Vivian Springford - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • One of the artist’s signature virtuosic “one-shot” paintings, Vivian Springford’s Untitled (VS 20), 1970s, is a prime example of her distinctive painting style of the late 20th century. Having previously abandoned a gestural style in favor of a more Color Field aesthetic, the present work is a result of the artist's exquisite explorations of color. Using washes of violets, pinks, blues, greens and ochres, Springford drew inspiration from the natural world, particularly the places she encountered throughout her travels to Europe, Africa and Asia starting in the early 1970s. Though exhibiting widely during her lifetime, the artist remained relatively unknown until her rediscovery in 1998 by Gary Snyder. Following a recent surge in popularity after the artist's inaugural exhibition at Almine Rech Gallery, New York, in 2018, the present work comes to auction on the heels of the artist’s auction record achieved this past fall, sold by Phillips in November of 2022.


    “[Painting is an] attempt to identify with the universal whole... I want to find my own small plot or pattern of energy that will express the inner me in terms of rhythmic movement and color. The expansive center of the universe, of the stars, and of nature is my constant challenge in abstract terms.”
    —Vivian Springford


    Using unprimed canvases as her support, Springford dilutes acrylic washes and allows them to ripple out from a central point across the surface, resulting in overlapping layered pools. A warm, yellow orb at the center of Untitled (VS 20) radiates into rich purple rings in almost halo-like circles. Though still gestural, Springford's compositions from the 1970s eliminate distinct lines, highlighting the brilliant hues within flowing, organic swathes of color. Creating these works in one sitting, with no revision or alteration, the artist refers to the influences of Chinese calligraphy – a technique in which marks cannot be erased or altered once made. These influences, combined with her distinct Color Field practice would become synonymous with the artist’s oeuvre, and together illustrate a defiance of categorization for which Springford is known.

    • Provenance

      Estate of the Artist
      Vallarino Fine Art, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Vivian Springford

      Vivian Springford (b. 1913-2003) is associated with the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field movements of the 1950s-1970s in the United States. Springford retreated from public life in the 1980s as she lost her eyesight due to macular degeneration. Springford shared a studio with Chinese-American artist and poet Walasse Ting for nearly 10 years, and she would credit him with introducing her to Chinese calligraphy —a major influence on her early work. Her abstract style transformed over her career from gestural drip paintings to canvases stained with watery pools of color that call to mind fellow AbEx artists like Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis.

      View More Works


Untitled (VS 20)

signed "Vivian Springford" on the reverse; further stamped by the Estate of the Artist on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Painted in the 1970s.

Full Cataloguing

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $95,250

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023