Lot 139
  • 139

Eduardo Chillida

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
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  • Eduardo Chillida
  • Sonora
  • incised with the artist’s monogram
  • iron
  • 17.8 by 19 by 30.5cm.; 7 by 7 1/2 by 12in.
  • Executed in 1956.


Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1972


Paris, Galerie Maeght, Chillida, 1956


Claude Esteban, Chillida, Paris 1971, p. 50, illustrated
Octavio Paz, Eduardo Chillida and Gisèle Michelin, Chillida, Paris 1979, p. 155, illustrated
Ignacio Chillida and Alberto Cobo, Eduardo Chillida: Catalogue Raisonné of SculptureSan Sebastian 2014, p. 98, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is light oxidisation and burnishing in places, which is characteristic for the artist's choice of medium. All other surface irregularities are in keeping with the artist's working process.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Dating from 1956, Sonora is a rare and exquisite example of Eduardo Chillida’s early work. At the very beginning of his career, the artist - who had been studying architecture in Madrid - left his home country for Paris, where he would discover and study ancient Greek sculpture and the vast lineage of artists that had been exploring three-dimensionality through their work. In 1951, Chillida returned home to the Basque Country and it was there where he found his unique artistic voice that would later be recognised as one of the most outstanding of the Twentieth Century. Sonora belongs to this period of discovery, and truly attests to the artist’s extraordinary breakthrough. Having remained in the same collection for over forty years, this is the first time that Sonora has appeared publically since it was exhibited at the Maeght Gallery in 1956, the year of its execution.

Chillida’s earliest sculptures from the formative years he spent in Paris already showed a budding interest in materiality and space - two concepts that would later turn into major concerns in his oeuvre. Although mostly figurative, these early works already revealed the inquisitive nature of his practice; as the Mexican poet Octavio Paz once described “the unknown ‘inner space’, still formless, was calling him” (Octavio Paz, “Chillida: From Iron to Light” in: Exhibition Catalogue, Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Chillida, p. 11). Indeed, when Chillida moved back to his homeland, he discovered the ancient art of the forge, one that is intrinsically tied to the Basque character and one that he would make his own. Like Julio González and Pablo Gargallo had done in Spain in the early Twentieth Century, Chillida learnt the craft of welding iron, moulding and bending it to create the abstract, poetic forms for which he is so well known. In those early years, drawing informed his practice, enabling him to decompose form to later create three-dimensionally. A thorough study of Picasso’s work, in particular of his notebooks, enabled Chillida to develop his own interpretation of space in relationship with the human body, which later led to his exploration of space as material.

The rhythmical sound of the hammer against the iron, the blaring sounds of the forge, of the fire roaring and the molten metal hissing have often garnered Chillida’s work comparison with music. Indeed, a profound interest in sound and silence can not only be derived from the artist’s working process, but also from the resulting shapes that twist and turn in rhythmic compositions, and especially from the names he chose for his finished artworks. In her essay for the retrospective organised for the artist’s work by the IVAM in Valencia, Ina Busch rightly explains about Chillida’s early sculptures, how “with great austerity and patience the artist allows the material to investigate space, he attempts to locate its basic sound, the rubbing and scraping of spheres turning against one another at different speeds which Plato describes. Names like Música de las esferas (Music of the Spheres), Silencios (Silences), Música de las constelaciones (Music of the Constellations), Sonora (Resonant), Rumor de límites (Murmur of Boundaries) testify to Chillida’s spatial conception of the doctrine of harmony propounded by Plato and Pythagoras, in which, thinking of ‘music as frozen architecture’, there is a resonance of proportions bound up with matter and space just as casually as when it is made explicit in music intervals” (Ina Busch in: Exhibition Catalogue, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, Chillida: Elogio del Hierro, 1998, p. 187).

In Sonora, Spanish for resonant or resounding, the iron elements arch harmoniously, appearing almost like a musical key. Here, each blow of the hammer turns into a musical note, orchestrated by the musician, the sculptor of space. At the same time, the pointed extremities of the sculpture are reminiscent of the tools found in the blacksmith's forge, as if Chillida had wanted to pay homage to the ancestral tradition that enabled him to find and develop his identity. The tools and materials often associated with a primal nature adopt in Sonora a delicate, refined character; a transformation that seems almost impossible but that became effortless and instinctive in the artist's studio.