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Composition abstraite

Composition abstraite
signed and inscribed 'TEMPERA SERGE POLIAKOFF' (lower left)
tempera on canvas
36 ¼ x 29in. (92 x 73.6cm.)
Executed in 1965
Private Collection, France.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1970s.
A. Poliakoff, Serge Poliakoff, Catalogue Raisonné: Vol. IV, 1963-1965, Munich 2012, no. 65-104 (illustrated in colour, p. 273).
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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Christie’s is pleased to offer three works by Serge Poliakoff in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction. With his distinctive abstract idiom and commitment to colour, Poliakoff ‘took the past—its meanings, symbols, and “the givens”—and renewed it for his time, and now ours’ (R. Colvin, ‘How Serge Poliakoff Predicted 60 Years of Painting’, Hyperallergic, 27 April 2016). Born in Moscow, the artist fled Russia after the 1917 revolution, eventually settling in Paris where he studied under Othon Friesz, a former Fauvist who influenced the young artist’s awareness of colour. His friendship with Robert and Sonia Delaunay confirmed this interest. Poliakoff’s admiration for Giotto and Paul Gauguin led him to further explore line and colour as basic elements of composition, but by the 1950s, he had fully abandoned the use of outlines. Instead, he encouraged his colours to guide his geometric tapestries. Orange et ocre, painted in 1958, evinces this chromatic equilibrium as the blazing oranges and reds appear to hold one another in balance.

Over the following decade, Poliakoff was catapulted into acclaim. By the mid-1960s, during which he created both Rouge bleu gris et lie-de-vin and Composition abstraite, he was one of the most celebrated painters of his generation, with a room dedicated entirely to his work in the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1962, and a major retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in 1963, in which Orange et ocre was exhibited. Elegant and refined, both Rouge bleu gris et lie-de-vin and Composition abstraite reveal a painter who has mastered his medium. Poliakoff’s practice was underpinned by a rigorous interrogation of colour, but he also believed that ‘a form should be listened to when it is seen’ (S. Poliakoff, quoted in Polikakoff, exh. cat. Galerie Melki, Paris 1975, p. 13). Although colour dictates the contours of his work, Poliakoff never forsook formal considerations, and his paintings revel in their chromatic structures, evincing a vivid and material tonality.

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