Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. Weisman, Beverly Hills
Thomas Amman Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1990
Rivers' oeuvre demonstrates relentless and inspired experimentation. From his training in jazz (an intrinsically random and experimental form) to his refusal to be bound by abstract expressionism alone, the artist explored an array of styles, techniques, and media. From his wide ranging curiosity about history, music and art, Rivers integrated life and art as a complex whole. Captivated by mass-produced imagery, Rivers presents the viewer with an irreverent, gesturally taut Little French Money, an ultimately painterly composition which demonstrates his ability to ambitiously bridge the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.Rivers' painting career began in the late 1940s when he studied under Hans Hofmann among others, although his style departed from the semi-abstraction of Hofmann. In a manner more similar to de Kooning, Rivers moved toward sensual painterly figuration but with a subject matter of his own. The present work from 1962 is part of a larger series inspired by French currency. Throughout his career Rivers drew from historical sources, melding these together with commercial and personal references to enrich his subject matter and to make his work accessible. The present work pays "tongue in cheek" homage to the Neo-Classicist Jacques-Louis David, the painter of the French Revolution, whose portrait of a young Napoleon graced French currency. This source image dissolves in and out of the loosely painted composition with the left side of the work more completely deconstructed. In the early 1960s Rivers' paintings achieved a synthesis of technical assurance and fluency, adapting gestural painting to figurative ends. Robert Coates of the New Yorker praised Rivers' "mixture of vague, elusive bits and fragments of detail, just sufficient to carry the representational side of the picture, set against a background that is freely Abstract Expressionist in both color and design." (Helen A. Harrison, Larry Rivers, New York, 1984, p. 73).
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