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Lot 51: BELLMER Hans. PORTRAIT DE JEAN ARP, 1957. Oil and grease pencil on crumpled paper, applied to wood. 648 x 650 mm.

Est: €80,000 EUR - €120,000 EURPassed
Librairie - Galerie des EléphantsMay 30, 2024Ixelles, Belgium

Item Overview


Hans Bellmer met Arp in 1938, when he moved to Paris to take part in the activities of the Surrealist group. Estranged by the war and Bellmer's destitution in its aftermath, the two men renewed acquaintances in the '50s. In 1958, Arp was on the committee (along with Matta, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Roland Penrose and Marcel Duchamp) that awarded Bellmer the William and Noma Copley Foundation prize for "exceptional ability and unusual promise". During the Occupation, Bellmer produced pencil and oil portraits of local dignitaries to support himself. But it was in the '50s that he decided to give his work as a portraitist the major role it now occupies in his oeuvre. During a visit to Berlin in 1954, Bellmer wrote in a letter to an unknown recipient: "Since my arrival, I have finished the portrait of the actor Schröder, who is absolutely delighted. I expect to have more portraits to do very soon. I want to have a portrait exhibition in the autumn" (Webb, p. 218). It wasn't until 1955, at the Jean-Jacques Pauvert bookshop-gallery, that he showed his first set of portraits of Max Ernst, Joë Bousquet, Ernst Schröder, Will Grohmann, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Tristan Tzara and Unica Zürn. The invitation card included a text by Jean Cocteau: "Just as sunlight comes from decomposition, so Bellmer's portraits are born in a soul that is consumed. The result is a blotter of tears, a perspiration of linen, a nuclear war between the figurative and the non-figurative, between external and internal likeness, between our difficulty in being and the absurd magnificence of the dream, our delicious human mud." In 1957, Bellmer added portraits of Jean Arp, Wifredo Lam, Henri Michaux, Victor Brauner, Albert Camus, Jehan Mayoux and Gaston Bachelard to this corpus of the creators of his time. There are several other portraits of Arp by Bellmer, all dating from 1957: a double portrait, front and three-quarter, in oil and pencil (cf. Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, 1967, no. 100, Portrait Hans Arp I), of the same format as the present one; a front pencil portrait (Sarane Alexandrian, Hans Bellmer, New York 1975, p. 16), a three-quarter view, facing left, in pencil on paper (Tate modern, T05008), idem (André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Le Trésor cruel de Hans Bellmer, 1980, p.. 31), ibidem (Hans Bellmer, Centre national d'art contemporain, November 1971 - January 1972, no. 87, reproduced on p. 69), the last three certainly constituting studies for the present work. We don't know the precise date or circumstances of these portraits, but it's likely that Bellmer, whose brushwork was particularly assured, needed only one or two sessions to complete the series. or two sessions to complete the series. Provenance : Galerie François Petit, Paris. Brookstreet Gallery, London. Galerie Yann Krugier, Geneva. Private collection. Grisebach, Kunst des 19 und 20 jahrunderts, Berlin, 30.11.1991, n°327. Sophie Scheindecker Gallery, New York. Jacqueline and Bernard Gheerbrant Collection. By descent to the present owner. Exhibition: Hans Bellmer, Kestner Gesellshaft, Hanover, April 1967, cat. 101.

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Auction Details


Librairie - Galerie des Eléphants
May 30, 2024, 02:30 PM CET

Rue du magistrat 54, Ixelles, 1050, BE


Buyer's Premium


Bidding Increments



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25 % exclusive of tax

Shipping Terms

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VAT for books : + 6% of the premium (26.5%)
VAT for artworks : + 21% of the premium (30.25%)