ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
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ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)

The Bull (El toro)

ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
The Bull (El toro)
signed 'tàpies' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
38 ¼ x 51 1⁄8 in. (97 x 130 cm.)
Painted in 1951
The artist’s estate.
Private collection, Barcelona, by whom acquired from the above in 2012.
A. Agustí, Tàpies: The Complete Works, vol. I, 1943-1960, Barcelona, 1990, no. 376, p. 170 & 529 (illustrated p. 170).
Venice, XXVI Venice Biennale, 1952, no. 72.
Barcelona, Galeries Laietanes, Antoni Tàpies, 1952, no. 10.
Santander, Galería Sur, Pinturas de Antoni Tàpies, November 1955, no. 4.

Brought to you by

Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 1951, El Toro is a powerful illustration of the drama and suspense of Antoni Tàpies’s enigmatic Surrealist vision, which culminated in his so-called ‘magic paintings’ of the late 1940s and early 1950s. In these compositions, the artist conjured a world of magic and fantasy using a combination of intuitive figurative representation and personal symbolism, to reveal the imaginative potential that lay within the act of picture-making. By 1951, the growing influence of literature and myth on Tàpies’s oeuvre had begun to find expression in works such as El Toro, infusing his otherworldly scenes with a rich narrative and distinctly eerie atmosphere. Here, the scene takes place within a strange interior that appears like a twilit stage set, across which a cast of otherworldly characters enacts a mysterious drama – two women are seated at a table, one resting her head on its surface as if she is overwhelmed by grief, tears streaming from her eyes. Her companion, though presented like a mother holding a young baby, is covered in strange markings and symbols, added in a bright, blood-red pigment, that calls to mind images of vampires or wraiths. On the opposite side of the room, a toreador stands half in shadow, his red cape clutched in his right hand, while a powerful, mystical bull crowned by a crescent moon materialises in the room. Captured in a glowing blue tone that slowly fades out across its body, the bull appears semi-transparent and non-corporeal, as if it has just passed through the solid wall and into the room. Behind the two women, a star-flecked shadow echoes almost exactly the bull’s muscular form, with the unexpected addition a sword plunged into its back, the hilt just visible within the whispy cloud of constellations. Last seen at public exhibition almost seventy years ago, El Toro remained in Tàpies’s personal collection for the rest of his life.

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