El Lissitzky - Photographs London Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Houk Friedman Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    El Lissitzky: Experiments in Photography, New York: Houk Friedman, 1991, pl. 6; M. Tupitsyn, El Lissitzky, Beyond the Abstract Cabinet: Photography, Design,
    Collaboration, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 88–89

  • Catalogue Essay

    El Lissitzky (Eleazar Markovich Lisitskii) was undeniably an extremely versatile artist. During the 1920s he produced a number of abstract paintings influenced by his close connection to notable painters, including Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich, with whom he socialized and shared artistic ideas. As an artist he was interested in extending the functionalism of forms however and by whatever means he could by building, composing and exploring an idea.

    Lissitzky shot and composed the photomontage of Arp in 1924 whilst recovering from tuberculosis in the Swiss village of Ambri-Sotto. He used a large plate camera described as ‘a monstrosity with wooden plate-holders measuring 13 × 18 cm and a Zeiss lens’. Arp, or Pra as he was nick-named, came to Ambri-Sotto to
    work with Lissitzky on The Isms of Art 1914–1924 (published in 1925).

    As with Lissitzky’s other portraits, in the present lot he alludes to the identity of the sitter by placing clues in the surroundings. In this case, behind Arp is the Dada periodical 391 with the partially visible line ‘Here comes the great Pra…’ There were a number of sittings before the portrait was finalized and it seems
    that their working experience was not as straightforward as Lissitzky had hoped – their troublesome relationship seems to have been on his mind when he used the
    photomontage of Arp with two faces in a design used to illustrate an untrustworthy character depicted in a volume of poems by Ilya Selvinsky, published in 1928.


Hans (Jean) Arp

Gelatin silver print.
17.1 x 12.1 cm (6 3/4 x 4 3/4 in).
Variously numbered and annotated in an unidentified hand in pencil on the verso.

£15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for £55,250


19 May 2011