Lynne Drexler - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Fresh to market, Meadow Aside, was painted in 1963, just two years after her break-out show at Tanager Gallery in New York and given to the present owner by Harry Bone, who was one of the beneficiaries of the Lynne Drexler estate. Bubbling and brimming with colours, the works of Lynne Drexler resemble aerial views of lush gardens or jagged metropolises. Elusive structures vie for attention and space against organic forms, as speckles, dashes, and rhombuses all wrestle for room on her canvases. Though Drexler’s pieces have only recently been rediscovered in the artistic arena—having been unfortunately eclipsed by her male peers during her lifetime—her talent has thankfully not fallen by the wayside. Instead, her pieces have been met with vigorous demand, and her place among other Abstract Expressionists has been posthumously secured. The artist’s works are in the permanent collection of several institutions, including the Portland Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.



    A Concerto of Colours


    Though Lynne Drexler’s presence within the annals of Abstract Expressionism may be scarce to say the least, she was undoubtedly an artist of note during this period. In the fifties and sixties, when seismic shifts were underway in the post-war art world, and such a realm was male dominated (giants such as Jackson Pollock became synonymous with the movement), many women were operating in the shadows. Although their oeuvres were equally accomplished, likewise executed with gusto and prowess, women faced rejection in the largely misogynist gallery scene of New York, the new capital of Art. That her female contemporaries have finally enjoyed recognition for their contributions to the movement (decades late though this may be) is encouraging.


    Drexler was born in 1928 in Virginia to parents who were immensely supportive of their child’s immersion into visual and performing arts, and the artist was enrolled in a variety of different art courses from a young age. In pursuit of such a gift, Drexler moved to New York in 1955 and was subsumed into the Abstract Expressionist movement, studying under Hans Hofmann in both his Provincetown and New York schools. A proponent of colour theories, Hofmann’s legacy can be felt in Drexler’s art in the echoes of his famous ‘push and pull’ methodology of the 1950s and 1960s. Prescribing an approach that ‘pushed’ a plane into the surface, or ‘pulled’ it from one, Hofmann’s enduring philosophy imparted the directive to create pictorial planes through this dichotomous ebb/flow of colour, where different layered hues interacted with one another in tonal repartees.



    Hans Hofmann, Pompeii, 1959
    Collection of The Tate, London
    Artwork: With permission of the Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    A similar effect can be seen in Drexler’s creations, and this is evident in Meadow Aside, painted not so long after Hoffman’s earliest teachings of colour theory. One can observe giant swathes of colours pulling in various directions, then also pushing into others to form vivid pools that come close to cascading into one another, but ultimately never do. From bright burgundy tracks of impasto to small globules of emerald dots, Drexler has created a kaleidoscope of brilliant shades. Eventually, the artist would continue tutelage under the renowned Robert Motherwell, whose intellectual machinations on Abstract Expressionism fuelled the young artist’s own process and practices. It is a combination of both teachers that built the foundation for her oeuvre, eventually solidifying her signature blotch-like patterns and vibrant colour palette.



    Nature Reimagined in Song


    Drexler’s self-imposed hermitage of sorts to Monhegan Island, Maine (a scarcely populated island) in 1983 has been well documented, and yet the artist’s relationship with the small isle began decades prior to her permanent move. In the early years of her marriage to painter John Hultberg, Hultberg’s art dealer Martha Jackson had acquired a house on the island as a refuge for the couple, away from the bustling social life of New York. It was here that Drexler first encountered Monhegan Island’s unfettered landscape and its enveloping solitude, often sketching outdoors while she summered there. It was then on these sketches that she would build atop of later on, reimagining them into larger abstract paintings upon returning to New York in the winters. Perhaps one might be able to infer a subject matter in the present work when also considering two other works created in the same year, 1963: lithographs held in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection, entitled Window Onto Valley and, simply, Valley. It is easy to imagine Drexler preparing such images to later expand into works such as our present piece, envisioned initially while nestled amongst the tranquil valleys of Monhegan Island.


    Vincent Van Gogh, Path in the Park, 1888
    Collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands


    The theme of nature was also visited by some of Drexler’s artistic equals at the time. One thinks to Joan Mitchell and her paintings of the picturesque French village of Vétheuil in the sixties, equally captivated by the verdant terrain. In her lively medley of colours, Drexler not only recalls artists such as Mitchell, but draws parallels tonally and gesturally to the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, whose unrivalled art form sought to crystallise nature in his emblematic brushstrokes. When coupled with Drexler’s life-long love for music — often frequenting opera houses with sketchbooks to draw alongside the music — one gleans a melodious charm in the lyrical expressions bursting forth in technicolour undulations. 



    Collector's Digest


    • Provenance

      The artist
      Harry Bone, Maine
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Meadow Aside

signed, titled and dated '"Meadow Aside" 1963 Lynne Drexler' on the reverse
oil on canvas
96.5 x 147.4 cm. (37 7/8 x 58 in.)
Painted in 1963.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for HK$3,556,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 6 October 2023