Harold Ancart - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "When I start drawing or painting, time vanishes […] It’s almost like meditation. I’ve always noticed that my mind can wander extremely freely, and that great ideas about the world that surround me come to me while I am drawing and painting."
    —Harold Ancart


    Vividly rendered in a psychedelic palette of sharply contrasted and saturated colour, Untitled from 2017 is a vivid expression of the Belgian-born artist’s confident handling of oil stick, and his uncanny ability to abstract reality in his invention of ‘Natural subjects in unnatural colours’.i Possessing a remarkable tactility and exuberance, the present work opens a window onto a strange otherworldly scene, at once familiar and strange as recognisable natural forms are reduced to their rudimentary elements of line, colour, and shape. Scudded with soft clouds in shocking shades of blue and yellow, an infinite pink horizon stretches out beyond a flat, black sea, its surface ruptured by abstract, jagged forms in intensely contrasted blue and red hues.


    Contemplative and serene, the vertical format of the present work draws on a Surrealist tradition epitomised by Yves Tanguy’s illusionist landscapes of windswept beaches, vast horizons, and saturated gradients, giving eerie form to Ancart’s own suggestion that ‘without a horizon line, one gets lost and eventually dies.’ii Like his French predecessor, Ancart’s fictive landscapes are utterly absorbing and transportive, deftly blending the Surreal with the Sublime as their ‘ambiguity encourages the eye to make its own travels.’iii


    Yves Tanguy, Time and Time Again, 1942, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Image: © NPL - DeA Picture Library / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    Yves Tanguy, Time and Time Again, 1942, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Image: © NPL - DeA Picture Library / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

    Surrealism and the Sublime


    Executed in 2017 following an instructive trip to Iceland's volcanic landscape, the present work introduces compositional elements that Ancart would go on to formalise in his Iceberg paintings the following year. Introduced in Freeze, his first solo exhibition in London with David Zwirner Gallery, these Iceberg paintings share in the same distinctive compositional arrangement used by the artist in the present work and associated volcano paintings from this period, a sharp horizon line dividing the painting into simplified zones of sea, sky, foreground, and background, anchored by a central motif and focal point for the viewer to orient themselves against.

    Fracturing a more figurative whole into its abstract components in this manner, Ancart radically updates a 19th century pictorial tradition of the American Sublime developed in the deep horizons and dramatic landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church and his contemporaries. Travelling through much of the same scenery himself in a 2014 road trip across the United States, Ancart was so inspired that he turned the boot of his jeep into a mobile studio of sorts, painting in laybys as he traversed the vast landscape.

    Frederic Edwin Church, Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867, The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford
    Frederic Edwin Church, Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867, The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford. Image: akg-images

    Developing poet and critic Charles Baudelaire’s 19th notion of the flâneur as ‘one who walks around and tries to isolate poetic moments out of the everyday urban landscape,’ Ancart has created a specific visual language that is at once familiar and jarringly surreal.iv Slightly distorted shapes, manipulated horizon lines, and inverted colour schemes challenge viewers to examine the world in new and unexpected ways. Operating within what critic Chinnie Ding has described as a ‘planet of painting’, Ancart’s sense of space is purely pictorial, and the art historical references absorbed into his work remaining ‘like chromosomal traces enrich[ing] such dimensional unknowns.’v


    Collector’s Digest 

    • Born in Belgium in 1980, the New York-based Harold Ancart uses a vast array of media in creating complex pictorial worlds and sculptural installations.

    • Ancart has already succeeded in carving out a role for himself in the contemporary art world; examples of his work belong to esteemed museum collections worldwide including The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Menil Collection in Houston, the Musée National d’Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, among others.


    • Ancart has been the subject of several important exhibitions, including Harold Ancart: Untitled (there is no there there), held at The Menil Collection, Houston, in 2016. After his major 2020 presentation with David Zwirner held across both of their New York galleries, his most recent solo exhibition with the gallery La Grande Profondeur opened in 2021, marking his first show in Paris.


    i ‘Artist to Watch: PRIME FOCUS - Harold Ancart’, Artspace, 1 May 2022, online.
    ii Harold Ancart, quoted in Naomi Rea, ‘How the Self-Depreciating Belgian Painter Harold Ancart Charmed the Art World’, Artnet News, 10 September 2018, online.
    iii Kat Herriman, ‘Back and Forth with Artist Harold Ancart,’ Cultured, 29 April 2019, online.
    iv Harold Ancart, quoted in Julia Felsenthal, ‘Harold Ancart Brings His Kaleidoscopic Trees to Chelsea’, T Magazine, 8 September 2020, online.
     v Chinnie Ding, ‘Critics' Picks: Harold Ancart’, Artforum, 18 June 2015, online.

    • Provenance

      David Kordansky, Los Angeles
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



oil stick and pencil on canvas, in artist's frame
215.9 x 175.3 cm (85 x 69 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡♠

Sold for £239,400

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Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022