Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE VIKTOR AND MARIANNE LANGEN COLLECTION Ben Nicholson's 1932-37 (still life) comes from an exceptional selection of works by Twentieth Century modern masters from the collection of Viktor (1910-1990) and Marianne (1911-2004) Langen, Meerbusch. Viktor, the son of an industrialist family, was a successful entrepreneur, inventor and engineer. Together with his wife Marianne they started collecting modern art in the early 1950s. It was the Langen's shared interest in art, and their joy of collecting which drove them to assemble a collection ranging from Cézanne to Picasso to Mark Rothko and beyond. As a consequence of their many journeys together and an unending curiosity, the couple also began collecting art from other cultures, with a strong focus on the art of Japan. The Langen's fascination with Japanese art led Marianne to commission architect Tadao Ando to build a fitting home for their collection: The Langen Foundation, Neuss, which opened in 2004. Tadao Ando's idea of combining art, nature and architecture in a harmonious structure, together with the wish of Marianne Langen to leave something permanent to the public as a legacy, is best exemplified by the beautiful modern building by the Japanese master architect, an artwork in its own right. Today the Langen Foundation stages regular changing exhibitions juxtaposing modern and contemporary masters with their holdings of non-European art such as Japanese scrolls and sculptures.
Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)

1932-37 (still life)

Details
Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
1932-37 (still life)
signed twice 'Ben Nicholson/1932-37 (on the reverse and on the stretcher) with extensive colour notes (on the stretcher), signed twice again, inscribed and dated 'Ben Nicholson/1932-37/title for exh. "painting 1932-37"/NICHOLSON/Chy an Kerris/Headland Rd/Carbis Bay/St Ives - Cornwall' (on the backboard)
oil on canvas
27¾ x 31 in. (70.5 x 78.8 cm.)
Provenance
with Redfern Gallery, London.
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Purchased by Viktor and Marianne Langen, Meerbusch, at the 1964 exhibition, and by descent.
Literature
H. Read (intro.), Ben Nicholson paintings, reliefs, drawings, vol. 1, London, 1955, p. 8, no. 94, illustrated, as 'still life (Punch and Judy show)'.
Exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, Brussels, Galerie Apollo, 1964, no. 17, illustrated.
V. and M. Langen, Sammlung Viktor u. Marianna Langen. Kunst de 20ten Jahrhunderts, vol.1, Ascona, 1986, p. 162, illustrated.
Exhibited
New York, Durlacher Gallery, Ben Nicholson, 1949, no.1
Cincinnatti, Art Museum, Six English Moderns: Piper, Sutherland, Hepworth, Tunnard, Moore, Nicholson, February 1950, no.1: this exhibition travelled to San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honour, May - June 1950, as 'Still Life Punch and Judy Show’.
Japan, The British Council, 2nd International Art Exhibition, 1953, no. 13.
Brussels, Galerie Apollo, Ben Nicholson, May – June 1964, no. 17.

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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Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

1932-37 (still life) was painted during arguably the most crucial phase of Ben Nicholson's career. It is a mark of the quality of this painting that it has spent more than half a century in the collection of Viktor and Marianne Langen, the German philanthropists who assembled an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art from the late 1940s onwards, much of which is now in the Langen Foundation, Neuss; the building was designed by Tadao Ando.

It was during the 1930s that Nicholson plunged into the realm of abstraction, of which he would become one of its most internationally-renowned proponents. Looking at 1932-37 (still life), it becomes clear that the composition is filled with geometric forms that are nonetheless tethered in the figurative world: hints and suspicions of various objects on a table-top are visible, rendered through the use of seemingly-overlapping planes of colour, revealing the sense of abstract harmony that underpins existence.

Nicholson himself dated 1932-37 (still life), indicating the span of time over which the work was created. At the beginning of the 1930s, he was still working in a largely figurative idiom, yet soon enjoyed a number of watershed moments. This included an epiphany while looking at the layered display of a shop window in Provence that resulted in his seeing a means of creating a layered composition that was at once figurative and abstracted; his subsequent visit, in the company of Barbara Hepworth, to Pablo Picasso's home at the Château de Boisgeloup, where he had been creating the string of masterpieces associated with the apogee of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter, helped to move Nicholson towards an increasingly lyrical abstraction that may underpin the subject matter in 1932-37 (still life).

Another key moment was soon to see Nicholson change tack dramatically: his visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian. While he had been encouraged to meet Mondrian by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, it was only after visiting the Dutch artist's studio in 1934 that Nicholson was able to liberate himself from figuration entirely. This resulted in the formal crispness and purity of his white reliefs, which Mondrian himself came to admire. This marked the beginning of an important friendship between the two artists which was commemorated in a dedicated exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery two years ago. The crispness of the white reliefs, with their emphasis on geometry and balance, came to inform many of Nicholson's other works from the period, including 1932-37 (still life). It is no coincidence that this picture was painted during the time that Nicholson was linked to some of the key movements in the avant garde, exhibiting in shows such as Unit 1 in 1934 as well as Abstract and Concrete and Cubism and Abstract Art in 1936. Nicholson and many of his contemporaries saw the increasing rigour and discipline of their compositions as a rational means of progressing with art, and reinforced their position more and more as they contrasted themselves with what they felt were the overly-expressionistic excesses of Surrealism, which was also in the ascendant at the same time.



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