‘As with so many of Emil Nolde’s best works, Mohn (Poppies) provides a window to another world, where everything feels alive and immediate,’ says Annabel Matterson, senior writer in our Impressionist and Modern Art department in London.
Nature was an enduring inspiration for Nolde. Poppies, in particular, appeared throughout his career and were one of his favourite motifs. ‘By depicting these poppies in close-up, Nolde makes it possible for us to share his sense of wonder at this natural spectacle,’ says Matterson.
‘I think at this time, when the scope of our lives has shrunk, the unfailing beauty of nature and the smallest, simplest of things can take on a new meaning and a heightened importance, and this painting captures that for me.’
Wolfgang Tillmans began his ‘Freischwimmer’ series in 2001 — the word means ‘something like swimming freely’, he says — and they are considered among his most experimental works. For Anna Touzin, a Post-War and Contemporary Art specialist in London, Freischwimmer 191 ‘illustrates the title of the series more so than any of the others.
‘Those deep blues allude to moving freely in water and the monumental scale draws you into a deep meditative state. You really get the impression that you’re floating through the ocean’s depth, where no one has been before.’
Claude Lalanne shared a fondness for nature, animals and the surreal with her husband François-Xavier. She was particularly drawn to the plant world, pioneering an electroplating technique that allowed her to coat flowers, twigs and leaves — often gathered from her beloved garden — in a thin coat of metal, revealing their delicate, intricate forms.
In this case of the limited-edition Crococurule stool, Lalanne’s inspiration came not from her garden but the Paris zoo, which gifted her a recently deceased crocodile, says Flavien Gaillard, head of Design in Paris. ‘The thin aluminium coating has been refined by hand for hours to bring out its rough and scaly texture. For me, the result is both timeless and inspirational.’
‘This wonderful and important work by Xu Bing is both a unique example of his Square Word Calligraphy technique and a celebration of a historical event,’ says Liz Hammer, a Chinese Paintings specialist in New York, of Square Word Calligraphy in German (Haarnadelphönix by Lu You).
The work is based on Xu’s entry for The Wall in the World, an exhibition commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Xu employed his innovative Square Word Calligraphy — which stylised the Western alphabet to resemble Chinese characters — to translate a Song-dynasty poem into German, thus connecting the two cultures. The Chinese poem, which recounts the meeting of two estranged lovers, is also a metaphor for Germany’s reunification.
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‘This combination of language, poetry, calligraphy, history and emotion is an evocative expression of Xu’s own history and global interaction,’ explains Hammer, referring to the years the artist spent in China and America.