Jean Fautrier - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “It is by capturing a frozen instant of the future that one makes an art that has importance.”
    —Jean Fautrier
    An alluring example of Fautrier’s early nudes prefiguring his infamous période noir, Petit nu presents the viewer with a provocative rendering of the human form. The composition explores the tradition of the nude, revitalised through the artist’s distinctive stylistic approach and tone. Fautrier constructs the human form through expressive strokes of brown, black, and flesh tones, as well as sharp white outlines, creating a harsh and textured surface. Light softly illuminates the thighs, breast, and arms, as the rest of the body recedes into the dark background. Although the figure is depicted frontally, their face remains shielded from the viewer and seems to refuse their gaze, almost as if to protect the vulnerability of their nude body. The resulting composition is striking as it both intrigues the viewer through its complex visual elements yet refuses them through the unavailability of the subject.


    Fautrier began depicting nudes in 1925 inspired by his partner Andrée Pierson; through them he explored the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, as well as surface tension and texture, elements that would define the Art Informel style of his later career. Petit nu demonstrates Fautrier’s early development of this visual language, with its distortion of traditional representations of the human figure and of beauty, he forges a composition that dwells between the fragile, the beautiful, and the raw. 

    • Provenance

      Galerie Jeanne Castel, Paris
      Galerie 1900-2000, Paris
      Galerie Tendances, Paris
      Sotheby's, London, 28 June 2001, lot 388
      Gunter Sachs Collection
      Sotheby's, London, 23 May 2012, lot 176
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galeries Tendances, Jean Fautrier, April 1989, no. 3, n.p. (illustrated, titled as Nu Noir)
      Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Jean Fautrier 1898-1964, 25 May-24 September 1989, no. 14 p. 60 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Marie-José Lefort, Fautrier: catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, Paris, 2023, no. 185, p. 169 (illustrated)


Petit nu

signed 'Jean Fautrier' upper left
oil on canvas
34.9 x 27.1 cm (13 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1926.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 ‡♠

Sold for £27,940

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024