AUGUSTE HERBIN (1882-1960)
AUGUSTE HERBIN (1882-1960)
AUGUSTE HERBIN (1882-1960)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
AUGUSTE HERBIN (1882-1960)


AUGUSTE HERBIN (1882-1960)
signed and dated 'Herbin 8-19' (lower right)
oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1919
Galerie L'Effort Moderne [Léonce Rosenberg], Paris, no. 6478.
Anonymous sale, Kornfeld, Bern, 15 June 1972, lot 412.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Claisse, Auguste Herbin, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1993, no. 381, p. 346 (incorrectly catalogued as 'signed lower centre').
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.

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Lot Essay

Auguste Herbin travelled to Céret, a small town in the Pyrenees, three times: in 1913, 1919 and 1923. Each of these stays prompted the artist to complete a group of paintings which became emblematic of his production during that decade, a particularly fruitful period of his artistic career. It is said that Pablo Picasso himself would have first encouraged Herbin to visit Céret, a village later referred to as the ‘Mecca of cubism’ by the French poet and critic André Salmon (cited in exh. cat., Herbin, Paris, 2012, p. 45). The two had met in 1909, when Herbin moved to the Bateau-Lavoir, sharing a studio, together with Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Following this pivotal encounter, Herbin immediately started to experiment with Cubism. Mobilised during the First World War, he was forced to quit painting between 1914 and 1916, only resuming his artistic work in 1917.
Composition dates from August 1919, the same year that the manifesto of Constructivism was being formulated in Moscow and Malevich was making his Architectones: while seeking inspiration from the cubists, Herbin also kept in touch with Russian ideas through his connections with the Bauhaus. Earlier in the year, Herbin had created his Objets monumentaux, of which Silhouette sur deux plans, Danseuse, 1919, in the collection of the Musée Matisse, and shown here, is a great example. These monumental assemblages of abstract designs on canvases mounted on wood, lie at the border of painting and sculpture. The present oil is one of a group of purely abstract upright compositions on canvas completed the same year, which equally explore architectural forms, such as garlands, zigzags and ornamental borders. Despite its foundation in abstraction and political ideology, the effect of the painting is far from solemn; the interlocking of colours, such as flesh with grey and green with chocolate brown, sets up a rhythm as jaunty as a pair of jazz dancers. The eye is constantly being teased between areas of flat colour and the trompe l’œil swags and triangles which pulsate with the vivid urban life of Paris.
Dividing the canvas into interlocking sections of different colours and patterns, with Composition, the artist created a surface of seemingly superimposed planes. Eschewing any form of representation, it creates a visual space that is determined by the relation of geometry and colours. Herbin’s burgeoning abstract style, exemplified by the present work, attracted the attention of the art dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who acquired Composition, among many other of Herbin’s works, shortly after its execution. In the Bulletin to his 1918 exhibition at the gallery, Rosenberg reserved the most praising words for the artist: ‘the perfection of all perfections, the absolute of all idealism is always Herbin’ (quoted in exh. cat., Herbin, Arcueil, 1994, p. 21).
Composition comes from a German private collection in which all works were carefully brought together by a passionate collector and enthusiast of the arts over a period of almost thirty years, starting in the early 1960s. These were bought after much consideration from a few trusted gallerists, or, wherever possible, from the artists themselves and, occasionally, as it is the case for Herbin’s Composition, at auction. Purchased in 1972, the present work has since remained in the same important family collection.

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