William Kentridge - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was the first to bestow the name Iris on the tall, elegant show-stopping flowers, in honour of the Greek goddess of the rainbow. Messenger of the Olympian gods, Iris would descend Olympus to visit the people of Greece, wearing a seven-coloured robe that mirrored the meteorological phenomenon. The name could not be more fitting for the flower of wisdom, hope, trust and valour, with its elongated deportment and royal hues. Immortalised by the brush of Van Gogh, the violet queen of florals has inspired artists since ancient times, from the walls of the palace of Knossos on Crete, to the Roman city arms of Florence. 


    Vincent Van Gogh, Irises, 1889. Image: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

    After studying Van Gogh’s series of Iris paintings from the previous century, in the early 1990s William Kentridge delved into his own garden of inspirations. Kentridge worked with master printer Jack Shirreff to develop the large-scale complexities for Dutch Iris II. The subtle shading and fine delineation of the flower’s curling petals exhibit a painterly rendering of rich colour with all the dynamism and flair of Kentridge’s palimpsest-like drawing. Kentridge was able to use the intaglio medium not just as a means of replication, but as a medium of such flexibility as to rival painting. The artist is best known for his inventive charcoal drawings in which he draws and erases subjects, recording expressionistic and monochromatic compositions at each stage. In his etchings, Kentridge was able to replicate this process using Shirreff’s print matrixes, allowing his natural creative process to come alive in this medium.


    In Dutch Iris II a fragile flower floats above a rich deep burgundy background, with echoes of its previous forms visible around the purple and blue pigments. It is as if she is blooming in front of the viewer, morphing with the light as her petals open and close. The movement brings the image alive, dramatically sensualising the curves of nature against the angular man-made surround. 

    'I decided to publish this state because it shows William Kentridge’s skill with a brush and Jack Shirreff’s
    lift-ground aquatint skills as well.' —David Krut 

    • Literature

      Rosalind Krauss, p. 13

Property from a Private South African Collection


Dutch Iris II

Etching and aquatint in colours, on Arches paper, with full margins.
I. 108.4 x 59.4 cm (42 5/8 x 23 3/8 in.)
S. 121 x 80.2 cm (47 5/8 x 31 5/8 in.)

Signed and numbered 25/30 in pencil (there were also 5 artist's proofs), published by David Krut, Johannesburg, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 ‡♠

Sold for £32,760

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022