Harold Ancart - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • From a body of work exhibited as Traveling Light, Harold Ancart’s Untitled, 2020, is a lush depiction of a verdant tree and a rich exploration of the materiality of paint. First exhibited at David Zwirner in 2020, Traveling Light consists of tree paintings the artist executed during the COVID lockdowns of that year, working between his Brooklyn studio and Los Angeles, where he set up a provisional outdoor working space. The artist considered the title a triple reference, to traveling with little luggage, shedding art historical precedent and the physics of seeing—how light must travel, bouncing from the surface of Ancart’s pigments, to be processed by the viewer.


    Cropped to the border of abstraction, Untitled delights in the textures and visual splendor of dense foliage. Ancart is like a flaneur, slicing moments of beauty out of his surroundings and monumentalizing them through paint. In an interview with Interview magazine, Ancart defined the idea of the flaneur as “one who walks around and tries to isolate poetic moments out of the everyday urban landscape.”i Focusing on a plush, leafy tree, the present work provides focus to a subject that might otherwise receive only a passing glance. In this manner, the work harkens back to the pared down landscapes, created during a 2014 cross-country road trip, which brought Ancart widespread recognition after being acquired and exhibited at the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston in 2016.

    “Ancart’s palette is nature on psychedelics. His handling of light is startlingly realistic. But if you were to eliminate the sliver of tree trunk at the base of each painting, his image would lose all legibility.”
    —Julia Felsenthal

    While rendered in a flattened, schematic style, Untitled provides an immersive experience surprisingly evocative of witnessing the real thing. The unexpected composition features only the hint of a tree trunk and no horizon, creating the sensation of looking from amongst the treetops. In creating this body of work Ancart was inspired by Gottardo Piazzoni, whose 1931-1932 murals are permanently installed at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Piazzoni’s vast works depict panoramic but tightly composed landscapes from the American West in a similarly stylized and immersive fashion. Ancart diverges from Piazzoni’s muted, sandy-hued palette, however, with a lyrical application of earthy greens that express arboreal vitality and a soft, ochre-hued pink that hints at the golden hour sky. Reviewing Traveling Light, Julia Felsenthal identifies: “For Ancart, subject matter is just an ‘alibi’ for making pictures, an excuse to work the pigment.”ii Relishing in the rich typography of paint, Ancart with Untitled puts forward a masterful example that deftly fuses material and color to capture the sensation of light.



    i Harold Ancart, quoted in Emilien Crespo, “Painter Harold Ancart’s Two Favorite Cities: New York and New York,” Interview, November 13, 2020, online

    ii Julia Felsenthal, “Harold Ancart Brings His Kaleidoscopic Trees to Chelsea,” The New York Times, September 8, 2020, online

    • Provenance

      David Zwirner Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, David Zwirner Gallery, Harold Ancart: Traveling Light, September 10–October 17, 2020, pp. 44–45 (illustrated, p. 45)



signed and dated "Harold Ancart 2020" on the overlap
oilstick and graphite on canvas, in artist's frame
99 1/4 x 137 1/4 in. (252.1 x 348.6 cm)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $431,800

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023