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Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure)

Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure)
signed 'MILLARES' (upper left); signed, titled and dated 'MILLARES-PERSONAJE CAIDO (1968)' (on the stretcher)
acrylic, cardboard and twine on stitched burlap
59 x 59in. (150 x 150cm.)
Executed in 1968
Galerie Messine, Paris
Galerie Lauter, Mannheim.
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 7 February 2002, lot 534.
Private Collection, London.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
J-A. França, Millares, Barcelona 1977, no. 325 (illustrated in colour, p. 180).
L. Gómez, 'Los artistas españoles consolidan y suben el valor de su obra en las subastas de Londres', in El País, February 2002, p. 35.
A. de la Torre (ed.), Manolo Millares Pinturas Catalogo Razonado, Madrid 2004, no. 452 (illustrated in colour, p. 507).
Geneva, Musée Rath, Art espagnol d'aujoud'hui, 1969, p. 12, no. 30.
Gothenburg, Gothenburg Museum of Art, 12 Spanjorer, 1970, no. 20 (illustrated, p. 11).
Mannheim, Galerie Lauter, Manolo Millares, 1971, no. 8 (illustrated, p. 2).
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.

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Lot Essay

Executed in 1968, Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure) is a large-scale, powerful example of the extraordinary sackcloth creations that lay at the core of Manolo Millares’ practice. Rendered in a swath of black acrylic on raw burlap, the work offers a visceral palimpsest of paint and fabric, its torn, stitched and weathered surface evoking both archaeological and anthropological remains. Against the stark black void, a pale form emerges from the canvas, its sleek linear shape contrasting the crumpled swath of fabric beneath it. A dual vision of destruction and salvation, the work appears like a gaping wound that has been bandaged back together, an analogy consolidated by the patchwork of stitching across its surface. This symbolism, tied to its title Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure), lends the work a ghostly ‘homuncule’ trace—a faint human-like presence that lingers in its folds and shadows. Working during the European conflicts of the twentieth century, Millares sought to visualise the state of humanity in an age marked by deep trauma. Speaking of his practice, he has stated ‘The artist is the only man, the world, a recorder of things in the raw ... He follows very closely the despair of our time, watches over it and sews up its wounds; he records it in the scream from the deepest hole’ (M. Millares, quoted in J-A. França, Millares, Barcelona 1978, pp. 132-33).

Raised in the Canary Islands before moving to Madrid in 1955, Millares’ fascination with remnants and ruins stemmed from his childhood visits to the Canarian Museum in Las Palmas. Whilst there, he was struck by the mummified remains of the island’s original inhabitants—the Guanches—who had been driven to extinction by conquest and invasion. ‘I discovered what man is and, above all, the “finitude” of man,’ he explained, ‘I realised that what I saw—the extermination of a race—had been an injustice. That was the original starting-point for my sackcloths’ (M. Millares, ibid., p. 94). This, along with the Sacchi (Sacks) of his Italian contemporary Alberto Burri, served as the ultimate inspiration for his practice. However, as José-Augusto França has explained, ‘[Burri’s] universe is totally different from that of Millares, both externally and internally. His glued and sewn sackcloth would never permit itself to explode; and instead of shrieking wounds they soberly present scars. In Burri’s work the “accident” has occurred before the curtain goes up; in Millares it is the “accident”, in the form of a catastrophe, that interests us: it presents itself to our eyes and forces us to share the great repugnance it expresses’ (J-A. França, ibid., p. 181). This complex visual drama manifests itself most ardently in the ravaged, bandaged and bespattered surface of Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure).

Often affiliated with the movements of Arte Povera and Art Informel, with his rugged, mixed-media surfaces evoking the works of Antoni Tàpies and Jean Fautrier, Millares sought to redefine the classic approach to painting, treating his canvas as a raw material ready to be lacerated, shaped and pierced. However, it was through his participation in the Spanish avant-garde group El Paso, a movement he founded alongside Antonio Saura, Manuel Rivera and Luis Feito in 1957, that Millares found his greatest inspiration. Belonging to a generation whose upbringing had been marred by conflict, these artists used their practice as a means of confronting the dark periods of the Second World War, Hiroshima bombings and Spanish Civil War. Reflecting the ethos of the group, Millares stated ‘To the immediate reality arrives my free and anguished protest, it manifests itself through the tearing of clothes, the pierced and wounded textures, the noise of crashing ropes, the stupid wrinkle of beauty, the telluric wound and the frightful truth of the Homunculus’ (M. Millares, quoted in Manolo Millares: Recent Paintings, exh. cat. Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York 1960, unpaged). Yet while Personaje Caido (Fallen Figure) bears the scars of wartime violence, it ultimately offers a glimmer of hope. As light filters through the broken surface, so too does a faint suggestion that, from out of the rubble, humanity would rise again.

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