Henri Laurens - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Studio of the Artist
    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (archive photo no. 7595 and archive no. 7596)
    André Emmerich Gallery, New York
    Enid Annenberg Haupt, New York
    Estate of Evelyn Annenberg Hall, New York
    Christie’s, New York, November 6, 2008, lot 4
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    Werner Hofmann, Henri Laurens: Sculptures, Stuttgart, 1970, p. 219 (illustrated, p. 201)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The apotheosis of Henri Laurens’ sculptural œuvre, La Lune, 1946, is emblematic of the visual simplicity the artist sought to achieve in the last decade of his life. Created in the wake of World War II, the present work’s kneeling female figure conveys the air of serenity and balance that pervaded the artist’s sculptural output following the war. Imbued with mythological references to the moon, La Lune offers a striking formal investigation of the centuries old tradition of the female nude. A rare example in marble within Laurens’ oeuvre, La Lune represents the most accomplished iteration of this subject that the artist also explored in two bronze examples and is furthermore distinguished by its exceptional provenance, having formerly resided in the revered collection of Enid Annenberg Haupt. Executed at the culminating point of Laurens’ sculptural innovation, La Lune marked the very moment when his practice gained wider international acclaim. It was only shortly after that Laurens was included in the Venice Biennale in both 1948 and 1950, and bestowed a major retrospective at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1951.

    With La Lune, Laurens was returning to many of the formal and thematic tenets that had informed his practice prior to World War II. He had begun sculpting at the turn of the century, initially creating works that reflected the influence of Auguste Rodin, but swiftly thereafter turned to Cubism as he entered a lifelong friendship with Georges Braque. He became deeply immersed within the Parisian avant-garde alongside Juan Gris, Amadeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. Like Picasso, Laurens turned to Classicism after World War I, shifting away from the angular style of his early cubist sculpture and began employing traditional materials such as bronze and marble. Embracing a more biomorphic and organic approach to sculpture, he sought to convey the figure as a whole, rather than a sum of its parts. Bearing the cyclical promise of “eternal return” that Werner Hofmann identified at the core of Laurens’ oeuvre, La Lune can be seen as a culminating point of this stylistic evolution that saw Laurens return to the Greco-Roman themes of his oeuvre in the late 1920s (Werner Hofmann, The Sculpture of Henri Laurens, New York, 1970, p. 43).

    While the works Laurens conceived during France’s occupation from 1940 to 1944 exuded a sense of sorrow, the present work conveys hope and renewal. In this period, the female form became Laurens’ almost exclusive focus as seen in sculptures such as La Chevelure and La Petite Baigneuse. By depicting the figure with upraised arms around her head, Laurens was effectively tapping into an art historical convention that went as far back as Ancient Greece and had been adapted by artists such as Ingres and Picasso as a symbol of femininity for their own odalisques and demoiselles. The gesture alludes to the mythical figure of Ariadne, who was transformed into a constellation as a token crown of immortality by Dionysus, God of fertility. The convention of depicting her with arms upraised around her head in supplication and lamentation became an iconographic trope for imbuing the female nude with erotic and mythical undertones, as evidenced variously in Ingres’ Le Bain Turc, 1865, and Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907.

    Formally echoing Ariadne’s transcendental metamorphosis, Laurens propels La Lune beyond womanhood into the lunar realm – both through the circular motion of the arms that alludes to the roundness of the full moon, and its piercing white marble surface “that is affected by the alterations of light and shadow on it and changes all the time” (Henri Laurens, “Artist Statement”, 1951, in Henri Laurens: Sculptures and Drawings, exh. cat., The Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1971, pp. 17-20). While imbued with rich symbolism, Laurens, La Lune perhaps above all exemplifies the remarkable formal achievements Laurens achieved in his sculptural practice.

    Laurens’ round and curved sculptural forms reveal striking parallels to the practice of his close friend Henri Matisse, whose focus on sculpture in the late 1920s set the foundation for the unprecedented economy of line in his late paintings and drawings. The remarkable dynamism that Matisse achieved with the bodies in motion as in Dance (I), 1909, and with his cut-outs from the late 1940s and 1950s, Laurens managed to convey in sculpture to a degree that challenged Matisse’s bronzes. In La Lune, the female figure gracefully raises both arms to her forehead, mirroring the swerving position of her legs below as her body seemingly twists unto itself. Meant to be viewed in the round, the sculpture gives rise to the illusion of movement, echoed by the curved nose, all the while retaining a sense of balance and stability. La Lune perfectly exemplifies how, “the most outstanding of [Laurens’] qualities is his ability to reconcile the two opposing imperatives of sculpture: steadfastness and movement” (Bernard Dorival, The Sculpture of Henri Laurens, New York, 1970, p. 46). La Lune beautifully encapsulates the timeless vision that has firmly placed Laurens within the pantheon of 20th century sculptors, offering us a masterful take on a theme that is both grounded in the past and resolutely modern.

Property from an Important Private Collection


La Lune

incised with the artist’s monogram "HL" on the right side of the base
white marble
36 5/8 x 14 3/4 x 17 3/8 in. (93 x 37.4 x 44 cm.)
Executed in 1946.

Quentin Laurens, the holder of the Droit Moral, has kindly confirmed that this work is registered in the Laurens atelier archives.

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $2,175,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2018