LOT 039

1906 - 1997

tempera on board
signed and on verso signed, titled, dated 1965, inscribed "0596" / "66.91" / "Box 2" / "C189" and stamped Douane Centrale, Exportation Paris
31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in, 80 x 80 cm

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 CAD

Sold for: $79,250

Preview at:

Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Galerie Denise René Inc., New York
Dunkelman Gallery, Toronto
Marlborough-Godard, Toronto
A Prominent Montreal Estate

Museum of Modern Art Archives, folder II., listed page 22

Museum of Modern Art, New York, Victor Vasarely, May 1966 - July 1967, circulating exhibition #CE-65-10, traveling to De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; University of Minnesota Art Gallery, Minneapolis; Reece Memorial Museum, East Tennessee State College, Johnson City; Munson-William-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York; Arts Club of Chicago; Fine Arts Gallery, University of Colorado, Boulder; Contemporary Arts Association of Houston, Texas; and Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Victor Vasarely is internationally renowned as the father of Op Art, as well as for his pioneering work in multiples and his use of the computer in art. Vasarely was born in Hungary in 1908 and moved in 1930 to Paris, where he first worked in the commercial art field, while experimenting with his own art. After the war, encouraged by the Parisian art dealer Denise René, he turned to his art full time. Formative to the artist were his early studies at Mühely, the Budapest Bauhaus school, and the paintings of Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, which induced in him a vision of physics as a poetic source of inspiration. The physics of geometric shapes arranged in compositions of ordered movement were what Vasarely became known for. He made a science of art, ordered and built like a crystal or atom, endlessly passing through different permutations.

The movement of Op Art came into prominence in the 1950s, and it was concerned with the physical and psychological process of vision. It is non-representational, cerebral and systematic, eager to take advantage of new materials and processes supplied by science. It seeks to extend the realm of optical illusion. The mind is a computer into which the eyes feed a constant stream of data—but we tend to reject contradictory data or optical illusions in real life. Yet Vasarely’s planned, controlled optical illusions amuse and please the mind. He pushes and teases the eye through strong contrasts between light and dark, and the receding and advancing of forms, which together give his flat canvases a three-dimensional existence. He often used opposing systems of perspective and colours that are strongly contrasting in hue, but which have the same tonal value. Although sometimes dissonant, colour is always orchestrated—the emotion of pure colour is in symbiotic relationship to rational geometric form. Vasarely’s paintings strike into the eyes of the viewer, disorienting them and drawing them into a pure world of line and colour, where mystery blooms in the midst of impeccable order.

In February of 1965, the Op Art exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York consecrated Vasarely’s international recognition as the central figure of the Op Art movement. FEM, painted in the same year, is a prime example of Vasarely’s work from the 1960s. Two sets of squares repeat—one of brown circles on a gold background and one its reverse, a set of gold circles on a brown background—separated and enclosed by borders of darker circles on darker squares. FEM is balanced, harmonious, its elements painted with scientific precision. But the dominant impression is that of a glowing golden light, emanating alternately from behind the circles, popping them forward and creating a two-dimensional effect, and from the circles themselves, which bring us back to the surface. This dimensional shifting creates a bounce effect for the eye that is delightfully stimulating, while the golden light has a euphoric emotional effect.

Numerous museums and foundations house Vasarely's work, including the Didactic Museum at Gordes Château in Vaucluse and the Vasarely Foundation at Aix-en-Provence, both in France, as well as the Vasarely Museum in his birthplace in Pécs, Hungary. In 1966, the Museum of Modern Art in New York included this fine painting in an exhibition that circulated to numerous museums across the United States.

Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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