DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
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DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
4 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN FAMILY COLLECTION
DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)

View of Cuenca

DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
View of Cuenca
signed and dated 'Bomberg 34' (lower right)
oil on canvas
20 3/8 x 24 3/8 in. (51.7 x 61.9 cm.)
Painted in 1934.
Dr Fanny Rabinowitz, Jerusalem, and by descent to the present owner.
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.
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Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“Eye, intelligence and feeling are one, and completely at one with the hand. All that these paintings have to say is said by the paint, and there is no inflexion of the paint that does not say something.” - David Sylvester in exhibition catalogue for David Bomberg 1890-1957 Paintings and Drawings, 1967.

View of Cuenca, 1934 is born of one of Bomberg’s most fertile and prolific periods and expresses his adoration and awe of the Spanish landscape, that inspired his most powerful works.

After the First World War Bomberg began to move away from the Modernist idiom that brought him recognition and acclamation in his early years, shedding his Futurist and Vorticist ties in favour of a vernacular rooted in landscape and the natural world. Gill Polonsky explains, ‘It was the trauma of his experiences in the trenches, the death of his close friends, that caused his ‘crisis of faith’ and, like contemporaries in Britain and Europe, he repudiated his earlier, radical involvement with Cubo-Futurism, his celebration of the ‘steel city’ and mechanical form, and turned instead to an aesthetic rooted in nature and organic form’ (G. Polonsky, ‘David Bomberg Landscapes A Search for the Sublime’, in exhibition catalogue, David Bomberg, London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 1990, n.p).

Now, instead of pursuing the ‘construction of Pure Form’ he looked to realise the ‘artist’s consciousness of mass’ (R. Cork, exhibition catalogue, David Bomberg, London, Tate Gallery, 1988, p. 34). Bomberg stated, ‘Mass is nothing unless it is the poetry in mankind in contemplation (of) Nature’ (D. Bomberg, quoted in Polonsky, op.cit., n.p). Polonsky describes that ‘… the foundations of this theory were grounded in practice and in an intense observation of the motif for, like Cézanne – his ‘immediate precursor in approach to mass’ – Bomberg was not concerned with capturing the feeling of a passing moment but with the whole question of ‘form’ and ‘structure’, and the way in which it could be used to give expression to the enduring features and timeless qualities of the natural world’ (G. Polonsky, ibid., n.p).

Bomberg’s newfound zeal for the natural world was fuelled by his travels to Jerusalem, but only really found full fruition when he travelled to Spain in 1929. Here he journeyed to Toledo, the land of El Greco, the Spanish master he so greatly admired, whose works, such as View and Plan of Toledo, 1608, he was delighted to see first-hand there. In Toledo he replaced the topographical precision, which had preoccupied his Jerusalem pictures, with a more physical and unfettered approach, which spoke of a more personal vision and established his mature artistic identity. Painstaking minutiae fell by the wayside as Bomberg adopted a broader manner of capturing detail, with a new emphasis on gravity, mass and texture.

In 1934, after a brief sojourn to Russia, Bomberg travelled again to Spain, this time to the ancient town of Cuenca, with his partner Lilian Holt. Funded by the sale of three works to Bradford collectors Arthur Crossland, Asa Lingard and Wyndham T. Vint, through the dealer Alfred Willey, Lilian and Bomberg settled in Cuenca, prompted to go there after seeing a small engraving of the hilltop town while staying at a pension in Madrid. Settled upon a high ridge of rock, with vast ravines and the rivers Júcar and Huécar flowing either side of the valley, Cuenca provided a suitably dramatic subject for Bomberg’s art. The pair rented a cheap house in the oldest part of the city, near the cathedral, with views over the Júcar valley. Here they lived a frugal life and kept much to themselves, with Bomberg painting outdoors en plein air, exploring the rugged landscape atop a donkey, while Lilian kept chickens in top of the house, shortly before falling pregnant with their only child Diana.

View of Cuenca, 1934, displays the majesty and drama of the Cuencan landscape. Known as the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ for its precarious position over the gorge, Cuenca provided Bomberg with the ideal interplay between landscape and architecture. Here Bomberg poetically captures the myriad of buildings, which sit huddled together, perched perilously atop the ravine, the sense of tension tantamount as they threaten to slide, crashing down into the valley. This feeling of vulnerability is countered by the sheer majesty of the rock formation below, which roots itself into the earth, leaving one in awe of the natural world.

Here, rock and town are fused together as a unified mass, Bomberg’s bold and fluid brushstrokes emphasising the physicality and powerful energy of the place, which vehemently leaps out of the canvas at the viewer. David Sylvester states, ‘Bomberg’s brushmarks play a beautifully ambiguous role … At times I see those long dragged trails of paint as Bomberg’s self-projection into the scene before him. On the other hand, while Bomberg always re-creates a landscape in terms of its depth and mass, often the trails of paint are not directed into the scene; they traverse it horizontally and firmly adhere to the picture surface; they declare themselves as the painter’s handwriting on his flat surface’ (D. Sylvester, ‘The Discovering of a Structure’, in exhibition catalogue, David Bomberg 1890-1957 Paintings and Drawings, Arts Council of Great Britain, Ferens, City Art Gallery, 1967, p. 10).

Colour is key here. Bomberg succeeds in utilising a multitude of bold tones to powerful effect, combining pink, red, purple, green and yellow hues set against a blue sky to create a work which vibrates with a visceral intensity, without threatening to overpower one another. His sensuous use of tone perfectly captures the heat and the intensity of light, which bounces off the terracotta rooftops. Colour, which is applied in thick layers, the impasto paint granting a rich texture to the canvas, bestows a depth, density and life to View of Cuenca.

The paintings of Cuenca have been identified amongst Bomberg’s most personal and important works, and the record price at auction is for a Cuenca view from 1934. Richard Cork describes that his works of Cuenca ‘catch the essential pulse of his most heartfelt response to the Spanish landscape’. He continues, ‘Bomberg is at his most spontaneous and personal in these pictures. They convey an intimate sense of identification with the motif, and at the same time retain a firm grasp of the grandeur of the earth as it pulls and strains with an almost volcanic force’ (R. Cork, David Bomberg, New Haven and London, 1987, pp. 203-204). Sylvester agrees that the depth of Bomberg’s investigation of the Spanish landscape goes beyond vision. He concludes, ‘The discovery process seems to have relied upon empathy more than on vision. It is as if the painter, in contemplating the landscape out there, had felt he was feeling his way over it with his hands and feet and knees – here laboriously up a steep rock face, there zooming into a valley with the slope in control of his limbs. It is as if the contact were so close and so sustained that the painter had gone beyond being in the landscape and become the landscape. Looking at his picture I scarcely know if I am facing the scene or facing outwards from it’ (D. Sylvester, op.cit., p. 10).

“Art, he believed, was nothing less than the central inspiration at the heart of human existence – the means through which humanity could find spiritual sustenance and attain a union with nature.” - Gill Polonsky in exhibition catalogue for David Bomberg Landscapes A Search for the Sublime, 1990.

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