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Audio: Alexander Archipenko, Porteuse
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1965)
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Property from a Distinguished West Coast Collection Assembled with great care and consideration, this Distinguished West Coast Collection, spans several of the most important twentieth-century collecting categories and movements: Impressionist and Modern Art, American Paintings, and Post-War and Contemporary Art. Including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, American Modernism, and Pop Art, each movement is defined by singular iconic works representing the very best of each artist. The collectors' confident range of aesthetic interests was displayed in their breathtaking ocean-side home, which accommodated many rare works, beginning with important examples of the pre-First World War European avant-garde, through high American Modernism of the 1920s and onto significant Surrealist art and major American Post-War painting. The continuity of their well-tuned eye is evident, as the collection moves seamlessly through superb examples of twentieth-century paintings, drawings and sculpture. Rene Magritte's iconic La fin du monde is one of only seventeen oils and ten gouaches in the L'Empire des lumières series, one of his most famous and sought after themes. This work depicts day and night, within a spatially continuous scene, and includes a silhouetted Bowler-hatted man, nestled within the tree line, with his face hidden from view. This iconic image is considered Magritte's private persona and surrogate. As well as being a symbol of the anonymous twentieth-century man on the street. Another highlight in the collection is Alexander Archipenko's Porteuse (Bearer). This rare and important sculpture is especially significant as it is the only surviving Cubist carving by Archipenko and only one of three works carved in stone from this period. Joan Miró's Personnages dans la nuit, is a vibrant and rich work on paper. A trio of monumental figures drawn from charcoal, chalk and jam, it is a wonderful example of Miró's draftsmanship and command of color, while subversively seen as a satire of the Franco Regime. The inclusion of two extraordinary paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe is a tour de force. My Autumn and Black Iris, painted seven years apart, are exemplary of O'Keeffe's highly personal and thoroughly modern aesthetic and of her sensual and evocative depictions of nature. Milton Avery's Nude on the Beach, 1943 was painted during the most critical period in Avery's career. Avery's bold abstractions exerted a highly important influence on Post-War American paintings and have been seen as critical forerunners to paintings by Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, among many others. His interest in color and form presented in a compressed pictorial space, represents the breadth of the American Modern aesthetic. Resonating with color and energy, which are defining forces in this distinguished collection, Hans Hofmann's Terpsichore is comprised of a spectrum of warm and brilliant color, which is achieved by building layers of paint to produce a surface that is rich in both visual and textural details. As one of the major figures of Abstract Expressionism, Hofmann represents a crucial bridge between European movements, such as Cubism and Fauvism, and the new bravura style of American painting. Using "slabs" of color with great intensity and depth, Terpsichore is a bold statement invigorated by liquescent brushstrokes that sweep across the surface of the canvas. The title Terpsichore refers to the Greek muse who ruled over dance and dramatic chorus. The spirited brushwork, rich palette of color and almost molten impasto all serve to demonstrate Hofmann's total mastery of his medium. Jean Dubuffet's Le Montreur d'Agate, is a simple yet complex portrait of a man raising his arm to show an agate stone in his hand. Throughout the painting, Dubuffet worked deliberately to create a surface of chance and hazard resulting in an almost dazzling and almost sculptural surface. This magical surface invites the viewer to scrutinize every inch of the painting in order to appreciate the great diversity of materials and the human form. Edward Ruscha's Real Estate, one of the most contemporary paintings in this distinguished collection, presents a combination of words and color, resulting in his unique "imagery." Using cryptic sentence and commercial typography, Real Estate creates a surreal landscape that, not unlike Magritte's La fin du monde, mysteriously combines daytime and nighttime with a blue sky and a setting sun. These distinguished collectors sought out paintings and sculptures by major twentieth-century artists, and built a collection that is highly personal, but also of the highest quality. Collecting with a partnership and a joy, they followed one rule--they both had to agree or they would not make the acquisition. Christie's is deeply honored to present this extraordinarily collection as a major collection for our Impressionist and Modern Art, American Paintings, and Post-War and Contemporary Art sales.
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1965)

Porteuse

Details
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1965)
Porteuse
signed 'Archipenko' (on the right leg)
stone
Height (including base): 17½ in. (44.5 cm.)
Carved in 1911-1912; unique
Provenance
Verniers, Liège (acquired from the artist, 1913).
Galerie Maeght, Paris (circa 1954).
Fernand C. Graindorge, Brussels.
Perls Galleries, New York (1984).
Donald Karshan, Florida.
Donald Morris Gallery, Inc., Birmingham, Michigan.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, November 1995.
Literature
Montjoie!, 18 March 1913, p. 2 (illustrated).
K.J. Michaelson, A Study of the Early Works, 1908-1921, Ph. Diss., Columbia University, New York, 1977, pl. 28 (illustrated).
D. Karshan, Archipenko, Sculpture, Drawings and Prints, 1908-1963, Bloomington, 1985, p. 20, no. 10 (illustrated in color, pp. 35-39).
Exhibited
Hagen, Museum Folkwang, Le Fauconnier-Alexander Archipenko, December 1912-January 1913, no. 14.
Paris, Société des Artistes Indépendants, March-May 1913, no. 93.
Kunsthalle Basel, Collection Fernand Graindorge, August-October 1954.
Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum (on extended loan, 1955).
Administration Communale de Tournai (on extended loan, 1956).
Humlebaek, Musée Louisiana, Figuration et Défiguration, 1965.
London, Tate Gallery, Léger and Purist Paris, November 1970-January 1971, p. 101, no. 74.
Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art and Israel, Tel Aviv Museum, Alexander Archipenko, A Centennial Tribute, March-June 1987, p. 150, no. 6 (illustrated in color).
Sale room notice
Frances Archipenko Gray has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.

Lot Essay

Frances Archipenko Gray has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.

An extremely important example of Archipenko's early work, Porteuse is especially significant as it is the only surviving cubist carving by the artist and one of only three works carved in stone from this early period. The other examples are Portrait of Mrs. Kemenev (Landesmuseum, Hanover; fig. 1) and Suzanne (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena) which are quite substantially different in style from this cubist example. Porteuse was exhibited in several early and important shows, including Archipenko's first one-man exhibition in Hagen at the Museum Folkwang in the beginning of 1913. "Specific Cubist features begin to appear in Archipenko's sculptures of the years 1911 and 1912," Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen has pointed out, noting particularly the "angular fragmentation of planes that derives from similar effects in cubist painting" (in op. cit., p. 23). Archipenko's work during these years often straddled the line between relief and free-standing sculpture. In Porteuse we see a fully formed sculpture in the round, the faceted elements demonstrating the influence of both Cubist collage and Futurist sculpture.

"To invent!" Archipenko exclaimed two months before his death. "Does anything more important exist? In truth, I don't think so" (in Y. Taillandier, "Conversation avec Archipenko," XX Sicle, vol. 25, no. 22, Christmas 1963). The interview "begins and ends with Archipenko's credo: the artist's most precious faculty is invention," Michaelsen has remarked; and over a lifetime spent in relentless pursuit of "invention," Archipenko established himself among the foremost sculptors of the international avant-garde (in Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1986, p. 17). In the radical innovations of his sculpture between 1908--the year he left Russia for Paris--and 1914, Archipenko advanced a revolutionary restructuring of sculpture's visual syntax, transforming the vanguard language of Cubism into a new and unprecedented approach to sculptural mass.

"For a young artist with limited formal training to catapult himself into a position of prominence within a few years of his arrival in a city where a major revolution in the visual arts was in full swing was an extraordinary accomplishment," Jaroslaw Leshko has observed (in Alexander Archipenko: Vision and Continuity, exh. cat., Ukrainian Museum, New York, 2005, p. 48). Indeed, in the flourishing spirit of experimentation that surrounded the city's avant-garde, from the Sunday salons of the Duchamp brothers to the Cubist gatherings in the studios of Le Fauconnier and Gleizes, Archipenko's precocious talent was warmly welcomed. Archipenko's response to the Cubist paradigm of shifting viewpoints and planar faceting would fully mature by 1914, a year that was, as Guy Habasque has suggested, "perhaps the most fecund of his whole career" (in Archipenko: International Visionary, Washington, D.C., 1969, p. 17).

(fig. 1) Portrait of Mrs. Kemenev, stone, 1909. Landesmuseum Galerie, Hanover, Germany.

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