Louis Fratino - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Louis Fratino’s intimate portraits capture tender, daily pleasures of life and close company. Painting from memory, he captures moments through a saccharine-hued lens, inflected by themes of desire and male sexuality. Big Tristan, 2017, depicts a moment of casual lounging amplified by the subject’s straight-on gaze. At over six feet tall, the larger-than-life canvas invites viewers into this proximate vantage, welcomed, with hands crossed behind his head, by the titular Tristan. The present example was the largest work included in Fratino’s solo show So, I’ve Got You at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in 2017, anchoring his exhibition of lush portraits.

    “The show’s untitled masterpiece is a life-size vertical image of a young man lying naked on a box settle, hands clasped behind his head, his body highlighted by the raking light of a lamp. He is talking, caught midsentence while the painter seems to hover above, as do we, tantalized.”
    —Roberta Smith

    Fratino's mastery of color, bold brushstrokes, and sensuous lines, redefine the rites of masculinity with moments of quiet camaraderie. His paintings bend perspective, and, in the words of Roberta Smith, “[fast-track] the emotional connection of his subjects.” She continues, “The pieces come across as highly erotic without ever feeling maudlin or lecherous; capturing, in concert, the cruisey, moody, poetic landscape of urban gay desire.”i


    Barberini Faun, 2nd century BC. Image: © Vanni Archive / Art Resource, NY.

    Big Tristan draws from Picasso’s cubism with its flattened perspective, exaggerated facial figures and heavily stylized blue feet. Christopher Bollen aptly sums: “Think neo-Cubism meets neo-Fauvism meets such radical American painting pioneers as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley.”ii In depicting the historically less visible male nude, Fratino is also amongst a lineage that includes Lucian Freud and David Hockney. Smith salutes Fratino for his blend of “Lucian Freud’s faceted flesh and David Hockney’s languid homoeroticism.”iii In Big Tristian the resulting figure is magnetic and languorous, charging the work with a tender, subtly erotic hum.



    i Roberta Smith, “What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week,” The New York Times, September 28, 2017, online.

    ii Christopher Bollen, “For Louis Fratino, Painting Offers a More Permanent Kind of Pleasure,” Interview Magazine, March 10, 2021, online.

    iii Roberta Smith, “What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week”

    • Provenance

      Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Thierry Goldberg Gallery, Louis Fratino: So, I've Got You, September 10–October 8, 2017
      Amsterdam, GRIMM, Equal Affections, July 23–September 5, 2021, pp. 58–59 (illustrated, p. 59)

    • Literature

      Roberta Smith, "Louis Fratino," The New York Times, September 28, 2017, online
      Sasha Bogojev, "Equal Affections: GRIMM Gallery Group Exhibition Channels the Great Novel of David Leavitt," Juxtapoz, September 9, 2011, online (GRIMM, Amsterdam, 2021 installation view illustrated)

Property from an Esteemed European Collection


Big Tristan

signed, titled and dated ""BIG TRISTAN" 2017 Louis Fratino" on the reverse
oil and crayon on canvas
80 x 42 in. (203.2 x 106.7 cm)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $152,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig 
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023