Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
It was at the Galerie d'Art Contemporain in the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, on the 9th March 1960 that Yves Klein orchestrated his ground-breaking happening, which is now legendary within the history of the European Avant-garde. In front of a select crowd of critics and gallery patrons, the artist – immaculately dressed in a tuxedo and adorned with the Maltese Cross of his Saint Sebastian brotherhood – conducted a performance whereby pigment-smeared models dragged and draped themselves along a paper-lined floor to create tactile movement paintings. As Klein noted: “My models were my brushes. I made them smear themselves with colour and imprint themselves on canvas" (Yves Klein, 'Le Vrai Devient Réalité', cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Yves Klein: Leap into the Void, 1995, p. 171). Executed as though a formal ritual, the occasion had a conspicuous air of theatricality that is entirely consonant with Klein's assiduous promotion of his art and the Blue Revolution.
Created in the radical year of 1960 and marked as one of the very first Anthropométries, this work stands out as a captivatingly enigmatic, yet harmoniously balanced archetype. Untitled Anthropométrie (ANT 9) embodies crucial concerns from the artist's most exploratory period. In the present work, a life-sized anonymous nude stands with arms raised forming a silhouette with expansive lines that lead out of the picture frame, instating an inherent sense of movement, true to its point of conception as a performative act.
The present piece exemplifies the strong compositional preferences that Klein built during his radical turn to the figure, having made his boldest steps with his supreme IKB Monochromes previously. Here the body is cropped to concentrate on what Klein regarded as the 'essential mass'. The artist remarked: “It was the block of the body itself, that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and non-thinking” (Yves Klein quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, (and travelling), Yves Klein, 1994, p. 175). As a statuesque figure with a focus on the body’s sensual and powerful core, the work evokes the enduring monumentality of a classical figure and the ancient conceptions of beauty embodied most perfectly in the Venus de Milo; a goddess whose voluptuous figure formed boundless inspiration for the history of art that followed her.
In Untitled Anthropométrie (ANT 9), Klein’s compositional insistence on the solid upward linearity of the central form takes centre stage. Constructed as though a cross section, which emphasises one straight planar view of the body, in the present work the model’s lithe figure recalls the classicising treatment that Ingres applied to his Baigneuse Valpincon, 1808. For Ingres, the interaction between the nude form and the great swathes of fabric stands as a crucial framing device most logically explored in the theme of the bather. Impressionist and Modern masters such as Edgar Degas revisited the bathing nude at the close of the Nineteenth Century, later providing inspiration for Pablo Picasso whose blue Femme à la Toilette, 1901, makes an emotionally delicate forerunner to the present work.
Bathing as though in cosmic splendour, the woman’s curvaceous figure is formed of dabs and residual traces of vivid pigment, which serve as an arresting record of the physical and temporal journey of Untitled Anthropométrie (ANT 9)’s creation. The piece testifies to a profoundly captivating combination of techniques which guided much of his exploration through this series. The inner core of the nymphean figure is composed from Klein’s famed interaction between paper and the primed nude body, which was lavishly painted with his iconic shade of International Klein Blue. Adding to the rarity of the present work, here we also find a masterfully articulated counter impression, in which the shape of the central torso is heightened by the use of spray paint across both body and ground. This process leaves a ghostly silhouette, a glow that records the explosion of the human form’s purest sense of energy onto the raw paper surface.
Two forms of impression – addition and subtraction – coexist in a symphonically ecstatic state of celestial harmony. At once alluring and elusive these intrinsic paradoxes of form endow Untitled Anthropométrie (ANT 9) with a distinct aura in line with Klein’s intentions to access the eternal, the spiritual and the elements of perception ordinarily beyond reach.
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