Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
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Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)

Diptyque (Diptych)

Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969)
Diptyque (Diptych)
each: signed 'Serge Poliakoff' (lower right)
oil on card laid on board, in two parts
each: 24 1/8 x 18 1/8in. (61.2 x 46cm.)
Painted in 1956
Galerie Der Spiegel, Cologne.
Galerie Heinz Berggruen, Paris.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 27 June 2002, lot 228.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
D. Vallier, Serge Poliakoff, Paris 1959, no. 35 (illustrated, p. 68).
A. Poliakoff, Serge Poliakoff, Catalogue Raisonné: 1955-1958, vol. II, Munich 2010, no. 56-87 & no. 56-88, p. 148 (illustrated in colour, p. 148 & p. 327).
Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Documenta II: Kunst nach 1945 internationale Ausstellung, 1959, p. 322, no. 1.
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.

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Lot Essay

‘When a painting is silent it is successful. Some of my paintings start in turmoil. They are explosive. But I am only satisfied when they become silent. A form must be heard and not seen’ – Serge Poliakoff

Painted in 1956, Diptyque (Diptych) is a rare and striking example of Serge Poliakoff’s virtuosic handling of form, and one of the few works selected to represent the artist at II. Documenta in Kassel in 1959. In the painting, two monochromes of warm yellow and bright red emphasise Poliakoff’s signature interlocking geometries. Unlike the clearly delineated colour fields that had defined his practice, Diptyque reveals a singular expressive quality, a celebration of pure colour illuminated here by emotive, gestural brushwork. Swirling shapes and intertwined poetic forms suggest a spatial interplay, and though seemingly intuitive, they were not arbitrary. Rather, these were masterfully controlled by Poliakoff, who ground his own pigments to create his desired, dimensional colours. Together, the dynamic brushwork and chromatic vibration suggest a tangible depth. As Poliakoff once observed, ‘If you let it, your colour will take charge of you.’ (S. Poliakoff quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat., Whitechapel Gallery, London 1963, p. 15). Indeed, Diptyque marks the artist’s return to the monochrome, where colour itself was both the medium and its only reference for expression.

By the beginning of 1956, Serge Poliakoff had already received significant public recognition: that year, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired one of his works which, to commemorate the occasion, was reproduced in colour in the New York Times. A few months later, art historian Michel Ragon published the first monograph dedicated to the artist. Poliakoff’s embrace of colour and its effects dates to his studies at the Slade School of Art, London, which he embarked upon in 1935. He was also influenced by Robert Delaunay’s chromatic theories, which explored the purity and independence of colour as a means for creating spatial depth and vibration. Poliakoff thought it futile to justify his abstractions, believing instead that a painting had to first and foremost be silent; it could not be explained, only felt and heard through its colour and form. As the artist said, ‘When a painting is silent, it means that it is successful’ (M. Ragon, Le regard et la mémoire, Paris 1956, p. 56). Indeed, Poliakoff did not draw inspiration from external or physical concepts; rather, his forms exist exclusively and uniquely within their frames, a means to inspire the viewer’s mind. Diptyque is arresting, a harmonious and communicative work that speaks for itself.

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