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(Filipino, 1924-1984)
signed 'Zobel' (lower right); numbered, titled, signed, and dated '462 Paramera Zobel DIC 1961' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
50 x 70 cm. (19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1961
Anon. sale; Christie's London, 27 October 1994, Lot 103

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Lot Essay

Fernando Zóbel is one of the most progressive abstractionists to emerge from Asia. Born in Manila, Zóbel was educated at Harvard and later the Rhode Island School of Design where he first encountered the major Western abstract artists, most significantly Mark Rothko, whose pared down reductionist works were to influence Zóbel throughout his life. Zóbel initially alternated between Manila and Madrid, where he became a member of the Spanish post-war fraternity, alongside artists like Luis Feito and Gerardo Rueda. Eventually he established his studio in Cuenca, Spain, where he became an active participant in the artistic climate of the city and also a mentor to the rising generation of art students, founding the Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol.

Paramera (Lot 114) is a classic and elegant example of Zóbel's Serie Negra works from the 1960s, featuring strong chiaroscuro and sweeps of dynamic momentum. By the 1970s Zóbel began to incorporate color in his work once more, but rarely in bright hues; preferring instead to focus on earth and gold toned shades which could capture the effects of light, reflection, nature and movement. As he progressed into the 1980s, Zóbel's works became increasingly pared down and prefaced draughtsmanship of bare lines, or diagrammatic studies of Old Masters as their central focus; an investigation into the architectural foundations of a painting, rather than its superficial visuals.

He also began returning to the figurative. After a bout of ill-health in the mid-late 70s, where he sought to soothe his spirit with music and produced the Flauta series, Zóbel developed a renewed appreciation for the vivacity of the human spirit and our propensity for enjoying life. He began, in watercolors, a series of works featuring the human body in motion; particularly engaging in sporting activity: cyclists and footballers. "Serie Ciclistas" was born out of this impetus, a series of drawings, sketches and watercolors which captured people astride, pedaling, or falling off bicycles - a contraption Zóbel must have found endlessly fascinating for its architecturally sophisticated construct and numerous rotating mechanisms.

Los Ciclistas (Lot 115) is an extremely rare example of the Cyclists Series in oil painting format. Even more unusually, it is of large format, versus the small drawings produced in the 70s. Within this work, we see the faintest impressions of human bodies, juxtaposed against the confident lines of their cycling apparatus. At first glance, distinct shapes are not immediately obvious. As the eye accustoms to the painting, gradually the forms begin to emerge out of the gold mist of the background; faces of tan ochre, inclined arms guiding the handlebars, spokes of the bicycle's wheel. Like most of Zóbel works, the presence of space is as crucial as that of object. This is a superb example of a late-period Zóbel as he nears the end of his artistic journey, revealing his contemplation on mortality, fully mature development as a painter, and the conclusion of his love affair with abstraction.

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