Anne Truitt - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Thursday, November 18, 2021 | Phillips
  • "... by virtue of their titles, the Dryads invite us to see the pillar’s volume... as a concentration or intensification of Nature... They are a tree. The simplicity of the upright cedes to the changing seasons of the imagined forest, and an all-too-human romance with the ‘magic of nature’ stands waiting in the wings." —Anne WagnerAnne Truitt “walked up and down the dark corridors between [her sculptures’] massive forms” on a spring evening in 1974 before the opening of her mid-career retrospective at Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery. Her pillar-like sculptures, including Summer Dryad of 1971, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D. C., “stood in their own space, in their own time, and [she] was glad in their presence.” But Anne Truitt’s work was not complete; this retrospective occurred at a juncture point in her career, just after she had produced the first of four Dryad sculptures. There would be one for each season, with the present work, Spring Dryad, concluding the series in 1975. Two Dryads now stand in museum collections: Summer Dryad at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Winter Dryad at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. A radiant pink pillar topped by a thin band of green, Spring Dryad embodies the raw, gentle beauty of its associated season and represents the culmination of a series that magnificently illustrates Anne Truitt’s sculptural practice. 



    Pillars of Color


    By the 1970s, Spring Dryad’s pillar-like shape had become a hallmark of Anne Truitt’s work. Departing from her Minimalist peers such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre who favored industrial materials and methods, Truitt remained a studio artist, sticking instead to wood and paint, plane and brush. She painstakingly painted, sanded, and repainted layers of acrylic onto the surfaces of her wooden pillars to achieve a uniform sheen and precise hue. Writing as she worked, Truitt parsed through her role as an artist, mother, and humanist in a series of memoirs published throughout her career. It is this interplay between form and feeling—between the apparently Minimalist abstraction of Truitt’s sculptures and their decidedly un-Minimalist materials and explorations of interiority—that sets her apart from her milieu.
    "Hearing a white saint rave
    About a quintessential beauty
    Visible only to the paragon heart,
    I tried my sight on an apple-tree
    That for eccentric knob and wart
    Had all my love."
    —Sylvia Plath, “On the Plethora of Dryads,” 1957

    Mythological Minimalism


    The word dryad refers to a female figure in Greek mythology who inhabits a concentrated form of nature, typically a tree. Dryads, like Truitt’s sculpture, evade categorization, appearing in art and literature as a type of semi-human allegory or spirit that is (quite literally) difficult to grasp. Like a tree, the pillar form of Truitt’s Dryads stand alone. Spring Dryad’s abstract verticality does not wholly suggest a body; rather, pastel pink and leafy green are its main referents—votive offerings to spring, floating off the ground. As the viewer moves around Spring Dryad, its colors segue between shades, shimmering gently atop its monolith surface and “transform[ing] the constancy of structure so very strikingly that it seems to offer a primer on what hue can do,” in the words of art historian Anne Wagner. One need not look further than the other Dryads to note the sculptures’ vast differences articulated completely through color. Rather than undo the abstraction of Spring Dryad, color enlivens it, activating the poetry of its title. 


    Anne Truitt’s four Dryads exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. in 2009–2010.
    Anne Truitt’s four Dryads exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. in 2009–2010.

    In 2009-2010, all four Dryads were brought together and exhibited prominently in the renowned exhibition Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. Finally flanked by its sister sculptures, Spring Dryad demonstrated with colorful intensity the longevity of Truitt’s work and bookended her two landmark retrospectives. Truitt’s early critics did not seem to understand her simultaneous use of Minimalist forms and daring color, claiming that her work existed in two separate systems. Ironically, it is just those two “systems” that sustain museum and collector interest today. 

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1991

    • Exhibited

      New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Anne Truitt—Sculpture, 1975
      New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Anne Truitt: Sculpture 1971–1983, November 12–December 6, 1986, no. 4
      Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection, October 8, 2009–January 3, 2010, pl. 26, pp. 90–91, 168 (illustrated, p. 90)

    • Literature

      Anne M. Wagner, "Disarming Time: The Art of Anne Truitt," Artforum, January 2010, pp. 152–153, 155 (illustrated, p. 153)

Property from the Private Collection of Jean Efron


Spring Dryad

signed, titled and dated "Truitt "SPRING DRYAD" Feb. '75" on the underside
acrylic on wood
76 1/2 x 13 x 8 in. (194.3 x 33 x 20.3 cm)
Executed in February 1975.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session, New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 18 November 2021