Friday, May 25, 2007

"Yaël (No lifeguard on duty #4)" (2004) by Assaf Shoshan

"Yaël (No lifeguard on duty #4)" (2004) by Assaf Shoshan (Jerusalem, Israel, 1973). C-print 140 x 170 cm

"Femme nue se coiffant" (1879) by Edouard Manet

"Femme nue se coiffant" (1879) by Edouard Manet. © Christie's Images Ltd.

PARIS, FRANCE.- A work by Edouard Manet titled Femme nue se coiffant was sold at Christie’s in Paris for $7,569,408. This is a record for a painting in France since 1993. This is also a record for a nude painting by a French impressionist painter. The work was purchased by an American collector.

The years 1878 and 1879 are oftentimes heralded as Manet's great return to the nude following his notorious compositions Déjeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia of 1863. However the fact is that the artist treated the female nude only very rarely throughout his career; including the present work, only nine completed oil paintings exist in Manet's oeuvre (Wildenstein nos. 7, 40, 67, 69, 176, 226, 241, 287, 318). Along with four pastels executed the same year, Femme nue se coiffant is the last time the artist would treat the female nude in any important manner his work.

While Manet was renowned as an accomplished boulevardier - a "dandy in a top hat" - his production from 1879 includes only a smattering of scenes from modern life, amongst them a few images from a café-concert and figure groupings in parks. The vast majority of his work from this year are dedicated to portraiture, for 1879 marks the serious onset of a debilitating illness that would eventually claim his life. The professional result was numerous sittings of friends and family and painting and working sessions with his sole student, Eva Gonzalès.

While the younger members of the Parisian avant-garde held Manet in great esteem, he was continually reproached by critics and officials at the Salon for the "sketchy" handling of his compositions and for the implausible realism which, by concentrating on the act of painting itself, ushered "modern art" into existence. His focus on light, colour, form and composition foreshadow twentieth century artistic currants to come. "It was he," said Renoir speaking of his own early training, "who best rendered, in his canvases, the simple formula we were all trying to learn." Matisse echoed this thought years later, "He was the first to act by reflex, thus simplifying the painter's metier... Manet was a direct as could be... a great painter is one who finds lasting personal signs for the expression of his vision. Manet found his" (Manet, 1832-1883, exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1983, p. 18).

Manet's working process is readily apparent in the present work. The background was first established with ochre and blue tones which he then scraped away, leaving behind only a semi-transparent wash. His frenetic pace is palpable in the ensuing execution - the model was quickly sketched and the drapery built up around her forms, resulting in a bravura performance not only technically in the creation of space and depth, but in spontaneity of subject as well. In Femme nue se coiffant, Manet achieves a fluidity and grace, a total liberation from his subject all the while capturing the vivacity in a way that not even Monet would achieve his own Nymphéas for another thirty years to come.

The "male gaze" present in Manet's work is of a very different nature to that of his contemporary - and rival - Degas. Manet himself proclaimed : "I can do nothing without nature [before my eyes]... I do not know how to invent... If I am worth something today, it is due to exact interpretation and faithful analysis" (E. Zola, "My Portrait by Edouard Manet", L'Evénement illustré, 10 May 1868; in: Gronberg, Manet: A Retrospective, New York, 1990, p. 100). Manet worked with his subject in view, yet his paintings are more like impressions of the image beheld. Degas worked in his studio from memory and sketches, yet his nudes are more like realistic transcriptions of a moment viewed from a keyhole.

So while the model for his nudes of 1879 (including the four pastels heretofore mentioned) remains somewhat of a mystery, Méry Laurent, one of the painter's closest female friends in his later years, is a plausible conjecture. A highly celebrated courtisane, Méry is said to have served as the primary model for Proust's Odette Swann. At the turn of the century, Méry was one of the great demi-mondaines and she lived a life of luxury and leisure, surrounding herself with as many fine toiletries as learned men of the arts. Prior to meeting Thomas Evans, who would become her protector, she had a short-lived career as a stage entertainer. To her Mallarmé dedicated odes, and Joris Karl Huysmans, John Lewis Brown and James McNeil Whistler were counted among her close friends. Manet was delighted by her presence, her gaity, her frivolity, and she would bring him with her to the dress-maker, Worth, and to her hat-maker on rue de la Paix. It is difficult to imagine any one else in the artist's circle of intimates who would have posed for such daring compositions.

Since its inception, Femme nue se coiffant has been in the collection of the painter's family and his descendants. Acquired at the Manet Atelier sale by his brother, Eugène, and his wife, Berthe Morisot. The work was then passed on to Julie Manet, Eugène and Berthe's only daughter, and her husband, Ernest Rouart, and with whose descendants this painting has been with ever since.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

"Southern Nude" (1994) by Richard Phillips

"Southern Nude" (1994) by Richard Phillips, Oil on canvas. 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm). Estimate: $20,000-30,000. From an auction.

Art Boobs will be on holiday for the next three weeks! And yes, we're going south!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Three photos by Andrej Glusgold

"Das Phänomen der Exstase", 20x20cm, Ed. 15 / 37x37cm. Ed. 7

"Odalisque", 20x20cm, Ed. 15 / 37x37cm. Ed. 7

"Untitled", 20x20cm, Ed. 15 / 37x37cm. Ed. 7

Andrej Glusgold (Kishinev, Moldova, 1968) lives and works in Berlin. Besides photography he also draws and has published poetry.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Venus Spatiale" (1977) by Salvador Dalí

"Venus Spatiale" (1977) by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989). From an auction.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte)" (1967) by Gerhard Richter

"Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte)" (1967) by Gerhard Richter. 139.7 x 148 cm. From an auction (estimated at 9,000,000—12,000,000 USD).

From the catalogue:

Gerhard Richter is recognised as one of the foremost painters of his generation. In a career devoted to exploring the potential and diversity of his chosen medium, Richter has single-handedly suspended the conventional opposition between figurative and abstract modes to express the manifold possibilities of painting to convey how we perceive the world. In the Photopaintings of the 1960s, such as the remarkable Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte), Richter engaged explicitly with issues of perception and illusion in art, challenging the representational nature of painting. He intended the subject of the work to be the photo as an objective representation, so the work becomes a human painterly reproduction of a mechanically reproduced image of a human moment in time. The lush sophistication of Richter's liquid paint strokes, the careful modulation of tonality and the blurring of the reproduced image all highlight the artificial role of the object as art and the maker as artist.

Influenced by American Pop art, Richter formed Capitalist Realists in 1963 with Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, dedicated to the objective depiction of consumerism in an increasingly bourgeois Germany. Richter's use of photographs connected him to American artists such as Andy Warhol: both chose anonymous subjects to eschew traditional painterly concerns such as color, style and composition. For Richter, "the photograph is the most perfect picture" in its negation of aesthetic pretensions. Its role is to record factual information and not, as in the case of art, to apprehend the nature of an object and try to convey that nature through the subjectivity of the artist. The art of the 1960s was to a great extent defined by its reaction to the emphasis on originality and the artist's psyche-laden content of the 1950s, and Richter was not alone in seeking a means to strip away the recent past and examine the nature of painting. Just as Andy Warhol chose commercial products and Jasper Johns chose American flags, Richter's epiphany for a discourse on art was the photographic reproduction. As Richter commented: "There was no style, no composition, no judgement. It liberated me from personal experience. There was nothing but a pure picture. I wanted to process it and show it - not to use as a means for painting but to use painting as a means for the photograph." (interview with Rolf Schön in Exh. Cat., Venice, Biennale Internazionale dell'arte, Gerhard Richter, 1972, p. 23)

Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte) is an outstanding example of Richter's investigations of female images from 1966-1967. The female nude is one of art history's most sacred and recurring genres, appearing throughout time whether in the form of primitive fertility objects or the more recent masterful interpretations of Picasso and de Kooning in the 20th century. While Picasso and de Kooning chose the female form as a vehicle for expressive representation and abstraction, Richter takes on this loaded subject in service to his more neutralized, intellectual investigations. Richter culled his sources from newspapers, magazines and photographs - many found in Atlas, his ongoing survey of the photographic images he has used to stimulate his work since the early 1960s. As Atlas reveals, unlike Warhol, Richter selects his images not for any distinguishing characteristic or celebrity, but rather for their comprehensive ordinariness. However, that is not to say his selection was completely devoid of content or emotional references. Sex and death, fundamental themes at the universal heart of human existence, appear from the beginning and frequently thereafter whether in paintings of nudes or in the later still-lifes of skulls and candles.

In the 1966-1967 paintings of female nudes, Richter chose from sensational sources. The famous group work of Acht Lernschwestern (Eight Student Nurses), painted in 1966 and in the collection of Kustmuseum, Winterthur, is the most harrowing subject in this group as it is sourced from newspaper photographs of serial killer Richard Speck's victims, all brutalized and murdered in one night in the same Chicago townhouse. Other works focusing on female nudes, such as Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte), are derived from anonymous pornographic images. Yet in the process of using such loaded images, Richter's technique negates the factual nature of the source, highlighting the inability of photography - even the most immediate of mediums - to capture truth.

The infinite subtlety of tone and mark employed in Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte) emphasizes the illusion inherent to painting as the mesmerizing beauty of the two nudes emerges from an ethereal mist of brushwork. Yet, Richter's virtuosity with paint belies the choice to emphasize the photograph as subject matter. Richter's handling of oil paint here, deftly obscured to make the object appear like a fleeting, passing moment - or more precisely a blurred photograph - verges on the sublime but also distances the viewer from the photographic source. The blurring serves many purposes: firstly, it erases or obscures the content of the image, thereby forcing the viewer to step out of the narrative framework one expects to be informed by, and to enter a more abstract domain that focuses the eye on issues of perception and conception. By feathering the paint or dragging a hard edge through the wet, still-drying pigment, Richter's paint surface creates a wonderfully dynamic effect of an image being conjured or captured at greet speed, as if the scene had been fleetingly observed. The mimesis quality of picture-making - that is, to convey information on what an object is by what it looks like - is countered and obscured by the oscillating quality of Richter's paint surface.

As Sean Rainbird has noted, "Photography supplied pictures unconnected to [Richter] in their origination, possessed of their own intrinsic objectivity and free of connotation." (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Gerhard Richter, 1992, p. 16) Photography's inherent element of chance and muted colour range appealed to the artist's aesthetic appreciation, and lent themselves easily to the softness and subtlety of his painting style. The mass reproduction of the medium subverted traditional notions of artistic creativity and originality, and Richter recognised its potential to liberate painting such as Zwei Spanische Akte (Osterakte) from representational obligations. It enabled the conditions he had been searching for in his painting: pictorial objectification, subversion of the conventional role of the artist-creator, and most importantly, the perception of the painting as an independent entity.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Reclining Nude" by Johan Dijkstra

"Reclining Nude" by Johan Dijkstra (1896-1978). From an auction.

Johan Dijkstra, one of the founders of the illustrious Groningen art society De Ploeg was an artist who made paintings, drawings, graphic art, illustrations and book designs. At the end of the thirties’ he began to concentrate on monumental art, designing, amongst other things, the stained glass windows for the auditorium of Groningen University. In addition, he wrote a great deal on art topics. His observations on art and his visual work illustrate how De Ploeg’s early expressionist style gradually made way for a more sedate approach, in which he falls back on the idiom of impressionism. In his monumental work, he initially focused on the innovative impact of the so-called Community Art at the turn of the century. Dijkstra’s development as an artist runs parallel to the development in his social position. That very link between life and work is what makes him a fascinating exponent of half a century of cultural life in the city of Groningen and elsewhere. (source)

Friday, May 04, 2007

"Nude" (1994) by John Currin

"Nude" (1994) by John Currin. Oil on canvas. 76.2 x 101.6 cm From an auction (estimated at 800,000—1,200,000 USD).

See previous posts on John Currin.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Project K02" (1999) by Takashi Murakami

"Project K02" (1999) by Takashi Murakami. Height: 48 cm. Painted resin. From an auction. More Murakami on Art Boobs.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"Closed Contact A" by Jenny Saville

"Closed Contact A" by Jenny Saville (1970). Photography, 41x29,5 cm. From an auction.

Jenny Saville (born in Cambridge in 1970) is a contemporary English painter and one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). She is known for her monumental images of obese women, usually using herself as the model. Her painting North Face/South Face appeared on the cover of The Manic Street Preachers third album The Holy Bible.