Lucas Arruda - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • 'I don’t see myself as separate from nature, either when facing it out in the open or when inside the studio – I understand nature more the like the flow of time and of life.' —Lucas Arruda Quiet, deeply contemplative, and yet shimmering with a taut, emotional power, Lucas Arruda’s untitled work from 2014 is a beautifully expressive example of the Brazilian artist’s body of minimalist seascapes. Drawing on a long tradition of landscape painting and engaging robustly with the Romantic Sublime, Arruda’s compositions update this visual language for 21st century viewers. Verging almost on abstraction, the present work does not depict a geographically specific place, but rather attempts to reveal ‘a sensation, a state of mind suspended within the medium of paint […] that can’t be grasped through language because there aren’t sufficient visual elements to describe it.’i 

    Light and Atmospherics

    'it’s really an attempt to measure the body’s relationship with different times of day, but without a human presence.' —Lucas Arruda 

    Cloaked in subtle tones of smoky, opalescent greys, whites, and yellows, the luminous composition captures the liminal passage of time between dawn and dusk, ‘that moment when it becomes completely dark before daybreak, that moment when you feel lost and disorientated.’ii A time of shifting, transitory light and textures, Arruda here contrasts the intense radiance concentrated in the upper portion of the canvas and its reflection on the smooth surface of the sea below with a darker band of light passing across the central section of the composition, animating the whole piece with a dynamic sense of the shifting light and gentle stirring of the waves. An early and unusually sized example of Arruda’s Deserto-Modelo series, the present work exists outside of historical time or place and is less a response to the landscape than an abstract meditation on the mechanics of time and memory itself. 


    Detail of the present work

    With his careful focus on the subtle variations of light effects and atmospherics executed in thin, rapid brushstrokes, Arruda’s seascapes sharply recall Monet’s iconic Nymphéas series. Building on his earlier series of haystacks, London landscapes and cathedral facades, Monet’s Nymphéas represent the culmination of a decades-long investigation into the effects of shifting atmospheric effects on light and colour. Painting the same subject repeatedly through the seasons in different lights and hours of the day, Monet pioneered a serial approach to his subject that would prove to be foundational to abstraction, and a touchstone for Arruda’s own conceptual treatment of repetition and variation and the captivating play of light and atmospheric conditions it allows him to explore. As Oliver Basciano has identified, although ‘light in general is Arruda’s subject, it is specifically a change of light, or cycles of light that he’s documenting.’iii


    Claude Monet, Nymphéas, after 1916, National Gallery, London, Bridgeman Images

    However, while Monet’s Nymphéas are executed on an enormous, immersive scale without horizon line, Arruda favours a smaller format, explaining ‘It’s more powerful to contain something as immense as a seascape in a tighter scale. It increases the radiation, and the surrounding frequency.’iv Ironically inverting the sublime enormity of his subject by confining it to small, roughly square canvases, Arruda complicates the legacy of Romanticism he engages so compellingly with. 


    Communicating the Sublime

    'The moon stood naked in the heavens at height
    Immense above my head, and on the shore
    I found myself of a huge sea of mist,
    Which meek and silent rested at my feet'
    —William Wordswoth, The Prelude

    Caspar David Friedrich, Der Mönch am Meer (Monk by the Sea), c. 1809, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Bridgeman Images

    Combining sensations of awe and terror, the sublime emerged as an aesthetic category in the 18th century as a means of giving shape and form to a sense of the inexpressibility of immensity, and to reproduce this sensation in the viewer. Soaring mountain ranges, abandoned ruins and vast skies all emerged as favoured motifs for expressing this sense of time-bound man’s confrontation with infinity, although ‘the sea has often served as its most appropriate, if not exemplary metaphor.’v  For both Caspar David Friedrich and J.W.Turner, the sea operated as a particularly loaded symbol of personal and political turbulence as much as for the sensation of the sublime itself, dramatising a struggle between man and the immeasurable forces of nature. 


    J.M.W. Turner, Snow Strom – Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, 1842, Tate Gallery, London Photo: Tate

    Although certain commonalities are established between Turner’s Romantic Sublime and Arruda’s quiet canvases - ‘a similar turbulence to the brushwork, a similar invocation of the apparently infinite power of nature, a similar feeling of impotence provoked in the viewer by that thought’ - Arruda removes the human element  Unlike Turner’s tempestuous, storm-tossed seas which achieve their dramatic force in staging the tensions between man and nature overtly, Arruda’s ‘spectral landscapes’ are strikingly empty and have no observable anchor in the real world, offering instead ‘a deep study of atmosphere, of nothingness.vii 


    Shifting and uncertain as elements swim in and out of focus, Arruda’s paintings function to some degree like the idea of the ocean itself, always fluctuating between formation and dissipation, capable of evoking ‘infinity without surrendering its own immediately sensual finitude.’viii 


    Collector’s Digest


    •    Living and working in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Arruda ranks among the country’s most globally sought-after young artists. 


    •    One of the youngest artists to be represented by David Zwirner Gallery, Arruda’s London debut at the gallery in 2017 launched him onto an international stage, his work now represented in major collections including the J. Paul Getty Museym, Los Angeles; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel. 

    i Chris Sharp, “Lucas Arruda: The Creation of Silence,” Lucas Arruda, Paris, 2018, p. 12.
    ii Lucas Arruda, cited in Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò,‘The Only Reason to Call my Works Landscapes is Cultural’, Studio International, 19 September 2017, online 
    iii Oliver Basciano, ‘Lucas Arruda: Heavy weather and a light touch’ Art Review, October 2017, p. 97. 
    iv Lucas Arruda, cited in Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò, ‘Lucas Arruda: The Only Reason to Call My Works Landscapes is Cultural’, Studio International, 19 September 2017, online 
    v Barbara Claire Freeman, The Feminine Sublime: Gender and Excess in Women’s Fiction, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1995, p.17.
    vi Oliver Basciano, ‘Lucas Arruda: Heavy weather and a light touch’ Art Review, October 2017, p. 96.
    vii Silas Martí, Review of Lucas Arruda, Mendes Wood, DM, São Paulo, 2016, online 
    viii Ken Johnson, ‘Lucas Arruda: Deserto-Modelo’, New York Times, 23 June 2011, online 

    • Provenance

      Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Lucas Arruda

      Lucas Arruda is a Brazilian contemporary artist who lives and works in São Paolo. Arruda paints diffusive land- and seascapes characterized by faint horizon lines, intense internal light, and a placid expression of the sublime. His paintings recreate the unrelenting violence of nature, blending wisps of clouds and the foam of the sea into the indistinguishable whole of the storm. His works are meditations on memory and loss, created by paradoxically using abstraction as a means to achieve illusory figuration.   

      Arruda’s paintings are marked both by an all-encompassing elusiveness and an immersive turbulence of form. Primarily working on an intimate scale, Arruda co-opts the onerous expressiveness of abstract painting to create scenes of the intense power and beauty of nature. Arruda’s formal experimentations with the temperament of light and the capabilities of tonality align his work with that of James Abbott Whistler and J.M.W. Turner as much as with that of Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still.  

      View More Works



signed and dated 'Lucas Arruda 2013' on the reverse
oil on canvas
70 x 82.5 cm (27 1/2 x 32 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £352,800

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021