ANTONIO SAURA (1930-1998)
ANTONIO SAURA (1930-1998)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
ANTONIO SAURA (1930-1998)

Crucifixion Rouge (Red Crucifixion)

ANTONIO SAURA (1930-1998)
Crucifixion Rouge (Red Crucifixion)
signed and dated ‘SAURA / 62’ (upper right)
oil on canvas
51 5/8 x 63 ¾in. (131 x 162cm.)
Painted in 1962
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
B. García, SAURA, Madrid 2006, p. 74 (illustrated in colour, p. 75).
O. Weber-Caflisch (ed.), Antonio Saura: por sí mismo, Barcelona 2009, p. 398, no. 10 (illustrated in colour, p. 97).
O. Weber-Caflisch and B. Dieterle (eds.), Antonio Saura: Über Sich Selbst, Ostfildern 2012, p. 401, no. 10 (illustrated in colour, p. 165).
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Antonio Saura: Recent Paintings, 1964, no. 12 (illustrated, unpaged).
Paris, Artcurial, Antonio Saura: Oeuvres 1958-1964 / Collection Pierre Matisse, 1991, p. 39, no. 16 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).
New York, Jason McCoy Inc., Antonio Saura: Paintings from the Sixties, 1991 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Antonio Saura: Die Retrospektive, 2012-2013, no. 200 (illustrated in colour, p. 285). This exhibition later travelled to Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden.
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 Antonio Saura Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures, currently being prepared by the Antonio Saura Foundation Archives and is registered under CRUT@OWC.2.1962.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Infused with visceral grandeur and power, the present work is a rare example from Antonio Saura’s iconic series of Crucifixions. The artist created only five Crucifixions Rouges between 1960 and 1963, defined by the prominent addition of deep red paint to his otherwise largely monochrome palette; a related example, Grande crucifixion rouge et noir (1963) is held in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Taking on one of art history’s most time-honoured subjects—riddled with the ghosts of Velázquez, Goya and Picasso—Saura interpreted the image of Christ on the cross as a wider metaphor for the human condition: the series would come to define his practice for almost half a century. The present painting was unveiled in the artist’s second exhibition at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in 1964, during a time of growing international acclaim. Two other Crucifixions were shown alongside it—one of which was acquired by the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, and the other of which achieved the world record auction price for the artist.

As a teenager, Saura was confined to bed with tuberculosis. During this period, he clung to the memory of a childhood visit to the Museo del Prado in Madrid, where he had been particularly struck by Velázquez’s immortal depiction of Christ on the cross: ‘his face hidden behind the flamenco dancer’s black hair,’ he recalls, ‘his bullfighter’s feet, and his frozen marionette’s flesh transformed into Adonis’ (A. Saura, quoted in Antonio Saura, exh. cat., Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona 1980, p. 49). Much like Francis Bacon, who pursued the theme at length during the post-war period, Saura was fascinated by the crucifixion as a universal image of suffering, rather than as a piece of spiritual iconography. As he explained, ‘Perhaps, in the image of a victim of a crucifixion I have reflected my situation as a man alone in a menacing universe … An image which, like Goya’s execution victim with raised hands and white shirt, or the mother in Picasso’s Guernica, can still be a tragic symbol of our age’ (A. Saura, quoted in Antonio Saura, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna della Città di Lugano, 1994, p. 136).

As well as looking to the art of the past, Saura was committed to engaging with the international avant-garde. After years spent living in Paris during the 1950s, where he exhibited among Surrealist circles, he co-founded the Spanish group ‘El Paso’, which sought to promote Art Informel and Action Painting from both sides of the Atlantic. The gestural brushwork and all-over textures of the Crucifixions, in particular, bear witness to Saura’s dialogue with American abstraction. He knew Mark Rothko, and became one of the first artists to champion Jackson Pollock’s work in Spain. Reviewing the exhibition at Pierre Matisse, the critic Barbara Rose praised the ‘talented Spaniard’ whose Crucifixions ‘owe to de Kooning what they do not owe to Picasso’ (B. Rose, ‘New York Letter’, Art International, Volume VIII, 1964, p. 6). Through this collision of influences, Saura breathed new life into the artistic landscape of his country, combining its grand Old Masterly heritage with fresh approaches to painting. In Crucifixion Rouge, the two join hands in an image that speaks not only of destruction but also—ultimately—of resurrection.

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