AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more LIVING THROUGH ART: AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)


AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
signed and dated ‘a. martin 2003’ (on the reverse)
acrylic and graphite on canvas
11 7/8 x 11 7/8in. (30.3 x 30.3cm.)
Executed in 2003
Woody Gwyn Collection, USA.
Private Collection, Dallas.
Private Collection, New York.
Peder Bonnier Inc., New York.
Mnuchin Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013.
Special notice
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.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

A vision of tranquil beauty, the present work captures the still, silent serenity that defined Agnes Martin’s practice until its close. Executed in 2003, the year before her death, it glows with the same radiant precision and clarity that had first sparked her practice over half a century earlier. Upon an intimate square canvas lie two broad, luminous bands of peach. Each is bisected by three thin sky-blue lines, which break up the expanse of colour like rivers. Strips of yellow glimmer at the top and bottom of the canvas, as tremulous as sunrise over the horizon. For Martin, who spent much of her life alone in the desert in New Mexico, art was a means of inducing a pure, meditative state of mind, free from all worldly distractions. With their sparse, elemental vocabulary, her paintings sought to capture the abstract sensations of freedom, joy and wonder that we experience in the face of perfection. Here, in Martin’s pale washes of colour and crystalline geometries, this purpose remains as alive as ever it was.

Martin was born in Canada in 1912, originally training as a teacher before devoting herself to art in the late 1940s. Her early canvases were landscapes, shot through with the influence of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. In 1957 she moved to the Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan, where she took her place in a thriving artistic community that included figures such as Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg. While her clean, ordered geometries invited comparison with the emergent languages of Minimalism, as well as the transcendental colour fields of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, Martin ultimately distanced herself from her peers. Increasingly seeking solitude, she eventually left New York in 1967, travelling Canada and America in a camper van before settling on a remote plot in New Mexico. In an attempt to empty her mind, she gave up making art for several years, immersing herself in a life of quiet contemplation and simplicity.

When Martin finally returned to painting in earnest in the mid-1970s, her language underwent something of a shift. The rigorous grids and muted tones that had dominated her early practice gave way to expansive bands of pale, shimmering colours, often characterised by the pink, blue and yellow palette seen here. While some of Martin’s late works would reprise the angular geometric forms of her earlier oeuvre, the present example cleaves to the vocabulary of smooth horizontal planes and cool, rhythmic partitions that dominated her works in New Mexico. Deeply influenced by the landscape around her, as well as Taoism and Zen Buddhism, Martin believed that beauty was in the eye of the beholder. While neither nature nor art could lay claim to flawlessness, the human mind was nonetheless prepared to apprehend it. The feeling of happiness and awe that we experience in a wide open landscape could therefore be induced through art: like a tree, a skyline or a body of water, a wavering pencil line or a wash of colour could be perceived as perfect. In the present work, as the sun begins to set upon her oeuvre, Martin holds this conviction tightly.

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