AUGUSTE HERBINFrench 1882 - 1960

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.