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Serge Poliakoff (1900 - 1969)

Lot 37: SERGE POLIAKOFF, 1900-1969


February 7, 2005
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item



oil on board

Executed in 1956/57.


140x96.5cm.; 51x38in.


London, Hanover Gallery, Serge Poliakoff : Paintings and Gouaches, 1958, no. 2


Galerie Heinz Berggruen, Paris
Hanover Gallery, London
The Estate of Erica Brausen, London


"Space, not the artist, must model forms. They must be part sculpture, part architecture. Geometric form must turn into organic form, and it's the inward pressure of space that does that. Space makes form - not the other way around."

(Serge Poliakoff, cited by John Russell in the exhibition catalogue for Serge Poliakoff: retrospective 1938-1963, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p.15.)

The abstract forms of Poliakoff's mature works derive from his formative childhood experiences scrutinising the formal language and physical texture of religious icons that adorned the Kremlin churches of his native Moscow. Disengaged from the narrative, what informs Poliakoff's abstract works are the irregular zones of negative space used to frame the figurative iconography, the angular forms of flat colour, shapes free from associative powers, which are carried over and multiplied in his painterly compositions of interlocking forms.

Concerned with achieving harmony between form, colour and proportion, Poliakoff 's constant aim was what he dubbed le silence complet, the absence of commotion that is attained when everything in the painting is fully resolved. In the present work facture is heavy and armoured and the multiplication of inscrutable and indecipherable forms interlock so powerfully that the picture preserves perfect equilibrium. The two off-centre colours note of brilliant ochre and aggressive red, their sharp edges precisely indicated, contrast abruptly and flatly with the otherwise almost monochrome palette. Kandinsky much admired Poliakoff's sovereign use of colour and encouraged him to exploit it without reference to identifiable objects.

The Hanover Gallery vehemently championed Poliakoff from 1957, offering him his first London one-man show in 1958. In 1963 the Hanover Gallery collaborated with the Whitechapel Gallery to host his first London retrospective show.

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The Collection of Jean Yves Mock

February 7, 2005, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom