AUGUSTE HERBINFrench 1882 - 1960

With its vibrantly coloured interlocking planes and rhythmic ornamental motifs, this painting is amongst Herbin's most complex and arresting Cubist compositions. Painted in 1918, it belongs to a pivotal point in the evolution of Herbin's unique Cubist aesthetic, which is characterised by bright tonalities and intricate decorative forms. Herbin began to experiment with Cubism in 1909, when he moved to Bateau-Lavoir and became acquainted with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Intrigued by their interrogation of perspective, he began to paint compositions that dissect objects into multiple facets, though he did not adopt the near-monochromatic tones of Analytic Cubism. He developed his unique approach in 1917, when he returned to painting following a three-year placement at an airplane factory during the First World War. By this time his style had become more abstract and geometrical, evident in this painting's kaleidoscopic floral arrangement and highly stylised background. This was a unique period in Herbin's career, who would briefly return to representation in the 1920s with his New Objectivity works and move towards pure abstraction in the 1930s. Revelling in colour and ornament, while still embracing the historically charged still life format, this painting is a rare example from a brief and highly original period in Herbin's work.

Herbin's innovative abstract style drew the attention of the prominent art dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who invited him to exhibit at his new venture, Galerie de l'Effort Moderne, in January 1918. Painted the following month, the present work was one of Rosenberg's first acquisitions for his burgeoning gallery. He launched his exhibition programme with a solo show of Herbin's work and reserved the highest praise for the artist in his Bulletin, writing that “the perfection of all perfections, the absolute of all idealism is always Herbin” (Bulletin, 1918, p. 21).

Wilhelm Uhde and Alfred Flechtheim, both amongst the greatest dealers and collectors of the time, also took an interest in Herbin's work during this period, acquiring pieces directly from the artist's studio. The importance of Herbin's mature Cubist work is increasingly reflected in the current market, with two such works recently ranking amongst the artist's top twenty sales, the first selling for €481,500 at Christie's in October 2015 and another fetching £314,500 at Christie's in June of that same year. While the artist's top prices have hitherto been dominated by his early Fauvist work, these recent sales suggest a reappraisal of his more abstract, analytical compositions.

Indeed Herbin's ornate abstraction and radical use of vibrant colour established his considerable international reputation and held a profound influence on a generation of younger artists. He went on to develop his unique reading of colour in 1942, creating the ‘alphabet plastique', which relates colours, shapes, musical notes and letters. These associations developed into a unique visual language that he continued to refine until his death in 1960, leaving his last work, entitled ‘Fin', unfinished.
Provenance:
Galerie L'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Paris;
Galerie Michel Haas, Berlin;
Sale, Francis Briest, Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 15 June 1991, lot 27;
Private collection, Paris (acquired at the above sale);
Private collection, USA

Literature:
"Parade 1925" in 'Connaissance des Arts', May 1959, p. 111, illustrated;
Geneviève Claisse, 'Herbin: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint', Paris, 1993, p. 343, no. 359, illustrated

AUGUSTE HERBINFrench 1882 - 1960

Herbin’s innovative abstract style drew the attention of the prominent art dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who invited him to exhibit at his new venture, Galerie de l’Effort Moderne, in January 1918. Painted the following month, the present work was one of Rosenberg’s first acquisitions for his burgeoning gallery. He launched his exhibition programme with a solo show of Herbin’s work and reserved the highest praise for the artist in his Bulletin, writing that “the perfection of all perfections, the absolute of all idealism is always Herbin” (Bulletin, 1918, p. 21).

Wilhelm Uhde and Alfred Flechtheim, both amongst the greatest dealers and collectors of the time, also took an interest in Herbin’s work during this period, acquiring pieces directly from the artist’s studio. The importance of Herbin’s mature Cubist work is increasingly reflected in the current market, with two such works recently ranking amongst the artist’s top twenty sales, the first selling for €481,500 at Christie’s in October 2015 and another fetching £314,500 at Christie’s in June of that same year. While the artist’s top prices have hitherto been dominated by his early Fauvist work, these recent sales suggest a reappraisal of his more abstract, analytical compositions.

Indeed Herbin’s ornate abstraction and radical use of vibrant colour established his considerable international reputation and held a profound influence on a generation of younger artists. He went on to develop his unique reading of colour in 1942, creating the ‘alphabet plastique’, which relates colours, shapes, musical notes and letters. These associations developed into a unique visual language that he continued to refine until his death in 1960, leaving his last work, entitled ‘Fin’, unfinished.