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Sarah Lucas (B. 1962)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE IRMA AND NORMAN BRAMAN ART FOUNDATION
Malcolm Morley (b. 1931)

SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam

Details
Malcolm Morley (b. 1931)
SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam
signed and dated ‘MALColm Morley 1966’ (on the reverse); signed ‘MORLEY’ (on the stretcher)
acrylic on canvas
63½ x 83½in. (161.3 x 212.1cm.)
Painted in 1966
Provenance
Kornblee Gallery, New York.
Marc Moyens, Alexandria, Virginia.
Saatchi Collection, London (acquired from the above in 1977).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 17 November 1992, lot.44.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
L. Alloway, ‘The Paintings of Malcolm Morley’, in Art and Artists, vol. 1, no. 11, February 1967 (illustrated in colour, p. 19).
L. Alloway, ‘Art as Likeness’, in Arts 41, May 1967, (illustrated in colour, p. 37).
U. Kulterman, The New Painting, London 1969, pl. 269 (illustrated, p. 111).
L. Chase, ‘Photo-Realism: Post Modernist Illusionism’, in Art International, no. 20, March/April1976 (illustrated, p. 26).
E. Johnson, Modern Art and the Object, London 1976, p. 229, no. 31 (illustrated, p. 49).
E. Lucie-Smith, Art Today, London 1977, p. 503, no. 368 (illustrated in colour, pp. 460-461).
R. Fuchs, H. Kramer and P. Schjeldahl, Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, London 1984, vol. 3, p. 6, no. 50 (illustrated in colour, p. 92)
M. Villaepesa, ‘Malcolm Morley: Pintor en el viaje y en el silencio’, in Figura 4, 1985 (illustrated, p. 4).
J. Paoletti, ‘Malcolm Morley and the Experience of Seeing’, in Arts in Virginia, vol. 26, no. 3, September 1986 (illustrated, p. 10).
D. Britt, Modern Art: Impressionism to Post-Modernism, London 1989, p. 412 (illustrated in colour, p. 384).
A. Hicks, New British Art in the Saatchi Collection, London 1989, no. 76 (illustrated in colour, p. 81).
V. Goldberg, ‘Malcolm Morley Keeping Painting Alice’ in The New York Times, 14 March 1993 (illustrated p. H31).
A. Schloen, ‘Malcolm Morley’ in Künstler, Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, edition 44, issue 29, Munich 1998, p. 4.
Malcolm Morley: Dipinti/Acquarelli/Disegni/Sculture, exh. cat., Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 1998.
B. Adams, ‘More than a Maverick’, Art in America, December 2001, (illustrated in colour, p. 67).
S. Whitfield, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the curator’, in Southbank, July/August 2001, (illustrated, p. 11).
J-C. Lebensztejn, Itineraries, London 2001, fig. 24 (illustrated in colour, p. 31).
R. Enright and M. Morley, ‘Malcolm Morley: The Principal of Uncertainty’ in Border Crossings, vol. 25, no. 4, 2006 (illustrated in colour, p. 26). E. Booth-Clibborn (ed.), The History of the Saatchi Gallery, London 2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 109).
Exhibited
New York, Kornblee Gallery, New Paintings by Malcolm Morley, 1967 (illustrated in colour on announcement card).
London, Hayward Gallery, Pop Art Redefined, 1969, p. 237 no. 94 (illustrated, pl. 122).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Sharp-Focus Realism, 1972, no. 24 (illustrated).
Kassel, Documenta 5, 1972.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Malcolm Morley: Paintings 1965-1982, 1983-1984, p. 68 (illustrated, p. 10; illustrated in colour, p. 21). This exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Art Gallery; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum.
Edinburgh, Scottish Royal Academy, Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, 1987 (illustrated in colour, p. 49).
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Malcolm Morley: Rétrospective 1962-1973, 1993.
London, Hayward Gallery, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, 2001, p. 143, no. 13 (illustrated in colour, p. 45).
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Malcolm Morley: The Art of Painting, 2006 (illustrated in colour, pl. 3).
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Lot Essay

‘When I did the first Superrealist paintings I felt I had betrayed Newman... I arrived very late at my own opening, it was almost closing. And they said, Barnett Newman came in and waited for an hour to see you. He loved your paintings’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Malcolm Morley in Conversation with Martin Gayford, December 2000’, in S. Whitfield, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 129).

‘When I was a little boy, my grandmother took me to the seaside at Folkestone and we were walking along the boardwalk and it was the most beautiful day, with sailboats sailing by, billowing white clouds, stuff like that. I must have been about six or seven. And I went up to a man sitting on a bench and tugged at his coat and said, Oh! Look at the ships, look at the ship, aren’t they nice! And he said to me, Can you read, sonny? And I said, Yes, I can read. And he said, Can you read what’s on this button? And it said BLIND... And that’s a metaphor of myself as an artist, to show the view to a blind man’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Showing the view to a blind man: Malcolm Morley talking to David Sylvester’, in Malcolm Morley, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1993, p. 293).

Executed in 1966, SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam is Malcolm Morley’s definitive masterpiece, previously held within the prestigious Saatchi collection. Much admired by the art critic, Lawrence Alloway, it has been exhibited in major exhibitions of the artist’s work, including the 1983 touring retrospective at the Kunsthalle Basel, which later travelled to renowned museums across Europe and America, and Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, the artist’s acclaimed retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 2001. The work represents one of Morley’s earliest, and without doubt the most outstanding, examples of Morley’s Superrealist aesthetic. Like a brilliantly coloured snapshot, albeit on a monumental scale, SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam presents a picture perfect view of an ocean liner sailing through the port at Rotterdam, paying tribute to Morley’s lifelong fascination with maritime subjects and life on the high seas. An identical reproduction of the frontispiece of the ship’s brochure, in this foundational work Morley developed the technique that would become the hallmark of a career committed to deconstructing the limits of abstraction and representation, and would go on to seal his reputation as the first winner of the Tuner Prize in 1984. Admired for his technical virtuosity, Morley divides both his source image and canvas into proportionally relational grids, filling in each square one by one in an almost mechanical process, like a series of self-contained abstract works. A remarkable feat of illusionism, the near hallucinatory hyper realism of SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam was achieved by a grid so small that each square had to be painted with the aid of a magnifying glass. Bordered by a broad white margin, the objectivity of the image is heightened, just as the border on a postcard serves to highlight its pictorial function. By the 1970s Morley had abandoned his strict Superrealist style for a newly developed painterly expression, yet his commitment to his first great masterpiece never waned, and SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam is reproduced in a number of later works, such as Age of Catastrophe, 1976, and The Day of the Locust, 1977, now housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

From his early youth Morley had demonstrated a yearning for the ocean. A product of a turbulent childhood, he spent his early years painting wooden models of famous ships, and on several occasions ran away from home with the intention of going to sea. In pursuit of this dream, he aspired to work on a grand ocean liner and did eventually find his way onto a ship, serving as a galley boy on a tug towing a bucket dredger, and later, working on North Sea barges. Growing up during the Blitz, one night a bomb struck his family’s house. They were unhurt, but Morley’s favourite model of the HMS Nelson was destroyed along with the entire façade of the house. This experience, he believes, set him on a psychological path towards the reconstruction of the model boats of his childhood. ‘When I was a little boy’, he reminisces, ‘my grandmother took me to the seaside at Folkestone and we were walking along the boardwalk and it was the most beautiful day, with sailboats sailing by, billowing white clouds, stuff like that. I must have been about six or seven. And I went up to a man sitting on a bench and tugged at his coat and said, Oh! Look at the ships, look at the ship, aren’t they nice! And he said to me, Can you read, sonny? And I said, Yes, I can read. And he said, Can you read what’s on this button? And it said BLIND ... And that’s a metaphor of myself as an artist, to show the view to a blind man’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Showing the view to a blind man: Malcolm Morley talking to David Sylvester’, in Malcolm Morley, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1993, p. 293). By the time Morley had begun his hyper realist ship paintings in the early-1960s he was extending a theme he had already started to explore in his abstract work. Works such as Submarine, 1962, despite their non-representational nature, reflect the marine themes that would come to preoccupy Morley throughout the 1960s.

Morley’s grid technique has its origins in Richard Artschwager’s practice. On a visit to the artist’s studio, Morley was struck by the charcoal grid structure he was scrawling over a sheet of Celotex. He was reminded of the traditional practice of squaring up drawings for transfer to canvas that he had learned in his early days at art school. One day, attempting to paint ships from life at one of Manhattan’s piers, Morley became frustrated by the panoramic scenery. Moving his head to take in the whole view, he found, disrupted the unity of the picture plane. Instead he began to work from postcards, adopting Artschwager’s practice of dividing the canvas into a grid, isolating areas of the source image which could then be reproduced without constant reference to the original. He has said, ‘I’m a painter of sensations, of seeing, not from memory of seeing. If one is painting a still life, and you have a cup here and the canvas there, even looking from here to there involves memory, even if it’s only for two seconds, it’s still memory. So what I endeavour to do is to have what I’m painting right dead in front of me, so there’s no looking back and forwards. I’m painting what I’m seeing, that sensation, immediately’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Malcolm Morley in Conversation with Martin Gayford, December 2000’, in S. Whitfield, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 130-131). Often inverting the canvas in order to do away with the traditional hierarchy of figure and ground that lies at the heart of conventional representational painting, Morley’s work strives for objectivity. ‘Doing it upside-down originally was just to get at the canvas, because I don’t want to paint with the angle of vision up or down, but always just in front. Each square of the grid is a separate picture, with the same intensity, and then they are all joined together’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Malcolm Morley in Conversation with Martin Gayford, December 2000’, in S. Whitfield, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 131).

Morley left England for New York in 1958. A recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, he had been inspired by a major touring exhibition of American art, Modern Art in the United States, that had travelled to the Tate, London, in 1956. In New York he sought out the Abstract Expressionist art he had found so fascinating, befriending Barnett Newman while waiting tables at a restaurant. Newman later visited Morley’s studio, where he complimented the younger artist on the ‘light’ in his early abstract work. Morley recalls receiving Newman to review his first Superrealist works with trepidation: ‘When I did the first Superrealist paintings I felt I had betrayed Newman ... I arrived very late at my own opening, it was almost closing. And they said, Barnett Newman came in and waited for an hour to see you. He loved your paintings’ (M. Morley, quoted in ‘Malcolm Morley in Conversation with Martin Gayford, December 2000’, in S. Whitfield, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 129). Morley’s arrival in New York coincided with a shift in American art practices. With the rise of Pop art, he found himself open to a flood of new influences, and somewhat intimidated by the confidence of his American counterparts. ‘There was a terrible feeling in New York that everybody had occupied an object. Warhol had the Coke bottle, and everybody had a certain thing, you know, and I was still up in the air’ (M. Morley, quoted in S. Whitfield, Malcolm Morley in Full Colour, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 24). His first hyper realist paintings, of which SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam constitutes a masterful example, belie the uncertainty of this statement, demonstrating a conceptual and technical self-confidence that resounds throughout the full spectrum of his practice.

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