Jules Olitski - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Estate of Jules Olitski
    Hackett Mill, San Francisco
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    San Francisco, Hackett Mill, Transcendent, April 9 - July 2, 2010
    San Francisco, Hackett Mill and FreedmanArt, Jules Olitski: Embracing Circles 1959-1964, July 9 - October 1, 2010, p. 29 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Dewitt Cheng, "Julies Olitski: "Embracing Circles" at Hackett Mill", art ltd, September/ October 2010, p. 24 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Painting has to do with a lot of things. Color is among the things it has to do with. It has to do with surface. It has to do with shape. It has to do with feelings which are more difficult to get at." Jules Olitski

    In Untitled-Seven, 1960, Jules Olitski depicts vibrant regions of color in a dynamic and powerful composition, showcasing his career-long investigation and mastery of surface, color and form. Like his contemporaries Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland, Olitski contributed significantly to the Color Field movement, dubbed “Post-Painterly Abstraction” by distinguished critic Clement Greenberg. Greenberg, who organized an exhibition of the same name with James Elliott in 1964, even hailed Olitski as the “best painter alive.” Circles first appeared in Olitisky’s work in 1959, initially emerging from black or intense dark blue backgrounds. Soon after, these biomorphic forms took on bright hues such as yellow, purple and red in his paintings of 1960 and 1961. In Untitled-Seven, two sets of concentric circles articulated in a jazzy palette hover against a rich purple backdrop.

    Though strongly associated with the Color Field artists, who regarded figure and ground as a unified entity, Olitski restricted himself to neither a singular motif nor approach to art-making. He experimented widely with a mixture of new paints entering the market, using quotidian tools such as sponges, mops, mitts, brooms, and rollers. The present work is executed with Magna, an acrylic resin developed by Leonard Bocour in the late 1940s. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Morris Louis preferred using this luminous medium, which was soluble in turpentine and mineral spirits (rather than water). It differed from the acrylic paint in use today by enabling artists to achieve a glossier, more “commercial” finish.

    Untitled-Seven was included in an exhibition of Olitski's large-scale Core paintings at Hackett Mill in 2010, having come directly from the artist’s estate. In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, Lauren Olitski Poster, the artist’s daughter, describes choosing paintings from the racks in her father’s warehouse with her husband, Bradley, to share with gallery directors: “Bradley and I had an idea to install our so called “warehouse gallery” with an earlier group of paintings put aside by Jules years ago, as one might put aside early wine for aging… When we put them on the walls after 50 years in waiting, they sang out, fresh and alive!” (Lauren Olitski Poster quoted in Jules Olitski: Embracing Circles 1959-1964, Hackett Mill, San Francisco, 2010, n.p.). The striking colors and emotionally engaging composition of Untitled-Seven showcase this very sentiment.

Property from an Important East Coast Collection



signed "J Olitski" on the reverse
Magna on canvas
77 x 79 in. (195.6 x 200.7 cm.)
Painted in 1960.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $447,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018