Upcoming auction highlights
Jos Albert, Pierre Alechinsky, Arman, Pablo Atchugarry, Miguel Ortiz Berrocal, Bram Bogart, Georges Braque, Jean Brusselmans, César, Emile Claus, Wessel Couzijn, Roel D’Haese, Dadamaino, César De Cock, Raoul De Keyser, Paul Delvaux, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gustave De Smet, Jan De Vliegher, Christian Dotremont, Jan Fabre, Jean-Michel Folon, Modest Huys, Robert Indiana, Floris Jespers, Oscar Jespers, Roy Lichtenstein, Walter Leblanc, Frans Masereel, George Minne, Antoine Mortier, Julian Opie, Panamarenko, Constant Permeke, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Roger Raveel, Léon Spilliaert, Edgard Tytgat, Frits Van den Berghe, Théo Van Rysselberghe, Jef Verheyen, Rik Wouters, Maurice Wyckaert, ...
The catalog includes beautiful artwork by some figureheads of Fauvism in Brabant. “Woman in Front of a Mirror” (1917) is an early painting in soft pink tones by Jos Albert. By Rik Wouters there is "L'allée rose" (ca. 1912), a magnificent impression of a park view in Brussels. The Antwerp artist Floris Jespers turns out to be a little more naturalistic in his composition “Model in a Green Dress” (1916). Jespers explores the boundaries between figuration and abstraction. Color and light are the composition’s creative factors, while lines are limited to a bare minimum. Bearing in mind the legacy of the Luminists, he creates an intimate and warm impression of an ordinary moment that only a loved one can depict so delicately.
The catalogue includes some wonderful pieces by the Ostend master. The rise of his international fame has been unstoppable since his exhibition two years ago at the Royal Academy in London and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. And rightly so, because Spilliaert is without doubt one of the most important Belgian artists who keeps being an inspiration up to this day. There are early interiors such as "Crucifix and Globe" (1908), mysterious seascapes such as "Fisherman's wife and child on the quay, seen from the back" (1909), and a painting "Girls on the beach" (1923) made in the short period that he worked on canvas.
Spilliaert’s humoristic side is a lesser-known one. Occasionally it makes its way into his compositions, like in “The Drowning” (1904).
Lot 62. The drowning (1904) - Est. €18.000-24.000
Deep waters …
Léon Spilliaert maintained a complex and intimate relationship with the sea. She was his closest soulmate. Like a mirror, she reflected his emotions and desires. A parallel with the psycho-emotional life of the artist is unmistakable. Beneath the quiet, bashful surface lurks a special and turbulent world with its own residents and fantasies.
While the surface gives the appearance of peace and calm, the waters stir in the depths. Here danger resides, in the form of a shadowy female creature. She appears unexpectedly, grabs the man where he is at his weakest and drags him down into the depths. From afar one can only watch. His comrades cannot see what is happening underwater. The man's most precious possession becomes his downfall.
Spilliaert depicts a fear and reality of many. Heavy writhing lines, trembling contours and sombre colours create a strong expressiveness. The gesticulating movements are somewhat comical, but therefore all the more desperate. The fear of death can be read from the man's face. It is a face that expresses an existential drama.
The resemblance to “The Scream” by Edvard Munch from 1893 is striking. Spilliaert was familiar with the work of the Norwegian artist thanks to French magazines that he read avidly. From 1895 they issued engravings of “The Scream”. The design of these prints co-determined the visual language Spilliaert would later employ.
Lot 114. The pleasure boat (1925) - Est. €150.000-200.000
All aboard ?
Gustave De Smet enjoyed life to the fullest. He found happiness in little things: the everyday simplicity of his home or his surroundings, the good company of his beloved Gusta or dear artist friends, and the delights that the Lys region had to offer.
There is no doubt that life was good on the banks of the Lys. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, everyone is dressed in their best for a trip on the river. Gentlemen neatly in costume, ladies with their most stunning hats. The delighted company is ready for take-off, as they are waved goodbye by the women on the pier. The passing boat further up causes some swell, while the pennants flutter merrily. What a joy!
De Smet briefly abandons the intimate interior of his 1920s domestic scenes. Rigid expressionism gives way to more freedom. The artist uses a looser brush and omits strong lines. Organic and intuitive forms, manifesting in the water and the figures, create an exhilarating composition. The beautiful color palette defines the artist. Delicate and warm tonalities in mauve, maroon and ocher breathe life into the scene.
It must have been a recognizable and dear moment for Gust De Smet. The artist himself loved sailing on the Lys in his own boat, the Kazan. A photo shows him as a proud captain at the helm, alongside André De Ridder, Paul-Gustave Van Hecke and their wives.
Paris! Boulevards, cabaret, jazz and neon lights. Frans Masereel pulls us into the colorful nightlife of the metropolis, shrouded in a fairytale glow. His expressive style in “Le trottoir” (1926) brings the vibrant 1920s to life.
Jean Brusselmans stayed closer to home. The auction includes a view of “Dilbeek” (1929) and the remarkable portrait “Sitting young woman” (1946). “The Harvest” (1932) is a monumental painting by Constant Permeke in which he makes harsh country life almost tangible. There are several interesting creations by Gustave De Smet. “The Pleasure Boat” (1925) is one of the most important works at this auction.
Lot 109. The tragic Elders (1924) - Est. €70.000-90.000
Not that innocent
A barely covered young lady is harassed by a maleficent trio: this scene at least raises eyebrows. But nothing is what is seems at first sight in Edgard Tytgat’s paintings. The artist is a skilled storyteller, adapting the classics from Greek and Biblical mythology. He depicts fairytales disarming with their fantasy, surrealism and humor.
The title refers to the story of Susanna and the Elders, described in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Prominent elders had their eye on the beautiful and chaste Susanne. They watched her in the privacy of her garden when she wanted to bathe, and tried to seduce her. Susanna refused the advances, whereupon the offended men falsely accused her of adultery. She was sentenced to death by stoning. The whole community believed the elders except Daniel. He exposed the lie, proved Susanna's innocence and had the old men condemned in return.
Tytgat’s Susanna, on the other hand, does not seem so steadfast in her principles of chastity and fidelity. The three tragic old men try each in their own way to seduce her to immorality. The most cunning of them charms the fair lady with a white lily - “Susanna” in Hebrew, symbol of innocence and purity. The flower is already bent. A sneaky cupid scatters love in the form of roses. They fall right into Susanna's lap, out of which her carnal lusts well up and take control.
Tytgat depicts a bittersweet scene in which his naive style masks the complexity of the images. The seemingly clumsy drawing does not bother about anatomy or reality. Clear lines delineate simple colors. The fair skin of the desirable Susanna contrasts with the unsavory fellows. In their wake darkness and destruction follow: the sky darkens, a tree dies, the ground withers. The primitive perspective, piled up as in Medieval compositions, shows in the clear distance the virtue that Susanna leaves behind. A laborious guy, her husband, is working his tail off to provide for his home and offspring. The unfortunate does not know what is going on behind his back.
“The Judgment of Paris” is a masterly executed drawing showing wonderfully how Paul Delvaux managed to express his craftsmanship and originality. At the time of execution in 1949, he already saw his name confirmed as the figurehead of Belgian surrealism, alongside René Magritte. When Delvaux spent a few months of that year with his friend Claude Spaak in Choisel, not far from Paris, it was one of his most fruitful periods, during which he created numerous masterpieces. There are also several prints, in addition to beautiful drawings such as "The Spitzner Museum" (ca. 1943) and "Penelope" (ca. 1949).
Lot 214. The judgement of Paris (1949) - Est. €110.000-140.000
For the fairest one
The drawing is a mysterious depiction of delicate, modelled bodies in an idyllic setting. A young man finds himself in the company of three beautiful ladies. He is tormented by an impossible task: to choose the fairest one of them. The dark shadow partly veiling his face emphasises the inner struggle. Meanwhile, the three beauties are unapproachable. Their extraordinary serenity and elegance come from another dimension.
The garden where the characters are sitting is separated from the real world, which is barely visible behind the hedge. The timelessness evoked in the foreground is in contrast with the roof tiles and lampposts further away. The shadows in the garden do not match the moonlight. Delvaux’s meticulous interplay of lines and strange lighting effects, creates a dreamy and confusing atmosphere. It is a scene manifesting in the seclusion of the artist's imagination.
The subject of the Judgment of Paris is a perfect match for Delvaux: a story from Antiquity about absolute beauty, the fascination for women and their power that transcends time and space. The young man is like a stone, petrified by indecision. Time is ticking away, but the women patiently await the verdict. There is also a bigger problem: where is the apple?
Lot 284. Les oiseaux (1962-63) - Est. €44.000-55.000
“Les oiseaux” (1962-63) is a wonderful drawing by Georges Braque. The bird motif already appeared in the oeuvre of Georges Braque as early as 1929 and remained important until his death in 1963. The bird, which appears in many of his paintings, becomes a signature and represents, in his words, the "metaphor of the palette with inspired wings".
This artwork is also the final design for the lithograph "Oiseaux Fulgurants", p. 31 of the book "Lettera Amorosa" – Rene Char's book of love letters published in 1963.
This enchanting work, part of an important series that occupied the artist for several years, is full of soaring birds, an image of freedom, joy and movement. Two giant birds seem to meet in the sky, their wings spread. Their heads touch, as in an embrace.
Pop Art lovers will feast their eyes on the wide range of colorful artwork. Besides several screen prints by Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, there is “Catarina, dancing in denim skirt” (2009) by Julian Opie. But all eyes will be on two absolute icons from this period: Robert Indiana, whose world famous “LOVE” sculpture is on offer, and Roy Lichtenstein’s key piece “Drawing for Peace through Chemistry” (1968).
Lot 310. LOVE (1966-99) - Est. €250.000-350.000
The power of LOVE
Advertisements, billboards, letters, signs and symbols in the streets of New York in the 1960s screamed at Robert Indiana. They fueled his fascination for the power of signs and visual carriers of meaning. He literally transferred words into paintings and sculptures and elevated them to the status of art. The LOVE motif appeared for the first time in 1964, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York asked him to design a Christmas card. The four letters were an immediate success. With their unique design and direct message, they embodied the idealism and positivity of the love generation of the sixties.
Indiana's sculptures have become icons of Western modern art. The stacked letters speak for themselves and spread their message all over the world. From New York to Tokyo, they are integrated into public space as real landmarks. Varying in size and color scheme, they each carry Indiana's unmistakable style, always with one tilted letter - even in the Hebrew version located in Jerusalem.
In 1966 Indiana made the first sculpture from this motif. Like a literal wordsmith, he plays with the aesthetic power of typography. The materiality of the heavy metal contrasts with the function of words as a carrier of meaning, but Indiana manages to bring the letters together in a simple way. Graceful curves interact with sharp lines. Cavities and shadows appear. Plain color fields alternate. The visual impact of these sculptures stick to our memory.
LOVE is a bold sculpture. The pronounced letters and bright colors are impossible to ignore. Stacked compactly, the sculpture has a dignified attitude. It proudly spreads its positive message. The solid block is undermined by the rebellious letter “O”, which is about to roll out of the composition. The “O” causes uncertainty and indicates LOVE's fragility.
Lot 316. Drawing for Peace through Chemistry (1968) - Est. 100.000-160.000
Pop-chemistry in 1968
Pop is fun. Pop is joyful. Pop is familiar. But it's also in your face, opinionated and ironic. Pop strikes out the difference between 'high' and 'low' culture. Behind the simplistic lines lies a multiple layer of meaning. Lichtenstein appropriates forms and processes from popular culture and isn’t shy to criticize the established order of society.
“Study for Peace through Chemistry” is a straightforward drawing. No complicated perspectives and painting techniques, but strong, bold lines and stylized shapes with flattened blanks like a coloring page. Later versions will be filled in with primary colors and Ben Day dots. This drawing was followed in 1970 by the series “Peace through Chemistry”, which consists of four graphic works and a relief in bronze, as well as an oil painting.
Sharp contours divide the composition into a triptych. Ingeniously drawn lines make each panel tilt at an angle of 45° so our gaze stumbles from one part into the other, each depicting its own theme. The bright sun and leafy branch in the first panel rep
resent the natural process of photosynthesis. Next, a stylized figure examines something under a microscope. Analysis leads to scientific insight and gears are set in motion. The result can be seen in the last panel, showing a smoking test tube. Each panel repeats the same forms and processes in an ever further advanced stylization. The leafy branch becomes a gear. Sun rays become smoke plumes. The evolution towards mechanization is taking place.
The comic strip-like drawing has a futuristic slant reminiscent of 1930s propaganda, distributed at the time to glorify industrialization and to promote a positive vision of the future. Lichtenstein’s meaning seems to be clear: “Peace through chemistry”, an educational message portraying the end of war by scientific progress. But how do we use our privilege of education and knowledge? To enable mass production of chemical weapons as a tool of achieving world peace. What a naive optimism! Lichtenstein kicks in the face of Western hubris, this in 1968, a time when the United States is divided by the Vietnam War.
The catalogue includes an important selection of works by Panamarenko, such as the installation “Magnetic Fields” (1979) and “Study for ‘The Flying Island’” (2003). There are several artworks in oil on canvas as well as drawings by Roger Raveel. And there is an important painting by Raoul De Keyser from 1972.
Jan De Vliegher stands out with several of his monumental paintings. “À vif” is a major piece in acrylic on paper on canvas by Pierre Alechinsky, in the artist's dynamic and spontaneous style as untamable as a volcanic eruption. There are several important works by his hand.
“La légèreté de l'être” ("The Lightness of Being") depicts Jean-Michel Folon’s universal man, reduced to his elementary expression: two lines for the eyes, a nose, barely visible arms hidden in a cloak. The man barely touches the ground with only one foot. A raised head stares out acceptingly. Heaven awaits. A weightless calm detached from the daily affairs around us.
Jan Fabre's fame extends all over the world. He managed to create a universal style that transcends time and space. The auction includes several important works by him, such as the installation in three parts “Flemish landscape with head” (1990) which refers to “The Blue Hour”. “The Man Who Measures the Clouds” (1998) is an iconic sculpture. It is both a self-portrait by Fabre and a tribute to his late brother Emile. The bronze figure seems identical to that of the artist, but the face was modeled after his brother. A subtle balance through which brotherly love resonates. At least as iconic is the sculpture “The man who gives fire” (2002).
Lot 533. The man who gives fire (2002) - Est. 130.000-160.000
Prometheus in Flanders
A stooped figure hiding under his cloak holds a small flame in his right hand, the collar pulled up around his head to keep out the wind. He doesn’t light the fire for himself, but offers it to the viewer in a simple and altruistic gesture.
“The man who gives fire” reminds us of the Greek hero Prometheus. He gave mankind the fire of the gods, and brought them science and art. In the world of Jan Fabre, that is exactly what an artist does. He passes the fire on to others.
The work was first cast in 1999 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Guido Gezelle in Bruges. The city issued a commission, for which Fabre created with this sculpture the proverbial “night light of poetry”. In a first version, the man is barefoot and has stepped off its pedestal. The 2002 variant is wearing shoes.
Like in the rest of his visual oeuvre, Jan Fabre once again unveils a very personal imaginary world in which an individual visual language with recurring symbols and motifs sets the tone.