Upcoming auction highlights
Pierre Alechinsky, Pablo Atchugarry, Evelyne Axell, Bram Bogart, Lynn Chadwick, Emile Claus, Robert Combas, Felix De Boeck, Raoul De Keyser, Paul Delvaux, Wim Delvoye, Valerius De Saedeleer, Gustave De Smet, Léon De Smet, Anna De Weert, James Ensor, Henri Evenepoel, Jean-Michel Folon, George Grard, Keith Haring, Floris Jespers, David Lachapelle, André Lanskoy, Bengt Lindström, Louise Nevelson, Hans Op de Beeck, Panamarenko, Jozef Peeters, Constant Permeke, Roger Raveel, Jakob Smits, Léon Spilliaert, Olivier Strebelle, Walter Swennen, Edgard Tytgat, Koen Van den Broek, Rinus Van de Velde, Louis Van Lint, Koen Vanmechelen, Eugeen Van Mieghem, Henri-Victor Wolvens, Rik Wouters, Maurice Wyckaert, Ossip Zadkine, ...
Works from the succession of the Taevernier family
August Taevernier managed to build a collection of unprecedented quality, thanks to his personal contacts with artists such as Gustave De Smet and Constant Permeke, but also art dealers such as Paul van der Perre and the Georges Giroux Gallery. The foundations of his collection were already laid during his days as a student, when he bought drawings and etchings by Jules De Buycker and Dirk Baksteen. August planted the seed that will continue to grow in later generations of his family, including his son Ignace Taevernier. We are proud to offer in this auction a wide range of artworks from the Taevernier family succession. Etchings, drawings and paintings by James Ensor, Henri Evenepoel, Jakob Smits, Gustave De Smet, etc.
There is Henri Evenpoel's painting "The dance, Algeria" (1898), from his Algerian period, next to to some beautiful drawings, a large nude study of a man in oil (ca. 1894) and "The quay in Paris" ( 1894).
Lot 97. The dance, Algeria (1898) - Est. €46.000-55.000
The photographer-painter in exile
Henri Evenepoel arrives in Algeria in the autumn of 1897. Recovering from tuberculosis, the young artist is anything but enthusiastic about the start of his North African adventure. He has left familiar Paris with obvious reluctance, under slight duress from his father, who hopes that this study trip will mark the end of Henri's relationship with his cousin Louise. The painter has been staying with her and her family since the beginning of his studies, and at the time of his departure the two even have an illegitimate child, Charles.
Letters to Louise show that it is a deeply unhappy period. Not only does the artist miss his beloved, but he has difficulty in adapting to his new surroundings in every way. The bright African light is completely different from that in France, and the Muslims he encounters here, unlike the Parisians, do not willingly allow themselves to be portrayed. It explains why Evenepoel makes frequent use of his Pocket-Kodak in this phase. Secretly shot images form the basis of his sketches. The drawings and paintings he made in Algeria would later be counted among the best of his oeuvre.
“La danse, Algérie” is a clear example of a painting based on such a snapshot. A character in motion, not quite neatly framed. The dancer's feet are cut out of the picture. We see an Evenepoel who goes further than in the portraits we are used to seeing from him. Photography is proving to be an undeniable modernising factor in the development of the artist's formal language.
One of the most impressive works at this auction is the voluminous bust of “James Ensor” (1913) by Rik Wouters. Ensor himself wrote to Emma Lambotte that he was very pleased with the result. Other copies can be found in the Bayerische Staatsgemälde Sammlungen in Munich, the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo and the KMSK in Brussels.
There are more Impressionist gems to discover. For example, there is a luminous “Summer Day at the river Lys in Astene” (1911) by Emile Claus. “The facade with wisteria” (1912-13) is a most charming painting by Anna De Weert in which the Ghent artist depicts the colorful facade of her own home. Also by her hand: a lovely canvas “Orchard with ducks” (1925). “Baigneuses” (ca. 1906/1909-10) is an Arcadian representation by Georges Lemmen, bathed in warm light.
Lot 149. James Ensor (1913) - Est. €100.000-150.000
Ensor fills the room
Hands reflective behind his back, piercing eyes and leaning slightly to the side, James Ensor looks at us with a penetrating gaze. He takes an examining pose, as if he were the one standing in front of the artwork and not the other way around. The artist fills the room with his lifelike personality. One can imagine the silence in the salons at the time, waiting for his judgement.
The bronze is heavy and voluminous. The grandmaster impresses with his larger than life figure. But the fleeting appearance of the sculptural technique undermines the static mass. The particular surface of the sculpture is irregular and unfinished, allowing an authentic reflection of light. The material incorporates a being, masterly brought to life by Wouters with a radiant aura.
Ensor and Wouters met several times. In 1913, on the occasion of an exhibition “Kunst van Heden” in Antwerp in which they both took part, Ensor promised to pose for a bust. In the spring he indeed came to Wouters' studio in Bosvoorde. The sculpture was ready in two or three sessions. On April 18, 1913, Ensor wrote a letter to Emma Lambotte expressing his satisfaction with the bust:
The sculptor Wouters made a bust of me in Brussels. It's well done and I'm pleased.
From 1900 to 1904, Rik Wouters took sculpture and drawing lessons at the academy of his native city of Mechelen and later at the academy of Brussels. He started his career as a sculptor, but from 1907 he also took up painting. Emile Claus's luminism appealed to him very much. Later he discovered the work of James Ensor, whom he deeply admired. Despite the successes of his paintings, he will always find the greatest pleasure and freedom in sculpting.
By Gustave De Smet there are, among others, “Head of a fisherman” (1918) and a “Girl with a red bow” (1940). There are several watercolors by Léon Spilliaert, as well as two oil paintings “Marine” (1924) and “Park at sundown, Ostend” (1921). George Grard shows a great love for the female figure. He creates his ideal of beauty with round shapes and curvaceous volumes. By his hand there is a large “Woman Standing” (1938) which measures 183 cm high.
Edgard Tytgat is known for his wonderfully narrative style. The apogee of his oeuvre is revealed by “Quelques images de la vie d'un artiste” (1946). The narrative composition describes in a series of images the suffering of his childhood and his career as an artist, also his first successes.
Lot 252. Quelques images de la vie d'un artiste (1946) - Est. €80.000-100.000
Edgard Tytgat, visual storyteller
“We get on on the merry-go-round. It barely gets started when I pass out. Everyone in turmoil. Women in black hooded cloaks carry me home. My brother follows us, shivering and weeping.” (Edgard Tytgat, Memories of Childhood and Youth, ca. 1950)
This is how Edgard Tytgat's first tale goes. A traumatic experience that haunts him as a child and enriches him as an artist. At this precise moment, the seeds of his painting career were sown. It is therefore the first scene of this masterly canvas "Quelques images de la vie d'un artiste". Tygat chronologically depicts his life as an artist, his successes and misfortunes, his dreams and nightmares.
The top row shows Tytgat's troubled childhood. Then in the second row we see his quest as an artist and his detachment from the parental home. His career takes off, while at the bottom row it becomes clear that after the top, decline follows. The autobiographical scenes also refer to other paintings by Tytgat, such as in the middle of the third row: "Ministerial visit", which he made in 1934.
The penultimate image depicts Tytgat as an ant, who gives his savings to the taxman, depicted as a giant pig. After the war, Tytgat owed a large sum, almost all of his savings, to the tax authorities. A claim that marked the artist for a long time. In the last image, he resumes his journey, naked and destitute, with his beloved wife.
Tytgat takes us on a visual journey through his repertory. In twelve scenes he tells the story of his life, which he subtly decorates with fable, fantasy, myth and humor. Delineated scenes form a linear narrative that is depicted in one single image like a comic strip. It is a seemingly simplistic way of rendering, after a medieval example, but Tytgat is inventive and ingenious. With a web of references, autobiographical elements, stories, fantasy and titles, he weaves a monumental story complex in which images and meanings fully unfold in their mutual relationship.
Felix De Boeck, among others, created cutting-edge art unseen at its time. There is, for example, the abstract painting “The Fall of the Butterfly” (ca. 1923), which was painted on both sides revealing “Life Synthesis” (ca. 1929) on the reverse side. “Composition 5” (1959) is a modernist abstract painting by Jozef Peeters. It was part of the collection of Jo Delahaut and was included in the retrospective exhibition at the I.C.C. in Antwerp in 1978.
There are also four important canvases by Louis Van Lint. His works include “Cristaux” (1957) and “Mirage marin” (1957), which measures no less than 274 x 109 cm.
Evelyne Axell is one of the few representatives of Pop Art in Belgium. Her compositions are daring and provocative. As a person, she is much talked about and controversial. Her untimely death adds to the myth. “Le beau châssis” (1967) shows the artist's originality and sense of humor. She uses materials and bright colors in an atypical way. Theambiguous title does not only refer to the framework… This work is truly unique in her limited oeuvre.
Lot 340. Le beau châssis (1967) - Est. €340.000-500.000
The thrill of life
The 1960s were one of the most innovative periods of the 20th century. The exchange of ideas on liberalism, pop culture, femininity and self-consciousness created an extraordinary dynamic in which Evelyne Axell's creativity could flourish. The mythical artist does not just stand for her art, she stands for a way of being. Or what Pierre Restany calls “the thrill of life”.
Axell was one of the few female pop artists in Europe. Despite her far too short career, she managed to distinguish herself with an extremely personal and original iconography. She initially started out as a theatre and film actress in the Nouvelle Vague scene. It quickly became clear to her that, as a female performing artist, she was subject to the male gaze, which would obstruct her creativity too much. She then devoted herself to painting, under the wing of René Magritte.
Above all, my world is an unconditional ‘joie de vivre’, in spite of its aggressive aspect. My motive is clear: nudity and femininity reflect a vision of the world in favor of a bio-botanical freedom, that is a freedom that resists both frustration and gradual binding, and one that is willing to accept only the restrictions it imposes upon itself.
“Le beau châssis” (“The beautiful framework”) is an unprecedented audacious work of art. It is not a painting in the classical sense. The painting appears to be on the back. What we see is only a shadow of the depicted. Sensual contours suggest an anonymous woman, normally subject to the viewer’s gaze, but this time she turns her back on us. Unlike the naked canvas, the framework is vividly covered in bright colors. The ambiguous title not only refers to the chassis, but is used in the French language as an objectifying reference to feminine beauty.
Axell creates a dreamy image with a touch of eroticism in which she incorporates surrealism and humor. Pin-ups and seductresses are objectified by her fellow male pop artists into excesses of the consumer society, a product of the masses. Axell manages to reclaim this image of the woman, a woman who is free and unbound.
The new vision
Roger Raveel looked at the world in his own unique way. He developed an original visual language that will determine future artists in Belgium. His paintings include the large oil painting “Z. voor een schilderij in een schilderij” ("Z. in front of a painting in a painting") (1977), and “Boompje in een schilderij-venster” ("Small tree in a painting-window") (1978). There is also important art by his student Raoul De Keyser. “The unanswered question” (1972) shows the artist's minimalist vision of everyday reality.
Lot 371. The unanswered question (1972) - Est. €100.000-140.000
The challenged painting
From the 1970s, Raoul De Keyser renders his painting more subtle and sensitive. The harsh colors and bold outlines of clouds, boxes and chalk lines soften. Delicate nuances reveal the brushstroke and defy the wide monochromatic surface. Edges are more brittle and interact with color areas.
The duality between the recognizable and the abstract provokes tension in “The Unanswered Question” (1972). Green grass is a favorite subject of De Keyser. The flat Flemish plain shows a slight slope, but all the remaining space is left to the soft blue sky. The horizontality is challenged by an extremely subtle vertical line that is barely noticeable but mercilessly increases tension.
The contrast between flatness and upward movement questions the limits of the painting. Pictorial space expands beyond the canvas. The scenic dimension acquires a particular depth effect produced with minimal elements, emphasizing the autonomy of the painting as support and pictorial layer. De Keyser's canvases are representations of things in their simplest forms that are challenged.
Master of matter is Bram Bogart. He developed his own technique to shape color. The result are the typical matter paintings, which determine the space in which they are located with their color and volume. Several large works by Bogart are up for auction, including “Witinblauwkarmijn” (1969) (101.5 x 125 cm) and “Miroir de Visconti” (1982) (133 x 96.5 cm).
Olivier Strebelle plays with the effect of light and shadow. Curvilinear contours, concaves and convexes create surreal bronze creatures such as the monumental “Le Bon Génie I” (1965) which is more than two meters high. Strebelle creates characters who prefer to integrate into a green environment, such as a tree or a bush, where they open themselves up to special encounters.
“Pair of Sitting Figures VIII (695B)” (1975) is a remarkable pair in bronze by British artist Lynn Chadwick. There is also a sublime sculpture in pink Portuguese marble entitled “La porta del futuro” (1996) by Pablo Atchugarry.
Lot 400. Pair of Sitting Figures VIII (1975) - Est. €44.000-65.000
Geometry of fear
After serving as a pilot during the Second World War, British draughtsman and architect Lynn Chadwick returned to London with a new artistic spirit. He begins to experiment with small and light sculptures made of materials such as wire, wood and brass. Together with Giacometti, he would eventually become one of the most important sculptors in post-war Europe, finally breaking away from the previous generations' pursuit of romanticism and aesthetics. His archetypal sculptures of people and animals embody the state of disillusionment and existential angst in Europe during the Cold War years.
What is striking about Chadwick is that he improvises his sculptures. His large-scale, somewhat abstract works in bronze and steel are created without prior sketches or plans. Designing happens while he manipulates his material, he visualises while he works, and he rarely needs to make adjustments afterwards. The result is an oeuvre of figures that seem constructed rather than modelled, linearly bounded in space.
It reminds him of his training in architecture: "What it taught me was how to compose things, a formal exercise in composition, really, it has nothing to do with the building it represents". Chadwick did not attend art school and had no formal training as a sculptor. By applying his experience as an architectural draughtsman to his sculpture technique, he began to weld in a unique and innovative way. He considered the sculptures thus created to be autonomous, organic forms, more closely linked to nature than to Cold War politics.
The catalog includes an exceptional selection of contemporary works of art. One of the most remarkable artists is Jean-Michel Folon, whose three sculptures in bronze are on sale. “On the road – Personnage” (1992) , 105.5 x 48 cm, depicts his typical traveler in bronze. There is also “Sans bagages” (2005) and “Le départ” (2005).
There is a monumental painting by Koen van den Broek “Cross-Over” (2003), in which he makes an abstraction of a street view. Also in large format there is “This might draw out my time here” (2009), a charcoal drawing by Rinus Van de Velde that measures 182 x 226 cm. “Snow Landscape (Stars)” (2019) is a large 74 x 169 cm work in black and white watercolor by Hans Op de Beeck. Walter Swennen's works include "Combat naval" (2004), a poetic work that hides deeper layers.
Lot 549. Combat naval (2004) - Est. €70.000-90.000
Very simple, painting
"Painting is in all respects a completely absurd activity. Time and again, one has to make choices without any criteria. Each painting is a new beginning."
These are the words of Walter Swennen. The Brussels-based painter, however, gladly accepts the challenge of this ever-recurring white surface. You could call it art out of necessity. Or rather: art out of fundamental curiosity. A constantly repeated struggle with paint and colour. For Swennen, a painting does not have to be 'emotional' or 'understood': the very first goal of painting is, quite simply, to paint. A continuous investigation into the nature and problems of painting, into the fundamental question of what to paint, and how.
Swennen is known for a radical, experience-oriented and associative approach to painting, in which many different influences come together: jazz, philosophy, literature, comics ... the list is endless. But despite these many impressions: "I know I am a painter, but I don't know what to paint." Anyone who listens carefully hears a belief in the total autonomy of the work of art. And where art is autonomous, the possibility of classifying something into a style or school disappears. After all, adopting a style implies a certain routine.
Walter Swennen is therefore the artist who always goes back to square one. When one problem is solved, another arises. So there is no other option than to just start and do it. The result is an unusually fascinating and rich oeuvre that varies greatly in scale, style and material.
Saturday 20 May 2023
Consignment until 1 April
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