SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
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SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)

Nature morte portugaise

SONIA DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
Nature morte portugaise
signed and numbered 'SONIA DELAUNAY 564' (on the stretcher)
oil and wax on paper laid down on canvas
26 1⁄8 x 37 1⁄4 in. (66.4 x 94.6 cm.)
Painted in Portugal in 1916
Herwarth Walden [Galerie der Sturm], Berlin, by whom acquired directly from the artist, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 December 1973, lot 72.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 2 May 1996, lot 197.
Private collection, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 November 2015, lot 402.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Geneva, Musée Rath, Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Serge Poliakoff, April - May 1964, no. 37, p. 16.
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sonia Delaunay, Art, Design, Fashion, July - October 2017, no. 21, p. 224 (illustrated p. 77).
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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Post lot text
Jean-Louis Delaunay and Richard Riss have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Works on Paper Sale

Lot Essay

‘A world apart, houses of shimmering whiteness against a distant ultramarine blue ocean. Codfish laid out to dry everywhere. […] My first sweeping impression. Then each detail struck me: colours of shawls, women’s clothing, tanned skins, dark green watermelons with deep red hearts paling into pink, and all bathed in blinding sunlight. I felt drunk with colour and immediately set about painting – as did Delaunay and our Portuguese artist friend, Eduardo Vianna. Our stay at Villa do Conde, in a house lost among dunes with flowering cacti in the garden, was like a fairy-tale’. (Sonia Delaunay quoted in J. Damase, Sonia Delaunay, London, 1972, p. 99)

A joyful testament to Sonia Delaunay’s fruitful and happy years on the Iberian peninsula, Nature morte portugaise is a powerful expression of colour, movement and light that immerses the viewer in the raucous, sensual atmosphere of the sun-drenched Portuguese marketplace. Painted in the challenging new medium of wax, this work is a superb example of the pictorial experimentation that led the artist and her husband Robert Delaunay to attain new means of expression during their exile in southern Europe, taking inspiration from their new surroundings to blur the lines between the figurative and the abstract, creating a veritable visual tour de force.
On holiday in the Iberian Peninsula, the Delaunays were prevented from returning to France by the outbreak of war in August 1914. Robert and Sonia, with their son Charles, remained in the region until 1921, dividing their time between Spain and Portugal. In 1915, after a winter spent in Madrid, the family moved to Vila do Conde near Oporto in Northern Portugal, seeking cooler climes for the summer. The village had a lively community of artists and intellectuals and the Delaunays were instantly made to feel welcome by their new circle of friends: 'A dream life. We could work quietly from morning to night. The villa was perched on the sand dunes, with the cacti blooming in the garden. I thought I was living in a fairy-tale. As soon as we arrived, I fell in love with the village' (Sonia Delaunay in Nous Irons Jusqu'au Soleil, Paris, 1978, p. 37).
From this home they explored new sources of inspiration related to their strong interest in folk art and local folklore. The isolated, rustic beauty of the place particularly captivated Sonia. She found the colours of the village and surrounding countryside intoxicating and painted tirelessly from dawn to dusk. The traditional peasant culture brought back memories of her Russian childhood, and she took inspiration from the shapes and hues of the local costumes, pottery, vegetables, flowers and animals to put into practice the conceptual experiments she had begun before the war in Paris.
Nature morte portugaise belongs to a pivotal group of paintings executed in 1916, that capture the lively market at Minho, and it relates directly to two other compositions from the same series which are homed in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
These paintings exemplify Sonia Delaunay's work in the mid-1910s, when she was transitioning from figurative imagery to the purely abstract. As Arthur Cohen has observed, ‘the Marché pictures and the Natures mortes portugaises seem to hark back towards Fauvism; though freed from involvement with chiaroscuro and no longer depending upon outline and formal arrangement, they are still color in loco. The watermelons, the fruit, the pottery, the women, the animals, the aqueduct, even though they are composed of circles, bands, patches of color, are not totally abstracted. The pictures are not recidivist but they are a surrender to joy and contentment, a kind of pictorial celebration of the enfleshment of abstraction, the circles and spirals, the colored movements once more returning to natural incarnation.’ (A. Cohen, Sonia Delaunay, New York, 1975, pp. 69-70).
In Nature morte portugaise, the artist juxtaposes bright, abstract discs with patches of contrasting, darker pigments, generating movement and depth to create spaces and enhance the dynamic arrangement of colour.
The aim is not, of course, to represent a scene but, by decomposing and recomposing it, to make a study of light in the Minho valley. Each colour increases in intensity by contact with its complementary and by the interplay of simultaneous contrasts between the dominant reds, oranges and ochres, and the greens and blues; dissonant tones accentuate forms, making them vibrate.
The peculiar effect of chromatic saturation emanating from the present lot - as for the other pictures painted by both Sonia and Robert Delaunay in Portugal - is due to the use of a special technique referenced above – a variation of the encaustic method, in which the pigments are mixed with oil and wax. This technique, which the Delaunays had learned in Paris from the Mexican painter Zárraga, also guarantees a greater persistence of the luminosity of the colours - which is well represented by Nature morte portugaise – and is particularly rare as its practice, slow and difficult, was not to continue after their stay in Portugal.
‘The fiestas, the markets, the lively streets, the fruit stalls, were one and all translated by the artist into plastic forms and used to show her new vision of the world. Certain paintings – for example The little Girl with Watermelons (1915) – demonstrate how she derived pictorial components – coloured discs, luminous rainbow segments – from reality.’ (J. Damase, Sonia Delaunay, London, 1972, p. 95)

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