Armando Reverón - Latin America New York Tuesday, May 26, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Colletion of Felipe S. Casanova, Caracas
    CDS Gallery, New York
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Retrospectiva de Armando Reverón, July 1955
    Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, December 1977
    Caracas, Galería de Arte Nacional, El lugar de los objetos, 2001
    New York, Museum of Modern Art, Armando Reverón, February 11 - April 16, 2007

  • Literature

    Restrospectiva de Armando Reverón,, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, 1955, n.p. (illustrated)
    J. Calzadilla, Armando Reverón, Caracas, 1979, p. 212 (illustrated)
    El lugar de los objetos,, Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, 2001, p. 169 (illustrated)
    J. Elderfield and L. Pérez-Oramas, Armando Reverón,, New York, 2007, p.146 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Armando Reverón was born into a wealthy family in Venezuela in 1889. At a very early age he became interested in art, which at the time in Venezuelan was not considered an acceptable profession by upper society. Despite this, the young artist proved to be so talented that he battled against social pressures and continued to study painting, eventually winning a scholarship to study in Spain. In Spain, Reverón studied with some of the best painters of the time, including Ignacio Zuloaga. Reverón submerged himself in art, endlessly returning to the Museo del Prado and absorbing all he could from the European painters represented there. His influences ranged from Cézanne and Monet to magnificent Spanish painters like Goya and the genre painter, Joaquín Sorolla. A work that particularly impressed Reverón was Goya’s La maja desnuda, 1979-1800, which inspired his best known painting, The Cave, 1920. This seminal work was the first portrait Reverón painted of his beloved Juanita Ríos, a young woman of Indian and Spanish descent, who would become Reverón’s lifelong partner.

    Reverón met Juanita when he returned from Europe and joined an anti-academic group of artists called the Círculos de Bellas Artes, who were declared enemies of the state by the Venezuelan government. The group eventually broke up causing Reverón to retreat to a tiny village called Macuto with Juanita in order to escape government persecution. To live in an isolated village with a woman of indigenous descent was quite atypical for a man of high society in Venezuela and his family did not approve. It was during this time that Reverón had his first mental breakdown and as a result was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    Turning to Reverón’s early works – landscapes and portraits defined as the Blue Period – we see that the artist was working with a decidedly blue palette and was influenced by the Russian painter, Nicolás Ferdinandov, who lived briefly with Reverón and became a good friend. In these paintings, Reverón denotes mystery through blue hues and intimations of Goya, working in that tradition of well-known Spanish painters. Reverón’s landscapes established him within respected artistic circles and won him recognition, ultimately defining his unique brand of modernism. Following this period, the artist drastically renovated his pictorial style, changing his palette to highly textured monochromatic white hues, applying white paint to white burlap canvases, with only hints of pale blue to highlight opulent effects or reflect shadows, all of which bordered on abstraction. Reverón was known for using very specific brushes and in general disliked the touch of metal and newly manufactured materials. Hence, Reverón used bamboo brushes or ones that he crafted himself of out pencils and made his own canvases out of burlap sacks. The subject matter of these landscapes was the surrounding beaches of the artist’s native Venezuela and many included what became a recognizable iconography of grape trees and seascapes. This was also the time when Reverón began using a singular technique to expose sections of the canvas for representational purposes, emulating a sensation of being blinded by the sunlight.

    In the artist’s most prolific period, the 1930s, his figurative works increased dramatically. Juanita Ríos and other local women were the subject matter. When Reverón realized these portraits, he performed a bizarre ritual by cinching his waist to divide his body into two zones. According to Alfredo Boulton, this was to de-eroticize himself, a form of emasculation. At the same time, he put cotton balls in his ears to isolate sound, which generated much commentary and controversy in artistic circles. During the 1930s, Reverón depicted his subjects in a mysterious, luminous background: a Byzantine technique used in the creation of mosaics. The light and radiance representing the equatorial sunlight changed according to whether the work was rendered indoors or outdoors. As in the case of the present lot, ambiguous luminosity makes it difficult to discern where the work was painted. Within Reverón’s oeuvre, this is a unique portrait of a nude, as not only is the lighting ambiguous but it is believed that the figure represents a female nymph. In this group of works, where Reverón placed the nudes in landscape settings, he was “thereby urging the interpretation that they are personifications of, respectively, a faun or a wood sprite and a water spirit, an interpretation assisted by their seeming to merge into their settings,” (John Elderfield, Armando Reverón, 2007, p.138). This merging of the painted figure and landscape with the burlap causes a mystifying sense, whereby the weave of the burlap becomes the epidermis of the figure and the support for the painting simultaneously. Some of the details of the bodily shape lead us to believe that this figure is not an ordinary mortal surrounded by landscapes of rocks and water. The texture of the work echoes Reverón’s remarkable feverish paint strokes, carried out with such harmony that they achieve an enormous amount with only one color.

    John Elderfield eloquently stated, “There has not been an artist in all of Latin American art who is, at the same time, as spectral and retinal as, paradoxically, Reverón. He painted what he saw in a ghostly register, in both meaning of the word: what is left of the world as a specter before the potency of light or the uncertainty of shadows, and what is left of desire faced with the instability of its objects – concrete and carnal bodies, beautiful or wrinkled, raw more than nude, confined in seclusion, sleep, or distance.”(Elderfield, Armando Reverón, New York, p. 101). Thus, it is no surprise that Reverón was only the fourth Latin American artist to ever have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and his mysterious and romantic body of work continues to mesmerize viewers today.

  • Artist Biography

    Armando Reverón

    Venezuelan • 1889 - 1954

    Armando Reverón was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family where he found an early interest in art, studying in Caracas and Spain under Ignacio Zuloaga. Upon his return to Venezuela he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, causing him to retreat to the coastal village of Macuto with his lifelong partner, Juanita.

    Often depicting landscapes and nudes, Reverón developed a singular painting technique utilizing a highly textured monochromatic white palette. Many of his works also feature touches of blue, gray, aquamarine and occasional areas of bare canvas. This color scheme emulates the blinding luminosity of light one would experience on the beaches of Venezuela. Reverón worked in isolation and made most of his painting supplies himself, including brushes, canvases and coconut tree frames.

    View More Works



oil and tempera on burlap
41 1/2 x 38 1/2 in. (105.4 x 97.8 cm)
Signed "Armando Reverón" lower left. We wish to thank the Proyecto Armando Reverón (PAR) for their kind assistance in confirming the authenticity of this lot. This lot will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Proyecto Armando Reverón (PAR).

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $545,000

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York 26 May 2015 4pm