Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)
THE COLLECTION OF CELESTE AND ARMAND BARTOS Celeste and Armand Bartos were true patrons of the arts with interests that spanned painting, sculpture, cinema, design, architecture, and new media. The diversity and scope of their patronage is emblematic of the curiosity and optimistic engagement the Bartoses had with their world. Their generosity nurtured artistic production, promoted modernity, and preserved cultural heritage. Their exceptional art collection perfectly embodied their bold and generous spirit and today, enshrines their enduring legacy. Their collection includes works by many of the twentieth century's greatest artists including Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol and demonstrates the couple's discerning eye for quality. Their philosophy that you live with what you collect was evident in the works that hung on the walls of their Park Avenue residence and the collection showed interests rooted in classical Modernism and De Stijl and moved strongly into Pop. Despite their high level of connoisseurship, Celeste and Armand were a low-key couple who did not participate in the usual social circuit of the art world. Instead, they chose to develop personal dialogues with a diverse range of artists that included Isamu Noguchi, Christo and Jean-Claude, Jasper Johns, Gerald Laing, and the architects Gordon Bunshaft and Buckminster Fuller. Born in 1913, Celeste Ruth Gottesman inherited her love of giving from her father, the Hungarian-born paper magnate D. Samuel Gottesman, who built his family's firm into the largest private pulp and paper brokerage company in the world. He was himself a major philanthropist to religious and cultural causes. Perhaps his most famous gift was the Dead Sea Scrolls, which he donated to the young state of Israel in 1955, purchased for $250,000 after having read an advertisement for them in the Wall Street Journal. Armand P. Bartos was also born of Hungarian immigrants, in 1910, and after receiving a B.A. degree in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, he received a Master's degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1935. Armand became a leading modern architect, partnering with Frederick Kiesler on a series of enigmatic and influential structures. They designed the World House Gallery at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, and, most famously the Shrine of the Book in western Jerusalem. Completed in 1965, the Shrine is an international landmark of modernist architecture that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. Bartos also played a pivotal role in establishing the legendary Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York. Celeste enjoyed a lifelong relationship with the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she first worked at their Art Lending Service and went on to become an early member of the Junior Council along with Blanchette Rockefeller, Lily Auchincloss, Barbara Jakobson, Joanne Stern, and others. In 1970 she became a Trustee and served in that role for forty-two years. In recognition of her view that film was as much an art form as painting or sculpture, Celeste endowed the Chief Film Curator post at MoMA, gave the Celeste Bartos Theater, as well as the museum's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, a world-class facility that conserves and houses over 15,000 works of cinema and video art. She also made critical gifts to Film Forum and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Celeste and Armand were keen to share their love of art and donated many works by major artists to MoMA, including pieces by Sam Francis, Piet Mondrian, Agnes Martin, Joan Mir, Juan Gris, and Frank Stella, along with an exceptional gift in the 1980s of over 340 prints and works on paper. In 1983 the Bartoses held a major sale of their works through Christie's in London, which included Mondrian's Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, which sold for what was then a record price of $2.2 million. The generosity of Celeste Bartos can be seen in many of the country's major institutions including the New York Public Library. She was instrumental in the restoration of what became the magnificent Celeste Bartos Forum, a once abandoned Beaux-Arts hall at the Library along with the Celeste Bartos Education Center and Gottesman Hall which, along with her sisters Joy Ungerleider and Miriam Wallace, she also donated to the Library. Celeste Bartos was also a major donor to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (endowing the nascent Media Lab; the Celeste and Armand Bartos Visualization Center for Architecture and the Bartos Theater). In New Mexico, the Bartos' much loved second home in their later years, Celeste Bartos made major gifts to numerous educational, artistic and scientific centers. Including The Screening Room Cinema in Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Institute. Celeste and Armand Bartos were collectors of remarkable originality and a unique discernment. Their unrivalled connoisseurship resulted in a collection which, while it encompassed many categories of art was united by the consistent excellence of each work. Their vision and sense of adventure meant that they identified and sought out the most interesting artists of their generation, a search that was rewarded with friendship and unfettered access to the artists' studios. All this resulted in an outstanding collection of twentieth century art and, thanks to the couple's generosity, a legacy that will be enjoyed for generations to come. COLLECTION OF CELESTE AND ARMAND BARTOS
Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)


Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)
signed with artist's monogram and dated '1917' (on the reverse)
oil on board in the artist's painted frame
12¼ x 12¼ in. (31.1 x 31.1 cm.)
Painted in 1917-1918
Nelly van Doesburg, Paris.
Rose Fried Gallery (The Pinacotheca), New York (acquired from the above, circa 1947-1949).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 21 August 1950.
The Artist's List 1, Van Doesburg Archive (VDA) no. 1469 (titled Compositie IX 1917).
N. van Doesburg, Portfolio (The artist's exercise books, VDA no. 1706), no. 89 (titled Motief-vloer and dated 1917).
"Az épitészet mint szintetikus müvészet" in Ma. Aktivista Folyóirat 7, no. 7, 1 July 1922, p. 35 (illustrated).
"Have You the Courage To Be Elegant?" in House & Garden, November 1963, p. 221 (illustrated in color in situ).
S. Polano, ed., Theo van Doesburg. Scritti di arte e di architettura, Rome, 1979, p. 538, no. ARCH 5 (illustrated, fig. 55; titled Piastrella di ceramica and dated 1917).
J.M. Joosten, "Rondom van Doesburg. De schilder--en beeldhouwkunst binnen het verband van De Stijl, 1915-1922. Het werk van Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondriaan, Bart van der Leck en Vilmos Huszar" in Tableau 5 (1982-1983), no.1, September-October 1982, p. 57.
A. Doig, Theo van Doesburg: Painting Into Architecture, Theory Into Practice, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 65 and 67 (illustrated, p. 67, fig. 16).
E. Van Straaten, Theo van Doesburg: Painter and Architect, exh. cat., Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, The Hague, 1988, p. 49.
E. Hoek, ed., Theo van Doesburg, oeuvre catalogus, Utrecht, 2000, p. 225, no. 570 (illustrated in color).
Weimar, Landesmuseum, Retrospektiv Theo van Doesburg, December 1923-January 1924.
(possibly) Hanover, Kestner Gesellschaft, Retrospektiv Theo van Doesburg, April 1924.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Konstruktivisten, January-February 1937, p. 11 no. 15 (dated 1917).
New York, Art of This Century (Peggy Guggenheim), Theo van Doesburg, April-May 1947, no. 19 (titled Composition 7 and dated 1917).
(possibly) Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Walt Kuhn, Lyonel Feininger and Theo van Doesburg, June-July 1947.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Theo van Doesburg, July-August 1947.
(possibly) Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, Theo van Doesburg, September 1947.
The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Theo van Doesburg: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs and Architectural Drawings, October-November 1947, no. 90.
(possibly) Cincinnati Art Museum, Theo van Doesburg, November-December 1947.
Cambridge, Harvard Graduate School of Design Institute of Modern Art, Exhibition--van Doesburg, January 1948, no. 40.
New York, Rose Fried Gallery, Theo van Doesburg, March 1951.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Painters of de Stijl: Debut of Abstract Art in Holland, 1917-21, May-June 1951, no. 10 (titled Composition, Ochre and Black and dated 1917).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, De Stijl, 1917-1928, December 1952-April 1953.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Selected Works by 20th Century European Artists, January-February 1969, no. 45 (titled Composition in Yellow & Ochre).
London, Annely Juda Fine Art, The 1st Russian Show: A Commemoration of the Van Diemen Exhibition Berlin 1922, September-December 1983.

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

The response of European artists to the unprecedented carnage of the First World War ran a gamut of diverse attitudes, styles, sensibilities and programs, almost all of which amounted to, in intent and effect, a profound cry in protest that declared a cataclysm of this magnitude must never happen again. In Western Europe most of these ideas and efforts emerged under the banner of what the French called le rappel à l'ordre, "the call to order," which announced a return to the classical and humanist tradition of Europe's past, before the forces of industrial capitalism, nationalism and militarism spun out of control and brought the social contract down to a level so base that nothing more than the law of the jungle seemed to prevail. If destructively demonic forces in society and from within human nature had taken the nations of Europe to this terrible place, then the light of reason would deliver them from it, and bear forth the promise of a more enlightened and beneficent future.

A group of Dutch artists gathered in 1917, late in the war, under the name De Stijl. Their country had been neutral in the conflict, and perhaps for this reason they were able to approach the great new longing for harmony and balance with the benefit of insight derived from their singularly objective viewpoint. They dedicated their distinctly purist strain of idealism to a comprehensive synthesis of art, architecture and design, the goal of which was a new harmony in the expression of universal values, based on the precise geometry of abstraction, and the absolute supremacy that human thought and invention should wield over nature.

The group's leading painters were Theo van Doesberg, Georges Vantongerloo, Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, and the Hungarian émigré Vilmos Huszar; the chief architects were Gerrit Rietveld and J.J. Oud. Together they "not only redefined the vocabulary and the grammar of the visual arts," Hans L.C. Jaffe has written, "they assigned a new task to painting, architecture and the other arts: to serve as a guide for humanity to prepare it for the harmony and balance of the 'new life,' to serve mankind by enlightening it" (De Stijl: Visions of Utopia, exh. cat., The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1982, p. 15).

Van Doesburg became the prime mover behind the journal De Stijl, and as such the group's public spokesman. In 1922 he published "De Stijl: Manifesto I," which he had composed in 1918. He stated:

"There is an old and new consciousness of time. The old is connected with the individual. The new is connected with the universal. The struggle of the individual against the universal is revealing itself in the world war as well as in the art of the present day.

"The war is destroying the old world and its contents: individual domination in every state. The new art has brought forth what the new consciousness of time contains: a balance between the universal and the individual. The new consciousness is prepared to realize the internal life as well as the external life" (trans. in C. Harrison and P. Wood, ed., Art in Theory 1900-2000, Malden, Mass., 2003, p. 281).

Van Doesburg famously declared: "The object of nature is man, the object of man is style...The development of art had to result in a new plasticity, which could only appear in and by a period which was able to revolutionize completely the spiritual (inward) and material (outward) proportions" ("Introduction to De Stijl," vol. II; trans. in H.B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, 1968, p. 324). The present Compositie that Van Doesburg painted in 1917-1918 demonstrates the process by which the utopian practitioners of De Stijl early set forth on their quest, by first applying its principles within the context of the most basic human habitation, the house as home.

In 1917 Emilie Knappert, a dedicated feminist who directed the welfare organization Leiden Volkshuis, commissioned Oud and Van Doesburg to collaborate on the construction of a three-story house on the dunes by the North Sea at Noordwijkerhout, about six miles from Leiden. The building would be known as De Vonk ("The Spark") and was intended to serve as a holiday residence for girls and young women from local working-class families. Following instructions from his client, Oud designed the building in as a long, symmetrical, rectangular structure--to be built in brick--with wings, arranged around a central stairway. The ground floor contained a dining room and lecture halls; the female workers' rooms were located on the second floor.

Van Doesburg designed colored tiled mosaics for the face of the building (fig. 1), and the colored decoration in the hallways, including the walls, doors and floors (figs. 2 and 3 [the latter: Hoek, no. 569 IIa]). C.-P. Warncke has pointed out that "Van Doesburg's floor mosaic, with yellow, black and while tiles, added an element of unrest to this sculpture-like structure" (De Stijl, Cologne, 1998, p. 96) echoing Van Doesburg's own statement in the magazine De Stijl: "In the tiled floor composition, and in the painted doors, etc., in the manner of painting-in-architecture, an aesthetic spatial effect is achieved by destruction" (quoted in E. van Straaten, op. cit., p. 49). He thought it was "splendid to have it resolved in yellow, black and white" (quoted in Hoek. op. cit., p. 220). Van Doesburg regarded De Vonk as the first successful result in a collaboration between an artist and architect according to De Stijl principles; the vacation home marked the "beginning of monumentality... The rising stairs, the interrupted walls, the benches along the walls and the bench on the landing...they all have a logical functional meaning, which, contained in a single organic form, is plastically externalized. From whatever side it is seen, this form produces a surprising rhythmic effect" (quoted in E. van Straaten, op. cit., p. 49). The construction of De Vonk commenced in 1918; the house was officially opened on 8 February 1919.

While drawing the plans for the holiday home, Van Doesburg painted the present Compositie, which is closely related to his idea for the floor tile design. This painting is an entirely autonomous art work. The machine-made floor tiles have a smooth and regular appearance; Van Doesburg made no attempt, however, to downplay or minimize the hand-painted aspect of this composition in oils. He furthermore augmented the tile design by adding in the painting two framing bands in the same ochre, black and white colors he had employed in the internal structure of elements; this pictorial device sets off the composition from its surroundings, and focuses the viewer's attention more closely on the interaction between the colored rectangles and right angled bracket forms. The painting is intriguingly satisfying on several levels simultaneously--as an engaging design, a subtle and complex composition, and not least for the mysteriously elusive and hermetic effect that it produces. Even after repeated viewings it is virtually impossible to fix the composition in one's memory: each new viewing is like studying the picture for the first time. The three colors may be read as alternately overlapping and cut open superimposed planes, a sort of synthetic cubist puzzle. The composition is, of course, static--yet the elements, as cohesively interlocked as they are, nevertheless produce the illusion of being unsettled and in a state of flux. The viewer may rightly ponder if this is a composition in which connections are being made, and the elements coming together; or if the contrary applies, and the composition is coming apart. We cannot be sure if we are witnessing a process of construction, or--as Van Doesburg suggested in his assessment of the tiled floor above--destruction.

Theo van Doesburg, circa 1920. BARCODE: 28855545

(fig. 1) The holiday residence De Vonk, Noorwijkerhout, The Netherlands, in a recent photograph. Frank den Oudsten/Lenneke Büller, Amsterdam. BARCODE: 28855552

(fig. 2) The tile floor pattern at the De Vonk holiday residence, in a recent photograph. Frank den Oudsten/Lenneke Büller, Amsterdam. BARCODE: 28855569

(fig. 3) Theo van Doesberg, Design for a tiled floor; the entrance hall, stairwell and hallway on the ground floor of the De Vonk holiday residence, 1917-1918. Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, The Hague. BARCODE: 28855477

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