Der Parlamentarische Inhalt eines Pfeiles (The Parliamentarian Content of an Arrow)

Der Parlamentarische Inhalt eines Pfeiles (The Parliamentarian Content of an Arrow)
signed and dated 'HUNDERT-WASSER 1954' (upper right); inscribed and dated 'PORTA PORTESE CONTENU D'UN D'UNE FLÈCHE OSPEDALE S. SPIRITO ROMA SEPT. 54' (on the reverse)
watercolour, indelible pencil, chalk, zinc white and fish glue on envelope
14 7⁄8 x 25 3⁄8in. (37.7 x 64.6cm.)
Executed in 1954
Private Collection, North Germany (acquired directly from the artist probably in the 1960s).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Das Kunstwerk, 1956, no. 5 (illustrated, p. 45).
P. Restany, Hundertwasser, Écrits d'Hundertwasser, Paris 1957, p. 13, no. 189 (illustrated, unpaged; incorrectly titled).
W. Schmied, Hundertwasser, Salzburg 1974, pp. 186 and 313, no. 44 (illustrated in colour, p. 187).
Hanover, Constructa 74, 1974.
A. C. Fürst, Hundertwasser 1928-2000, Werkverzeichnis - Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Cologne 2002, no. 188 (illustrated in colour, p. 268).
Milan, Galleria del Naviglio, Hundertwasser, 1955.
Paris, Galerie H. Kamer, Aquarelles d'Hundertwasser, 1958.
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hundertwasser, 1963-1965, no. 188. This exhibition later travelled to Bern, Kunsthalle Bern; Hagen, Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum; Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Stockholm, Moderna Museet.
Hanover, Constructa 74, 1974.
Braunschweig, Städtische Museum, Hundertwasser - Gemälde, Graphiken, Tapisserien, Architekturmodelle, Japanische Holzschnitte, 1996.

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Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for over six decades, Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Der Parlamentarische Inhalt eines Pfeiles (The Parliamentarian Content of an Arrow) dates to a pivotal year in the artist’s career. A work of remarkable visual richness evoking an aerial view of a cityscape, its allover effect is one of burgeoning growth. Working in striking, saturated carmine tones on an envelope—unfolded into the shape of an arrow— Hundertwasser sends art spilling over into life. It was in 1954, the year of this work’s execution, that he first articulated his personal theory of transautomatism, which advocated the development of an individual creative ‘film’, or sight, elevated from objective reality. In the autumn of that year, Hundertwasser was confined to the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome, having come down with a case of jaundice. It was during this period of immobility that he began to title and number his work, embarking on a detailed process of cataloguing his artistic oeuvre that he would continue across his career. He painted assiduously from his hospital bed, and it was here, on 22 September 1954, that Hundertwasser executed Der Parlamentarische Inhalt eines Pfeiles.

Throughout his body of work Hundertwasser evolved an idiosyncratic visual language in which pictorial elements fill the picture plane in a highly decorative, almost vegetal manner. In this, Hundertwasser’s oeuvre speaks to the tradition of all-over painting associated with the Secessionsstil of his native Vienna. Known for remarkable labyrinthine constructions of infinite variation, Hundertwasser returned in many of his works to the motif of the spiral and to insular, aerial compositions which have their roots in the natural world. Indeed, his artistic worldview was remarkably prescient, incorporating a cohesive ecological sensibility into both his painted works and the architectural projects for which he is best known. A consummate traveller, Hundertwasser saw art as an extension of life and of his own visual environment. He worked most often on boats or trains, from hotels or cafes, onto media that was readily available: wrapping paper, posters, butcher paper, or, as in Der Parlamentarische Inhalt eines Pfeiles, envelopes. In a letter he wrote to an Austrian journalist in 1954, Hundertwasser wrote that ‘art today is getting freer and freer, but at the same time it is assuming more and more responsibility and is getting more and more complicated, but this complexity is a good sign. After all, life today is, too’ (F. Hundertwasser, quoted in F. Hundertwasser and G. Haberta, Das Hundertwasser Haus, Vienna 1985, pp. 43-44).

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