Bram van Velde - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Phillips
  • Abstract Expressionism, Bram van Velde’s Answer to Trauma


    Untitled, 1979 presents a large abstract work on paper with swirling hues of orange, coral, slate and grey. The thin layers of diluted gouache on paper emulate a sense of energy and colour, encouraging imagination and escape. Having lived through the Second World War, his style was greatly influenced by the German Chamber of Culture- Kultuurkamer that subjected artists to scrutiny and censorship. This forced artists to express themselves conservatively as an entire generation faced cultural stagnation. Van Velde however discovered his own style associated with Post-War École de Paris abstraction as he gained artistic maturity in France. Van Velde’s works started gaining critical success in the 60s and proceeded by holding multiple exhibitions in the United States during this period. Van Velde’s body of work almost appear to be a remedy to his struggles. Through abstractionism, he channels his energy toward visual elusion. 'A painting is an instant of time that has escaped oblivion' —Bram Van Velde

    The Influence of Friendship


    Bram Van Velde left the Netherlands in 1922 for Germany and later moved to Paris in 1924. While he developed his style in Europe, his contemporary Willem de Kooning established himself in the United States. Both artists were well acquainted and were initially trained as decorators. They were widely accepted as major Abstract Expressionists although their relationship was not a significant influence on their work. Van Velde’s friendship with writer Samuel Beckett had a profound impact on his paintings: Beckett wrote poetically about his friend’s works: 'An endless unveiling, veil behind veil, plane after plane of imperfect transparencies, light and space themselves veils, an unveiling towards the unveilable, the nothing, the thing again.'Van Velde’s abstract language, seen in Untitled, is an accumulation of his experiences in seeking greater visual liberty, fluidity of forms and filling space with colour and mass.



    Bram Van Velde on his friendship with Samuel Beckett


    Scene 1
    Interviewer: How did you meet Beckett?


    BVV: I met him at my brother’s for the first time. 2 years later, I wrote to him whether he can come and see one of my paintings. And he came. He took one of the paintings and showed his interest without saying much. Since then, we saw each other often.  


    Scene 2
    Interviewer: Have you been a man of nature? Do you like being in nature and looking at it?


    BVV: I don’t think I see very much.


    Interview: Do you read?


    BVV: Yes, I have always read. The kind of book which interests me.


    Interviewer: What are you reading at the moment?


    BVV: I am currently reading the last book by Beckett, 'Compagnie' which he sent me at the beginning of the year. It is a very interesting and rich book.


    iSamuel Beckett quoted in Intensely Dutch: Image, Abstraction and the Word Post-War and Beyond, exh. cat., The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2009, p. 16

    • Provenance

      The Collection of Jacques Putman, Paris
      Galerie Maeght, Paris
      The Collection of Pierre and Geneviève Hebey, Paris
      Camard & Associés, Paris, 27 March 2012, lot 89
      Private Collection, Paris
      Sotheby's, Paris, 18 October 2018, lot 23
      Galerie des Modernes, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Maeght; Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Høvikodden, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Bram van Velde Peintures 1940-1980: En hommage à l’artiste pour ses 85 ans, 15 October 1980 – 22 February 1981 (Derrière Le Miroir, n. 240, October 1980, no. 15, p.15 (illustrated, cover, p. 15))
      Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne; Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Centre Julio Gonzales; Madrid, Palacio Velazquez, Centro de arte Reina Sofía,Bram van Velde, 10 June 1989 – 14 May 1990, (illustrated, p. 139 in the Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Centre Julio Gonzales and Madrid, Palacio Velazquez, Centro de arte Reina Sofía catalogue)
      Paris, Galerie Enrico Navarra, Au rendez-vous des amis... de Pierre Hebney, September – November 1990, pp. 82-83 (illustrated, p. 83)
      Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Samuel Beckett, 14 March – 25 June 2007

Property from a Distinguished Belgian Collector



signed 'Bram van V' lower right
Indian ink wash and gouache on paper
150 x 125 cm (59 x 49 1/4 in.)
Executed in August - September 1979.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £126,000

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Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 21 October 2020