LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
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LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
6 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED GERMAN COLLECTION
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)

Il Guerriero (The Warrior)

LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
Il Guerriero (The Warrior)
incised with the artist’s signature 'Fontana' (lower right)
reflective glazed ceramic
42 1/2 x 17 3/8 x 13 3/8in. (108 x 44 x 34cm.)
Executed in 1948
Tofanelli Collection, Milan.
Private Collection, Germany.
Thence by descent to the present owner in 1979.
G. Ballo, Fontana: idea per un ritratto, Turin 1970, no. 107 (illustrated, p. 95; incorrectly titled and dated).
G. Bolaffi (ed.), Dizionario Bolaffi degli scultori italiani moderni, Turin 1972 (illustrated, p. 146; incorrectly titled and dated).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux rédigé par Enrico Crispolti, vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 22, no. 49 SC 1 (illustrated, p. 23; incorrectly dated).
Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Munich, Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst, 1983-1984, no. 13 (illustrated, p. 44; incorrectly dated).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana catalogo generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 48 SC 18 (illustrated, p. 91).
XIV Quadriennale di Roma. Retrospettive 1931/1948, exh. cat., Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, 2005 (illustrated, p. 137).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 48 SC 18 (illustrated, p. 213).
Lucio Fontana, Scultura / Sculpture, exh. cat., Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, 2012 (illustrated in colour, p. 99).
L. M. Barbero, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato delle sculture ceramiche, vol. I, Milan 2022, no. 48 SC 18 (illustrated, p. 369).
Rome, Quadriennale d’Arte di Roma, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rassegna Nazionale di Arti Figurative, 1948, no. CVIII (illustrated, unpaged).
Leverkusen, Museum Morsbroich, Keramische Räume. Ceramic Spaces, Lucio Fontana, Norbert Prangenberg, Thomas Schütte, Rosemarie Trockel, Markus Karstiess, 2014 (illustrated in colour, p. 63).
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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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Its vivid, iridescent green form erupting more than a metre in height, Il Guerriero (The Warrior) (1948) is a rare and dynamic example of Lucio Fontana’s late-1940s ceramic works, which stand among the first truly Spatialist objects of his career. The sculpture made its debut at the ‘National Exhibition of Figurative Arts’ as part of the 1948 Rome Quadrennial, and has been held in the same private collection since 1979. Fontana created just six ‘warriors’ between 1948 and 1953, of which the present work is the earliest example. He modelled the figure in wet clay before firing and glazing it in rich viridian hues. Its billowing silhouette and raw, elemental textures are typical of Fontana’s ceramics of this period, which drew upon Futurist and Baroque idioms to embody the concepts of movement, colour, time and space that lay at the heart of his Spatialist outlook. The figure’s raised right arm and lifted left leg rhyme in a zigzag of brisk, diagonal gesture, pummelled and furrowed by the artist’s hands. A deep gash across the abdomen even seems to foreshadow Fontana’s tagli, or cuts, which he would not begin creating until a decade later. The pigments surge in gleaming torrents over the surface, running from peaks of light turquoise to dark, malachite pools. Fontana’s majestic warrior rears up in liquid, primordial motion, emerging to take the measure of a new era.

In a world transformed by rapid advances in space travel and science, Fontana proposed that art should evolve to match the spirit of the times. ‘The quiet life has disappeared’, he declared in the Manifesto Blanco, written in Buenos Aires in 1946. ‘The notion of speed is constant in the life of man. The artistic age of paralytic forms is over … The old immobile images no longer satisfy the needs of the new man, who has been formed in the need for action, in coexistence with mechanics, which imposes constant dynamism’ (L. Fontana, ‘Manifesto Blanco’, 1946, in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, p. 115). Il Guerriero stands as an avatar of this dynamic ‘new man,’ coursing with vital energy.

Fontana’s Spatialist ideas coalesced after his return to Milan from Argentina in 1947. Shunning the traditional materials of marble and bronze, he immersed himself in the expressive potential of clay, a medium he had first mastered in the Ligurian coastal town of Albisola during the 1930s, where he had created deft, characterful sculptures of sea creatures, Medusas and human figures. In works like Il Guerriero, he took these early ceramics’ unity of form and colour to expressive, tactile new heights. The convulsive, richly manipulated surface comes alive, its peaks, rivulets and troughs penetrating and activating the space over which it presides. Light and shadow fall in changing patterns across the warrior’s tactile surface, creating a state of constant, rippling visual movement. Rather than a static, immovable monument to the past, Fontana’s sculpture becomes a vital symbol of the new post-war era, an indomitable impression of both man and art emerging defiant from the destruction of the Second World War.

Like the Futurists before him, Fontana believed that art should be commensurate with the society in which it was created. ‘Let us fling open the figure and let it incorporate within itself whatever may surround it’, Umberto Boccioni had declared in 1912: Fontana’s sculpture embodies the same concept (U. Boccioni, ‘Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture’, Poesia, Milan, 11 April 1912). For the Futurists this had meant seizing the speed, simultaneity and dynamism of the early twentieth-century metropolis with the use of fragmented forms and overlapping planes. Boccioni’s radical Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) marches forward, its humanoid body seemingly reshaped by the conditions of modernity. Fontana, working after Einstein’s discovery of the space-time continuum, the dawn of space travel, and the invention of the nuclear bomb, needed to go further still. ‘I assure you’, he wrote to the art historian Giampiero Giani in 1949, ‘that on the moon they will not be painting, but they will be making Spatial art’ (L. Fontana quoted in S. Petersen, Space-Age Aesthetics: Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, and the Postwar European Avant-Garde, Pennsylvania 2009, p. 6).

A supreme embodiment of the Space Age zeitgeist, Il Guerriero also draws inventively on the past. Its exaggeratedly contrapposto pose, resolute presence, and sense of flamboyant, decorative detail conjure the art of the Baroque period. While he also made Crucifixions, rearing horses, battle-scene tableaux and numerous other type-figures such as clowns and harlequins, the ‘warrior’ subject epitomises Fontana’s engagement with the Baroque spirit, gesturing towards towering saints and virile heroes such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s David (1623-1624). Fontana saw in the Baroque the same commitment to the representation of movement that drove his own Spatialist quest. ‘[The] Baroque was a leap ahead’, he declared in the Manifesto Blanco; ‘… it represented space with a magnificence that is still unsurpassed and added the notion of time to the plastic arts. The figures seemed to abandon the flat surface and continue the represented movements in space’ (L. Fontana, ‘Manifesto Blanco’, ibid.). This notion of matter continuing into space would come to define Fontana’s lifelong artistic explorations. An icon of heroic grandeur, Il Guerriero embodies these revelatory ideas in a powerful, early and unique example of Fontana’s newly expounded Spatialism.

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