Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF RUDOLF AND LEONORE BLUM A collection that reflects the passion of a hunter who travelled the world in pursuit of big game trophies and exceptional artworks, The Blum Collection is an insightful observation of global culture. Over the past three decades, Rudolf and Leonore Blum traversed continents, developing a sophisticated eye as they assembled species and artworks from around the world. This impressive collection is remarkable both in its breadth and diversity, and stands as a testament to their dedication bringing together an unparalleled grouping of artworks which spans the breadth of the art historical canon. Beginning with their earliest explorations into Western Twentieth Century art, as the Blums travelled extensively through Europe and Africa, they became interested in diverse artistic practices, recognizing a deep connection between African art and the Modern art which they had already been collecting. With a steady interest in the local Swiss art scene developing from the 1950s when the Blums collected works by Varlin, Franz Fischer, Gerald Veraguth, and Hans Falk, it was in the early 1960s that they began to build their impressive Twentieth Century art collection. In the 1970s, they extended their collection to include African art and artefacts that complemented their interest in the development of abstraction in Modern and Post-War art. Reflective of the Blums’ grand tour, this collection embraces African Tribal Art, Asian Art, Antiquities, Impressionism, Modern British and European Twentieth Century. This extensive and varied collection represents the great masters of these disparate art movements, including Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Nicolas de Staël and Alberto Burri. A celebration of a couple’s deeply sophisticated connoisseurship, these works introduce a dynamic dialogue across periods, genre and media: contrasting cultures and mediums from Antiquity to the new millennia. Confident and brave, the couple was not afraid to juxtapose works of art from all periods –antiquity side by side with contemporary, producing provocative conversation between different periods in time. The powerful curves of Atié figures are perfectly echoed by the lyrical compositions of Wassily Kandinsky Schwebender Druck (1931). The totemic tribal Fang Byeri figures are juxtaposed by the precise geometry of Piet Mondrian’s Composition A, with double line and yellow (1935). Through these interrelationships, their art collection comes alive, entering into a dialogue not only with the viewer, but with each other. This is also how the Blums came to live with their extensive collection of Western and African art – they too came into dialogue with their objects, simultaneously ‘living’ and ‘living with’ their collection. As board president of the Gimpel and Hanover Galerie, Blum was well placed to inform his eye through close friendships with the Gimpels, Ann Rotzler and Erica Brausen. In particular, the Gimpel family’s close friendship with artist Nicolas De Staël’s certainly drew the interest and enthusiasm of the Blums. De Staël Paysage (1951-52) stands as one of the collector’s most important early acquisitions. Constructed from a carefully considered patchwork of pure colour blocks, de Staël’s Paysage captures the tension between abstraction and figuration, which epitomises his practice. As expressed through this work by de Staël, the Blums created a collection which, in its entirety, explores the subtle balance between representation and abstraction, which was at the core of much of the art of the Twentieth Century. Some of the earliest Western examples are led by two impressive works from the 1930s, Mondrian’s Composition A, with double line and yellow (1935) and Wassily Kandinsky’s Schwebender Druck (1931). These two works outline different tendencies dominating the emergence of abstract art: one, rational, Apollonian and geometrical; the other emotional, Dionysian and lyrical. This duality is further demonstrated in The Blum's Collection by the contrasts between works by artists as diverse as Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Kurt Schwitters, Walter Dexel and Georges Vantongerloo, as well as British artists such as Ben Nicholson and William Scott, many of whom the Blums had close personal ties with. Just as Mondrian and Kandinsky were engaging with concepts of abstraction, the Post-War artists built upon this legacy, pushing the material boundaries of paint. Pierre Soulages Peinture 128 x 88 cm, 12 février 1960 dates from an important moment in the artist’s career when he began experimenting with luminosity, scraping back his compositions to expose the shadowy imprint left by his signature black paint. Howard Hodgkin was an artist particularly treasured by the Blums for his ability to infuse remarkable ambience into his work, and we are pleased to offer three of his works in our Modern British auction with Waterfall (1992) offered in the Post-War & Contemporary evening auction. Suggesting natural phenomena without a strict adherence to the confines of figuration, Waterfall overflows the pictorial space, spilling out beyond the painting’s traditional boundaries. Reuniting geometrical compositions with more impulsive, gestural, expressionistic pictures, Blums’ art collection tells the story of painting’s opening towards the forms, patterns, colours and ambitions of abstraction. An astute collector, Blum understood the importance of provenance and the validation of a respected fellow connoisseur’s eye. The Blums’ inexhaustible hunt for those works which not only spoke to them, but came into dialogue with their wider collection, brought them into contact with some of the most important dealers and collectors of the Twentieth Century. Of the Modern British artworks in The Blum Collection, William Scott’s Composition (CLII), (1959), stands out as an exceptional example. Following the exhibition of his work at the XXIXth Venice Biennale, Scott enjoyed international recognition, securing a show at the prestigious Galerie Charles Lienhard gallery the following year, where Rudolf Blum frequently bought pictures. Exhibited in November 1959, the initials (CLII) in its title represent the Charles Lienhard provenance. Blum was responding to an artist at the height of his powers, who had naturally developed from his earlier theme of table top still-lifes to a second period of abstraction in which the grand scale and strength of colour create a bold dialogue. Ben Nicholson’s aug 59 (Gadero), also purchased from the Blums’ friend Charles Leinhard, develops the table top theme with a geometric precision, in contrast to Scott’s work of the same date. Like their collection of paintings, the Blums began collecting African art around 1970, and chose strong and well-structured, one might even say architectural, works: a Fang Byeri, a tall Kota reliquary and other Atié figures with powerful curves, all works that found similarity in the eyes of the owner more than bound by any other relation, ethnic or temporal. Here we can find all materials, which enticed them: terracottas, stone monoliths of African forests, bronzes and ivories from the Benin kingdoms, Ashanti gold, copper and brass works of Gabon, and wood from all regions from West, Central and Eastern Africa. According to the remembrances of those closest to them, the Blums particularly enjoyed objects which challenged the viewer, inviting critique and opening themselves to deeper contemplation. Indeed, to display and juxtapose contrasting works of art side by side, bringing objects of different media and culture together in dialogue is an art form in of itself. What all of these objects have in common is the research and patient desire of the collector to obtain what he has uncovered as an unparalleled specimen of its kind, qualities that find much in common with their own journey of discovery. The Blums’ appreciation for this aspect of connoisseurship aligns their collection in spirit with many of the great world art collections from the early Cabinets of Curiosities or Kunstkammer of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to the expansive collections of nature and art which would comprise Europe’s first public museum collections. The Blum Collection is a tribute to the intellectual approach, inquisitive eye, and passion of its creators.
Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932)

Fire in Venice

Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932)
Fire in Venice
signed 'Howard Hodgkin' (on the reverse); signed again, inscribed and dated 'Fire in Venice 1986-89 Howard Hodgkin' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
19 1/8 x 22¼ in. (48.5 x 56.3 cm.)
with Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
with M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York.
Ron and Ann Pizzuti, New York.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 16 May 2002, lot 405, where purchased by the present owner.
W. Dickoff (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Howard Hodgkin, Cologne, Michael Werner Gallery, 1990, no. 4, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Howard Hodgkin: Recent Paintings, New York, M. Knoedler and Co., 1990, no. 4, illustrated.
A. Beyer, 'An Interview with Howard Hodgkin', Kunstforum 100, November - December 1990, pp. 210-22, no. 9, illustrated.
R. Stecker, 'Venesianische Emotionen - Howard Hodgkin, ein nicht nur englischer Maler' in Das Kunst-Bulletin, January 1992, pp. 19-25, illustrated p. 20.
Z. Heller, 'Howard's Way' in Harpers and Queen, April 1992, pp. 152-156, illustrated p. 155.
A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London, 1994, pp. 65, 69, illustrated in colour.
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1995, p. 243, no. 231, illustrated.
I. Kranzfelder, 'Howard Hodgkin', in Künstler: Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, vol. 54, 2001, p. 9, no. 11, illustrated.
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 2006, p. 243, no. 231, illustrated.
Cologne, Michael Werner Gallery, Howard Hodgkin, September - October 1990.
New York, M. Knoedler and Co. Inc., Howard Hodgkin Recent Paintings, September - December 1990, no. 4.
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. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

In 1984 Hodgkin represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and a year later won the Turner Prize for his work A Small Thing But My Own. The triumph of these achievements imbued within the artist a new-found confidence within his work, which in turn brought sureness to his brushstrokes and belief in the vibrancy of his colours. Fire in Venice is an outstanding demonstration of the artist's unique vocabulary of abstraction; its powerfully evocative title and glorious outburst of glowing colour and spontaneous rhythm serve as a true testament to the artist’s skill.

Hodgkin was to become captivated with the place and would return to Venice in the 1990s to paint a further sixteen works. Hodgkin toyed with the notions of representation, fully aware that paint could not substitute or account for an experience that cannot be recaptured, although saw that one must attempt in some way to reincarnate a moment already past. Andrew Graham-Dixon reveals the key to success, he states, ‘He [the artist] has to create a pictorial language capable of balancing on that particular knife edge, a language that would enable him to create pictures that declare their dual status both as painted memories and as images of the imperfect nature of all remembrance' (A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London, 2001, p. 61). Hodgkin achieves this balance and instead of trying to capture the appearance of the place illustrates Venice as a set of ideas, feelings and attitudes, which can be seen as a more truthful rendering of his time there. There is a reference to Turner in all of his Venice works, his use of explosive light and vibrant colour capturing the broken water reflections, which pay homage to the Nineteenth Century master’s work. Graham-Dixon notes, however, that the effect of Hodgkin’s abstracted aesthetic differs from Turner’s watery atmospheric scenes, he states, ‘His Venice is a place where things are seen, dimly, through veils of dense obscuring atmosphere, where objects metamorphose into barely perceptible apparitions’ (op. cit., p. 62).

Fire in Venice seems to counter the aqueousness of the previous depictions, replacing the watery world of Venice with one swallowed by flames. The rich red and orange tones undulate across the canvas, the black and green scuppered paint emerge from underneath, enhancing this notion of burning. The glow and vitality of the saturated colours gives a heady vision of fire. This is not deemed as threatening for there is a radiance that emanates from the painting simulating emotions of happiness and warmth. Hodgkin avoids literal representation, instead using the subject matter as a starting point, from which he abstracts his forms, leaving us with visions of warm summer evenings in Venice. This technique lends itself to these imaginings, the rich sensuous reds evoking memories of the place. This notion is heightened by the three year time frame in which the work was painted. As with so many of his greatest works of this period, this painting became a labour of love, with time and memory central to its creation. This is particularly visible in Fire in Venice with the layering of colour, which displays flashes and glimpses of pigment from previous states, adding a greater substance and weightiness to its entity.

The intensity of colour in Fire in Venice is heightened by his framing devices. On the one hand, the paint appears to have broken the bounds of the picture surface, covering the wooden frame and yet, within that central rectangle, Hodgkin has introduced another framing device, which seems then to once again confine the work within the parameters of traditional framing. This bleeding in and out of the frame recalls the Indian manuscript illustrations that Hodgkin collected, of which a selection was exhibited at the Ashmolean, Oxford in 2010 in the show Royal Elephants from Mughal India, Paintings & drawings from the collection of Howard Hodgkin. Just as some of those illustrators introduced painted frames to their works and allowed the figures to breach their confines, so Hodgkin also allows an intriguing interplay between frame and motif, resulting in a total vision, a total picture surface. In this way, he concentrates the effects of the colours at the centre while also allowing the red of the frame to add another layer of information to the picture, serving to convey a sense of emotional vibration relating to the scene and to the artist's own memories. This framing technique allows Hodgkin to manipulate the vivid colours which are the driving force in his evocative, poetic visions. Hodgkin's sumptuous, colour-drenched visions totter between the realms of figuration and abstraction to arouse sensations and memories through a unique idiom that separates him apart from the various artistic movements that have ensued parallel to him during his long career, ensuring that he is both modern and timeless.

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