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R.B. Kitaj, R.A. (1932-2007)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more THE TONY REICHARDT COLLECTION Tony Reichardt has had a long and successful career as one of the pioneering art dealers of the second half of the 20th century. In 1958 he joined New Vision Gallery, Marble Arch, and after a period spent at Hanover Gallery in Mayfair, he joined Marlborough as a manager of the New London Gallery in 1961. In 1963 Reichardt opened Marlborough Graphics and in the 1970s he became Director of Marlborough Fine Art. Through the numerous exhibition that Tony created, he developed close relationships with many of the artists and the majority of this collection were personal gifts. In 1985 he left the art world to begin a new life farming in Northern Queensland, where he currently lives. 'When I was 16 I left home to live in Soho. I shared a flat with a wonderful book dealer called Allen Allen who introduced me to theatre (Ubu Roi) and to surrealism. That was when I first met Bacon. We lived on brown rice and spent our time reading all the books in Foyles. This was before the Festival of Britain and all the world was cream green and brown. I was only vaguely interested in art - my passion was stamp collecting which I have always pursued expect for the two years of National Service I did in Germany. I became engaged almost by accident when I was 19. It was at my engagement party that I met my first wife Jasia; she introduced me to many people in the art world at that time. Before I really started work, I spent a year travelling through the desert from Algeria all along the coast of the Mediterranean and through Iran and Iraq. The time I spent with the nomads in the Empty Quarter has had a profound influence on the way I see the world and what I regard as truly relevant. In the fifties things were beginning to change in London. I was very aware of a subtle shift in fashions and the art world, making lots of things possible for young people and taking the focus off Paris for the first time. The London of the 'Swinging Sixties' was just a commercialisation of what was happening in the 50s. It was easy to meet people who shared my interests and I found a job as a gallery assistant at the Halina Nalecz Gallery. This worked out well and with the help of Illa Codicek, who was a Hungarian migr and corsetiere to the stars, I found a job at Marlborough, then establishing itself as a haven for living artists as well as for the old masters which had been associated with the concept of 'art' for too long. I had three long interviews with Frank Lloyd, the owner, and I told him that I had very little interest in academic art. Despite this, we got on well and as things progressed in the Swinging Sixties Frank Lloyd opened the Marlborough New London Gallery in New Bond Street mainly to show the works of living artists. At my interview for the job as manager it was made clear that the monetary basis of the gallery was still the old masters and that living artists were not expected to be profitable but could be showcased as a sideline. I was told that I didn't ever have to make a penny profit, but make one penny loss and I would be fired. It was an exciting time and it is only now when I look back I realize how extraordinary it was that people who would become stellar in their fields would wonder in and buy stuff. The Beatles established 'Apple & Co' round the corner and John Lennon would come by. I gave him an 'Apple in a Cage', which seemed apt. I was at the exhibition of her work where he met Yoko Ono. Richard Attenborough was making 10 Rillington Place and buying up all the Brett Whiteley paintings on the John Christie murders. Lord Gowrie, Minister for the Arts, would discuss new acquisitions for official buildings while John Piper, with whom I had a lifelong friendship, became one the favourites of the Royal family. After a year I was left to my own devices. I could take on any artists I liked and take control of the living artists that Marlborough dealt with at that time - Bacon, Piper and Sutherland. The first artist I took on was R.B Kitaj'. Tony Reichardt, Private correspondence, May 2013. IN CONVERSATION WITH TONY REICHARDT, MAY 2013 Q: How did it all begin and where was the centre of British artistic activity at the start of the sixties? A: I joined Marlborough in September 1961. The only really lively place in England where artists could meet and discuss their work was the ICA in Dover Street, where Roland Penrose was director, but seldom there, and Jasia was CEO. Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi frequently attended and Hamilton was regarded as the intellectual of the art world. Penrose was very good friends with people like Picasso and Miró, who would then come and mingle with the English avant-garde. Q: How would you characterize the London art scene at the time you were at Marlborough? A: In the 1960s the Royal Academy dominated the British art scene while France dominated the international art world. In contrast with today, no art gallery in England could survive on selling works by living artists. In 1960 Marlborough had taken on Francis Bacon and sold nothing. The highest grossing British artist at that time was Graham Sutherland. Q: How were British artists represented internationally? A: The most important international art exhibition was the Venice Biennale. Lillian Somerville, a friend at the British Council, had to select the works for the British Pavilion. All the works she selected were non-academic artists and she was told that if she sent those artists to represent Britain she would get the sack, but she refused to back down. One of the artists she chose was someone I had always championed - Lynn Chadwick - who then won the international prize for sculpture in 1956. Q: How did Pop Art evolve? A: I believe that Pop Art was founded by Paolozzi in the late 40s when he had his first exhibition as a student. At the time of his exhibition, Kurt Schwitters had his last exhibition and Paolozzi spent most of the time talking to Schwitters in his gallery down the road. Schwitters sold nothing and Paolozzi's exhibition sold out. Q: What are your happiest memories of working in the art world? A: My happiest memories of working in the art world involve spending time with the artists themselves, as I only took on people I greatly respected and admired. Q: What are your most surreal memories of the art world? A: My most surreal memories of the art world revolve around dealing behind the Iron Curtain. I once stayed with someone in Poland who had the most amazing Mondrian on their wall, but had to insist loudly and often that it was a cheap and not terribly good copy. He also had an attic full of Malevich which he could neither sell nor enjoy. Q: What is your favourite work of art? A: Bird in Space by Brancusi. The purest possible form. Q: What do you consider to be the best exhibition you curated? A: I put on several major exhibitions which were quite daring, Tinguley and Lacey spring to mind, which I consider to be my greatest work, despite not one thing selling. I commissioned the painting Summer Garden, Fawley Bottom from John Piper and put it on the posters and catalogue cover for a Piper exhibition which only showed his constructions and abstract works. The public were furious! Q: What is your greatest legacy? A: My legacy would be persuading so many of my friends, clients and artists to donate to public institutions. REFLECTIONS. REICHARDT REMEMBERS: REMEMBERING REICHARDT Tony on Piper When I was manager of the Marlborough New London Gallery I was approached to handle John Pipers work. I refused. I felt that I had no affinity with the work. Further, I felt that in some way John Piper had let me down. I was a champion of modernism and Piper had forsaken the constructions and non-objective paintings which he had done in the thirties. This work was, for me, among the most convincing and inventive abstract work done in England predating Nicholson and had Piper continued, I had no doubt that he would have been among the very forefront of British Abstract painters today. I just couldn't understand how anyone could give up internationalism for local English art. I was told that Piper understood my attitude and yet still wanted me to handle his work, and faced with that reply, who was I to refuse? I'm glad that I didn't, I know of no man I have come to respect more. One of the last things I said to him was 'You are the most overrated artist in the country, and, at the same time, the most underrated'. I was expecting to provoke a reaction, but he simply concluded that there was some truth in what I said. Tony on Bacon Bacon was one of the very few artists who realized that to be successful was to fail. He was the kindest, most gentle, considerate and humble person I have ever met, also the most intelligent: he exorcised all that was bad on canvas. He never took drugs, being severely asthmatic, and once said to me 'even if I could, I wouldn't - painting is my drug, I paint all night on a creative high and think I've created a masterpiece, and every morning when I wake up I see it for the rubbish that it is'. Bacon was an artist among artists - a god in that field. Tony on Kitaj Kitaj had studied art in New York then had to go into the army and was posted in Austria where he got very interested in the works of Schiele and Klimt. When he came out he got a grant which enabled him to study at the RCA in London. There he had enormous influence over many of the young students because of his superior knowledge and wide reading. He became very friendly with Hockney who said to him 'I've always wanted to do figurative art but never knew what subject matter to use' to which Kitaj replied 'You always choose the matter which is closest to your heart'. I always thought Hockney was a great draughtsman - Kitaj was more inter-textual. Tony on Paolozzi I realised that he became very friendly with people and very generous. Far too friendly, in fact, and wanted all their attention. At first, he was very friendly with Kitaj, and they made a joint painting, which I sold to Gabrielle Keiler and is now in the National Gallery of Scotland (Work in Progress, 1962). Kitaj could not cope with this too close friendship and distanced himself which made Paolozzi very angry. This happened with many other friends and dealers. Realising this, when I got him for the New London Gallery, I got my assistant to deal with him, and my decisions on his work were never made direct. Thus, I remained friendly with him to the last, but he fell out with my assistant and left the gallery. Eva Chadwick on Tony One of Tony's senior co-directors when asked who was the best artist today?' replied the best artist is the dead artist. This attitude was symptomatic of the time when the prestigious London galleries were more interested in selling Impressionist paintings than the work of living artists. Tony Reichardt championed the British artists who were working in the fifties, sixties and seventies making their reputations but not promoted for the first-rate work they produced. My late husband Lynn Chadwick was one of Tony's favourites along with Kitaj, Tilson, Jones, and Davies. He insisted that the gallery gave shows to them and when customers asked for his opinion he always recommended his boys (though some of them were in their late fifties and sixties). Tony was tireless in his efforts to further their cause. Allen Jones on Tony Tony Reichardt was my art dealer at the Marlborough Gallery during the early seventies. A Belgian collector, said to have owned most of the barges on the river Seine, was in London to buy a Francis Bacon but could not decide between two triptychs. He would later buy one of my Table sculptures with the small change. To help matters along, Tony and Jasia Reichardt invited him to their home for supper with some artists. The Bacon sale must have been significant enough because Francis agreed to attend, along with Ron Kitaj, myself and my wife. With the tantalising smell of cooking, we all awaited the late arrival of Francis Bacon and his companion. Over a period of about an hour there were several phone calls apologising for the continuing delay of 'Mr Bacon'. Finally, Tony Reichardt confessed that all the calls were made by Francis, pretending to be either doormen or taxi drivers. Conversation flowed easily, meanwhile, as our foreign guest spoke impeccable English. Finally, a totally drunk Francis arrived, to the evident pleasure of the collector. Sitting unsteadily, Bacon scanned the competition. Seeing Kitaj he promptly asked him why he 'made such fucking awful prints'? As Ron got up to storm out he then slumped back in his chair, mollified after Bacon added that he was, after all, 'such a wonderful painter'. Turning to me, he asked - 'what after the legs?' I said 'watch this space!' By speaking only in French to the collector, Bacon effectively excluded most of the room from further conversation. The denouement came when the paralytic Francis suddenly fell forward the great man back onto his seat. It was the end of the evening for Bacon, who was taken home by his companion without eating a thing. I marvelled at this performance. Since his arrival Bacon had totally dominated the collector and nullified any competition, no doubt cementing the sale in the process! Jane McAusland on Tony In 1964 during a break after illness in my art on paper conservation apprenticeship I was fortunate enough to join Tony as his secretary in Marlborough Fine Art's New London Gallery in Old Bond Street. Having been steeped in Old Master Prints, being surrounded by contemporary art was a thrilling revelation and no better teacher could I have had than Tony. We just spent all day every day discussing art, I don't remember much work being done. We covered art history, philosophy, techniques, and artists across all the schools and movements of late 19th and 20th century art to that date while Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, Ron Kitaj, Victor Pasmore, Joan Mir, Frank Auerbach, Joe Tilson, Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and many more artists visited the galleries on a regular basis. Tony was popular with younger artists and encouraging towards their work which he showed in this small gallery; he had a very relaxed style of dealing. My two years with him I consider to be one of the most valuable parts of my life's education.
R.B. Kitaj, R.A. (1932-2007)

Head of Francis Bacon

R.B. Kitaj, R.A. (1932-2007)
Head of Francis Bacon
signed 'Kitaj' (lower right)
oil on canvas-board, deconstructed by the artist
12 x 8½ in. (30.5 x 21.6 cm.)
Painted in 1968.
Acquired directly from the artist.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Lot Essay

Drawing, particularly of the human figure, was central to Kitaj's education as an artist during the 1950s and was to be foregrounded in his work from the mid-1970s, when he returned seriously to working from life in charcoal and in pastel. After completing his studies at the Royal College of Art in 1961 he had ceased to draw on paper, transferring that impulse to represent people into canvases in which human physiognomy was deftly delineated with fine, dry brushes. The freely brushed technique that had characterised some of his student paintings had given way, by the mid-1960s, to a much more precise and measured procedure, in such works as Where the Railroad Leaves the Sea 1964 (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid). It was in a group of small portraits painted on canvas or canvas-board between 1964 and 1969, however, of which this head of Francis Bacon is a prime example, that Kitaj first clearly articulated his ideas about 'drawing-painting', pictures composed with paint and brushes but dependent largely on a use of line and tone proper to drawing. Paintings in this select group included portraits of historical figures such as Unity Mitford, La Pasionaria and Primo Rivera, as well as of people he counted as friends and acquaintances such as David Hockney and his then partner, Peter Schlesinger, and poets such as Michael Hamburger and Ezra Pound. Some of these images were painted from photographs rather than from life. A number of these paintings were destined to feature as elements of limited-edition screenprints. Ten of these portraits, depicting among others W. H. Auden, Robert Creeley (Tate, London), Hugh McDiarmid, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Kenneth Rexroth, found their way into the portfolio of screenprints Portraits - Poets, published between 1966 and 1969. The heads of Hockney and his lover were combined into the screenprint Plays for Total Stakes 1969.

Kitaj had joined Marlborough Fine Art, which continues to represent his work, shortly after his graduation, and he held his first solo show there in 1963. It was through the gallery that he got to know Francis Bacon, whose work he greatly admired but whose formidable presence and sharp tongue even Kitaj had reason to find daunting. He referred to him privately as 'The Wicked Witch of Reece Mews', but at a lecture at the Hirshhorn Museum at the time of his retrospective there in 1981 he acknowledged him as 'a very inspiring figure for a few of us in London'. It was with a view to publishing a pair of collage-based screenprints, Bacon I 1968 and Bacon II 1969, that in 1968 Kitaj painted two portrait heads, respectively the painting in question here and Study (Francis Bacon) (sold at Christie's, King Street, 17 February 2011, lot 248); for these, as he later explained to Julián Ríos, he worked from photographs given to him by Bacon as well as snapshots that he took himself. Like all the small portraits of that three-year period, the heads are painted more or less life-size in a monochromatic palette that emphasizes tonal gradations and firm outlines. Though he was transfixed by what he termed the 'sublime paint-trickery' of Bacon's painterly technique, Kitaj made his portraits of the master in a much more graphic technique that was unmistakably his own, the dry paint dragged across the surface so that the coarse weave of the support shows through. In 1968-9 he painted a large diptych, Synchromy with F. B. - General of Hot Desire (Tate, London), as the most ambitious of his homages to his fellow artist.

We are very grateful to Marco Livingstone for preparing this catalogue entry.

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