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  • Provenance

    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, deaccessioned 1984
    George Belcher Gallery, San Francisco
    Private Collection
    New York, Sotheby’s, Latin American Art Including Property from the Estate of Stanley Marcus, November 20, 2002, lot 100
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Center for Inter-American Relations, Art Gallery, Alejandro Obregón, A Loan Exhibition of Paintings from 1952 to the Present, 30 April - June, 1970

  • Literature

    C. Jaramillo, Alejandro Obregón- El Mago del Caribe, Bogotá: Asociación de Amigos del Museo Nacional de Colombia, 2001, p.14 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alejandro Obregón was acclaimed by critics as an instigator of the transformation of the Colombian pictorial image through a drastic change in the manipulation of space and time as well as the rejection of realism. Critics date modern Colombian painting from the moment a new generation of artists — such as Fernando Botero, Edgar Negret and Alejandro Obregón himself — emerged and broke away from the predominant art of the 1940s, represented by seminal figures of Colombian art such as Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, Pedro Nel Gómez and Débora Arango, who reflected a social consciousness derived from Mexican muralism.

    Alejandro Obregón was born in Barcelona, Spain to a Colombian father and a Catalan mother. He spent most of his childhood between Colombia, England and the United States, where he studied fine arts in Boston for a year. As a young child Obregón was exposed to many different cultures, which is one of the reasons his works reflect a convergence of cultural and pictorial styles. During the 1950s, he was influenced by the avant-garde modernist trends of the time. However, what distinguishes him from other modern painters is that he purposefully integrated an extraordinary fusion of styles into his works, such as Surrealism and Cubism. These tendencies were only points of departure, and as he himself described his work: “I don’t believe in schools of painting; I only believe in good painting. Painting is an individual expression and there are as many tendencies as there are personalities. I have admired the good painters — especially the Spanish painters — but I believe that none of them have exerted any decisive influence in my education.”

    While not as radical as Analytical Cubism, Obregón did fragment his subjects, creating faceted figures that are clearly influenced by Cubism’s geometrical forms. One of the works that best reflects the complexity of his pictorial style is Souvenir of Venice, 1954. While the buildings in the topmost register of the painting and the Andean condors at the bottom are easily recognizable as such, the center of the painting reveals an intense area of Cubist exploration whereby buildings are broken down into geometric shapes and the space is fattened. The painting suggests a three-dimensional space that has been compressed, forcing all elements of the composition to the surface of the picture plane, yet Obregón conserved a traditional horizon line to create perspective, contrary to the multiple perspectives that Cubism proposes. A uniform color palette, dominated by various shades of yellow and gray, permeates the work and helps to fuse the background with foreground. Here, Obregón’s unique blend of figuration and abstraction is paramount, and the title suggests a dreamlike memory of a foreign city populated by Colombia’s national bird, thereby imbuing the work with an element of Surrealism. The importance of this particular work is evidenced by the fact that it was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York soon after its execution, marking a pivotal moment in the artist’s career and Colombian art in general.

    Within his work, Obregón also incorporated the concept of opposites, such as pure versus contaminated and moral versus amoral, yet he was paradoxically in search of a holistic understanding of his surroundings. Optimistic issues of modernity, such as progress, did not interest him, yet he did not deny them; instead, like Tamayo, Obregón proposed a vision of modern art through a “territory of the otherness,” emphasizing his Colombian heritage within his modernist artistic production.

24

Souvenir of Venice

1954
oil on canvas
51 x 38 1/2 in. (129.5 x 97.8 cm.)
Signed "Obregón" lower right.

Estimate
$90,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $125,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Director of Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 24 November 2014 2pm