Leading our two-day Prints & Mutliples sale on 1-2 November, an array of original prints by the greatest names in the Surrealist movement from The Gilbert E. Kaplan Collection. Here, the stories behind seven highlights
For more than 40 years, Gilbert E. Kaplan gathered masterpieces by a wide range of Surrealist artists, including Man Ray, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte and more, making this collection the most comprehensive ever to appear at auction.
This etching by Salvador Dalí includes a number of well-known compositions by the artist — including the melting clock found in his iconic painting The Persistence of Memory. The lot is dedicated to Edward James, a British poet best known for his ardent support of Surrealism, who was initially approached by Dalí to publish this print. The edition was never realised and there are approximately only five impressions of this image from his lifetime. James would sponsor Dalí for a number of his other important projects during this period, including the well-known Lobster Telephone and Mae West Lips Sofa.
In 1919, following World War I, the city of Cologne in Germany initiated a prize competition for artists to produce prints that would be reviewed by a jury. Max Ernst submitted an album of lithographs titled Fiat Modes that were emblematic of his Dadaist style. The jury rejected the images, finding them an insult to the other artists in the show and to their views of fine art in general. Ernst responded by burning the edition in front of the town hall — as a result of which examples of this series are extremely rare.
René Magritte did not make prints until he was 63, and consequently did not produce many editions — his graphic production was just 20 in total. His prints, such as the one shown above, often feature the same Surrealist imagery found in his paintings. This image is also found on the cover of the catalogue raisonné for the artist’s prints, which was written by Gilbert E. Kaplan and Timothy Baum.
A l'Heure de l'Observatoire — Les Amoureux is considered to be one of Man Ray’s most iconic images. The lips featured in the composition are those of Man Ray’s photography assistant and lover, Lee Miller. Her lips appear as a motif in a range of Man Ray’s work from throughout his lifetime, from a photograph in MoMA’s collection from 1929, to a major series of paintings in 1936, and even a cast-gold version. They have gone on to inspire a number of images in pop culture, most famously the iconic lips from the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Joan Miró began to study etching with Louis Marcoussis in the late 1930s. Working together they produced just 22 prints — a collaboration considered to be one of the most important moments in Surrealist printmaking. Série Noire et Rouge begins with two black and white images and then six subsequent images in red and black that are combinations of the first two images, made by flipping and reusing the pirnting plate from the first twi. The series is acknowledged as one of the best examples of printmaking’s potential for repeating sequences to create new images and has been the subject of museum exhibitions as a result.
Pablo Picasso created this etching to illustrate the poet Paul Eluard’s book La Barre d’Appui. The image in the upper left is a portrait of Eluard’s second wife, followed by (clockwise) a Surrealist depiction of a woman in a landscape, an image of a sleeping classical woman found in many of Picasso’s works and an impression of Picasso’s handprint. The use of a handprint is found in other Surrealist images, most notably by Eluard in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure. It is very rare to find examples of this plate before it was cut into four to be included in the book.
Yves Tanguy’s printed oeuvre was relatively small, yet his printmaking was among the most technically complex of all the Surrealists. Nearly all of his prints are abstract compositions focusing on thin linear forms, loosely informed by the landscapes he observed in Africa and the coast of Brittany in France. This print is one of three artist’s proof versions that feature an additional colour background, highlighting his technical expertise as a printmaker.