Lot 1
  • 1

Manoucher Yektai

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Manoucher Yektai
  • Untitled (Still Life)
  • signed and dated Yektai '70 
  • oil on canvas
  • 99 by 109.2cm.; 39 by 43 1/8 in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's family in 1970
Thence by Descent

Catalogue Note

Manoucher Yektai was born in 1921 in Tehran, Iran, where he lived until moving to Paris in 1945. Between the years of 1945 and 1947 the artist studied Fine Art at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Atelier of André Lhote, before relocating to New York in 1948, where he continued his studies at the Art Students League of New York. Here he was exposed to the Abstract Expressionist style that was practiced by established artists Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis and Jackson Pollock.

In 1951 and 1952 the Italian-American art dealer, Leo Castelli, introduced some friends, including a number of early Abstract-Expressionist painters, to Yektai's shows in New York. Castelli took the artist to the 8th Street Club in 1951 which led to friendships with Rothko, Tobey, and Guston among others. Yektai’s exposure and profile continued to rise, and by the mid-1950s he was invited to exhibit at the Stable Gallery for a group show which included the likes of DeKooning, Newman, Pollock and Kline. Between the years of 1957-65 the artist continued to exhibit his works, notably at Poindexter, all of which would contribute to his later recognition as an influential member of the New York School.

Whilst critics such as Greenberg and Rosenberg characterized the spirituality of the Abstract Expressionist group as encompassing the “abstract sublime” (Barbara Rose, ed., Readings in American Art, 1900-1975, New York: Praeger, 1975, p. 134), Yektai's work can be seen to reflect a different philosophy. The abstract tyranny that attracted what Rosenberg labelled the theological branch of Abstract-Expressionism, did not appeal to the artist. Instead he combined a natural approach with a proclamation of beauty and an acknowledgment of the painting-of-everyday-life. Interestingly, Yektai never viewed himself as an Abstract Expressionist, but when Castelli brought a group of his painters to the Borgenicht show in 1951, both the critics and the painters exhibiting stated their belief that "Yektai is in the Abstract Expressionist school, not as an undergraduate, but as a member of the faculty.” (5VH.,Arts vol. 32, December 1957, p. 49). Despite their comments, Yektai’s affinity with figuration simply highlighted a philosophical difference with other practitioners of this group, since he liked to maintain sentiment and feeling within his forms. His work was later regarded as being "only superficially similar" (Ashbery, "Manoucher Yektai," p. 24) to Abstract Expressionism, to which the artist commented in agreement “I must be some kind of Action Painter”.

Sotheby’s is delighted to offer Untitled (Still Life) from 1970. The present work is a captivating example of Yektai’s energetic action painting which exemplifies his later expressionistic style. The bold brush strokes and textural complexity of Untitled duly recall the abstractions of his aforementioned peers, but Yektai’s careful handling of colour and attention to essential figurative details such as fruit and flowers make this a truly outstanding piece which brings a new dimension to oft-favoured subject of still life.

This is the first time that the present work has been offered at public auction, and it boasts an interesting provenance. It was likely discovered by the renowned Detroit collector Florence Barron, who advised her dear friends, the late Marge Alpern and her husband, to acquire the work without hesitation.