Friday, February 5, 2016

Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado


Exclusively at the Clark June 11 – October 10, 2016
In summer 2016 the Clark Art Institute is the exclusive venue for Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado. The exhibition, co-organized by the Clark and the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, consists of twenty-eight Old Master paintings of the nude, twenty-four of which have never traveled to the United States. The exhibition examines the collecting of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century paintings of the nude at the Spanish court, explores the histories of these works and their display in the Spanish Royal Collections, and reconsiders the significant role of the nude in European art. The exhibition will be on view June 11–October 10, 2016.The Prado’s collection of Old Master paintings, widely recognized as one of the most important in the world, is characterized by a significant concentration of mythological, allegorical, historical, and religious paintings depicting nudes. The works presented in Splendor, Myth, and Vision were selected from the Prado’s unparalleled holdings, not only for their relationship to the exhibition’s themes, but also for their individual histories and artistic merit.

The exhibition explores the Spanish monarchy’s collection and display of sensual paintings during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in major works by Titian (Italian, c. 1488– 1576), Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640), Jacopo Tintoretto (Italian, 1519–1594), Diego Velàzquez (Spanish, 1599–1660); Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish, c. 1591–1652), and Jan Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1568–1625) , among others. The exhibition places particular emphasis on two of the greatest art patrons of their time: Philip II (r. 1556–1598) and Philip IV (r. 1621–1665). The exhibition includes important portraits of these patrons—Philip II painted by Titian and his workshop in 1549–50, and Philip IV painted by Diego Velàzquez, c. 1653–55.

Most of the works of art in the exhibition—many of which depict eroticized, mythological, female nudes—were made for or collected by a succession of Spanish kings as articulations of their secular and religious power, as reminders of virtue and vice, and as objects of private delight. A number of these paintings within the Spanish Royal Collections were secluded from public view in private, or reserved, rooms known as salas reservadas. When the Museo del Prado opened to the public in the nineteenth century, the tradition continued with many of the paintings of the nude being placed in a specially designated room. The museum’s sala reservada existed between 1827 and 1838.
The survival of paintings of the nude collected by the Spanish monarchy is a compelling story of the clash between public morals, private tastes, and the exercise of power. While Philip II and Philip IV celebrated depictions of the human form, Philip III (r. 1598–1621) was troubled by nudity and kept many works collected by his father out of sight, feeling that they were in conflict with his religiosity. Even more extreme, Charles III (r. 1759–1788) and Charles IV (r. 1788–1808) considered having the paintings destroyed to avoid the moral corruption of those who might view them. Subsequently, many of these works were placed in the Academy of San Fernando with the dual intention of limiting public access to the paintings and providing pedagogical tools to students. More than two centuries later, the nude continues to evoke powerful responses across the spectrum of emotion, from censorship to celebrated acceptance.

Philip II, Titian, and the Venetian Nude

Philip II was one of the most important patrons of the Venetian painter Titian, commissioning from him a number of portraits and mythological paintings that celebrated the nude. The most erotically charged of these paintings were kept away from public view in private chambers near the king’s quarters. Because of the high concentration of works by the artist, these and similar rooms later became known as the Bovedas de Titian (Titian Vaults).

Titian and Jacopo Tintoretto were two of the most important Venetian artists of the sixteenth century, both known for their sensual depictions of the female nude.  

Venus with an Organist and Cupid (Titian, c. 1550–1555), which was housed in the Titian Vaults, depicts a reclining Venus accompanied by a male musician. Titian made several versions of this composition, a subject that appealed to the sophisticated collectors of the time. The painting weaves together love, erotic desire, and the senses in an exploration of beauty and harmony.

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife (c. 1555) and 

Susannah and the Elders (c. 1555), both by Jacopo Tintoretto, were also displayed in the Titian Vaults. They are included in the exhibition as outstanding examples of the artist’s use of the nude figure in depicting biblical stories with an emphasis on the sensual and exotic.

Domenico Tintoretto’s Lady Revealing her Breast (c. 1580–90), a work that was housed in the sala reservada, is a mysterious painting depicting a courtesan. It has been suggested that the woman shown is Veronica Franco, the most celebrated Venetian courtesan of the second half of the sixteenth century. However, the identity of the sitter has never been confirmed. Unlike other images of courtesans, who generally look directly at the viewer, this painting depicts a profile. The bold presentation of the young woman’s breasts creates a contradiction that serves to enhance the painting’s sensuality.

Philip IV and Rubens

Philip IV built a number of new royal residences, including an opulent hunting lodge known as the Torre de la Parada. A major patron of Rubens, Philip IV commissioned him to paint more than sixty mythologies based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses for the lodge. These massive canvases were installed in one large room, creating a stunning visual effect. Rubens’s advanced age at the time of the commission made it impossible for him to execute all of the works himself, leading him to rely on members of his studio and various assistants to create many of the works based on his oil sketches. 
Two of the fourteen paintings executed by Rubens himself for the lodge are included in the exhibition: 

 Fortuna (1636) 

and Rape of Hippodamia or The Lapiths and the Centaurs (1636–38). 

Another of the Torre de la Parada paintings included in the exhibition, the  

Marriage of Peleus and Thetis (1636–38), was executed by Jacob Jordaens (Flemish, 1593–1678), an associate of Rubens.

Fortuna is a stunning full-length nude depicting the goddess of fortune balancing on a sphere set within a stormy landscape. The goddess represents the varied chances of life; she can bring happiness, but also misfortune. Fortuna epitomizes Rubens’s beautiful rendering of the fleshy, robust female figure, a style that became his hallmark.

Measuring nearly six by ten feet, Rape of Hippodamia has a frieze-like composition; the horizontal direction strengthens the painting’s sense of violence. The painting tells the story of the wedding banquet of the king of the Lapiths at which the centaurs attempt to kidnap the bride. A bloody battle ensues, resulting in the defeat of the centaurs. This myth illustrates the battle between civilization and bestiality and could have served as a source of contemplation for a monarch seeking to rule justly.

Rubens was a great admirer of Titian, finding inspiration in the Venetian’s vigorous brushwork and rich use of color. In 1628, when Rubens was in Spain on a diplomatic mission, Philip IV provided the painter with private access to the Titian paintings in his collections at the Alcázar Palace, many of them collected by Phillip II. Rubens painted a number of replicas of Titian’s works, including one of the greatest masterpieces presented in the exhibition: 

Rape of Europa (1628–29), painted at the height of Rubens’s artistic power and considered a bravura homage from one great artist to another. Purchased by Philip IV upon Rubens’s death in 1640, the painting depicts Europa being abducted by Zeus, who had taken the form of a white bull. It was this painting that firmly established Rubens’s reputation as the heir to Titian and, significantly, linked the collecting and patronage of Philip IV with that of his grandfather Philip II, who had acquired Titian’s Rape of Europa directly from the artist in 1562.

The history of this painting’s subsequent display is particularly interesting as it illustrates the changing attitude of various monarchs toward depictions of the nude form and an inconsistent approach to their display. For reasons unknown––and despite its nudity––the painting was not isolated from view during the eighteenth century, nor was it placed in the sala reservada in the Prado in the nineteenth century.

The Nude in the Landscape of the Spanish Netherlands

Splendor, Myth, and Vision presents a selection of cabinet pictures—small, finely executed paintings—that place the nude within the context of seventeeth-century Flemish landscape painting.  

Landscape with Psyche and Jupiter (1610) was originally painted by Paul Bril (Flemish, 1554–1626) as a landscape with the figure of St. Jerome. The painting later belonged to Rubens, who removed the figure of Jerome and added the figures of Psyche and Jupiter, thus changing the painting from a religious to a mythological scene.

Two versions of Abundance with the Four Elements by Jan Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1568–1625) are included in the exhibition. 

One (c. 1600–1625) was painted in collaboration with Hendrick van Balen (Flemish, c. 1574/75–1632); 

the other (1606) was painted with Hendrik de Clerck (Flemish, c. 1570–1630). 

Both cabinet pictures depict the plentitude and tranquility of the natural and human worlds.

The Male Nude – Hercules and Saint Sebastian

Although the predominant nude figure in paintings from this period was female, the male nude also plays an important role in the story of the monarchs’ collecting and patronage. In 1634, Philip IV commissioned Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664) to paint a series of ten paintings for the Hall of the Realms in the Buen Retiro Palace, a space of significant ceremonial and political function within the palace complex.

The Hercules series is arguably the most important group of male nudes in Spanish painting. Zurbarán used strong light and shadow to model the anatomy, articulating limbs in a highly contrasted manner to bring out the musculature. This approach was well suited to the powerful and heroic physique of Hercules, whose nude form became a metaphor for royal authority and power. Two paintings from the series,  

Hercules Defeats the King Geryon (1634–35) 

and Hercules and the Hydra (1634–35) are presented in the exhibition.

In the early seventeenth century religious painting found a new visual language that sometimes utilized the human body provocatively. Images of saints, created as inspiration to the faithful during the Counter-Reformation, were remarkable for their realistic depiction of the pain of martyrdom and the joy of religious ecstasy. Saint Sebastian, the martyr ordered killed by the Roman emperor Diocletian, was a frequent subject of such devotional pictures. Sebastian is usually shown bound to a tree and shot with arrows in what turned out to be a first failed attempt at killing him.

Three noted portrayals of Sebastian are included in the exhibition, allowing for a consideration of different approaches to the depiction of the saint in the Counter-Reformation and in the rendering of the male nude. 

Jusepe de Ribera’s version (1636) emphasizes the saint’s inner experience as he quietly accepts his death and prepares to give up his soul and enter Heaven. 

In contrast, Guido Reni’s (Italian, 1575–1642) earlier painting (c. 1617–19) displays a languid eroticism. At some point in its history, probably during the eighteenth century, the picture was considered too risqué, and the saint’s loincloth, which suggestively slips down his midriff, was extended upwards to hide more of his right thigh and lower abdomen. 

Juan Carreño’s (Spanish, 1614–1685) depiction of Sebastian’s suffering (1636) shows the influence of Venetian and Flemish painting on Spanish Baroque painters with its combination of rich color and carefully defined contours.

Like Reni, Guercino (Italian, 1591–1666) often drew inspiration from ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and included the nude in religious paintings. 

Susannah and the Elders (1617) depicts the apocryphal Old Testament story of Susannah being propositioned by the town’s elders. When she refuses their advances, she is threatened with accusations of adultery. This masterpiece of composition and color is as much about voyeurism as it is about the tale of Susannah. Guercino shows the elders observing Susannah from their hiding place, capturing a moment of great physical and psychological tension. One of the old men leans into the viewer’s space, extending his hand to warn us to keep still, so as not to alert Susannah to our presence. Thus, Guercino makes the viewer a participant in this sinful indulgence.

The exhibition is the latest in a series of ongoing cultural exchanges between the Prado and the Clark. In 2010, the exhibition Pasión por Renoir, an exclusive presentation of the Clark’s suite of thirty-one canvases from its noted collection of works by the French Impressionist master, drew some 370,000 visitors, making it the fourth-highest attended exhibition in the Prado’s history. Javier Baron, the head of the Prado’s Nineteenth-Century Paintings Department and curator of Pasión por Renoir, subsequently completed a fellowship in the Clark’s Research and Academic Program (RAP) in 2011. In 2013, RAP welcomed Gabriele Finaldi, then the Prado’s Deputy Director for Collections and Research (and now the Director of the National Gallery, London) as a fellow.

Splendor, Myth, and Vision is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue (200 pages, $50) published by the Clark and distributed internationally by Yale University Press. Catalogue entries by Clark and Prado curators, among others, accompany an essay on the Spanish royal taste in collecting by Javier Portús, head of the Prado’s seventeenth-century Spanish painting department, and a contemporary response to understanding the nude in Renaissance and Baroque painting written by Jill Burke, senior lecturer in the history of art at the University of Edinburgh.


The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit or call 413 458 2303.


The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art museum, founded by King Ferdinand VII in 1819 which has a collection of paintings from the twelfth to the early twentieth century. It houses the largest and most important collection of Velázquez, Goya, and Rubens in the world. It includes several of the great masterpieces of European painting, including Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, El Greco’s Portrait of a Man with his Hand on his Chest, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, and Goya’s The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. It also includes collections of ancient sculpture, decorative arts, and drawings, prints, and photographs, including the world’s largest and most important group of works on paper by Goya.

In 2007 the Prado opened its new extension, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo, which provides the Museum with new spaces for exhibitions, conservation, and storage. Information on the Prado’s collections and its exhibition program is offered in considerable detail on the Museum’s website (, which includes valuable features such as the Online Gallery and a wide range of videos, in addition to various interactive functions on its PradoMedia channel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jean Dubuffet –Metamorphoses of Landscape

The Fondation Beyeler is opening the year 2016 with the first retrospective of Jean Dubuffet’s multifaceted, imaginative oeuvre held in Switzerland in the 21stcentury. “Jean Dubuffet – Metamorphoses of Landscape”, which runs from 31 January to 8 May 2016, features over 100 works by the highly experimental French painter and sculptor, who provided the art world with fresh inspiration and impulses in the second half of the 20th century, thereby opening up decisive new paths and possibilities for art. 

Dubuffet succeeded in liberating himself from aesthetic standards and conventions, fundamentally revising art from an essentially“anti-cultural” perspective. Jean Dubuffet (born in Le Havre in 1901; died in Paris in 1985) is one of the defining artists of the second half of the 20th century. In 1942, at the age of forty-one, he gave up his occupation as a wine merchant and devoted himself exclusively to art. Inspired by the work of artistic outsiders as well as by the formal vocabulary and narrative style of children’s drawings, he cast off outdated traditions and virtually reinvented art. 

Dubuffet’s influence can still be felt today in contemporary art and street art, for example in the work of David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Ugo Rondinone.

The exhibition focuses on Dubuffet’s fascinating idea of landscape, which in his hands can transform itself into a body, a face or an object. Innovatively and at times humorously, Dubuffet seems to turn painting’s laws and genres upside down. Portraits, female nudes and still lifes turn into vibrant landscapes.In his works, Dubuffet experimented with new techniques and materials such as sand, butterfly wings, sponges and slag, using them to create a unique visual universe that was entirely his own. 

Crucial impulses for Dubuffet’s revolutionary approach to art came to him in Switzerland. Visiting a number of psychiatric clinics in Geneva and Bern in 1945, shortly after the end of the Second World War, he made a close study of the profoundly expressive works produced by some of their patients. He later coined the term Art Brutto describe this kind of work. One of the exhibition’s chief goals is to document the continued relevance of Dubuffet’s wide-ranging oeuvre to the art of recent decades. Statements by various artists are therefore juxtaposed in the catalogue with works by Dubuffet, testifying to the importance of his ideas and practice for their art. Those represented include some figures who are already sure of a place in the history of art, such as David Hockney, Claes Oldenburg, Keith Haring, Mike Kelley and Georg Baselitz, but the catalogue also features statements specially written by Miquel Barceló and Ugo Rondinone that are being published for the first time.

Alongside important paintings and sculptures from all the major phases of the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition is also showing Dubuffet’s spectacular Coucou Bazar, a multimedia work of art combining painting, sculpture, theatre, dance and music.

The exhibition features loans from leading international museums and major private collections. It is being generously supported by the Fondation Dubuffet in Paris. Lenders include the MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Centre Pompidou, the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris; the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Moderna Museet in Stockholm; the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf; the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne; the Kunsthaus Zürich and many others. Some of these works have never been seen in public; others are being shown to a wide audience for the first time in several decades. The latter include the painting Gardes du corps, a key work dating from 1943 that for more than forty years was thought lost and that attests in unique fashion to the groundbreaking aesthetic embodied in the fresh start on which Dubuffet embarked at that stage in his career.Due to the close collaboration with Ernst Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet is one of the best represented artists in the collection of the Fondation Beyeler.

Landscape runs like a defining leitmotif throughout Jean Dubuffet’s multifarious oeuvre. From his earliest phase right up to his late period he constantly developed it in unexpected but consistent ways. The retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler focuses on Dubuffet’s innovative concept of landscape, which also served him as a springboard for addressing many other subjects. Dubuffet has often been quoted to the effect that “Everything is landscape,” and landscape does indeed dominate his artistic practice and ideas: in both, anything can metamorphose into landscape at any time. It is this special capacity for metamorphosis, together with an intense delight in experimentation, that singles out the multi-faceted character of Dubuffet’s work. In his paintings,the shapes and textures of landscape can emerge even from bodies and faces. His art is governed by a unique interaction between nature and creatures that can even transform objects into landscape. With Dubuffet a landscape is not, therefore, a faithful depiction of actual appearances but their translation into mental images: landscape gives visible form to the immaterial world inhabited by the human mind. Instead of seeking beautiful idyllic landscapes, Dubuffet explores raw, naked earth, occasionally reaching down into its geological substructure. Sometimes he will fashion his landscapes and figures from actual natural elements, such as sand and gravel, making them the real material of his pictures. Natural landscape becomes a free and open field for artistic practice.

Figure, Landscape and Cities: The Marionnettes de la ville et de la campagne and the Mirobolus, Macadam & Cie

In 1942, at the age of forty-one, Jean Dubuffet gave up his occupation as a wine merchant and devoted himself exclusively to art.In seeking to create a new, authentic art outside cultural norms and aesthetic conventions, he took his cue initially from the formal vocabulary and narrative style of children’s drawings. The brightly colored figure paintings Gardes du corps(1943), from Marionnettes de la ville et de la campagne, Dubuffet’s first group of works, marks this decisive turning-point in his oeuvre. 

Even in his earliest works, Dubuffet addressed landscape in a highly distinctive way. Heralding a central feature of his output, it appears as an excerptlimited to sections of (sub)soil or overgrown land. Large areas are divided up by lines or hatching into pictorial elements that can be read as plots of land, paths and roads, or, vertically, as strata of soil reaching down into the depths of the earth.

The white cow in the middle of a green field in Bocal à vache,for instance, seems to have been absorbed by its enclosure; the cow is not just inthe field, but also under it. 

In Desnudus (1945), on the other hand, the fields and paths seem to be absorbed by a body, with the naked man transmuting into the bearer of a landscape inscribed in his figure.The body becomes landscape; landscape becomes the body. An interplay between outer shell and inner life also typifies Dubuffet’s early cityscapes, which focus on the façades of buildings, and their windows and doorways. By depicting the buildings and their tiers of stories from the front, Dubuffet discloses the “geology”–the inner life–of an imaginary urban landscape. He returns time and again to the close relationship between the ground and walls in later groups of works. 

In the first half of the 1940s Dubuffet relied on the traditional techniqueof oil painting on canvas, applying the color flatly, but in 1945,in the Hautes Pâtes of his group Mirobolus, Macadam & Cie, he began to employ a new material, a kind of paste that he applied thickly to the support and then modeled as in a relief. He intensified this focus on the material properties of paint by mixing sand, clay, tar, coal dust,and gravel into it. 

In his compellingly tactile Hautes Pâtes, Dubuffet creates material equivalents of texturesand structures found in soil and in landscape. Scratching and gouging into the thick layers of paint, he transfers his interest in penetrating the depths of landscape and the human body in direct physical terms to the material substance of his pictures. At the same time, he abandons the bright palette of his early paintings and replaces it by earthy colors. 

Faces into Landscape: The Plus beaux qu’ils croient Portraits and the Paysages grotesques 

In 1946 and 1947 Dubuffet creates a number of caricature-like portraits of friends and acquaintances, amongst them Monsieur Plume pièce botanique, which he subsumes under the ironic title Plus beaux qu’ils croient, hence relativizing their supposed ugliness in terms of aesthetic convention. For Dubuffet, every face and its structural characteristics may be perceived as a miniature landscape in which the eye can discover all manner of things. 

 focusing on new ways of depicting the human face in portraits, Dubuffet returns increasingly to landscape subjects, encouraged by several trips to the Sahara. In 1947-49, cold winters and coal shortages in Paris prompt the artist and his wife Lili to pay several visits to the warm desert regions of Algeria. These works, collectively titled Roses d’Allah, clowns du désert and produced both in France and Algeria, revolve around his experiences of the desert and the culture of its inhabitants.

The cycle Paysages grotesques began with the paintings inspired by Dubuffet’s final trip to the Sahara, in March and April 1949. In these works, too, the artist developed a new way of representing landscape,while also devising a novel type of figure.

Body Landscapes and Landscaped Bodies: The Corps de dames and the Paysages du mental

Of all subjects, Dubuffet chooses the female nude, which throughout the history of arthas been probably the most popular and highly regarded vehicle for depicting beauty, to exemplify his radical break with aesthetic norms and conventions by turning it into a landscape.In his series Corps de dames, landscape and body each has a literally fertilizing effect on the other, uncovering new and unfamiliar levels of meaning. Moreover, the unique female “body landscapes” also allude to ancient creation myths, extending both the visual tradition of the anthropomorphic landscape and the linguistic tradition of the body-as-landscape metaphor. With Paysages du mental, Dubuffet creates a further series of landscape pictures that begin in 1950 with Le Géologue and occupy the artist until 1952. As the word “mental” in the title of the series indicates, Dubuffet turns his attention away from geology here and instead explores the human mind. 

Landscape as Still Life and Object: The Tables and the Pâtes battues

In the Pâtes battues ,begun in 1953, Dubuffet devises a method of treating paint as matter that involves using a palette knife to apply a smooth, paste-like layer of paint to a ground that is still wet, partly revealing the layer underneath. Then, with the tip of the palette knife, he swiftly inscribes figures and markings into the creamy impasto. In terms of motif, this group of works is dominated by landscapes and tables which, because of their interaction, Dubuffet had already called Tables paysagées in the case of some earlier pictures. 

Landscape as Material: The Ailes de papillons and the Petites statues de la vie précaire

Dubuffet had hitherto used the means of painting to explore a variety of material equivalents to landscape structures, but in the brightly colored butterfly wings of the series of small-format collages made between 1953 and 1955 he uses remnants of living nature. Moreover, he employs the ancient symbol of rebirth represented by the pupation of the caterpillar and its transformation into a butterfly as a subtle way of reflecting on the interplay between death and creation in both nature and art. And since butterflies have traditionally stood for the human soul in the visual arts, the artist’s playful images may also be understood, at least in part, as variations on the Paysages du mental. 

With his first series of sculptures Petites statues de la vie précaire, on which he embarks in 1954, Dubuffet transfers his materials to work in three dimensions. Breaking with every convention of traditional sculpture, he prefers such materials as sponge, driftwood, volcanic rock, charcoal and slag to the familiar marble or bronze. These simple elements taken directly from nature appear to have been assembled almost by chance to form distinctive beings suggestive of earth spirits.

De-and Reconstructingthe Landscape: The Tableaux d’assemblages

His time at Vence in southern France prompts Dubuffet to embark on a new group of works in the mid-1950s, the Tableaux d’assemblages. In these he transfers the method used to produce the butterfly collages to the realm of painting. He cuts the canvases into pieces, and pins them together until their new order resonates with him. In dissecting nature, he reveals not only an anatomical and geological perception of landscape, but also a mythological view of its essence. An underlying search for the archaic and the primeval is indeed discernible in Dubuffet’s approach to landscape and accords fully with his ideas about art. 

A Celebration of the Soil: The Topographies and Texturologies and the Eléments botaniques and Matériologies

Beginning in the mid-1950s, Dubuffet focuses intensely on structures that evoke a wide range of landscapes. Avoiding monumental views of nature, he prefers completely prosaic ones. In the series entitled Topographies,he turns to his unique form of collage again to depict unremarkable landscapes that “celebrate the ground”. His canvases emulate boundless natural surfaces in the Texturologies, made through successive steps of spraying, scratching, sanding, scraping, and so on. His Matériologies move beyond organic substances to incorporate synthetic or artificial materials like silve rpaper and gold foil. 

The Urban Landscape: Paris Circus

The series Paris Circus,begun in 1961, represents a fresh start in Dubuffet’s oeuvre. It marks a rediscovery of bright color, intensified to an almost explosive degree, and a return to the cityscape as a subject.The artist’s pictures in the 1950s had focused chiefly on land as used for agricultural purposes, but now he turns his attention to the chaos of life in the streets of an imaginary city based on his personal view of Paris. In this strange cosmos, opposites such as inside and outside, near and far, high and low, wide and narrow, deep and flat collide with one another, subverting customary experiences of space and literally calling their foundations into question. 

The Creation of a Different Landscape: L’Hourloupe

Dubuffet produces his largest cycle of works over a period of twelve years, from 1962 to 1974, and coins the ambiguous neologism L’Hourloupe to describe it. This huge series, which comprises sculptural, architectural and theatrical installations as well as paintings and drawings, originated with doodles executed absent-mindedly in ballpoint pen while the artist was on the phone. From these scribbles he devised an intensely personal parallel world comprised of boldly outlined, organic-looking, amoebic shapes that interlock like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, distinguished from one another in color and internal hatching. 

In L’Hourloupe Dubuffet works for the first time as a true sculptor, a large number of works being produced in such synthetic materials as polystyrene, polyester and epoxy resin. Some of these works are on a monumental scale and many engage closely with a landscape or another immediate environment. Visiting these artificial landscapes is like setting foot in a painting. As a total work of art, the L’Hourloupe cycle culminates in the large-scale piece for the stage Coucou Bazar, a unique encounter between painting, sculpture, dance, language and music. On the stage, a number of single figures and other elements interact constantly, combining to generate a modular metamorphic landscape. 
Place and Non-place in the Late Work:The Théâtres de mémoire,the Mires and the Non-lieux

The last decade of Dubuffet’s career is exceptionally productive, with groups of works succeeding one another at regular intervals. 

One of the most important cycles is Théâtres de mémoire(1975-78), inspired by a text by Frances Yates. This series of large assemblages survey the artist’s previous oeuvre in the manner of a retrospective. The Mires and Non-lieux relate not to the outer, concrete world of landscape, but to the inner, abstract realm of the mind and psyche. Dubuffet interprets this non-lieux in terms of a non-event, a cessation of activity, thereby ultimately calling into question his work as anartist. 

The potential for transformation shown by landscape in Dubuffet’s work embodies a fundamental challenge to human dominance and cultural convention, and it does so within the framework of total freedom of artistic practice and thought. 

Hence, when looking back on his oeuvre a few years before his death, Dubuffet stressed the significance of landscape before stating:“I believe that in all my works I have been concerned to represent what makes up our thoughts–to represent not the objective world, but what it becomes in our thoughts.”

The exhibition’s curator is Dr. Raphaël Bouvier.

Images from the exhibition:

 Jean Dubuffet
Mêle moments, 1976
Acrylic and collage on paper mounted on canvas, 248.9 x 360.7 cm
Private Collection, Courtesy Pace Gallery
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: courtesy Pace Gallery

Jean Dubuffet
Paysage aux argus, 1955
Collage with butterfly wings, 20.5 x 28.5 cm
Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Maximum print size:
21 x 30 cm

Jean Dubuffet
Bocal à vache, 1943
Oil on canvas, 92 x 65 cm
Private Collection
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: P. Schälchli, Zurich
Maximum print size:
42 x 30 cm

Jean Dubuffet
Le voyageur égaré, 1950
Oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Cantz Medienmanagement, Ostfildern

Jean Dubuffet
Lettre à M. Royer (désordre sur la table), 1953
Oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm
Acquavella Modern Art
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © Acquavella Modern Art

Jean Dubuffet
Fumeur au mur, 1945
Oil on canvas , 115.6 x 89 cm
Julie and Edward J. Minskoff
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

Jean Dubuffet
Le commerce prospère, 1961
Oil on canvas, 165 x 220 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mrs Simon Guggenheim Fund
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2015. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

Jean Dubuffet
Façades d'immeubles, 1946
Oil on canvas, 151 x 202 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Stephen Hahn Family Collection, 1995.30.3
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

Jean Dubuffet
J'habite un riant pays, 1956
Oil on canvas (assemblage), 146 x 96 cm
Collection of Charlotte and Herbert S. Wagner III
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © Acquavella Modern Art

Jean Dubuffet
Automobile à la route noire, 1963
Oil on canvas, 195 x 150 cm
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Jean Dubuffet
Corps de dame – Pièce de boucherie, 1950  
Oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Jean Dubuffet
Gardes du corps, 1943
Oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm
Private Collection, courtesy Saint Honoré Art Consulting, Paris and Blondeau & Cie, Geneva
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Saint Honoré Art Consulting, Paris and Blondeau & Cie, Geneva

Jean Dubuffet
Vache la belle fessue, 1954
Oil on canvas, 97 x 130 cm
Collection of Samuel and Ronnie Heyman – Palm Beach, FL
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

Jean Dubuffet
Coucou Bazar, 1972-1973
Installation view
Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris/Luc Boegly

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 10 February 2016, - Richter, Freud

 Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening auction on 10 February2016 will be led by one of only a handful of truly spectacular examples of Gerhard Richter’s Abstrakte Bilderremaining in private hands–a monumental canvas from 1990, previously held in the private collection of the artist. Painted in 1990,  

Abstraktes Bild (725-4)remained in the artist’s private collection, away from the public eye, until 1996 when it was unveiled atan exhibition of his personal paintings atthe Carre d’Art in Nimes: “Gerhard Richter: 100 Pictures”. The work has not been exhibited publically since.Acquired by the current owner via Marian Goodman and Anthony d’Offay in 1996, Abstraktes Bildwill now be offered at auction for the very first time, with an estimate of £14-20 million (US$ 

On  10  February,  Sotheby’s  London  will  offer  for  sale  a  painting  that  not  only  marks  a  pivotal  moment  in  the  career  of  Lucian  Freud,  but  that  also  shines  a  spotlight  on  a  fascinating  but  little-­‐known  moment  in  the  artist’s  life.  While  much  has  been  written  about  many  of  Freud’s  amorous  liaisons,  barely  anything  is  known  about  his  intense,  and  ultimately  transformative,  relationship  with  Bernadine  Coverley.  The  two  met  when  she  was  just  16,  and  he was already  an  established  artist, 20  years  her  senior.  Although  their  time  together  was  relatively  brief,  it  was  to  prove  critical  -­‐marking  both  the  beginnings  of  a  life-­‐long  bond  and, for  Freud,  a  new  approach  to  painting.  

Pregnant  Girl embodies  this  new  approach.  Estimated  £7-­‐10m,  the  painting  will  be  a  highlight  of  Sotheby’s  Contemporary  Art  Evening  Auction  in  London  on  10  February  2016.Media 

 Oliver  Barker,  Sotheby’sSenior  International  Specialist,  Contemporary  Art:  “This  astonishingly  beautiful  painting  embodies  the  profound  bond  between  Lucian and the  mother  of  his  two  daughters. There  is  arguably  no  other  portrait  by  Freud  that  is  more  gripping,more  tender,and  more  laden  with  such  emotional  depth.”  

In Pregnant  Girl we  see  Freud  paint  his  lover  reclining  on  the  green  sofain  the  long  and  narrow  room  in  his  studio  in  Delamere  Terrace,  West  London.  The  sleeping  17-­‐year  old  -­‐head  titled  to  one  side,  eyes  shut,  dreaming-­‐does  not  confront  the  viewer,  or  the  artist;  rather  we  confront  her  at  an  intensely  private  moment.  In  creating  a  modern  ‘Madonna  and  Child’  or  ‘Sleeping  Venus’,  Freud  echoes  the  greats  of  art  history,  to  deliver  a  breathtaking  image  of  beauty,  desire,  femininity  and  fertility.

Coverley,  whose  Irish  Catholic  parents  ran  the  Black  Horse  pub  in  Brixton,  was  sent  to  a  convent  boarding  school  at  the  age  of  four.  Feeling  trapped  and  despondent  under  the  strict  governance of  the  convent,  she  twice  tried  to  run  away.  By  her  teens,  she  craved the liberation  and  excitement  of  bohemian  Soho  –an  intoxicating   underground   world   of   artists,   musicians   and   writers.  It   was   here,   in  a   Soho   pub   in  1959, where  Coverley  first  met  Freud, who  was  captivated  by  her  natural  beauty  and  free  spirit.  Much  has  been  written  about  Freud’s  famously  numerous  partners  -­‐when  he  first  met  Coverley,  he  had  already   been   twice   married   and   had   fathered   a   number   of   children–but little   is   known   about  their  relationship.  

Pregnant  Girl opens  a  window  onto  the  most  meaningful  moment  in  the  lives  of  both  lovers,  embodying  thesingular  tenderness  he  felt  for  Bernadine,soon  to  be  the  mother  of  his  daughters  Bella  and  Esther.  “It  must  have  been  a  very  happy  time  in  her  life,  being  pregnant  with  the  man  she  loved  and  him  wanting  her  to  be  there  and  paint  her”,  says  their  daughter  Bella,  “I  think  he  was  undoubtedly  the  love  of  her  life.”

After  separating  from  Freud,  Coverley  left  England  (and  its conservative views on unmarried   mothers) with  her  wo small  daughters  to  start  a  new  life  in  Morocco.  The  story   of   their   bohemian   lifestyle   in   Marrakesh   was  immortalised  in  Esther’s  novel  “Hideous  Kinky”,  and  later  turned   into   a hit  film   with   Coverley   played   by   Kate  Winslet.  Although   he   was   not   altogether   present   in   Bella   and  Esther’s  early  years,  Freud  was  extremely  close  with  his  two   daughters,  painting   both   of   them   several   times,  including  

Lucian Freud,  Baby  on  a  Green  Sofa,  1961  Copyright:  Image/Artwork:  ©  The  Lucian  Freud  Archive  /  Bridgeman  Images

Baby  on  a  Green  Sofa (1961),  a  painting  of  Bella  as  a  baby  resting  on  the  same  green  sofa  in  which  her  mother   was   portrayed.  Remarkably,   after   two  extraordinary  lives,  Freud  and  Coverley  died  within  just  four  days  of  each  other  in  July  2011.