ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
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ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)

El dolor de Brunhilda

ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
El dolor de Brunhilda
signed and dated 'Tàpies - 1950' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
35 x 45 5⁄8 in. (89 x 116 cm.)
Painted in 1950
Private collection, Barcelona, by whom acquired directly from the artist in the early 1950s, and thence by descent to the present owners.
G. Gatt, Antoni Tàpies, Bologna, 1967, no. 26, p. 42 (illustrated pl. 26).
E. Gribaudo, ed., Pittori d'oggi: Tàpies, Milan, 1969, no. 36, p. 23 (illustrated).
F. Vincens, Antoni Tàpies o L'Escarnidor de Diademes, Barcelona, 1971, no. 2 (illustrated pl. 2).
A. Cirici, Tàpies: Witness of Silence, Barcelona, 1972, pl. 74 (illustrated).
P. Gimferrer, Antoni Tàpies i l'esperit català, Barcelona, 1974, no. 115, p. 368 (detail illustrated p. 93).
A. Franzke & M. Schwarz, Antoni Tàpies, Werk und Zeit, Stuttgart, 1979, p. 68 (illustrated fig. 59).
M. Fernández-Braso, Conversaciones con Tàpies, Madrid, 1981, p. 35 (illustrated).
A. Tàpies, Autobiografia, Venice, 1982, p. 181 (illustrated).
J. Vallès Rovira, Tàpies Empremta (art-vida), Barcelona, 1983 (illustrated).
A. Franzke, Tàpies, Barcelona, 1992, no. 29, pp. 62 & 357 (illustrated p. 62).
Fundació Antoni Tàpies, ed., Tàpies: The Complete Works, vol. I, 1943-1960, New York, 1989, no. 302, pp. 144 & 528 (illustrated p. 144).
Barcelona, Galeries Laietanes, Exposició Antoni Tàpies, October - November 1950, no. 25.
Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Antoni Tàpies, March - April 1968, no. 10, p. 48 (illustrated pl. 13); this exhibition later travelled to Hamburg, Kunstverein, May - July 1968; and Cologne, Kunstverein, July - August 1968.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.


Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu Deputy Chairman, Senior International Director


Painted in 1950, El dolor de Brunhilda is a powerful illustration of the drama and suspense of Antoni Tàpies’s enigmatic ‘magic paintings,’ which emerged during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In these compositions, the artist conjured a surreal, underground or hidden world of magic and fantasy using a combination of intuitive figurative representation, geometric abstraction and personal symbolism, to reveal the imaginative potential that lay within the act of picture-making. During this period, Tàpies was closely involved with the staunchly Catalan group of poets and painters known as the Dau al Set (Seven faced die), whose principles were rooted in Surrealism’s embrace of magic and the occult as a way of charting the unconscious. Fascinated by the relationship between the imagination, the dream and the materials which could give them expression, Tàpies sought a mode of communication that would awaken the senses and subconscious directly.

Tàpies’s vision evolved along new paths at the dawn of the 1950s, and his paintings from the beginning of the decade are marked by a distinctly dramatic atmosphere, focusing on a series of strange, closed interiors which appear like twilit stage sets. Marked by dramatically modulated lighting and strong chiaroscuro effects, these interiors are infused with a concentrated stillness, as if everything is held in suspense, awaiting an unknown event or character to animate them. In El dolor de Brunhilda a number of doorways, openings and passageways punctuate the space, suggesting routes to another unknown world, while a series of weighty cubes hover in mid-air above, almost disappearing into the deep shadows. The addition of a pair of overlapping planes along the right-hand edge of the composition, meanwhile, invokes the layering of stage scenery or curtains, heightening the theatricality of the space.

Though the title appears to directly reference the work of Richard Wagner, and in particular his operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen in which Brünnhilde plays a central role, Tàpies removes any sense of narrative within the canvas, instead creating a richly nuanced, otherworldly scene, that relies on the inherent sense of suspense and mystery of the empty space to capture our imagination. Indeed, as Andreas Franzke has noted, the power of these paintings lies in their ability to confound the viewer’s expectations as they explore Tàpies’s world: ‘Every time a suggestion of traditional perspective appears, it is immediately negated and obscured – an effect that was intended to disrupt conventional perception, challenging the viewer to forgo the security of real space and enter the evocative spaces of the imagination’ (in A. Franzke, Tàpies, Barcelona, 1992, p. 57).

Featured in Tàpies’s inaugural solo-exhibition at Galeries Laietanes in Barcelona in 1950, El dolor de Brunhilda was purchased directly from the artist shortly after its creation, and has remained in the same family collection for the last seven decades.

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