Lot 50
  • 50

Martial Raysse

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Martial Raysse
  • Untitled
  • oil and photograph collage on canvas
  • 68 x 46 5/8 in. 172.7 x 118.5 cm.
  • Executed in 1964, this work is registered in the Martial Raysse Archives Inventory.


Galleria del Leone, Venice
Acquired by the present owner from the above circa 1972


This work is in very good condition overall. There are scattered areas of residue (primarily light scuffs, drips and sprays, some of which are noticeable only under UV light) which are related to the artist's process and materials at the time of execution in the studio. There are also crimps and ripples to the collaged areas of photo paper primarily in the face and hair which are inherent to the process. There is an area of feathered hairline cracking with one minute paint chip located 3 ¾ - 5 ¾ in. from the right and 7 ¾ - 8 7/8 in. from the top, and another similar area located 3 – 4 ½ in. from the right and 15 1/8 – 16 in. from the top. Under ultraviolet light there are small scattered spots in the black lower right quadrant that may be inpainting or studio incidents similar to those referenced above. This work is framed in a wood strip frame with a gilded face.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1964, Untitled has everything of a prototypical Pop Art icon. Similar to other Pop artists who sourced imagery from popular culture, the glossy pictures in magazines and advertisements devoted to the commercialized glory of beauty are at the foundation of the work of Martial Raysse.  Exploiting to a maximum the concepts of the canon and the ideal, Raysse invents an artificial reality - flashy and triumphant - of which this work, created in 1964, is a superb example.  Raysse believed in an internalized and personal vision of reality, stating "I used to believe that vision was a mental phenomenon.  Now, I think that vision is only a sentimental phenomenon: in an orange landscape, the house where the loved woman lives will appear as pink." (Martial Raysse, Nîmes, Carré d'Art, 1992-1993, p. 80).  Here, the attractive features of the model are the pretexts and means for an assemblage or recreation that is made-up and utterly seductive.

The fluorescent and eccentric colors are the first and most immediate stimulants in the magnetic impact of the imagery in the present work. The incredible jet-black of the 1960s hairstyle accentuates the explosive and haphazard juxtaposition of pink, orange, blue, violet and green. The different coloring processes, including flocking (plastic fiber spray), intensify the contrasts and interaction of the materials. The artist who claims to have "tracked down life in colors through plastics, fluorescence, neon and artificial lights" excels in these stunning and extreme polychrome relationships. (The artist as quoted in Exh. Cat., Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Martial Raysse, Master and Slave of the Imagination, 1965).  His highly colorful vocabulary lies at the junction between the artists of American Pop and those of the New Realism movement (Yves Klein, Niki de Saint-Phalle, César and others) with whom he signed the legendary Manifesto of 1960.  In his original manner of treating the canvas (by multiplying techniques and media), Martial Raysse also borrows from Henri Matisse. The colored shapes outlined in blue in the background and the pink and violet stripes of the pullover worn by the model form an eminently decorative "pattern" which, in certain ways, recalls the bold and graphic paper cut-outs Matisse produced in the 1950s.

In addition, photography and film are the origin of the unusual and striking framing and composition of Untitled. The subject is seen in close-up, filling the frame as if in a movie still or posed publicity shot. During a period when Warhol produced short films and Jean-Luc Godard defined the New Wave, Martial Raysse adopted the photographic medium as a source of inspiration:  "In my case, the photograph played a role as an intermediary which, at the beginning, took the form of these stereotyped faces of young women from advertisements, a leitmotiv of our visual culture." (Martial Raysse, Nîmes, Carré d'Art, 1992-1993, p. 116). Photography was not only a source of inspiration but also a working tool because the artist started by enlarging black-and-white photos which he then pasted on the canvas before applying pigments. The photograph, therefore, takes over the role of a preliminary drawing, but Raysse in no way sacrifices line to color. In 1964 (the year of the portrait of the present work), he paid tribute to Ingres – the great master of contour - in a famous series of odalisques entitled Made in Japan.  In all cases, the over-saturation of bright colors transforms these odalisques, as in Untitled, into perfectly anti-academic stars.

Enhanced by an unusual composite technique and unconventional colors, to which is added the beauty of the model, the 1964 portrait fulfills the desire of Martial Raysse to "extol the modern world, optimism and the sun." (Ibid., p. 47).  He incarnates what Art History has defined by the sparkling term "Pop".