1914 - 1973
Promenade des amoureux
oil on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled, dated 1958 and inscribed "14/1" and "JPC J16 530"
39 1/4 x 31 3/4 in 99.7 x 80.6 cm
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
Sold for: $193,250
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
Acquired directly from the above by Peter Cochrane
Sold sale of Contemporary Art Day, Sotheby's London, October 16, 2006, lot 212
Secher & Scott, Copenhagan
Property of an Important Private Estate, British Columbia
Wieland Schmied, editor, Asger Jorn, 1973, #134
Guy Atkins, Asger Jorn Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2, The Crucial Years, 1954 - 1964, 1977, reproduced page 140, fig. 125 and page 332, catalogue #1105
Asger Jorn, “The Situationists and Automation,” Ken Knabb, translator, The Situationist International Anthology, Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981, Museum Jorn website, http://www.museumjorn.dk/en/text_presentation.asp1/?AjrDcmntId=763, accessed January 20, 2019
Kunsthalle Basel, Asger Jorn, Eugène Dodeigne, 1964, catalogue #62
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Jorn, 1965, catalogue #71
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Jorn, 1965, catalogue #73
Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, Asger Jorn, 1973, catalogue #47
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, Asger Jorn, 1973, catalogue #56
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Asger Jorn, 1982, catalogue #82
Asger Jorn would remain a highly significant figure in the history of art even if we somehow did not have a record of his remarkable paintings. In the 1950s, he co-founded two of the most dynamic and influential art movements of the twentieth century: CoBrA, whose name combines the first letters of its founders’ native cities – Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam – and, with French philosopher Guy Debord, of the Situationist International. But thankfully we do have vivid paintings such as Promenade des amoureux, which was created with intensity at the height of Jorn’s activities in the 1950s. Although this painting was exhibited widely in Europe, Jorn’s work was not exhibited in the USA until 1962, well after the eclipse of American Abstract Expressionism, with which it has both affinities in presentation and sharp contrasts in purpose. With Promenade des amoureux, we have a renewed opportunity to rethink the historical and aesthetic potency of the history of Expressionist painting and its possibilities in the present.
In a lecture in 1958, Jorn argued passionately against standardization in society and against automation. His antidote was creativity and expression on both an individual and communal plane. He stated:
"The idea of standardization is an effort to reduce and simplify the greatest number of human needs to the greatest equality. It is up to us whether this standardization opens up domains of experience more interesting than those it closes. Depending on the outcome, we may arrive at a total degradation of human life or at the possibility of continually discovering new desires. But these new desires will not appear by themselves in the oppressive context of our world. There must be a collective action to detect, express and realize them."
In line with this positive philosophy of painting as a type of resistance to post-World War II social pressures to conform, we can see his “Lovers’ Walk” as assertively, even exhilaratingly, independent. Attracted by this swirl of expressive colour, surface decoration and form, we nonetheless readily attach our eyes to the striding figures suggested by the feet and legs at the bottom of the canvas – we can count three or four – and a suggestion of two heads at the top. A male-female couple is implied by the billowing grey-green skirt-like form at the bottom and perhaps a cape adumbrated by the red-to-orange line across what we read as shoulders. As here, Jorn typically promoted a “popular” art over anything too refined or indeed self-consciously avant-garde. His socially engaged unpretentiousness is evident in the theme and execution of this forceful painting. While the exuberance and masterly manipulation of colour and line in this painting recommend it as a pleasure for the eye, its concomitant grotesqueness prevents our too-easy, ultimately unseeing acceptance of the image as “just” a couple, “just” a street portrait. Jorn did not want to make art or viewing easy. For him, painting was too significant as personal expression and as a social force for that.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure since the 60s, for contributing the above essay.
This work is registered at Museum Jorn and is included in the catalogue raisonné by Guy Atkins as #1105.
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
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