Scorpio

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    André Emmerich Gallery, Inc., New York
    Heland Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm
    Private Collection, Stockholm
    Bentley Gallery, Scottsdale
    Collection of Elizabeth Green Romano
    Sotheby's, New York, 14 November 2012, lot 152
    The Estate of William Louis-Dreyfus, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Stockholm, Heland Wetterling Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler: Paintings 1978-88, 24 November 1988 - 9 January 1989, no. 5 (illustrated)
    Williamstown, Clark Art Institute, As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings, 1 July - 9 October 2017, p. 54 (illustrated)
    New York, Yares Art, Helen Frankenthaler: Selected Paintings, 2 March - 18 May 2019

  • Catalogue Essay

    Helen Frankenthaler was an American second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, whose practice was crucial to the development of the Colour Field movement. Active for over six decades, she spanned several generations of abstract painters while continuing to produce vital and ever-changing new work, gaining particular critical acclaim for her pioneering use of the “soak-staining” technique in oil painting.

    Graduating from college with a Cubist-derived style, Frankenthaler encountered the work of the iconic Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock in 1950. Seeing Pollock's radical drip paintings Autumn Rhythm, Number 30, 1950 and Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist) was a coup de foudre for the young artist: "It was all there. I wanted to live in this land. I had to live there, and master the language." (the artist quoted in Alison Rowley, Helen Frankenthaler: Painting History, Writing Painting, London, 2007, p.1)

    Frankenthaler began working on and exhibiting large-scale Abstract Expressionist paintings in the early 1950s, and was included in the seminal 1964 Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition curated by the legendary art critic Clement Greenberg. Frankenthaler's work was introduced as part of a newer, more progressive generation of Abstract Expressionist painting championed by Greenberg that came to be known as Colour Field, characterised by the application of large areas of a single colour to the canvas. Although they shared the same large formats and simplified compositions as the Action Painters, Colour Field artists (including Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko) were distinguished by their efforts to escape all increasingly imitative, academic qualities, including the inclusion of any emotional, mythic and religious content or gestural qualities.

    Pursuing a purer abstract form of Colour Field painting, Frankenthaler's work is associated with the use of fluid, organic shapes and vast, simplified abstract compositions created on canvas directly laid down on the floor with the “soak stain” technique which she invented in 1952. With this technique, she allowed the pigment poured onto the canvas to slowly become absorbed into its fibres. Permitting gravity and chance to steer the direction of her painting, Frankenthaler enjoyed the contemplative gratification of watching the diluted paint dissolve into thin, almost ethereal, skeins of pigment. It was a startling innovation at the time, with Clement Greenberg inviting fellow artists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland to visit Frankenthaler's studio to witness her methods in action.

    By the early 1980s, Frankenthaler had amplified her painterly approach and readjusted her pictorial vocabulary: she laid down monochromatic fields of atmospheric colour and superimposed a scatter of dabs, dots, and dashes of more tangible pigment, or floating islands of colour and calligraphic lines, as seen in Madrid (1984). By the latter part of that decade she was consolidating various elements of previous work to create her pictures. Scorpio is a prime example of works from this period. In this painting, we see the artist’s intention to create the illusion of spatial depth via the expanse of a flat surface divided into ribbons of pure colour. To the pouring of liquid on the canvas she also adds elements of dripping and serpentine lines lightly trailed with a brush, like the tail of the titular Scorpio. Within those delimitations, she creates an imaginary landscape in which the sand leads towards a calm sea, set against a beautiful sky streaked with shades of blue and grey. Clouds emerge from the parts of the canvas untouched by the poured pigment. A few bubbles rise like balloons into the sky, adding splashes of colour to the composition. Her technique, although extraordinarily refined, renders an inner vision onto canvas with perfect spontaneity and improvisation.

    "A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute." (the artist quoted in Barbara Rose, Frankenthaler, New York, 1975, p. 85)

    Scorpio was recently featured in an exhibition at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown (2017), in which some of Frankenthaler’s paintings and woodcuts were reassessed in light of her relationship with nature. The New York artist was indeed influenced both by nature and the tradition of landscape painting, particularly by the paintings of J.M.W. Turner and Gustave Courbet. Alexandra Schwartz, the exhibition’s guest curator, highlighted the fact that many of Frankenthaler’s works were inspired by her surroundings, and that she used a number of cues from the natural world — preliminary outdoor sketches, earth tones, textured layers of paint — to create her abstract canvases. Using horizontal lines across her canvases, just as traditional landscape painters did, she adopted forms of nature — trees, clouds, cliffs and specific colours — that she reimagined in the abstract (quoted in Steve Pfarrer, '"There are no rules:" Clark Art Institute features work of Helen Frankenthaler', Amherst Bulletin, 24 August 2017, online). Another important source of inspiration for Frankenthaler came from the watercolours of Paul Cézanne, whose light plein-air studies were key to liberating his oil paintings from over-academic formalism (see for example Montagne Sainte Victoire, 1905-6). To achieve the right effect, Frankenthaler painted directly onto untreated canvas with oil paints heavily diluted with turpentine. Her "soak stain" technique allowed colours to penetrate immediately into the canvas, creating a diffuse, translucent effect reminiscent of watercolour.

    Frankenthaler’s thinking paralleled that of great Asian modern masters such as Chu Teh-Chun (see for example lot 13), Zao Wou-ki and Zhang Daqian. Using diluted ink wash-like oils, these artists created sweeping painterly surfaces emulating natural movement. Zhang in particular, one of the most renowned and prodigious Chinese artists of the twentieth century who prefigured the journey of many of Chinese painters from guohua (traditionalist) painting to modern expressionism, combined his training across the cultures of the East and West to create expressionist masterpieces reminiscent of Tang Dynasty splashed-ink paintings, its spontaneity mirroring the divine process of creation (see for example The Swiss Snow Mountain (1965).

    Frankenthaler’s work has been the subject of several major exhibitions and retrospective until now, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1969), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1989), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1998) and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2015). The latest exhibition staged in 2019 in Italy (Pittura/Panorama Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler 1952-1992) signaled the return of the artist to Venice, the first exhibition of the artist in this city since her first appearance in 1966 at the American Pavilion of the 33rd Biennale.

  • Catalogue Essay

    海倫·弗蘭肯塔爾是美國第二代抽象表現主義畫家,其創作對色域藝術運動的發展至關重要。活躍於藝術界六十多年,她跨越了幾代的抽象畫家,同時持續創作出重要且不斷變化的新作,並憑藉其在油畫中先鋒性地使用「浸泡染色」(soak-staining)技法而尤獲讚譽。

    弗蘭肯塔爾秉承立體派的風格從大學畢業後,於1950年邂逅了著名抽象表現主義藝術家傑克遜·波洛克的作品。對這位年輕的藝術家來說,看到波洛克激進的滴畫法作品《秋韻,第30號》(1950年)和《薰衣草之霧:第1號》(1950年)可謂一見鍾情:「一切都在那裏。我想要住進這片土地。我必須住在那裏,並且掌握那個語言。」(藝術家引自艾莉森·羅利,《海倫·弗蘭肯塔爾:繪畫史,書寫繪畫》,倫敦,2007年,第1頁)

    弗蘭肯塔爾在1950年代初期開始創作並展出大型抽象表現主義繪畫,也參加了由傳奇藝術評論家克萊門特‧格林伯格於1964年策劃的開創性展覽「後繪畫性抽象」展。弗蘭肯塔爾的作品,作為格林伯格所倡導的更新、更進步之一代抽象表現主義繪畫的一份子被推向世界,這一代的繪畫後來被稱為色域,其特徵是將大面積的單一顏色運用於畫布。僅管他們與行動繪畫家們在對大的架構和簡化的構圖方面之使用有著相似性,但色域畫家們(包括巴內特‧紐曼和馬克·羅斯科)當中差異在於,他們努力擺脫日益變得模仿化、學術化的特質,包括融入任何情感、神話和宗教色彩內容或動態的特質。

    追求色域繪畫更加純粹的抽象形式,弗蘭肯塔爾的作品採用流暢、自然的形狀,並使用她於1952年所開創的「浸泡染色」技法,在直接鋪於地面的畫布上創作廣闊、簡化的抽象構圖。通過這項技法,她將顏料潑到畫布上,使之被畫布的纖維緩慢地吸收。允許引力和機會去引導其畫作的方向,弗蘭肯塔爾看著稀釋的顏料逐漸溶解為稀薄的、近乎縹緲的絲絲色素,並從這個玄思靜觀的過程中感到滿足。這在當時是一個驚人的創新,克萊門特‧格林伯格甚至邀請了藝術家莫里斯·路易斯和肯尼思·諾蘭德到弗蘭肯塔爾的工作室一睹她現場的手法。

    到1980年代初,弗蘭肯塔爾已經擴展了她繪畫手法,並重新調整她的繪畫語彙:她將充滿氛圍感的單色色域鋪開,散落地疊放點點可觸的顏料,或如島嶼般漂浮的色彩和書法線條,正如在《馬德里》(1984年)中可以看到的。在那十年的後半段裏,她整合了過去作品中的各種元素來進行創作。《天蠍》正是這個時期作品的最佳列證。在這幅畫中,我們看到藝術家意圖通過將大片平坦的表面劃分成純色條狀,來製造空間深度的錯覺。在向畫布倒入液體的同時,她還增加了滴畫和用畫筆製造如蛇行般輕觸的線條元素,猶如作品的標題,《天蠍》的尾巴。在這些界定之內,她創造出一個存在於想像中的風景,在藍灰兩色條痕劃過美麗天空的背景下,沙子流向平靜的大海。畫布上未經潑色所觸之處,雲朵浮現。幾個氣泡像氣球一樣飛昇至空中,給畫面增添幾許色彩。她的技法,僅管極其精湛,卻又以完美的自發性和即興感為畫面呈現了一種屬於內心的想像。

    「一幅好畫看起來會像是一切都在瞬間發生的。這是一個即時的圖像。在我自己的作品中,當一幅畫看起來是過於使勁和費盡心血所作,你可以從中看出——好吧,她做了這個,然後她做了那個,然後她再做了那個——對我來說,這裡面就有些與美的藝術不相干的東西。而我通常會把這些東西扔掉,雖然我認為通常需要在畫了十張那種太過費力的嘗試才做出一張下筆漂亮、且與你的思緒和心靈都達成一致的作品,這時你就圓滿了,因此它看起來好像是在一分鐘裏所成就的。」(藝術家引自芭芭拉·羅斯,《海倫·弗蘭肯塔爾》,紐約,1975年,第85頁)

    《天蠍》最近在威廉姆斯鎮的克拉克藝術中心一個展覽中展出(2017年),展出弗蘭肯塔爾的一些繪畫和木刻平面作品,以她與自然之間的關係為出發點被重新審視。這位紐約藝術家確實受到自然和傳統風景畫的影響,尤其是約瑟夫·瑪羅德·威廉·特納和居斯塔夫·庫爾貝的作品。該展之策展人亞歷山德拉•施瓦茨強調,弗蘭肯塔爾的許多作品都受到她周圍環境的啟發,並且她使用了許多源於自然界的切入點——初步的室外素描、大地色系、顏料的層次肌理——來創作她的抽象畫面。就像傳統風景畫家那樣,在她的畫布中使用水平線條,採用了自然的形式——樹木、雲朵、懸崖和特定顏色——她以抽象的方式重新想像(引自Steve Pfarrer,《沒有規則:克拉克藝術中心呈現海倫·弗蘭肯塔爾作品》,<阿默斯特通訊,2017年8月24日,截自網路)。弗蘭肯塔爾的另一重要靈感來源是保羅·塞尚的水彩畫,後者輕柔的戶外寫生草稿是將其油畫從過度學院派的形式主義中釋放出來的關鍵(見《聖維克多山》,1905-06年)。為了達到對的效果,弗蘭肯塔爾將用松節油大量稀釋的油畫顏料直接畫在未經處理過的畫布上。她的「浸泡染色」技法讓色彩立即滲透到畫布中,創造出一種讓人聯想到水彩畫的瀰漫地、半透明的效果。
    弗蘭肯塔爾在思想上可與亞洲傑出的現代大師相提並論,,例如朱德群(見拍品編號13為例)、趙無極和張大千。通過使用像水墨一樣稀釋後的油畫顏料,這些藝術家們創造出行雲流水般重現自然動態的繪畫表面。尤其是張大千,作為二十世紀最著名和最偉大的中國藝術家之一,預示了許多中國畫家從國畫到現代表現主義轉變的旅程,他結合了自己在東西方文化中的訓練,所創作的表現主義傑作,讓人聯想起唐代的潑墨畫,其自發性映現出創作的神聖過程(參見《瑞士雪山》1965年))。

    迄今為止,弗蘭肯塔爾的作品在許多大型展覽和回顧展中亮相,其中包括位於紐約的惠特尼美國藝術博物館(1969年)、現代藝術博物館(1989年)、所羅門·R·古根漢博物館(1998年),以及水牛城公共美術館(2015年)。她的最新展覽在意大利:《皮圖拉/全景:海倫·弗蘭肯塔爾的繪畫 1952-1992年》(2019年)使藝術家重返威尼斯;這是藝術家自1966年的第33屆雙年展上,在美國館首次亮相以來在該地的首次展覽。

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15

Scorpio

1987
signed ’Frankenthaler‘ lower right; further titled and dated '"SCORPIO" 1987' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
235.5 x 333.5 cm. (92 3/4 x 131 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1987.

Estimate
HK$7,500,000 - 9,500,000 
€872,000-1,100,000
$962,000-1,220,000

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Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019