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Alfred Jensen (1903-1981)
Alfred Jensen (1903-1981)

The First Count in the Great Platonic Year

Details
Alfred Jensen (1903-1981)
Jensen, A.
The First Count in the Great Platonic Year
signed and dated 'Alfred Jensen Sep. 22. 1966.' (lower right) and titled 'The First Count in the Great Platonic Year' (upper center)
oil, black felt-tip pen and blue ball-point pen on paper
29 x 23 in. (73.5 x 58.4 cm.)
Drawn on 22 September 1966
Provenance
Royal Marks Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1973.

Lot Essay

The most significant influence on Jensen's painting throughout his career was his understanding of Goethe's Theory of Colors, which he first read in 1938 and to which he returned many times thereafter. He was drawn to Goethe's concept of the duality of color as it springs from the basic contest of black and white; he saw colors not as a sequence but as they engage each other in opposition. In the 1960s his reading of Goethe led to interest in electromagnetic theory, which is also based on the polarity of opposing forces. He also investigated the ancient Mayan calendar and Chinese systems of counting, and after 1962 immersed himself in Pythagorean mathematics and Platonic philosophy, interests which were encouraged by travel to Europe and especially a visit to Greece in 1964. In 1965 he executed a series of twenty lithographs titled A Pythagorean Notebook, and painted gouaches based on ancient Greek religious rituals.

". . . Jensen's works are less paintings than diagrams, or they introduce a new, diagrammatic use for painting. What are diagrams? They are a graphic medium of pure reference. The word comes from the Greek for 'that which is marked out by lines.' So a diagram is defined not by its lines but by what they 'mark out': an idea for or about something that is not there. . . . Jensen did not 'paint diagrams.' Rather he made diagrams with paint, annexing the chromatic and material qualities of the medium as another set of means, in addition to line, for 'marking out' ideas. The result, considered as painting, is very strange: a sensuous and prepossessing surface whose meaning is elsewhere" (P. Schjeldahl, "Jensen's Difficulty," Alfred Jensen: Paintings and Work on Paper, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1985, p. 23).
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