Simon Hantaï: The Art of Blue

On 14 June 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

There were various aspects to this classic sale, but a memory in blue by Simon Hantaï fetched the highest bid.

Simon Hantaï (1922-2008), Catamurons, 1963, oil on canvas, 95.5 x 71 cm/37.60 x 27.95 in.
Result: €176,400

In 1963 Simon Hantaï began a new series named "Catamurons" after a vacation home he rented in Varengeville, Normandy. The sale included a 1963 painting from that group, based on a "pliage (folding) that only occupies the middle of the canvas," as Hantaï said. He folded the central rectangle numerous times, and applied several superimposed layers playing with blue tones, achieving a vibrant effect—and a result of €176,400. Hantaï’s works are not that common at Drouot, so this one (from the Jean Fournier Gallery, no less) should be savored. The Hungarian-born artist, who moved to France in the summer of 1949, is considered a leading figure in abstract art from the second half of the 20th century. The 1950s were years of experimentation. He tried everything: stencils, cut-outs, collages, scratching, imprints, rubbing, crinkling, drippings and, of course, pliage (folding). His protean work’s main feature, however, is the use of "pliage as method", which became the norm in 1960. "When I fold, I am objective, and that allows me to lose myself," he said. Between 1960 and 1982, he made eight series, using a different process each time.

The sale also featured Le Berger et la mer (The Shepherd and the Sea, 48.5 x 41 cm/19.09 x 16.14 in), a work Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé (1782-1859) painted in 1827 and showed at the Salon of the same year. This fetched €56,700. The depiction of a lone young man sitting on a rock illustrates the elegant, controlled style of a painter marked by a sort of Arcadian wistfulness and a devouring passion for Italy, where he sojourned three times between 1816 and 1829. The sale also included his Vue d'un petit canal à Venise (View of a Small Canal in Venice, 40.5 x 30 cm/15.94 x 11.81 in), which sold for €31,500. Turpin de Crissé was appointed to the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice in 1829. A painting of his from the same year, Vue du Palais ducal de Venise (View of the Doge’s Palace in Venice), is now in the Louvre.

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