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Der Misanthrop (The Misanthrope)

Der Misanthrop (The Misanthrope)
signed and dated 'Klapheck 73' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 31 5/8in. (60 x 80.3cm.)
Painted in 1973
The Artist.
Galerie Bayeler, Basel.
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Galerie Utermann, Dortmund.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Paris, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Hyperréalistes américains / réalistes européens, 1974 (illustrated, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Kijken naar de Werkelijkheid.
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Konrad Klapheck, 1974-1975, p. 186, no. 83 (illustrated, p. 187). This exhibition later travelled to Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts and Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Konrad Klapheck, 1976, no. 21 (illustrated, unpaged).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Konrad Klapheck, 1980, no. 18 (illustrated, unpaged).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Konrad Klapheck: Retrospektive 1955-1985, 1985, p. 116, no. 42 (illustrated, p. 117). This exhibition later travelled to Tubingen, Kunsthalle and Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst.
London, White Cube Bermondsey, The Real: Three Propositions, 2019.
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Lot Essay

Widely exhibited since its creation—including in two major travelling retrospectives of the artist’s work in 1974 and 1985—Der Misanthrop (The Misanthrope) (1973) is a powerful and witty example of Konrad Klapheck’s ‘machine pictures.’ Combining elements of Surrealism, Hyperrealism and Pop, Klapheck depicts a putty-coloured Swiss Army knife, tools unfurled, against a blank cream background. Its gleaming blades, bottle-opener and corkscrew are picked out in varied hues of blue-grey and gold-tinted metal, each casting a distinct shadow. The object has an alien, anthropomorphic presence; its winking screw-heads and gaping slots conspire to echo a human grimace.

Klapheck, born in Düsseldorf in 1935, was studying painting at the city’s Kunstakademie in the mid-1950s when he acquired a typewriter. He resolved to paint it in as exacting and careful a style as possible—an antidote to the Tachiste tendencies of the time, which he saw as lazy and imprecise. The resulting work, Schreibmaschine (Typewriter) (1955), set the blueprint for an intensely focused practice. His subject matter would go on to consist almost entirely of everyday ‘machines’, including taps, telephones, irons and hairdryers, depicted in crisp, graphic and monumental style. Removed from their domestic context, these mundane objects verge on the sublime; Klapheck gives them a new identity, often naming them with personified masculine or feminine pronouns.

Klapheck’s visions owe a formal debt to the sharp realism of German Neue Sachlichkeit painters like Otto Dix and Christian Schad; they echo the metamorphic, erotically-charged objects of Marcel Duchamp and René Magritte; they share in the symbolic power of Pop, isolating items in space like Ed Ruscha’s enigmatic word paintings. But Klapheck’s approach was also deeply idiosyncratic. Far from neutral in attitude, he used his mechanical objects to explore personal, emotional and metaphysical themes, which were often underlined by their characterful titles. As ‘misanthrope’, the present work’s pen-knife looks amusingly defensive, brandishing his sharp blades at anyone who would dare come close.

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