Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples auction on 27 March celebrates friendship with sentimental works that were both inspired and cherished by notable printmakers’ nearest and dearest. The following selection demonstrates that behind every great artist is a great friend.
Edvard Munch’s The Two Human Beings. The Lonely Ones, woodcut printed in colours, 1989.
Notoriously reclusive, Edvard Munch lived on the margins on the Oslo fjord depicted in The Two Human Beings. The Lonely Ones. Unlucky in love and plagued by ill health and family tragedy, the artist found solace in his friendship with eminent physician Dr. Kristian Emil Schreiner.
The two bonded over their shared interest in anatomy, sparring intellectually as Dr. Schreiner sat for over a dozen portraits. ‘Here we are,’ Munch remarked during one sitting, ‘two anatomists sitting together; one of the body, one of the soul. I am perfectly aware that you would like to dissect me but be careful. I too have my knives.’
Years after Dr. Schreiner’s passing, his descendants donated a Munch painting to the foundation that would form the Munch Museum. In return, they received this woodcut as a token of appreciation and memento of the pair’s friendship.
Giorgio Morandi’s Fiori in un vasetto bianco, etching, 1928; and Gino Severini’s Danseuse, lithograph printed in colours, 1957.
Modern classical composer Goffredo Petrassi paved the way for the second wave of Italian modernists with his avant-garde sound. The nurturing teacher and conductor was dedicated to fostering a widespread interest in art and culture, and encouraged his students to study the Italian Masters – old and new.
He was intimately familiar with the work of his contemporaries, and he counted Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico, and Gino Severini as close friends. His private collection of prints mainly consisted of works he acquired from these artists directly, including an impression of Severini’s Danseuse that the artist affectionately dedicated ‘al vecchio e caro amico Goffredo Petrassi …’
David Hockney’s An Image of Celia, lithograph and screenprint in colours with collage, 1984-6.
Textile designer and Sixties style icon Celia Birtwell never imagined she would become a creative muse. Today, Celia is described as “the face that launched a thousand prints,” immortalised throughout David Hockney’s graphic oeuvre. Introduced to Celia in 1968, Hockney was attracted to her “beautiful…very rare face” and “intuitive knowledge and kindness.”
The pair became fast friends and she was one of his most frequent female sitters, second only to his mother. To create his dynamic An Image of Celia, Hockney recycled and combined numerous representations of his muse in an armchair. The result embodies what Celia admired about his style: “he always said a little disarray is nice, if something is not quite perfect.”
Keith Haring’s Andy Mouse, four screenprints in colours, 1989.
As a budding artist, Keith Haring found a kindred spirit in an unlikely source- the deified, unapproachable Andy Warhol. Both from humble backgrounds in small town Pennsylvania, they each heard the siren song of glittering New York City.
Haring arrived on the scene thirty years after Warhol, but was similarly fascinated by the city’s culture of consumerism and celebrity-worship. When he finally met the “Priest of Pop,” Haring discovered that he and his idol shared another American hero: Walt Disney. Paying homage to both of his muses, Haring depicted Warhol as Disney’s Mickey Mouse, honouring his mentor’s status as an American icon.
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