Louise Nevelson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • "When you put things together, things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created."
    —Louise Nevelson
    Executed in 1975, Dawn’s Landscape XXIX illustrates Louise Nevelson’s career-long exploration of light, dimension, and geometry as a means of transcending a sculpture’s planar form. The present work is from the renowned Dawn series of white wooden sculptures including three-dimensional “landscapes.” These "environments” evolved from the artist’s practice of reworking older pieces and extracting entire elements from past works to resurrect new structures. By the late 1950s, Nevelson was an established artist in her own right, having had several successful exhibitions with Grand Central Moderns and Martha Jackson Gallery leading to her longstanding representation by the Pace Gallery. However, it wasn’t until 1958 that she received her first invitation to contribute to a museum exhibition, to which she responded, “we ’ll do a white show; keep it secret, I want it to be a surprise.”i


    "What was I going to do anywhere but New York?”
    —Louise Nevelson
    The success of Louise Nevelson’s oeuvre in the New York art scene is due to the artist’s groundbreaking practice of limiting material and color in her abstracted structures. Nevelson sourced materials found outside of her Spring Street studio to create free-standing and wall-mounted sculptures painted in monochromatic black and white paint. Made entirely of wood, the present work consists of square units fitted together to create an off-kilter yet harmonious composition. Layers of geometric configurations function as textural evocations of the artist’s personal “landscape.” Inspired by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso, particularly in his works which engage angular form with light and shade such as Landscape: Ceret, 1911, Nevelson introduced this Modern painterly language into a sculptural resolution. By utilizing her signature monochrome palettes to flatten space, we are left with just the reflection of light and shadow to create the space. As such, the planar form of the present work acts as both a blank white canvas and three-dimensional sculpture transcending visual perception. Though called a landscape, Dawn’s Landscape XXIX, has no interest in realistically illustrating an environment, so much as capturing the essence of one. There is no distinct allusion to a certain time or place, yet the foundation of the structure fits into a grid in which abstracted architecture is revealed. The enigmatic clusters of rectangles, circles, and squares, which protrude from the sculpture’s surface, suggest the idea of a cityscape—apartment buildings, sidewalks, and parks. Though shrouded in ambiguity, the visual clues of Dawn’s Landscape XXIX are certainly a reference to the artist’s eternal inspiration: the irregular, expansive, and varied landscape of New York City.


    Pablo Picasso, Landscape: Ceret, 1911, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    The Dawn series


    Perhaps thought to be a departure from the artist’s acclaimed black painted sculptures, the first work in the Dawn series, Dawn’s Wedding Feast, was executed in 1959 on the occasion of an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Signifying Nevelson’s transition from dark to light and night to day, Dawn’s Wedding Feast, the artist’s first white sculpture, was executed in celebration of Nevelson’s career-defining inclusion in the exhibition. The multi-part structure, which filled a room, was later dismantled, its elements reused in subsequent works such as Dawn’s Wedding Pillow, 1959. A procession of reincarnated wedding sculptures would follow until Nevelson revived the formal idea of horizontal, wall-bound landscapes. Painted in the same stark white as Dawn’s Wedding Feast, the reductive form of Dawn’s Landscape XXIX, made more than a decade later, emphasizes what was at once Nevelson’s evolving and consistent aesthetic. 

  • Property from the Estate of Jack R. Bershad 


    Over nearly six decades, Philadelphia lawyer Jack R. Bershad and his wife, artist Helen Bershad, amassed an impressive collection of art and ceramics. Phillips is thrilled to be offering a selection of the American and Post-War masterworks in our 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale this season. Most of these works were acquired soon after they were made, making this a rare chance to acquire works that have remained in the same collection for more than 30 years. An artist in her own right, Helen Bershad was inspired by many of the artists in hers and Jack’s collection, citing Helen Frankenthaler as one of her heroes. Of choosing the painting Brown Bird from 1959, she said, “I had to have something that she did. It was very important to me. A lot of people didn’t like her work at that time, but I did, and I was right...” Such persistence defines the collection, as Jack and Helen went searching in galleries and auctions throughout the 1970s and 1980s for the best examples of 20th century art. This included one of Louise Nevelson’s Dawn’s Landscape works from 1975, which Helen considered “a part of our marriage, of how we talk, how we discuss things.” Two impressive sculptures by Anthony Caro and exceptional American works on paper by John Marin and Max Weber fill out the collection, alongside one of Helen’s own large-scale paintings from 1980—a beautiful and expressive field of blues and pinks coalescing on canvas. Together, this selection of works acquired by Helen and Jack demonstrates their passion for collecting, and for each other. As Helen aptly states, “[they just] wanted to be surrounded by good music and good art.”


    i Louise Nevelson, quoted in Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh, Collage: Personalities, Concepts and Techniques, Boston, 1967.

    • Provenance

      The Pace Gallery, New York
      Makler Gallery, Philadelphia
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976

The Estate of Jack R. Bershad


Dawn's Landscape XXIX

painted wood
61 x 49 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (154.9 x 126.4 x 11.4 cm)
Executed in 1975.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $504,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022