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Galerie Louis Carré & Cie., Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist, until at least 1988.
Claude Bernard Gallery, New York, by 1990.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991.
ABSTRACTION BEYOND BORDERS: WORKS FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
From Paris to Munich, Berlin, Milan and Hanover, in the opening decades of the Twentieth Century, a number of artists created art that radically differed from those of their predecessors. Working across Europe, these pioneering provocateurs, radicals and trailblazers – Georges Braque, Francis Picabia, František Kupka, to name just a few – shunned the last vestiges of illusionism to instead create unprecedented works with no visible, recognisable or definable subject matter. Liberating colour, line and form from their centuries-old descriptive role, they overturned pictorial tradition, embarking on an abstract adventure that would come to define art of the Twentieth Century. Crossing geographical boundaries, encompassing a variety of media, and often blurring traditional distinctions of painting and sculpture, abstraction spread with an extraordinary speed, transforming artistic practice forever.
From the initial steps towards a new artistic language, to the paradigmatic embodiment of this concept, this diverse group of works embodies this varied, experimental and groundbreaking path of abstraction, demonstrating the variety of ways that artists across the globe embraced this radical practice. Braque’s cubist composition, Cartes et cornet à dés presents the origin of this move towards a new, non-representational artistic language. Along with Picasso – the pair, ‘like mountain-climbers roped together’, as Braque recalled of this frenzied period of seismic innovation – the artist undermined conventional notions of perspective, opening the door to a whole new way of depicting the world.
As rebellious as the cubists’ rejection of the centuries-old rules of representation, Picabia’s playful collage Sans titre (Pot de fleurs) uses the very materials of art making to parody the mimetic traditions of art, creating a semi-abstract play of colour and line. Far removed from any trace of the recognisable world, Kurt Schwitters’ rare Merz relief, Das Richard-Freitag-Bild dates from the height of his involvement with the International Constructivist movement. It was executed during a period when he was codifying Merz – the one-man art movement that he created in 1919 – into a utopian Constructivist language of form, taking the deconstruction of Dada and combining it with the aims of Constructivism. Following the same aesthetic, Georges Vantongerloo’s perfectly composed De Stijl composition embodies the tenets of geometric abstraction. In addition, Kupka, one of the leading pioneers of non-representational abstraction, is represented in this collection with a rare composition entitled Series C, III, Elevation, a work that marries his elegant abstract idiom with the deeper, spiritual dimension that was often the source of his abstractions.
By contrast, Magritte, an artist whose unique form of Surrealism serves as the very antithesis to the development of non-representational abstraction, is represented in this group with an important early painting, Les signes du soir. A pictorial trompe l’oeil riddle, with this painting Magritte confuses, undermines and questions the entire nature of representational painting, paving the way for the conceptual art that dominated artistic production of the post-war era.
From the purely formal – Schwitters and Vantongerloo – to the spiritual, mystic or surreal – Kupka, Jawlensky, Magritte and Picasso, this collection, assembled with the eye of an aesthete, encapsulates the multi-faceted nature and pioneering spirit of modernist abstraction throughout the Twentieth Century. Their curiosity, daring eclecticism and pioneering spirit of exploration nearly 100 years ago paved the way for artists and collectors today.
Réalités Nouvelles, no. 1, Paris, 1947, p. 45 (illustrated).
R. V. Gindertael, 'Kupka', in Art d'aujourd'hui, Paris, 1952, no. 6 (illustrated p. 89).
F. Bayl, 'Pariser Chronik', in das kunstwerk, Baden-Baden, vol. XVIII, no. 1-3, July - September 1964, p. 89 (illustrated).
D. Fédit, Inventaire des collections publiques françaises, Musée National d'Art Moderne, vol. 13, L'oeuvre de Kupka, Paris, 1966, p. 152 (dated '1932-1938').
Exh. cat., Kupka, New York, 1975, p. 298.
S. Fauchereau, Kupka, Paris, 1988, no. 157, p. 128 (illustrated n.p.; dated '1938').
K. Srp, František Kupka: Geometrie myšlenek, Revnice, 2012, no. 117, p. 139 (illustrated; dated '1938').
A. Husslein-Arco, L. & V. Lekeš & E. Zlatohlávková, František Kupka, Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, Prague, 2016, no. 331, p. 518 (illustrated).
Prague, Galerie S.V.U. Mánes, František Kupka, Výstava ?ivotního díla 1880-1946, November - December 1946, no. 96.
Paris, Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, 2ème Salon des Réalités nouvelles: Art abstrait, concret, constructivisme, non-figuratif, orphisme, July - August 1947, no. 181, p. 16 (titled 'Série contrastes III' and dated '1938').
New York, Louis Carré Gallery, Kupka, May - June 1951, no. 14, p. 24 (illustrated p. 22; with incorrect dimensions).
Zurich, Helmhaus, konkrete kunst, 50 jahre entwicklung, June - August 1960, no. 62, p. 30 (illustrated; dated '1938').
Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Kupka, peintures 1910-1946, May - July 1964, no. 21, n.p. (dated '1938').
New York, Claude Bernard Gallery, Kupka: Paintings and gouaches, October - November 1990, no. 10, p. 48 (illustrated n.p.; dated '1938').
Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Frank Kupka, Die andere Realität, April - July 1995, p. 188, n.p. (illustrated p. 189; dated '1938').