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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







    《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。

    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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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.

HK$7,500,000 - 9,500,000 

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019