Sam Middleton - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist circa 1990)

  • Exhibited

    Copenhagen, American Art Gallery, 1961

  • Literature

    Sam Middleton: Images of Jazz, exh. cat., Museum Van Bommel Van Dam Venlo, 1997, p. 37 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A born and bred New Yorker, Sam Middleton drew artistic energy for his stunning collages from the vibrant cultural scene of downtown New York. Executed in 1961, the present lot, titled Jazz on Easter Sunday, pulsates with a lyrical aesthetic, inspired by the Lower East Side jazz stars like Monk, Coltrane and Parker. Middleton captures the unique, offbeat and constantly changing pattern of sound within the confines of collage and dripping paint. Beneath the splashes and splatters of red, yellow, blue, white and black paint, the viewer can catch snippets of printed text. Disjointed and illegible, these mysterious words pop out haphazardly - the implosive nature of Middleton’s composition reads like the jazz music he so admired, catching a consistent beat and then unnervingly swinging back to apparent chaos, presenting constantly innovative artistic arrangements.

  • Artist Biography

    Sam Middleton

    American • 1927 - 2015

    Growing up in Harlem during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Sam Middleton emerged as an artist in early 1950s New York where he formed close friendships with New York School artists such as Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell. Seeking a more open-minded environment to pre-Civil Rights America, Middleton moved to Schagen, Netherlands, in 1962. Middleton’s profound love for music, fostered from an early age in New York’s jazz scene, was at the heart of his mixed-media work. “For me, improvisation is a galaxy of color,” Middleton said. “When I listen to music I feel like a soloist.” In his search to “paint sounds”, Middleton was challenged by the changing tempo, the hint of melody, and the speed and dexterity of jazz – basing his choice of color, line and composition on sound and harmony. His compositions combine collage elements with decisive painterly gestures against luminous backgrounds, often alluding to the music playing his studio as well as the local Dutch landscape.

    Middleton’s work was collected and shown in major U.S. museums in the 1960s and 1970s, notably in the pivotal 1962 exhibition Forty Artists under Forty at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which more than fifty years later included him in the America is Hard to See collection exhibition in 2015. Though he has received recognition in Europe – the Van Bommel Van Dam Museum in Venlo, Netherlands, organized a retrospective of his work in 1997 –he he only received his first, posthumous solo exhibition in the United States in 2017.

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Jazz on Easter Sunday

signed and dated "MIDDLETON '61" lower right; further signed, titled and dated "MIDDLETON JAZZ ON EASTER SUNDAY 1961" on the reverse
collage and gouache on board
33 x 47 7/8 in. (83.8 x 121.6 cm.)
Executed in 1961.

$15,000 - 25,000 

Sold for $17,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018