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Fritz Glarner (1899-1972)
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Fritz Glarner (1899-1972)

Relational Painting Tondo No. 35

Fritz Glarner (1899-1972)
Relational Painting Tondo No. 35
signed 'F.GLARNER-1955' (lower centre); signed, inscribed and dated 'FRITZ GLARNER "RELATIONAL PAINTING 1955 TONDO # 35"' (on the reverse)
oil on Masonite and wood
Diameter: 49 7/8 in. (126.5 cm.)
Painted in 1955
Mary Callery, Paris.
Acquired from the estate of the above by the present owner in January 2009.
M. Staber, Fritz Glarner, Monograph on one of the leading exponents of concrete art, Zurich, 1976 (illustrated p. 133).
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Lot Essay

Relational Painting Tondo No. 35 is part of a series of round paintings that affirmed Fritz Glarner's contribution to American abstract art. Superimposing a system of parallel, intersecting lines on a round picture surface, Glarner achieved what he called the 'squaring of the circle'. This process created the work's structural basis: a set of rectangular areas that he then divided with a 15 degree diagonal line. A colour is then attributed to each area: white, black and grey or yellow, blue and red. Combining angular shapes with the circle and juxtaposing perpendicular lines with slightly oblique ones, Glarner achieved a vibrant contrast between visual movement and stasis.

Glarner developed a formal device comprising a rectangle divided by an oblique line. This allowed him to explore the complementary values of these shapes, enabling him to avoid the form-ground dichotomy that often persists in abstract art and that perpetuates the illusion of perspective. In Glarner's tondos, the two parts of each rectangle are instead intertwined in a negative-positive relationship. The quest at the core of Glarner's art was 'to bring about a purer and closer relationship between form and space' (F. Glarner, quoted in: N. Edgar, 'An exhibit of Fritz Garner's Geometry: A personal language', n.p., in Fritz Glarner 1944-1970, exh. cat., San Francisco, 1970.). Relational Painting Tondo No. 35 present shapes not as elements in space, but rather as visual relations constructing space.

While geometrical construction offered an initial solution to the problem of form and space, colour added an important dimension to the visual effects he achieved. Grey in particular proved to be a key component of the artist's palette. Experimenting with a range of grey tonalities, Glarner exploited the colour's capacity to activate the luminosity of the three primary colours in different ways. By stressing the colours' horizontal interactions, Glarner once again affirmed the two-dimensionality of painting, while adding a further note of movement to the picture.

Glarner fully elaborated the principles of his 'Relational Painting' between 1942 and 1945. At the time, he was living in New York, where he had moved from Europe at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Piet Mondrian had moved there in 1940 and Glarner - who had already met Mondrian in Paris in 1926 - visited him regularly once a week. Glarner was also in contact with America's next generation of abstract artists such as Williem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Marc Rothko. Relational Painting Tondo No. 35 therefore provides an intriguing bridge between European Modernism and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism.

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