This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Amédée Ozenfant.
Pierre Guénégan has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Painted in 1925, Verrerie was created at the height of Amédée Ozenfant’s engagement with Purism and embodies many of the key principles which defined the iconic artistic vision he developed in the years immediately following the First World War. Believing that a new art was needed in response to what he saw as the growing excess of Cubism, Ozenfant championed a return to order in painting, advocating a rigorous, precise, pure art attuned to the science and industry that permeated modern life. His explorations into this topic were boosted by his friendship with a young Swiss artist and architect by the name of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, later known as Le Corbusier. The pair met in 1918 and within a year they had formulated a book – Après le Cubsime – in which they boldly declared the end of Cubism and heralded the arrival of a new, dynamic style in its place. Outlining the theoretical basis and practical applications of Purism, the book emphasised rationality, logic and refinement as the central pillars of this new movement in an effort to develop a permanent and enduring art, one which focused on the general and the invariable aspects of the material world, rather than the passing fashions of the day. Executed at the apex of this partnership with Jeanneret, the present work demonstrates Ozenfant’s devotion to the Purist cause, particularly its use of clean, geometrical forms, and the ways in which the artist stresses clarity, serenity and economy of means in his approach to the still-life subject.
At the centre of Verrerie, a cluster of traditional containers, vases and glasses are gathered in a compact grouping, their smooth contours abutting one another in a careful arrangement. For Ozenfant and Jeanneret, these objects represented a highly developed and long-standing evolution of form, one which harked back to the earliest periods of history. As they explained: ‘In all ages and with all people, man has created for his use objects of prime necessity which responded to his imperative needs; … for example, man has created containers: vases, glasses, bottles, plates, which were built to suit the needs of maximum capacity, maximum economy of materials, maximum economy of effort… One discovers that these objects are true extensions of human limbs and are, for this reason, of human scale, harmonizing both among themselves and with man’ (Ozenfant & Jeanneret, ‘Purism’ in Modern Artists on Art, New York, 2000, pp. 56-57). Thus, Ozenfant viewed these types of object as the supreme example of logic, their designs carefully modified and developed through trial and error over millennia to produce the most economic, rational and effective solutions to fulfil an everyday need.
The objects that Ozenfant chose for the present work are all marked by sharply defined volumes, and are imbued with a distinctly classical sensibility as their shapes echo the urns and vases of antiquity. In a 1922 issue of the influential Purist periodical L’Esprit Nouveau, Ozenfant’s essay ‘Greek Vases’ praised the formal purity of these antique vessels, whose shapes were based on the perfect, ideal, mathematical form of the sphere. Explaining this further, Ozenfant wrote that the vases were ‘built from the profiles of the same spirit as those that engendered the essential forms of the Parthenon… The profiles of these vases are the profiles of the cornices’ (A. Ozenfant, ‘Greek Vases,’ L’Esprit Nouveau, No. 16, May 1922, quoted in European Painting and Sculpture ca. 1770-1937, in the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1991, p. 209). In the present work, this connection between the vessel and architecture is accentuated by the addition of a subtle fluting pattern to the body of the large blue vase at the centre of the composition, the regular rhythm of its lines distinctly echoing the form of an antique column. Through this subtle detailing, Ozenfant transforms this highly modern, mass-produced, everyday object into a timeless symbol of rationality, order and purity, as the regulated, symmetrical lines imbue the vase with a distinctly monumental quality.
The present work was acquired directly from the artist by Léonce Rosenberg, one of the most influential art collectors and dealers active in interwar France. Rosenberg had bought several paintings from the Purist exhibition at the Galerie Druet in Paris during the opening months of 1921, and had included both Ozenfant and Jeanneret in a group show at his gallery, Les Maîtres du Cubisme, later that year. Rosenberg’s enthusiasm for Ozenfant’s work continued throughout the rest of the 1920s and ensured the painter a prominent position in the dealer’s ambitious public showcase of the artists from his gallery in 1929, which involved filling the grand apartment he rented in the fashionable sixteenth arrondissement with examples of their latest work. Ozenfant was given the task of decorating Léonce Rosenberg’s private bedroom, along with Emmanuel Rendon, while artists such as Francis Picabia, Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico took control of other spaces within the sprawling home. Verrerie remained in the Rosenberg family’s private collection for almost four decades, passing to Léonce’s daughter, Lucienne, following his death in 1947. It was subsequently acquired by the pioneering British collector E. J. Power, who gifted Verrerie to Leslie Waddington in 1970.