Sean Scully - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Shadowing is a paradigmatic example of Sean Scully’s transfiguration of hard geometry into an evocative spiritual experience. Painted in 1984, it belongs to Scully's early series of multi-panel, striped paintings—a seminal body of work, of which examples reside in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Elegant in its compositional simplicity, Shadowing is built with alternating strata of primary hues, defined with glowing contours of light yellow. The work oscillates between density and looseness, contrasting geometric forms with an expressive painterly brushwork. The subtle translucency within dark swathes of black lends a sensuous tactility that distinguishes Scully’s accomplished work, which is currently being celebrated at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s landmark exhibition Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas.

    "Abstract art has the possibility of being incredibly generous, really out there for everybody. It’s a nondenominational religious art. I think it’s the spiritual art of our time"
    —Sean Scully
    Constructed of two abutting canvases of differing depth, Shadowing defies the two-dimensional picture plane–manifesting itself with a dramatic, sculptural presence. The title of the present work derives from the shadow cast by the upper element onto the lower element, painted on slightly narrower canvas. This subtle three-dimensional quality highlights the physicality of the work, its presence as an object highlighted by its formal reduction.

    Shadowing also refers to the replication and alteration of forms, as stripes uniform in thickness are rotated and attached. Segmented across two canvases, the work comprises objects that are distinct yet linked. Elaborating on the spiritual significance of these forms, Scully has described: “My paintings talk of relationships, how bodies come together. How they touch. How they separate. How they live together, in harmony and disharmony... Its edge defines its relationship to its neighbor and how it exists in context. My paintings want to tell stories that are an abstracted equivalent of how the world of human relationships is made and unmade. How it is possible to evolve as a human being in this.”i


    Mark Rothko, No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow), 1958. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Artwork: © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Painted in 1984, Shadowing was created during a high point in the artist’s output in the early-to-mid-eighties, distinguished by pivotal stylistic evolutions. In 1979 the artist abandoned acrylics in favor of oil paints, and by 1981 had ceased using the painter’s tape that shaped his earlier hard-edge works. Scully embraced the fluidity and flexibility of oil with virtuoso, further loosening his wide gestural strokes with a housepainter’s brush. When the artist painted Shadowing he had become fluent in his unique process of using two attached panels and was increasingly migrating towards ever larger works. While grand, Shadowing retains an intimacy derived from its delicate handling of paint and sincerity of expression. Spiritual and emotional, Scully’s soft-edge stripes progress styles previously mastered by the likes of Mark Rothko, as in his seminal No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow), 1958.


    Earnest in his commitment to his signature style, Scully’s adherence to abstraction distanced himself from the mainstream painting of the decade. Notwithstanding trends, the brilliance of Scully’s work has consistently attracted recognition. The same year that Scully painted Shadowing, he notably gained significant recognition with his inclusion in An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The following year saw Scully’s first solo institutional exhibition in America at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, which later travelled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Shadowing was notably exhibited in the artist’s major solo exhibition at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in 2015.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Sean Scully has exhibited around the world, most notably in his stand-out 2006 exhibition Wall of Light at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

    • The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presented the substantial survey exhibition Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas last year, which travelled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is currently on view.

    • Scully’s work can be found in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art devoting an entire room to his work. In 2015 the artist opened a permanent exhibition of his works in a renovated monastery in Montserrat, outside Barcelona. 

    • Scully’s early striped paintings are held in prestigious public collections including Molloy, 1984, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Paul, 1984, at Tate, London.


    Sean Scully: The Shape of Ideas


    i Sean Scully, quoted in Walter Smerling, "Constantinople or the Sensual Concealed," The Imagery of Sean Scully, exh. cat. MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg, 2009, p. 8

    • Provenance

      Juda Rowan Gallery, London
      Sophie Linden, London
      Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Berlin
      Private Collection, Lake Forest, Illinois (acquired from the above in 1998)
      Christie's, London, October 11, 2012, lot 41
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Juda Rowan Gallery, Sean Scully: Recent Paintings and Drawings, November 2–December 15, 1984 (illustrated, front cover)
      London, Annely Juda Fine Art/Juda Rowan Gallery, Three Decades of Contemporary Art, November 26–December 20, 1985, no. 126 (illustrated, p. 84; Juda Rowan Gallery, London, 1984 installation view illustrated, p. 317)
      London, Annely Juda Fine Art, Partners, June 24–September 18, 1993, n.p. (illustrated)
      Bologna, Galleria d’Arte Moderna-Villa Delle Rose, Sean Scully, May 31–September 1, 1996
      Berlin, Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Sean Scully, February 3–March 7, 1998, p.4 (illustrated)
      São Paulo, Pinacoteca do Estado, Sean Scully: 1974–2015, April 11–June 28, 2015 (illustrated, pp. 14, 43-45)

    • Literature

      Frances Spalding, “Unequal Halves?,” Art Review, vol. 45, no. 8, September 1993 (illustrated, p. 38)
      Marla Price, Sean Scully: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings Volume II, 1980–1989, Fort Worth, 2018, no. 1984.21, pp. 93, 299 (illustrated, p. 127)

Property from a Sophisticated Collection



signed, titled and dated "Sean Scully 84 SHADOWING" on the reverse
oil on two attached canvases
80 3/4 x 72 1/4 in. (205.1 x 183.5 cm)
Painted in 1984.

Full Cataloguing

$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for $604,800

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022