Mel Ramos - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, June 26, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Zwirner, Cologne
    Private Collection, New York
    George Condo Collection, New York
    Sotheby's, New York, 13 November 2003, lot 216
    Acquired at the above sale by present owner

  • Exhibited

    Venice, Galleria del Leone, Pop Art, 1967

  • Literature

    Elizabeth Claridge, The Girls of Mel Ramos, Chicago, 1975, pp. 91 and 156 (illustrated, dated 1965-9)
    Donald Kuspit, Mel Ramos - POP ART FANTASIES: The Complete Paintings, New York, 2004, pp. 88 and 238 (illustrated, p. 88)
    Thomas Levy, ed., Mel Ramos, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings 1953-2015, Bielefeld, 2016, no. 65-9, p. 192 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rendered with chromatic energy and poster-like precision, The Princess, 1965, is a quintessential example of Mel Ramos’s technically commanding and thematically driven oeuvre which has, over the course of his almost six-decades career, continuously shed light on glamourised female characters. At the heart of the present composition, a young woman is seen perched on an over-sized telephone, set against an unblemished background of luminous yellow. A brilliant iteration of Ramos’s larger-than-life advertisement-like paintings, The Princess flirts with the conceptual limits of traditional portraiture whilst allowing a revealing peek into the artist’s distinctive take on Pop Art. In addition to achieving an immaculate appearance, the present image holds layers of historic and personal countenance, as it depicts the famous Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, recognisable for her stark-black hair and sensuous curves. Having met Lollobrigida in 1963, the actress soon thereafter entered the pantheon of female characters that populated Ramos's opus amongst other stars and unknown beauties. It is further testament to the painting’s significance that it was formerly owned by the artist George Condo, whose own expressive manifestations explore the endless physical possibilities of the human form.

    Painted in 1965, The Princess followed Ramos’s comic book series commenced in 1962 and concluded in 1964, which principally centred on female heroines. Notably, it was in 1965 that the first scandal relating to Ramos’s nudes arose: the museum director Paul Wember was forced to cancel the purchase of one of the artist's works, due to the conservative climate dominating the German city of Krefeld preventing the public dissemination of pornographic content. Yet while The Princess indeed exudes Ramos’s characteristic erotic energy, it is far from attending to the vapidness of consumable erotics. Instead, Ramos’s work looks into a well-known motif that pervades the consumer-oriented culture of our times, and quotes from a wide array of visual and art historical references, tinged with irrepressible Pop fervour. ‘I was very fortunate when I was younger to have Wayne Thiebaud as my teacher, who had a profound influence on the way I think about art’, the artist remarked (Mel Ramos, ‘Conversation between Mel Ramos and Belinda Grace Gardner’, 2002, in Thomas Levy, Mel Ramos: Heroines, Goddesses, Beauty Queens, Hamburg, 2002, p. 228). Building from an artistic point of departure laden with expressive and conceptual rigour, Ramos additionally cited the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Salvador Dalí, and Joacquín Sorolla as irreducible influences.

    The present image, along with Ramos’s distinct iterations drawing from the same theme, most potently conjures the painterly universe of Tom Wesselmann, equally vested with nude women blown-up to epic dimensions. Most often lying down in ecstatic postures, Wesselmann’s women belong to the same thematic realm as The Princess. The two pop artists equally share a kinship in their tendency to create impeccable surfaces, which, as a result, produce a potent impression of realism. On his exquisitely precise images, Ramos has remarked, ‘People have said, “how do you do that, it’s so perfect?” And the answer is: I spend a lot of time working at it’ (Mel Ramos, quoted in Thomas Levy, Mel Ramos: Heroines, Goddesses, Beauty Queens, Hamburg, 2002, p. 221). With her piercing gaze and seductive smile, The Princess seems like she is both in and out of canvas, transported to the viewer’s real surroundings.

  • Artist Biography

    Mel Ramos

    American • 1935

    Mel Ramos is an American Pop artist best known for his paintings of female nudes alongside brand logos. His depictions of women with everyday products celebrate aspects of popular culture represented in mass media and advertising. Like his contemporaries Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Ramos was inspired by comic books and grew up drawing cartoons and characters from their pages. The artist's works, including paintings, prints and works on paper, feature in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, among others.

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The Princess

signed, titled, inscribed and dated '"THE PRINCESS" 1965 BY MEL RAMOS SACRAMENTO 2; CALIF' on the reverse
oil on canvas
153 x 127.6 cm (60 1/4 x 50 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1965.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £350,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén

Director, Senior Specialist
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2019