who worked with Mrs. Miller on the house and it’s interiors. Built as a family home and much loved La Rêverie has now been sold and Mrs. Miller has now moved on to the adventure of a new home, leaving this part of her collection for others to enjoy and looking forward to new adventures.


Pictograph is an exquisite example from Adolph Gottlieb’s celebrated Pictograph series, in which the artist draws upon a number of complex signs and ciphers, arranging them in rich and subtle compositions to communicate language in its visual and primal form. Alongside friends Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, Gottlieb was intrigued by ancient myths and their ability to speak to people across times and cultures through the use of universal shapes to invoke the depths of human emotion. Gottlieb’s Pictographs were inspired by taking recognizable forms from nature and reassembling them into something otherworldly. Here, the artist plucks a series of symbols, a set of large eyes, faces and amorphous body parts, as well as sinuous, animalistic forms, and masterfully places each in a demarcated space. Gottlieb arranges his composition into a series of irregular geometric compartments and into each of these he inserts a unique pictograph—a mysterious and captivating image which, whilst bearing little formal relationship to any existing object, nonetheless imparts some degree of familiarity.

The origins of Gottlieb’s Pictographs can be traced back to the early 1940s when, together with Rothko, Gottlieb looked for an alternative to the prevailing style of American regionalism and social realism. They decided the theme of “myth” was one that most closely offered them the opportunity to explore their feelings of isolation following the horrors of the World War II, yet at the same time possessed a universality which could be understood across cultures. Taking his cue from European Modernism and its debt to African art, the constructivist paintings of Piet Mondrian and the strict compositional rigor of Uruguayan Joaquin Torres-Garica, Gottlieb began to create a series of graphic images that were drawn, via his subconscious, from his own experiences. Adopting the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Gottlieb believed that universal symbols had the power to unlock the collective unconscious of the viewer. The unconscious power of Gottlieb’s chosen symbols skillfully manifest the artist's literary and cerebral practice, and reflect the intermingling in New York of the exiled Surrealists during World War II with the burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement.


A testament to the importance of this early work in the artist’s oeuvre, Pictograph remained in Gottlieb’s collection throughout his lifetime and has been widely exhibited across the world, including in the artist’s first Pictograph exhibition at the Artists Gallery in New York in 1942 and a major traveling retrospective of the artist’s work that began at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from 1981-1983.

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