ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)
ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)

Green Woman

ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)
Green Woman
signed, dated and inscribed and titled 'GREEN WOMAN Alfonso Ossorio Paris 1951' (on the reverse)
mixed media on paper
73.4 x 56 cm. (28 7/8 x 22 in.)
Painted in 1951
Acquired directly from the artist by the Galerie Beyeler in
September 1959
Galerie Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland, Inventory Number 2487
Gallery Cordier & Ekstrom, New York, USA
Acquired from the above on 21 January 1969
Signa Gallery, East Hampton, USA
Wiegersma Fine Art, Paris, France
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, Europe

Brought to you by

Sylvia Cheung
Sylvia Cheung

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Lot Essay

Christie's is honoured to offer at auction for the very first time in Hong Kong a work by Alfonso Ossorio, dated 1951, from a private European collection.
Ossorio is virtually absent from standard art history texts, whose importance as an Abstract Expressionist artist was for a long time overshadowed by his immense wealth and socialite lifestyle. As heir to a sugar-refining fortune in Negros Occidental, Philippines, Ossorio and his life-long partner, Ted Dragon, ruled over The Creeks, the largest waterfront estate on Long Island, where the Filipino-American artist hosted for nearly fourty years the grandest parties in the Hamptons. The Creeks were a cultural hub and a meeting place for Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Jean Dubuffet, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Costantino Nivola, as well as the home to Ossorio's impressive art collection and gardens (Fig. 1).
In 1949, Ossorio befriended Pollock and would become his greatest patron and supporter, putting up with Pollock's infamous violent outbursts when under the influence of alcohol. From a 1950 Pollock solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery, Ossorio bought for US$1,500 Lavender Mist, a major work that he sold twenty-six years later to the National Gallery of Art in Washington at a price said to be more than US$2 million (Fig. 2). Upon Pollock's suggestion, Ossorio travelled to Paris to meet French Art brut artist Jean Dubuffet. The two developed an immediate kinship. Curiously, Pollock would never meet Dubuffet in person, but as the two artists became leading protagonists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Alfonso Ossorio helped bridge the gap between Europe and America.
Until the release of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Gregory W. Smith, Ossorio was regarded merely as a supporting actor of Pollock's life. The 2013 landmark exhibition Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet, curated by Dorothy Kosinski and Klauss Ottman at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. then at the Parrish Art Museum in New York, reveals a more nuanced narrative where the three artists are treated as equally seminal players. However, true collectors have always seen his worth. Green Woman was purchased by the Beyeler Gallery directly from the artist, and was later sold to the Cordier & Ekström Gallery in New York, which also showcased his work in the early 1960s. The influence of his friends Pollock and Dubuffet is evident in how liberated the artist is pouring his energy on the paper. In 1950, Ossorio returned to the Philippines for the first time in almost 25 years. This crucial trip would produce his very best works in the following years. Finding himself in his devout Catholic hometown brought up deep feelings of turmoil, as his sexuality conflicted with his family's values. Experimenting with techniques such as rubbing, dripping, stamping, energetic lines and brushwork, Ossorio executes in 1951 the present lot Green Woman, a fascinating work with an almost spiritual intensity. Vivid cyan blues gush out in a disorderly manner, as if almost shooting out of the paper. Continuous meandering lines in contrasting black and white attempt to enclose the space but the inner feelings are too strong to trap. In an almost cathartic process, Ossorio creates his own raw visual language in a chaotic yet ordered fashion. His distant cousin Fernando Zóbel would later write about him:“He (Ossorio) lives and paints at high pitch, burning the candle at both ends. He is spending and living on his capital.... Loathes compromise, any attempt to popularize. “Art must be difficult to see, difficult to understand.”

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