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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Mordecai Ardon
PARABLE OF 1 X 1
JUMP TO LOT
11

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Mordecai Ardon
PARABLE OF 1 X 1
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Israeli & International Art

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New York

Mordecai Ardon
1896 - 1992
PARABLE OF 1 X 1
Signed M. Ardon-Bronstein (lower left)
Oil on canvas
36 by 28 3/8 in.
91.5 by 72 cm
Painted in 1951.
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Provenance

Mrs. Belle Kogan Watman, Petah Tikva
Malca and Amnon Rosenstein, Tel Aviv 
Sale: Gordon Galleries, Tel Aviv, May 25, 1988, lot 200
Private collection, USA
Sale: Christie's, Tel Aviv, April 27, 2008, lot 50
Private collection, USA
Sale: Matsart, Jerusalem, June 30, 2009, lot 38
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ardon, A Retrospective, May - October 1985, no. 39, illustrated in color in the exhibition catalogue
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Mordecai Ardon, Time, Space and Metaphysics, February - June 2003, no. 22, illustrated in color in the exhibition catalogue p. 88

Literature

Michelle Vishny, Mordecai Ardon, New York, 1973, no. 107, pl. 77, illustrated p. 226 
Ha'ir, "Ardon to Himself", February 20, 2003, illustrated p. 25

Catalogue Note

In 1951,  Ardon painted two of his most defining self-portraits, Child with Cuckoo Clock and Parable of 1 X 1. In both works, Ardon abandons the naturalistic approach of his early self-portraits and instead develops a language of symbols to describe the subject’s thoughts and feelings.

“In all his portraits, it is apparent that Ardon is more interested in rendering spiritual identity rather than merely physical appearance. The subject is never idealized; the emphasis is not on photographic realism but on the sitter’s psychological complexities. By eliminating all irrelevant details, and using bold visual abstractions, Ardon’s self-portraits and portraits are always a passionate, concerned and empathetic commentary upon the innermost feelings of his model.” (Arturo Schwarz, Mordecai Ardon: The Colors of Time, 2003, page 61)

In Cuckoo Clock, Ardon paints a more innocent scene in brighter colors: the young artist drawing; the clock-maker father to his right, represented by the cuckoo clock; the street sign symbolizing a diverging path between them as the child will grow into his own self-realized being.

In Parable of 1 X 1,  the artist confronts the universal yearning for answers or solutions to life’s deepest mysteries, symbolized here by  a simple geometric equation. Within the glowing hand-mixed colors, deep greens and golds, an existential story unfolds. Ardon, the student, a bit older now, sits at a table, studying the first equation of the Pythagorean multiplication table. A mouse runs across the table, in a path defined by Ardon’s painted shadows, over the unresolved equation and into a mouse-trap. The student’s open right eye follows the mouse’s journey, while his left is covered by his hand – perhaps he doesn’t wish to see the result. “The artist depicts himself as a student. Seated at his desk he faces an insoluble problem, for the answer is a trap (a symbol that appears in several of Ardon’s paintings)” (Michele Vishny, Mordecai Ardon, 1974, p. 34). Arturo Schwarz reflected on the lesson learned from Ardon’s parable in his essay in the catalogue to the 2003 Tel Aviv exhibition, Mordecai Ardon: The Colors of Time. “By not writing the product of this simple arithmetical operation, Ardon might have wished to underscore that the multiplication of man’s efforts to reach perfection is a completely open question and might possibly result also in a dead end. The fact that a mouse – which in Ardon’s symbolic language stands for the persecuted Jew – is heading towards a blind alley where further progress is impossible, might support this interpretation” (p. 62).

In the 1951 self-portraits, the influence of Ardon’s teacher and friend, Paul Klee, is particularly evident – as Ardon describes it, Klee’s ability to “make visible the invisible” (Mordecai Ardon, contribution to “Dialogue III: Jews in the Creative Arts.” Congress Bi-Weekly 24:12, 1962, p. 37). Ardon reveals the mysteries of life in the careful self-exploration of the self-portrait. It is as though the contents of the figure’s mind, visibly cut off by the extreme composition and cropping of his head, are made visible on the table before him.

Israeli & International Art

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New York