Francis Bacon's 'Study for a Portrait' (detail). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
LONDON.- A painting by Irish-born artist Francis Bacon sold for 18.0 million pounds ($28.7 million) on Tuesday, the second highest price paid for a work of art at a Christie's post-war and contemporary auction in London.
"Study for a Portrait," depicting a besuited man seated on a gilded armchair enshrouded in a sea of blue, had been expected to fetch around 11 million pounds, although the sale price includes a buyer's premium which the estimate does not.
The most expensive work of art sold at an equivalent sale at Christie's, London, was also by Bacon -- his "Triptych" raised 26.3 million pounds in 2008.
Executed in 1953, between Bacon's famous Pope series that year and his Man in Blue paintings of 1954, "Study for a Portrait" has never come to auction before.
Rodrigo Moynihan, who lent Bacon a studio, was the first owner. It later belonged to Louis Le Brocquy, the renowned Irish painter, who was the last to keep it before its acquisition by the present owner in 1984.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Study for a Portrait, oil on canvas, 78 x 54in. (198 x 137.5cm.). Painted in 1953. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
Provenance: Rodrigo Moynihan, London.
Louis Le Brocquy, Carros (Alpes Maritimes).
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1984.
Literature: W. Lewis, The Demon of Progress in the Arts, London 1954, no. 4 (illustrated, titled Man in a Chair).
J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, no. 78 (illustrated, unpaged).
D. Ades and A. Forge, Francis Bacon, London 1985, no. 23 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Exhibited: London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Francis Bacon, 1955, no. 10.
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Francis Bacon, 1966. This exhibition later travelled to Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte; London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. and Siegen, Oberes Schloss.
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, 1983. This exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Francis Bacon, Retrospektive, 1987, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, 2003-04, no. 89 (illustrated in colour, p. 237). This exhibition later travelled to Basel, Fondation Beyeler.
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon, 2008-09 (illustrated in colour, p. 131). This exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Notes: 'He managed in the course of 1953 to produce over twenty pictures in an annus mirabilis as inventive as it was prolific'
(M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich 2006, p. 33)
Situated between the seminal first series of Popes in 1953 and the landmark suite of Man in Blue paintings in 1954, Study for a Portrait represents a highly significant moment in Francis Bacon's oeuvre. Its vast scale makes it larger than most of the aforementioned, with Bacon making full use of the painting's extraordinary atmosphere to comment on the state of man in existentialist post-war Europe. Study for a Portrait is the last painting that Bacon created in his studio at the Royal College of Art, which Rodrigo Moynihan lent to him between 1951-53. It is imbued with all the pioneering works he created there including the Papal portraits and his first ever triptych portrait realised in 1953, Three Studies of the Human Head. All of these works were cast against the exquisite backdrop of his unique, ethereal liquid blue paint so expertly applied in Study for a Portrait. The painting has a distinguished and exclusive heritage of artistic ownership. Rodrigo Moynihan was the first owner and it later belonged to Louis Le Brocquy, the renowned Irish painter, who was the last to keep it before its acquisition by the present owner in 1984.
Enshrouded by a sea of midnight blue, Bacon artfully depicts a besuited man, seated on a gilded armchair evocative of a Papal throne. With his disdainful gaze cast through lightly rimmed, pince-nez glasses, the man imports an aura of authority, isolated and enclosed within the cage of Bacon's architectural spaceframe. His atmosphere is dark, rendered through washes of blue-black oil and turpentine saturated on canvas. The twilight of the painting is broken up by striations of pale parallel lines, evocative of the folds of rich drapery depicted in the artist's studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X. Highlights adorn the man's armchair with flashes of ochre tracing its contours like some golden throne for a ruling leader or the corporate seat of the trenchant capitalist. As David Sylvester has described, 'in these claustrophobic curtained settings, there loom up before us beings whose shadowy, ambiguous, unexpected presence takes command of any setting they survey, making real beings seem like shadows. They are as appalling as they are compelling, for these are creatures faced with their tragic destiny' (D. Sylvester, 'Francis Bacon', The British Pavilion: Exhibition of Works by Nicholson, Bacon, Freud, Venice XXVII Biennale, Venice 1954). In Study for a Portrait, Bacon imports a sense of the era's European post-war existentialism, cutting through the veneers of civilised society to distil the raw and visceral qualities of the human character onto canvas. As Michael Peppiatt has suggested, 'Bacon's genius was to have found a single image through which he could express the whole range of his most extreme emotions: fear, disdain, hate, lust, and even a fierce kind of love' (M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich 2006, p. 26).
The early 1950s was a time of great interaction between the artist and his friends and peers Rodrigo Moynihan, Lucian Freud and David Sylvester. Indeed as David Sylvester recalls, 'in those early days Lucian clearly had a crush on Francis, as I did. (We both copied his uniform of a plain, dark grey, worsted double-breasted Saville Row suit, plain shirt, plain dark tie, brown suede shoes)' (D. Sylvester, 'All the Pulsations of a Person', The Independent, 24 October 1993). The shadows of all of these men, including the artist's caustic lover Peter Lacy can be found in the face of this extraordinary portrait. KA
Francis Bacon's Study for a Portrait, 1953
By Martin Harrison
'Study for a Portrait (1953) relates to the 'Pope' paintings that preceded it, and it is clear that it anticipates the Man in Blue series commenced in 1954, yet in some decisive respects it conforms with neither of these categories, nor with his other contemporary portraits of seated men, and stands as a unique work'
(M. Harrison, May 2011).
In evaluating Francis Bacon's entire oeuvre it is evident that between 1948 and 1963 he had a strong tendency to paint in series. These series - several of popes, heads, studies from the life-mask of William Blake, the seven Man in Blue paintings, the seven men in glasses - were sometimes identified as such and each painting numbered, while others constituted, in effect, a series, such as the three dog paintings dating from 1952. In some of these Bacon appears to have been exploring the cumulative impact of a group of paintings in which he made incremental shifts around the formal matrix, adjusting the mood, gestures and emotion of the 'sitter'. As Bacon explained to Ronald Alley, he saw the images 'in a shifting way, and almost in shifting sequences. The pictures are painted one after the other, the last one suggests the next.' 1 This explanation was appended to Alley's entry for Study for Portrait 1 (1953), the first painting in what became a notable series of eight papal portraits, which Bacon completed shortly before commencing the present painting.2
Conversely, other important paintings that Bacon made in this period appear to have been conceived as discrete statements: he may have regarded subjects such as Elephant Fording a River (1952), for example, as too specific to be susceptible to further development. Study for a Portrait (1953) relates to the 'Pope' paintings that preceded it, and it is clear that it anticipates the Man in Blue series commenced in 1954, yet in some decisive respects it conforms with neither of these categories, nor with his other contemporary portraits of seated men, and stands as a unique work.
Firstly, Study for a Portrait (1953) is the most rigorously grisaille among Bacon's paintings of the period. The ground is painted in a dark, stygian register, the deeply-saturated, inky, Prussian blue-black contrasting with the greys of the inner image. The monumental figure, bespectacled and wearing a dark suit and neatly starched (and somewhat constricting) white collar and purple tie, is pictured from a quite low viewpoint. Strictly speaking the 'spectacles' are pince-nez, and thus refer to the film still of the screaming nurse from the Odessa Steps sequence in Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin that Bacon had grafted onto his Pope figures since 1949; this is further indicated by the extra 'falling' lens that Bacon painted under the man's right eye. Frontal, imperious, head raised, he is among the most magisterially aloof of all Bacon's 'authority' figures, be they popes or 'businessmen'. The atmosphere of hieratic indomitability is emphasised by the formal armature - the inner 'spaceframe' that interrupts the ground of vertical 'shuttering' (and secondary traces of curtaining) is virtually symmetrical and eschews the playfully 'incorrect' diagonals of which Bacon was so fond. The confined space that the figure occupies is delineated in pale blue paint, and its darker, receding planes mark this as one of Bacon's most coolly dramatic arenas, the spatial recession and the unlined dark 'roof' intensifying the isolation of the resolutely impassive man.
'Frontal, imperious, head raised, he is among the most magisterially aloof of all Bacons authority figures, be they popes or businessmen' (M. Harrison on Study for Portrait, 1953).
'Study for a Portrait (1953) shares some fundamental characteristics with the paintings of Mark Rothko, conspicuously its soaring abstract planes and subtle chromatic juxtapositions'
(M. Harrison, May 2011).
'In these claustrophobic curtained settings, there loom up before us beings whose shadowy, ambiguous, unexpected presence takes command of any setting they survey, making real beings seem like shadows. They are as appalling as they are compelling, for these are creatures faced
with their tragic destiny'
(D. Sylvester, 'Francis Bacon', The British Pavilion: Exhibition of Works by Nicholson, Bacon, Freud, Venice XXVII Biennale, Venice 1954).
Comparisons have often been made between Giacometti and Bacon, both figurative modernists committed to finding new ways to capture appearance and to represent the human body in space; for example, the the open cage construction of Giacometti's early sculpture The Palace at 4 a.m. (1933; Museum of Modern Art, New York) has been posited as a source for Bacon's spaceframes. The strong influence exercised on Britain's 'Geometry of Fear' sculptors by the gaunt, attenuated figures Giacometti evolved about 1946 was manifested in London in several of the entries to the competition for a 'Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner' in 1953 - contemporaneously, that is, with Study for a Portrait (1953). Bacon professed indifference to Giacometti's sculpture but greatly admired his paintings and drawings and called him the 'greatest draughtsman of our time'.3 In their unflinching frontality, monochrome palette and the device of the rectangular inner frame, Giacometti's Portrait of Peter Watson (1953; Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Bacon's Study for a Portrait (1953) have marked affinities; Bacon was closely acquainted with the art patron and collector Peter Watson, and probably knew this painting. But Bacon must have been familiar with the portrait busts in spaceframes that Giacometti had been painting since 1947, and it is likely that his own portraits were informed by them.
The chair in Study for a Portrait (1953) establishes continuity with the eight Popes that Bacon had painted a few months earlier in that despite being stripped down to a simplified, geometrical shape (it is shorn of the finials, for example) its edges are picked out in running lines and dabs of gold paint that refer back to the papal throne. In fact this was the first painting in which the legs and arms of the chair were painted in this more elaborate manner, and the immediate pictorial inspiration for this treatment was probably the studded armband worn by the king in Velázquez's Philip IV of Spain (c. 1656; National Gallery, London). Similarly, the man's purple tie was doubtless, like the vestigial tassel at the top of the painting, an atavistic reference to a leading motif of his pope paintings: Bacon initially believed, erroneously - he had only seen Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X in black and white reproduction - that the Pope's surplice was purple. The man's mouth is neither open in anguish nor baring teeth, but firmly closed, self-contained. Georges Bataille's observations in 'La Bouche' seem especially relevant here: Bataille claimed that 'human life is concentrated bestially in the mouth',4 and he evoked 'the magisterial aspect of the face with its mouth closed, beautiful as a strong-box'.5
The fleshy pink lips of Bacon's protagonist are unusual, and if they do point to an individual characterization it is possible they refer to David Sylvester, to whom Bacon was very close at the time the painting was made. The artist and critic briefly shared accommodation in 9 Apollo Place at the end of 1953 and lived in the same house at 19 Cromwell Road at the beginning of 1954; Sylvester was lecturing at the Royal College of Art while Bacon was painting there, and also dealing privately in Bacon's paintings during this period. Furthermore, Study for Portrait I (1953) had begun as a portrait of Sylvester 'who sat about four times for it until it turned into a pope'.6 Peter Lacy was possibly in the mix, too, but given Bacon's habit of merging and transposing the representations of individuals the identity of the 'sitter' will probably have to remain conjectural. A more definite comparison with the prominent lips is provided by Velázquez's portraits of Philip IV of Spain; besides the reproductions that Bacon owned of Velázquez's various versions of this subject, the National Gallery, London, held originals of not only the c. 1656 head-and-shoulders portrait, referred to above, but also Philip IV in Brown and Silver, c. 1631-32.
Study for a Portrait (1953), together with the painting that immediately preceded it, Portrait of a Man (1953), in which this detail is more cursorily delineated, represents the first occasion on which Bacon painted a man with his legs crossing. This pose, which recurred frequently in his paintings subsequently, was habitually adopted by Bacon himself when seated. In Study for a Portrait (1953) the suited body is painted quite thinly, with a broad brush, and evidently very rapidly, its energy providing an agitated, abbreviated counterpoint to the calmness and composure of the figure's general demeanour. The high reflectance of the oil-rich pigments in this passage is in marked contrast to the dominant low key of the painting. There is also implied movement in the positioning of the body, which twists round in the diagonally-positioned chair to confront the viewer directly.
Study for a Portrait (1953) was, then, a quintessential Bacon painting of the kind in which the leading art writers of the day found such compelling evocations of the existential zeitgeist. Their critical reception, and the resonance of Bacon's powerful (and powerless) figures, is clearly demonstrated in contemporary descriptions of them. Robert Melville thought Bacon's paintings fulfilled Nietzsche's gloomy prophecy to epitomise 'an age in which the breakdown in values has been completed', and he described Bacon's isolated figures as 'incarcerated' in glass boxes.7 The American critic Sam Hunter commented that Bacon's art was 'thoroughly contemporary in its vitality' and that 'No one has interpreted the acute postwar moods more vividly.'8 David Sylvester might have been addressing Study for a Portrait (1953) specifically in his remarks on Bacon's 'Settings which are luxurious and simple: lush velvet curtains and a gilded armchair. Like prison cells for highborn traitors.' 9
As a consequence of his peremptory departure from his flat at 7 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, in about April 1951, following the death of his former nanny and companion Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon had no access to a regular studio until the Autumn of that year, when Rodrigo Moynihan lent him his painting studio at the Royal College of Art. Moynihan had been appointed Professor of Painting at the college in 1948, and he was central to the drastic overhaul of its aims and syllabus initiated by Robin Darwin; it was in this studio that Moynihan painted the striking Portrait Group (1950; Tate Britain), which featured nine members of the Royal College's teaching staff. Bacon had already spent some time at the college deputising for John Minton in Autumn 1950. Although Bacon refused to teach any classes on either occasion, Albert Herbert was one of several artists who recalled the students' intoxication with Bacon's 'emotional realism' as well as his unconstrained attitude towards making art. These events serve as a reminder that at this stage in his career Bacon's interactions with London's cultural scene and its artists (Isabel Lambert, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Victor Willing and Michael Andrews) were of reciprocal significance.
Paradoxically, considering he was working in a borrowed space, Bacon had embarked on a creatively extremely fertile period. He began a passionate if turbulent love affair with Peter Lacy in 1952, and although their relationship eventually became problematical at first it undoubtedly acted as a stimulus for new paintings. Bacon was able to use the studio at the Royal College for two years, and Study for a Portrait (1953) was in fact the last painting that he finished there, in about October 1953. He apparently made a gift of it to Moynihan, a gesture of thanks he would repeat in 1969 when he presented the college with Study for a Bullfight No. I (1969), having been loaned a studio there for seven months while repairs were carried out on his house at 7 Reece Mews.10 Study for a Portrait (1953) was subsequently acquired by Louis le Brocquy, and was thus also unique in having been owned by two of Bacon's distinguished artist peers and friends.
That such a major painting as Study for a Portrait (1953) has not featured more extensively in the Bacon bibliography can probably be accounted for by its having been in private hands throughout the fifty-eight years of its existence. Since it had been acquired by Rodrigo Moynihan shortly after it was completed it was never exhibited at the Hanover Gallery and its sole public appearance in the 1950s was in Bacon's first museum retrospective, held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in January and February 1955. Thereafter, prior to its spectacular reappearance in the Tate centenary retrospective in 2008-09, it was exhibited only twice during the next thirty years, at Fondation Maeght in 1966 and in Japan in 1983; it was even absent from Lorenza Trucchi's comprehensive monograph of 1975. Interestingly, however, it had been published in 1954 by Wyndham Lewis in The Demon of Progress in the Arts, in which it was illustrated under the title 'Man in a Chair'. Lewis, who was responsible for some of the most perceptive writing on Bacon at this time, considered him 'the most astonishingly sinister artist in England, and one of the most original'.11 Although, in The Demon of Progress in the Arts, Lewis compares him with Goya and Bosch, an analogy Bacon would have firmly repudiated, he observed that 'the ethical and literary impulses throughout the work of Bacon constitute him an artist at the opposite pole to the pretentious blanks and voids of Réalités Nouvelles.'12 Lewis's remark raises the question of Bacon's dialogue with abstract expressionism, about which he was also notoriously dismissive. In spite of his public statements, however, Study for a Portrait (1953) shares some fundamental characteristics with the paintings of Mark Rothko, conspicuously its soaring 'abstract' planes and subtle chromatic juxtapositions.13
Bacon's individual idiom generally precluded all but the most superficial imitations, but Graham Sutherland's controversial Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill (1954), which Churchill abhorred and his wife eventually destroyed, resembled Study for a Portrait (1953) in too many respects for a connection between them to be mere coincidence: in this instance the younger artist appears to have influenced Sutherland. The blurred, ethereal rendition of the man's head in Study for a Portrait (1953) is redolent of a plaster cast, and curiously prefigures the five variations he began in 1955 based on a life-mask of William Blake. The rapt expression and raised head suggest the self-possessed figure may have been involved in activity such as listening to music, or was otherwise deep in thought. Its spectral quality is also reminiscent of an early daguerreotype, as though the man were a sitter in a photographic studio a century earlier. As usual, the greatest attention is reserved for the head, its poignant, urgent brushwork recalling Robert Melville's contemporary remark that Bacon was 'unquestionably, the greatest painter of flesh since Renoir'.14
Study for a Portrait (1953) takes its place, then, in a pantheon of arresting images of male angst and seclusion, extending a lineage that embraces such disparate images as Durer's engraving Melancholia (1514), Rubens's Daniel in the Lion's Den (c. 1615; National Gallery of Art, Washington) and Blake's Elisha in the Chamber on the Wall (c. 1819-20; Tate Britain), to which Bacon added a modern image of unsettling power and distinction.
Martin Harrison, May 2011
Martin Harrison is editor of the Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné being published in 2013.
1. Sir John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, 1964, p. 72.
2. See: Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Papal Portraits of 1953, 2002.
3. David Sylvester, Looking back at Francis Bacon, 2000, p. 200.
4. G. Bataille, 'La Bouche', Documents 2, 1930, pp. 299-300.
6. Rothenstein and Alley, op cit, loc cit.
7. R. Melville, 'The Iconoclasm of Francis Bacon', World Review, January 1951, pp. 63-64.
8. S. Hunter, 'Francis Bacon: The Anatomy of Horror', Magazine of Art, January 1952, pp. 11-15.
9. D. Sylvester, 'In Camera', Encounter, April 1957, pp. 22-24.
10. In 1975 Bacon exchanged this painting, at the college's request, for Study from the Human Body: Man Turning on the Light (1973-74). See: 'Study from the Human Body: Man Turning on the Light', An essay by Martin Harrison, Christie's, London, Post-war and Contemporary Art, Evening Sale, 14 October 2007, pp. 20-25.
11. W. Lewis, 'Round the London Art Galleries', The Listener, 21 September 1950, p. 368.
12. Wyndham Lewis, The Demon of Progress in the Arts, 1954; in 'Explanatory Notes', (unnum.)
13. The broad, coloured planes in several of Rothko's paintings dating from 1948/49 are comparable with the ground of Bacon's Painting (1950; City of Leeds Art Gallery). Rothko stayed in London twice during a tour of Europe in 1950, although it is not know if he and Bacon met then; but Bacon would certainly have encountered Rothko's paintings by 1953.
14. Melville, op cit, p. 64.
Elsewhere at the auction, "Woman Smiling" (1958-59), a landmark portrait by Lucian Freud, sold for 4.7 million pounds.
The only single portrait of Suzy Boyt, the woman who was to mother four of the artist's children, was last sold at auction in 1973 when it realized 5,040 pounds.
Lucian Freud (b. 1922), Woman Smiling, oil on canvas, 26 x 20in. (66 x 51cm.). Painted in 1958-59. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
Provenance: Mrs. Ian Fleming, London.
Her sale, Christie's London, 13 July 1973, lot 324.
James Kirkman, London.
Michael B. Wells, Banbury.
Simon Sainsbury, London (and thence by descent to the present owner).
Literature: L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, no. 68 (illustrated in colour, p. 91).
R. Hughes, Lucian Freud Paintings, London 1993, no. 20 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 1996-97 (illustrated, p. 16 and p. 104).
B. Bernard & D. Birdsall (ed.), Lucian Freud, London 1996, no. 93 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York 2007, no. 96 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Lucian Freud: L'Atelier, exh. cat., Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 2010, no. 26 (illustrated in colour, p. 198).
Exhibited: London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Lucian Freud, 1963, no. 1 (illustrated, unpaged).
London, Hayward Gallery, Lucian Freud, 1974, no. 78 (illustrated, pp. 29 and 48). This exhibition later travelled to Bristol, Bristol City Art Gallery; Birmingham, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and Leeds, Leeds City Museum and Art Gallery.
Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Lucian Freud Paintings, 1987-88, no. 20 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne; London, Hayward Gallery and Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie.
London, Tate Britain, Lucian Freud, 2002-03 no. 45 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Barcelona, Fundación la Caixa and Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art.
Notes: Please note this work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition Lucian Freud Portraits that will take place at the National Portrait Gallery in London 9 February-27 May 2012 and at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas 2 July-28 October 2012
'The turning point in Freud's work with the human clay, when he moved decisively away from the Ingriste modulation of flatness by contour, came in 1958 and 1959 with Woman Smiling'
(R. Hughes, Lucian Freud: Paintings, exh. cat., London 1989, p. 18)
Once described by Robert Hughes as 'the turning point in Freud's work with the human clay' (R. Hughes, Lucian Freud Paintings, exh. cat. London, 1987, p. 18), Woman Smiling is a majestic, larger than life-size portrait of Lucian Freud's young lover and prize-winning Slade School of Fine Art pupil, Suzy Boyt. Painted in 1958-59, it represents the only existing single portrait of the woman who was to mother four of Freud's children from 1957 to 1969 (Ali, Rose, Isobel and Susie) and whose friendship with the artist was to last many decades; she reappears over twenty years later, side by side with her son Kai in Freud's Large Interior, W11 (After Watteau) (1981-1983). Woman Smiling marks a landmark departure from the artist's earlier portraits with their careful contours, flat surfaces and empirical precision, influenced by the Neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres. Instead, in Woman Smiling, Freud begins to embrace a more gestural and painterly mark making offering comparison with the works of Franz Hals, Gustave Courbet and Théodore Géricault, as well as the emotive power of his contemporary Francis Bacon and the modern master, Pablo Picasso. Replacing his fine sable brush with a coarse hog's hair paintbrush, Freud sculpts the paint into a new surface that perfectly expresses the light and modulation of his subject's face, the rich impasto and expressionist brushstrokes building a unique human physicality. This technique has been a celebrated hallmark of the artist's oeuvre ever since. Woman Smiling is a tender and captivating portrait of a young woman caught in a moment of happy reflection. Smiling softly with her lips slightly parted and her eyes bashfully averting the artist's gaze, she appears enamoured, radiant with a bright blush illuminating her cheekbones. Executed early in their relationship, this deeply affectionate painting, perfectly captures the intimacy and attraction that existed between the two lovers. As the artist once said, 'Painters who use life itself as their subject-matter do so in order to translate life into art almost literally, as it were. The painter makes real to others his innermost feelings about all that he cares for' (L. Freud, 'Some Thoughts on Painting' Encounter, July 1954 quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, London 2002, p. 26).
Woman Smiling was formerly owned by two distinguished collectors and early patrons of Lucian Freud, Lady Rothermere and Simon Sainsbury. Lady Rothermere, who married Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond in 1952, introduced Freud to one of the great loves of his life, Caroline Blackwood in the early 1950s. She began to collect works by Freud in the late 1940s and amassed an exceptional group from this time as well as becoming the subject of two celebrated portraits in the early 1950s. She acquired Woman Smiling directly from the artist around the time of its execution and kept it until 1973 when it was sold at Christie's in London, alongside other works from her collection. Simon Sainsbury became one of Freud's greatest patrons and upon his death bequeathed three important works from across Freud's career to the Tate, London including Girl with a Kitten (1947) and The Painter's Mother (1972). One of the greatest collections of twentieth century British art ever assembled, he too was the subject of a much-celebrated portrait, Red Haired Man with Glasses realised from 1987-88.
In Woman Smiling, Freud fully embraces the possibilities of his medium replacing the thin and pliant brushstrokes of his sable brush for a coarse, hog-hair brush pushing the rich paint in such a way as to define the physiognomy and the muscles that constitute the contours of the face. In this respect, Freud was integrating his earlier influence of Ingres with the lively strokes of painters such as Franz Hals, Gustave Courbet and Théodore Géricault. Courbet and Géricault, two great exponents of modern realism, deeply eschewed the theatricality and classicism of the French Academy in favour of the depiction of physical reality, regardless of how blemished or imperfect. This essence of the real, fallible, living person was to find its way into Freud's method and most effectively in Woman Smiling. As Robert Hughes so eloquently describes, '[in Woman Smiling] the marks are brusquer; they find their equivalent for stringy hair and blotched complexion with improvised force, and their light from the white ground shows through. Now the small forms beneath the skin, the small bunches of muscle and little tossing wedges and crescents claim Freud's attention. In their folding, puckering and slippage there is more protuberance and pressure, linked to greater agility and freedom of drawing. The shadow under the left cheekbone, prolonged in a line to the raised corner of the mouth and joined by the serpentine shadow of the buccal muscles, is disturbing almost like a scar: it perverts the wholeness of the face, while giving it a pleated solidity' (op. cit., p. 18). This pronounced effect and the newly found plasticity of Freud's composition was to be carried over into his portraits and nude figures of the 1960s such as Pregnant Girl (1960-61) depicting Bernardine Coverley lying heavy, asleep against the worn upholstery of an armchair. The contrast of her skin and dark curl of her hair are made up of confident brushstrokes, the whole painting conveying a sense of light and atmosphere. This method, which was initiated with Woman Smiling, has become a hallmark of Freud's practice ever since.
Freud first seriously embarked upon painting in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In his paintings from this period, particularly those depicting his first wife Kitty Garman, daughter of the sculptor Jacob Epstein, Freud's attraction to the modern classicism of Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres is particularly apparent. In Girl with Roses (1947-48), Kitty appears fully illuminated, the flat shapes and smooth contours of her face and body carefully attended to by the artist. Each precise detail, from the unravelled caning of the chair to the small intricate light reflections in her large hazel eyes, is incorporated into the painting. Once described as the 'Ingres of Existentialism' (Ibid., p. 16), Freud's interest in the artist is perceptible in Girl in a Green Dress (1954) painted of his second wife, Lady Caroline Blackwood a few years later. Here Freud retains the same careful attention to detail but begins to add the effects of chiaroscuro, of light and shade, to his rendering of the figure.
'Around 1956, Freud exchanged his finely pointed sable brushes for stiffer hogshair and began to loosen his style, gradually amplifying his touch. Woman Smiling (1958-1959) marked a transformation in his painting style and can be seen as a landmark work'
(Tate Britain exhibition, Lucian Freud, June-September 2002).
During these early years Freud encountered Weeping Woman (1937), a work by fellow artist Pablo Picasso depicting his lover Dora Maar. Roland Penrose, a friend of Freud's had commissioned the artist to travel with the painting from London to Brighton to be showcased in an exhibition. Freud installed the painting on a seat opposite him in his railway carriage and studied it closely for the entire journey. Here was a painting, deeply transfigured without any striking likeness to the sitter, yet it projected a concrete sense of the woman's aura. As the artist said, 'I was so amazed that the bright sunlight in no way made it any worse or more garish or weaker or more painty. It seemed it was as powerful as possible' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, 'Beyond Feeling', Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1993, p. 13). For Freud, this encounter with Picasso, a few years before the creation of Woman Smiling laid early ground from which to reconsider his own rigid and precise portraiture. By the middle of the 1950s, Freud himself professed, 'I got very tired with the way that I was working: I felt that it was a limited and limiting vehicle for me, and I also felt that my drawing and my making artefacts - graphic artefacts - stopped me from freeing myself' (Ibid.)
At this time, Freud's friendship with his contemporary, the painter Francis Bacon was especially close. The mid 1950s had been an equally important moment for Bacon with the emergence of his landmark first Papal portraits and the Men in Blue series and the two artists were engaged in intense discussion about how to depict physical presence. Bacon was devoted to the process of transmitting the raw, visceral reality of the figure to canvas, what he called 'the pulsations of a person' (Francis Bacon interview with David Sylvester quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1987, p. 174). As Bacon went on to elaborate, in a portrait 'you have to record the face. But with their face you have to try and trap the energy that emanates from them' (Ibid.). This practice, particularly manifest in Bacon's paintings depicting the screaming images of Pope Innocent X, helped to inform Freud's novel approach to Woman Smiling. As Freud said of his friend, 'his work impressed me, his personality affected me. He talked a great deal about the paint itself, carrying the form and imbuing the paint with this sort of life. He talked about packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke, which amused and excited me the idea of paint having that power' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, 'Beyond Feeling', Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1993, p. 13).
In Woman Smiling, Freud adapts this approach to the canvas with a new and constructive energy, creating a sense of 'living volume' (L. Gowing quoted in Lucian Freud, London 1982, p. 118). The wedges of colour and form radiate with Suzy Boyt's inner spirit, apparently fulfilled and smiling with contentment. As Freud described, the difference between the photograph and the painted portrait is 'the degree to which feelings can enter the transaction from both sides. Photography can do this to a tiny extent, painting to an unlimited degree' (Lucian Freud, quoted in R. Hughes, op. cit., p. 18). It is this intimate relationship between painter and sitter that Freud so artfully transmits through his painting.
'Painters who use life itself as their subject-matter do so in order to translate life into art almost literally, as it were. The painter makes real to others his innermost feelings about all that he cares for'
(L. Freud, 'Some Thoughts on Painting', Encounter, July 1954 quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, London 2002, p. 26).
The transition to this method however was not an easy one. As Freud once admitted, 'I remember everything [about the period] because it was done with great difficulty' (op. cit., p. 132). It was partly this challenge that forced such a radical change in the artist's practice. Freud recognised the limitations of his existing approach to painting, explaining that 'by working in the way I did, it didn't evolve. Small brushes, fine canvas, used to drive me more and more agitated. I felt I wanted to free myself from this way of working. Also people said that they liked it, which I thought was really suspect' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, op. cit., p. 19). He gave up the process of sitting in front of an easel in favour of standing, a ritual that allowed him greater movement and gestural freedom, resulting in a more painterly approach that he sustains to this day. However he could not altogether renounce the detailed practice of his earlier oeuvre. 'Sometimes when I've been staring too hard' he confessed 'I've noticed that I could see the circumference of my own eye' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, op. cit., p.28). More than anything, Freud had a determined curiosity and ambition to change his painting from the middle of the 1950s and this came to fruition with Woman Smiling. As the artist once said, 'I felt more discontented than daring. It wasn't that I was abandoning something dear to me: it was more that I wanted to develop something unknown to me' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, op. cit., p. 20).
Suzy Boyt reappears again in Freud's oeuvre over twenty years after Woman Smiling, to feature in his large group work, Large Interior W11 (after Watteau) (1981-1983). Seated on the bed in a staging of Jean-Antonie Watteau's masterpiece Pierrot Content (1812), Freud assembles individually from left to right, the painter Celia Paul, his daughter Bella Freud holding a mandolin, Suzy Boyt's son Kai as Pierrot, and Suzy Boyt herself. In front of the adults, lying supine, is the sister of Ali Boyt's girlfriend, a young child called Star. As Freud has often emphasised, 'my work is purely autobiographical. It is about myself and my surroundings' (Lucian Freud quoted in W. Feaver, op. cit., p.35). In this respect, the artist's sitters are most often his close friends or family. Indeed as the artist once said, 'who closer than my children?' (Ibid., p. 20).
Freud's children by Suzy Boyt have been the subjects of many of the artist's works. The paintings investigating their characters and characteristics have included in addition to Large Interior W11 (after Watteau), Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait) (1965) depicting Rose and Ali, Large Interior Paddington (1968-9) depicting Isobel affectionately nicknamed Ib, Portrait of Ali (1974), Ib (1977-78), Portrait of Rose (1978), Ib (1983-84), Head of Ib (1988), Susie (1988), Susie (1988-89), Susie (1989), Drawing of Ib (c. 1989), Rose (1990), Ib (1990), Kai (1991-92), Ib and her Husband (1992) and Ib Reading (1997). Ali, Rose, Ib and Susie Boyt were all named as he painted them unlike the many other elusive titles employed elsewhere in the artist's oeuvre. As William Feaver has explained, 'to name them was to acknowledge them; to paint them was to get to know them after missing the childhood years' (Ibid., p. 20). Freud once rationalised, 'if you're not there when they are in the nest you can be more there later' (Ibid., p. 20). For Rose Boyt, leaving home at the age of fifteen to live in a flat near her father's studio in West London, was the beginning of a new relationship with her father, 'he'd come round, and I'd make him a fried egg on toast and a cup of tea, and we used to just talk; I suppose that's when I started to know him as more of an adult' (Rose Boyt interview with Michelle Green in People, vol. 34 no. 12, 24 September 1990). The relationship between Freud and Suzy Boyt was equally unconventional, Suzy taking her young brood away with her alone on a series of travels aboard European cargo ships lasting eighteen months. Later they spent five months exploring Trinidad and the West Indies together, all without the company of the children's father. As Rose suggests 'both of my parents had very traditional families and maybe they wanted to be free of those kinds of constraints' (Ibid.). Nevertheless, the repeat appearance of Suzy Boyt and her children by Freud, as well as her son Kai, over the span of the artist's long career pays testimony to the deep bond he continues to share with the family.
Woman Smiling marks a decisive watershed in the practice and process of Lucian Freud's painting. Executed in 1958-59, it offers a technical departure, engaging in the emotive strength of his contemporaries Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso as well as the liberated brushstrokes of his forbearer Franz Hals, and the modern realism of Courbet and Géricault. In embracing these approaches to using paint, Freud was engaging with a new kind of energy and ability to engage the viewer on a personal level. When looking at Woman Smiling one is capable of understanding the depth of feeling that existed between the two lovers, through the simple yet revealing smile and tempered expression of the young Suzy Boyt. It is this ability to capture the essence of the sitter that has established Freud as one of the greatest European chroniclers of the human experience of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. KA
'[In Woman Smiling] the marks are brusquer; they find their equivalent for stringy hair and blotched complexion with improvised force, and their light from the white ground shows through. Now the small forms beneath the skin, the small bunches of muscle and little tossing wedges and crescents claim Freud's attention. In their folding, puckering and slippage there is more protuberance and pressure, linked to greater agility and freedom of drawing. The shadow under the left cheekbone, prolonged in a line to the raised corner of the mouth and joined by the serpentine shadow of the buccal muscles, is disturbing almost like a scar: it perverts the wholeness of the face, while giving it a pleated solidity'
(R. Hughes, Lucian Freud: Paintings, London 1989, p. 18).
A large scale portrait of Chairman Mao by Andy Warhol dated 1973 fetched 7.0 million, in line with expectations.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Mao, signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 73' (on the overlap), acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 50 x 42in. (127 x 106.7cm.). Executed in 1973. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
Provenance: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York.
Knoedler and Company, New York.
Todd Brassner, New York.
Irving Galleries Fine Arts, Milwaukee.
Dr. and Mrs. Donald M. Levy, Milwaukee.
Armand P. Bartos, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature: Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1989 (installation view illustrated, p. 332).
Andy Warhol: Paintings 1960-1986, exh. cat., Luzern, Kunstmuseum Luzern, 1995 (installation view illustrated, p. 63).
Andy Warhol: A Factory, exh. cat., Bilbao, Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, 1999-2000 (installation view illustrated, p. 399).
S. King-Nero and N. Printz (eds.), The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures, 1970-1974, vol. 03, New York 2010, pp. 167, 176 and 181, no. 2300 (illustrated in colour, p. 205 and installation view p. 180 and p. 254).
Exhibited: Paris, Musée Galliera, Andy Warhol: Mao, 1974.
Bogota, Museo de Arte Moderna, Color as Language, 1975. This exhibition later travelled to Sao Paulo, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo.
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, Warhol-Beuys-Polke, 1987, no. 15 (illustrated). This exhibition later travelled to Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum.
Hong Kong, Christie's, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Mao, 2008, no. 3 (illustrated in colour).
Notes: 'If Warhol can be regarded as an artist of strategy, his choice of Mao as a subject - as the ultimate star - was brilliant. The image of Mao taken from the portrait photograph reproduced in the Chairman's so-called Little Red Book, is probably the one recognised by more of the earth's population than any other - a ready-made icon representing absolute political and cultural power. In Warhol's hands, this image could be considered ominously and universally threatening, or a parody or both.'
(K. McShine, Andy Warhol Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989, p. 19).
'Oh, That's a good idea. But I was just reading in Life magazine that the most famous person in the world today is Chairman Mao. Shouldn't it be the most famous person, Bruno?'
(Andy Warhol quoted in B. Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York 1990)
Now seeming to stand like prophetic symbols of the end of the Cold War and of the strange marriage of Communism, Consumerism and Western Fashion that so distinguishes 21st Century China, Andy Warhol's portraits of Chairman Mao rank among the most powerful and enduring of all the artist's images. Part icon, part portrait, part abstract expressionist painting, part Communist propaganda infused with disco kitsch, these extraordinary portraits mark both a comparatively rare Warholian incursion into the realm of political iconography and his very first post-modernist experiments in painting.
Staring incongruously through a thick, sumptuous, and textural play of apparent abstraction rendered by broad, vibrantly coloured brushstrokes of acra violet, napthtol crimson and dioxazine purple, the painting presents its famous sober-faced icon as if lost or dissolving into a glamorised swathe of synthetic colour. A comparatively large portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong, it belongs to the series of 50 x 42 inch portraits of the Chinese leader that Warhol made in the first months of 1973. It is also one of eleven portraits made in this format that Warhol chose to represent this series at the landmark exhibition of Mao paintings he presented at the Musée Galliera in Paris in May 1974, where it was displayed in a dramatic row of vibrant and differently coloured Mao images hung on a wall plastered with 'Mao' wallpaper.
Comprising solely of highly painterly images of the same icon-like portrait of Mao Zedong executed in a range of different and deliberately garish colours, styles and sizes, this Mao exhibition in Paris marked, in many respects, Warhol's first major statement in painting of the 1970s after what had been a long hiatus begun in the late 1960s. Now widely recognised as one of the defining moments in the artist's career, it was this exhibition and the Mao series in particular that seemed to dramatically reaffirm Warhol's commitment to the art of painting and which re-announced him on the international stage as an artist with his finger still very much on the pulse of contemporary culture.
Warhol had begun to paint Mao in the spring of 1972 in the immediate aftermath of Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. Largely preoccupied with his films, the running of his new magazine Interview and the establishment of what he described as 'business art' throughout the late 1960s and early '70s Warhol had, initially, to be encouraged back to painting by his European dealer Bruno Bischofberger and his assistant Fred Hughes. As Bob Colacello remembered, the Mao paintings 'began with an idea from Bruno Bischofberger...Bruno's idea was that Andy should paint the most important figure of the twentieth century', that he should not just 'go back to painting' but begin a whole new body of work, distinct from portraiture with an ambitious theme. (B. Colacello Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 1990, p. 110-111) Bischofberger suggested Albert Einstein, but Warhol is said to have replied, 'Oh, That's a good idea. But I was just reading in Life magazine that the most famous person in the world today is Chairman Mao. Shouldn't it be the most famous person, Bruno?' (Andy Warhol quoted in ibid).
Mao was not merely the most famous person on the planet but a figure whose image had almost certainly been reproduced more times than any other. In addition to this, in the wake of Nixon's visit, Warhol had also become intrigued by the idea of a figure such as Mao being 'in fashion'. 'Since fashion is art now and Chinese is in fashion', Warhol reasoned, to do 'Mao would be really nutty not to believe in it, it'd just be fashion but the same portrait you can buy in the poster store.' (Andy Warhol, quoted in David Bourdon, Warhol, London, 1995, p. 317) As a result of this thinking, Warhol's original idea with his proposed Mao portraits, was not to 'do anything', just to 'print up' the image (that one can buy in the poster store) 'on canvas.' (Ibid, p. 317) But, he soon afterwards became fascinated by both the visual and conceptual possibilities offered by the clash of Communist propaganda imagery and Western fashion kitsch. In a progressive sequence of images of Mao taken from the American edition of the 'little red book', he then increasingly glammed up this iconic image, seemingly translating this powerful, mysterious, and to American eyes, strangely alien and threatening image of Communist propaganda into a glamourised 1970s pop idol reminiscent of his own celebrity portraits. The iconoclasm of this approach and the apparent clashing of two very different cultures within one single image - something typical of so much of Warhol's art in general - was such that it ultimately opened up a new world of painterly possibility that he was to pursue throughout much of the 1970s from the ensuing fetishism of the Hammer and Sickles and the Guns, to the playful pseudo-abstraction of his Shadows and Camouflage paintings.
Between May 1972 and June 1973 Warhol produced five series of paintings of Mao, a portfolio of prints, a series of drawings and a design for wallpaper all based on the colour photograph of the Chinese leader that appeared as the frontispiece of the American edition of his "Little Red Book" - The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. Warhol had established the format and style for this series in a sequence of eleven 2m-high works that he made in the spring of 1972 soon after the Nixon visit. Towards the end of the year he then made four giant paintings of Mao - the largest single-image works of his career - that stood at over four meters high and which would, he hoped approximate the vast (though actually different) single image of Mao that still hangs today from Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. These four giant works, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Nationalgalerie, Berlin and a private collection, together with the eleven early Maos from 1972 all, in the main, followed fairly closely the format of the original source photograph, maintaining its grey-blue background and using naturalistic skin colouring. In the four giant Mao paintings there are traces in some, of a deliberately humorous and iconoclastic cosmetic enhancement of the Chairman's face, using colours that hint at rouge and lipstick. But this apparent 'slapping up' or 'camping up' of the famous Chinese icon is slight in comparison with some of the extremely painterly disco-glamour enhancements Warhol made in the further series of Maos made in 1973.
'I've been reading so much about China. They're so nutty. They don't believe in creativity,' Warhol said at this time, 'The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It's great. It looks like a silkscreen'
(Andy Warhol quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, London, 1995, p. 317).
In contrast to the fifteen Mao paintings of 1972, Warhol deliberately made his 1973 Maos all unique and clearly individual works, distinguishing each of them from the others by using a wide range of different colours and a demonstrably textural and highly painterly style that brilliantly and humorously evoked a sense of painterliness or what the French call 'peinture'. 'I've been reading so much about China. They're so nutty. They don't believe in creativity,' Warhol said at this time, 'The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It's great. It looks like a silkscreen.' (Andy Warhol quoted in D. Bourdon, op cit, p. 317) Exploring a paradoxical sense of unity and diversity in these works by colouring each uniform image differently, Warhol has, in this series, also deliberately chosen to employ a demonstrably exaggerated play of brushwork. As a rare video of him painting a giant Mao reveals, Warhol began the Mao paintings by liberally splashing his colours onto the raw canvas in a loose, gestural and semi-abstract manner. It was then over this almost-free-style painted surface that the imposing image of Mao's face was then silkscreened.
Warhol's painterly style, was a deliberately sumptuous and mock-gestural approach that he once described as his 'just be sloppy and fast' method of painting. His aim he said was to emulate in paint the way that Julia Child - presenter of the TV programme The French Chef - cooks. Here, in this work, this seemingly nonchalant but also clever post-modernist take on the lofty tradition of 'peinture', has been deliberately applied to the Mao image to humorously assert the supposed genius and individuality of the artist's hand and project a sense of the uniqueness and colourful desirability of the art object onto the work. These, highly marketable qualities, so admired by the Western art world with its cult of the individual genius, are all, of course, ones that stand at complete odds with the Mao's subject-matter and the solemn, penetrative gaze of the authoritarian icon of uniformity and Collectivism that they depict.
Warhol's presentation of his Maos in rows at the Musée Galliera exhibition - all different, yet all the same - reinforced this contrast, seemingly transforming the instigator of China's Cultural Revolution into not just another cosmetic icon of decadent Western fashion but clearly also into a collectible - a fashionable and desirable art-market commodity. The use of Chairman Mao wallpaper as a setting seemed also to reaffirm this transformation of the Chinese leader into a tame bourgeois fashion motif. Warhol himself, seemed keen to make this point at the show by reportedly responding to any French critic who asked him why he had chosen Mao as a subject by saying that he had always been interested in fashion. And, indeed, it was this aspect of these Maos, along with their apparently deliberate play on the demystifying aura of painterly technique - that was picked up after the Musée Galliera show by most the French critics. Bernard Borgeaud for example, saw the exhibition as a kind of post-modernist critique of the whole concept of the cult of the individual genius and the peinture-peinture or 'painterly painting' tradition, which was then enjoying a brief resurgence in the post-minimalist era of the early 1970s. For Bergeaud these paintings represented a brilliant Warholian fusion of Chinese collectivism and the individualism of American DIY. Warhol here, in his portraits of Mao, he said, 'liquidates the myth of the creative artist and transgresses doubts about art. Do it yourself, like in China where one might expect the fracture of a master, one finds instead a facile execution deprived of craft, which places the myth of the unique, creative genius in questionhe does not shrink from striking the fatal blow to that galloping new mode which embraces the return to painterly painting, to craft, to finish.' (B. Bougeraud, Pariscope, 27 February 1974, p. 92)
It is this unique Warholian fusion of East and West in these works - the apparently wry subsuming of two seemingly opposed political ideologies to the playful and superficial worlds of Pop and fashion, that endows them with the prophetic qualities they have today. Seeming to anticipate the Coca-Cola-drinking images of Mao that so distinguished Chinese Pop art of the 1990s along with much of the stereotypical images of modern China today, Warhol's radiant disco-coloured Maos now serve as powerful icons of today's brave new world. RB
Overall the auction raised 78.8 million pounds. Rival auction house Sotheby's holds its equivalent sale on Wednesday during a key few weeks for the art market, which has rebounded strongly from the slump of 2009. (Reporting by Mike Collett-White)