MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)
MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)
MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)
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MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)

Course de taureaux

MOÏSE KISLING (1891-1953)
Course de taureaux
signed and dated 'Kisling 1916' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'M. KISLING PARIS JUILLET 1916' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
44 3/4 x 57 1/2 in. (113.5 x 146 cm.)
Painted in Paris in July 1916
Emil Christenson, Sweden, by whom acquired from the artist in 1917.
Private collection, Sweden.
Anonymous sale, Bukowskis, Stockholm, 30 November 1973, lot 49.
Private collection, Sweden, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. Kisling & H. Troyat, Kisling, vol. II, Turin, 1982, no. 23, p. 107 (illustrated; with inverted dimensions).
Paris, Galerie Lyre et Palette, Première exposition de groupe, November - December 1916, no. 1.
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.
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Volume IV et Additifs aux Tomes I, II et III of the Moïse Kisling catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Marc Ottavi.

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Imogen Kerr
Imogen Kerr Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Named the Prince of Montparnasse, Polish-French painter Kisling was known in his circle for his infectious positivity, joyfulness, and generosity. Kisling’s studio in Montparnasse, always filled with laughter, conversations and dance, soon became a famous meeting place for writers, poets and artists from all over the world, with Picasso, Gris, Derain, Soutine and, above all, Modigliani among his most frequent visitors. Course de taureaux, painted in 1916, perfectly embodies this undeniable joie de vivre for which Kisling became so well known, and encapsulates the avant-garde spirit that flourished in the critical creative centre of Montparnasse.

Born in Kraków in 1891, Kisling started his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts under direction of Jozef Pankiewicz who encouraged the aspiring artist to move to Paris, the cultural centre of Europe at the time. Kisling emigrated to Paris in 1910 and soon became a known figure amongst the painters of the École de Paris – a group of émigré artists who sought new opportunities and creative camaraderie in the town, known for their innovation, breaking of conventions and exploration of the new languages and techniques of modern art.

Paul Cezanne’s revolutionary compositions heavily inspired Kisling's early oeuvre, whereupon his palette was dominated by subdued hues. With his close proximity to Picasso, his attention then turned, resulting in the development of a Cubist-inspired language. ‘When I arrived in Paris in 1910 I absolutely wanted to paint like Cezanne. To achieve this I only used browns, greys and black. Then I turned to Picasso and Derain who were ten years older than me who then painted sad and monochrome still lifes. […] I realised I ought to acquire my own means of expression. I like rich palettes. I am drawn to the bright, colourful nature,’ Kisling recollected (quoted in G. Charensol, Kisling, Paris, 1948, pp. 12-13). Whilst Kisling experimented with range of different techniques, exploring ideas alongside his contemporaries, his revelation came in the discovery of colour as a powerful means of expression. As Georges Charensol remarks, ‘Suddenly the browns and dark greens were mixed with fiery reds and blues. The vestiges of cubism that still trailed gave away quickly’ (G. Charensol, Kisling, Paris, 1948, p. 7). Course de taureaux is one of Kisling’s first epic canvases to reveal these tendencies and showcase his artistic transformation, capturing a breakthrough moment in Kisling's career.

It was the artist’s months-long trip to Spain that inspired him to fully embrace colour for the first time, allowing his fondness for an intense, rich palette – no doubt inspired by the bold, dramatic hues of this new location – to guide him towards a new freedom of expression. Having travelled there to heal and recover after having been wounded during his service in the French Foreign Legion, Kisling was advised by his doctor to absorb some southern sun. With this advice, Kisling would set off for Sagunto, near Valencia, where he spent his time painting landscapes and came to experience the spectacle of the bullfight – a truly visual and sensory feast. The radiant beams of the Spanish sun, the heat, the excitement of the crowd, the nervous energy of the matadors, the colourful costumes and the piercing redness of the capes can be seen to have made a powerful impression on Kisling, the result of which is borne in the present composition; a dynamic and spectacular bullfight executed on a magnificently large scale, painted upon his return to Paris the following July.

Course de taureaux impacts the viewer with its irrepressible modernity, employing a raised viewpoint and multi-dimensional perspective. The extraordinary liveliness and richness of colour sets Kisling's masterpiece ablaze, with synthetised, flat shapes and intensely coloured planes giving the canvas its structure. A beaming hot circular plane of orange-yellow occupies the centre, dictating and dominating the composition upon which the story unfolds, whilst the contrasting green frame of the bullfight ring emphasises its broad, circular shape. Warm orange, representing the shade, contrasts with sharp yellow, articulating the forceful Spanish sun, which floods and animates the composition. Repetitive and echoing circular forms create a pulsing and dynamic rhythm; the ring mirrors itself in the arched back of the bull, and the details of the matadors' costumes and bodily movements. These active and dynamic elements become emphasised as they gravitate and swirl towards the middle of the canvas in a sun-like form, edging the greens and blues towards the outer borders, alive with movement and energy.

A popular subject throughout the history of art, the bullfight can be seen from its origins in the prehistoric cave paintings of the Grotte de Lascaux through Goya's romanticised evocations, up to Manet and Picasso's modern interpretations of the subject. Whilst previous iterations may be concerned with showcasing the strength of the bull or the existential battle between human and beast, Kisling treats the subject as inspiration to explore his modern language of painting through form and colour, and a means to explore the inherent energy of the subject itself, endeavouring to capture its unique aura: `Painter of portraits, nudes, landscapes, still lifes and flowers, (Kisling) always strives to capture the splendour of the moment.' (J-M. Tasset, Kisling centenaire, Paris, 1991).

Celebrating the theatricality and suspense which defines the spectacle of the bullfight, Course de taureaux represents a celebration of the artist’s renewed vigor and power through colour and form. As the only known work by Kisling showcasing the subject of the bullfight, Course de taureaux represents a rare and exciting insight into a significant moment in the artist’s critical oeuvre, being offered at auction for the first time in half a century.

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