Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 172 - 2 March 2019

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 305

Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium / 1927)
Le départ du vice-roi des Indes (1967)


€ 200 000 - 300 000

With photo certificate by the artist
Lefebre Gal., New York
Sotheby's New York, 11th of November 1988, lot nr. 137
Gal. Willy D'Huysser, Brussels


Encouraged by Christian Dotremont (1922-1979), Pierre Alechinsky (° 1927) undertook a trip to Japan in the mid-1950s. The East inspired him immensely, so he searched in his oeuvre for a bridge between the painterly traditions of East and West. Driven by his fascination for calligraphy, he handled a new medium: acrylic paint. This enabled him to work more fluently and to paint writerly, just like Chinese ink.

Both materials and techniques used in Japan appealed to his imagination. From that moment on he will place his paper or canvas on the ground and take a standing and bent posture during the painting process. This way his left hand and arm got complete freedom in their mobility. Remarkably, Alechinsky himself was left-handed. Although he wrote right-handed, having learned so well, it seemed that his left hand resisted the rigid and clumsy handwriting of the right.

What has become one of the main characteristics within Alechinsky's oeuvre is the ‘game of the goose board' composition: a central image surrounded by various visual commentaries, a structure also related to Eastern tradition. Just like "Le départ du vice-roi des Indes" (1967), a central drawing is surrounded by small cases showing winding figures. This structure is not only reminiscent of glosses in illuminated medieval manuscripts, but also of contemporary comics. The artist himself wrote about this technique: "It worked in a peculiar way; the 'subordinate notes' (a concept derived from engraving art) in black and white surrounded the central colored field absorbing the spectator's view. But how should this be fully presented and preserved? Only the marouflage made this possible - a technique that was unknown to me until then. I have put myself to it as good and as bad as possible, hence the visible technical mistakes in the scenery."

Alechinsky was the first Belgian last summer to win the Praemium Imperiale, the Nobel Prize for Painting. This award not only crowns his influential role within expressionist painting and the CoBrA movement, but also emphasizes his importance in art history. He tried to enrich the Western tradition by walking the road to the East. Without becoming an Oriental himself, he took elements like calligraphy very seriously and tried to translate them to the West.

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