MORDECAI ARDON (1896-1992)
MORDECAI ARDON (1896-1992)
MORDECAI ARDON (1896-1992)
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MORDECAI ARDON (1896-1992)

The Ship of Hours

MORDECAI ARDON (1896-1992)
The Ship of Hours
signed 'Ardon.' (lower right); signed again and titled 'Ardon "THE SHIP OF HOURS"' (on reverse); titled again '"THE SHIP OF HOURS"' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
51 x 76 7⁄8 in. (129.5 x 195.4 cm.)
Painted in 1968
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (by 1973).
Acquired by the family of the present owner, by 1985.
M. Vishny, Mordecai Ardon, New York, 1974, p. 232, no. 236 (illustrated in color, pl. 170).
D. Ardon Ish-Shalom, Ardon: A Comprehensive Catalogue, Jerusalem, 2019, p. 173, no. 296 (illustrated in color).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Mordecai Ardon, April-May 1973, p. 17, no. 19 (illustrated in color, p. 37; dated 1970).
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ardon: A Retrospective, May-October 1985, no. 90.

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Lot Essay

A watchmaker's son from Tuchow, Poland, Ardon was the eldest of the twelve children of Alexander and Elisheva Bronstein. A devout Jew and master craftsman, Alexander Bronstein intended for his son to follow in his footsteps. Ardon, however, dreamed of becoming an artist and enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar, where he studied under Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger and Wassily Kandinsky. With the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Ardon was forced to flee Germany as early as 1933 due to his left wing political affiliations. The industrialist Hans Moller, his close friend and patron, was able to arrange for immediate passage to Palestine. While Ardon longed for the civility of Paris, he found himself instead uprooted and stranded in Jerusalem. Initially disappointed with the provincial character and barrenness of Jerusalem at that time, he underwent a gradual artistic metamorphosis. “As he walked through Jerusalem's hills, he felt a mystical attachment to the earth. ‘There is something here that is thousands of years old, something that has roots. Here I could feel those roots...Suddenly I had ground for my painting...I could paint’” (M. Vishny, op. cit., pp. 24-25).
The Ship of Hours is a fine example among a series of spiritually charged works with which Ardon has come to be associated. Like Klee, his teacher at the Bauhaus, Ardon felt that an artist can have a direct connection with an unknown universe. The work of art, in his view, forms the intersection between the known and unknown. “I have always wondered why only two trees were mentioned in Paradise, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. I think there was a third one between the two. It was the ‘Tree of the Secret,’ perhaps the ‘Tree of Mystery.’…The standpoint of the artist is between knowledge and life. He is attached to the unknown, to the secret. If he makes something, he is shaping a secret” (quoted in ibid., p. 39).
Painted in 1968, the year in which Ardon represented Israel at the Venice Biennale with twenty-four paintings, Ship of Hours takes the transience of life as its theme. Having stated that, “painting must grow out of the human drama,” Ardon first produced paintings on this subject in 1945 with paintings such as Letter to the Grandmother (Ardon Ish-Shalom, no. 100) and Withering Flowers (Ardon Ish-Shalom, no. 137). In the present work the artist employs a luminous palette of pink, blue, white, red and green. This broad range of colors is applied using a multitude of short, rapid brushstrokes, creating a notion of physicality amidst an otherwise ethereal and dreamlike environment. Michelle Vishny has written, “In Ship of Hours, a blue ship sails through white seas, bearing the spent hours of a loved one who has died. White clouds of foam caress the vessel as it glides tranquilly toward unknown shores” (ibid., p. 35).

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