Lot 42
  • 42

Evelyne Axell

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Evelyne Axell
  • Store Vénitien
  • signed; signed, titled and dated 66 on the reverse
  • oil on collaged canvas
  • 129.5 by 97 cm. 51 by 38 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 1966.


Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Françoise and Bernard Giron, Belgium (acquired in 1967)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Evelyne Axell, 1967
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Evelyne Axell, 1978
Brussels, Musée d’Ixelles; Ostend, Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Un frisson de la vie. Evelyne Axell et les années '60, October - December 1997; end of 1999, p. 27, illustrated in colour
Namur, Musée Félicien-Rops; Namur, Maison de la Culture de la province de Namur; Namur, Galerie Détour, Evelyne Axell. From Pop Art to Paradise, September - October 2004, p. 82, no. 44, illustrated in colour


Jean Antoine, Marcel Moreau and Claude Lorent, Evelyne Axell: L’Amazone du Pop Art1935-1972, Waterloo 2006, p. 29, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the figure is slightly lighter in the original. The catalogue illustration fails to convey the coarse texture of the canvas of the figure, and the pencil lines running through the centre of the figure and through the figure's lower right leg in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The collaged canvas is stable but undulates slightly towards the lower edge and is lifting slightly underneath the figure's breast. The stretcher is slightly warped. Extremely close inspection reveals a few thin hairline cracks in places, notably towards the centre of the composition. Further very close inspection reveals some paint irregularities to the central blue bands, which appear to be original. The collaged canvas appears to have discoloured slightly. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals some light retouching in places to the figure, two tiny spots of retouching to the right of the figure's shoulder and two small drip marks towards the right edge in the lower turquoise band.
"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

When Evelyne Axell’s career was tragically cut short on 10 September 1972 at the age of 37, she left behind an impressive legacy that included a career as an actress, film writer, television presenter, and for the last eight years of her life, one of Europe’s first female artists to fully embrace Pop Art. Although history has for many years marginalised her contribution to early feminist art and pop art, the recent acquisition of Valentine from 1966 (which depicts the first female astronaut to go into space) by the Tate Modern, and its inclusion in the acclaimed The World Goes Pop exhibition alongside two of her other works, suggests a long overdue reassessment of her impressive oeuvre.

When Axell quit a promising acting career in 1964 to pursue her passion for painting, she enlisted the famous surrealist painter René Magritte, a family friend, to be her teacher. Through her husband, who had just produced a documentary on Pop Art, she was also introduced to many of her British contemporaries - including Patrick Caulfield, Peter Blake and Allen Jones. Over the following years, Evelyne Axell absorbed these diverse influences and shaped them into her own unique visual language, which landed her a solo exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1967, barely three years after she started painting. Store Vénitien was prestigiously included in this important first exhibition for Axell, where it was acquired by the previous owner of the work. Bernard Giron, who worked for the museum and was closely involved with the organisation of the exhibition, singled out Store Vénitien as one of the best pieces which he acquired for his own collection. In a letter from March 1967, Evelyne Axell describes how the painting was prominently displayed in Mr Giron’s house, where she was complimented on it over dinner by Alexander Iolas.

Executed in the early years of her career, Store Vénitien perfectly captures Axell’s powerful aesthetic and uncompromising celebration of the female body. As one of the early proto-feminist artists of the 1960s, Axell’s work embraces female eroticism and desire at a time when women were predominantly objectified. As Pierre Restany observed: "The Belgian painter Evelyne Axell has joined the company of female power artists, with Niki de Saint Phalle from France, Yayoi Kusama from Japan, Marisol from Venezuela - and the list goes on. These women are living their sexual revolution as real women, with all the direct, unsurprising consequences: the other side is taking the initiative” (Pierre Restany quoted in: Jean Antoine, ‘Stages in a Life Cut Short. Biography of Evelyne Axell,’ Evelyne Axell: Du Viol d’Ingres au Retour de Tarzan, Saint-Étienne 2006, p. 17). 

Evelyne Axell’s sexually charged depictions of the female body - usually, as in Store Vénetien, through the abstracted depiction of contours that highlight voluptuous shapes - mirror the sexual revolution of the 1960s and second wave feminism. Rather than being passive objects of male desire, this generation reversed the traditional gender roles and celebrated female sexuality - although many of Axell’s works also highlight the voyeuristic nature of the male gaze. The radical nature of her practice was poignantly demonstrated when Axell's Ice Cream from 1964, a painting of a woman licking an ice-cream that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had used as the announcement for their International Pop exhibition in 2014, became the centre of a dispute between the museum and Facebook, which took down the image from their website due to an excessive amount of suggestive content. 

Perfectly capturing Evelyne Axell's unique aesthetic and important contribution to 1960s art-history, Store Vénitien is undoubtedly a masterpiece from her early oeuvre. Having been included in the important exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts a year after its creation, and having resided in only two private collections since, this is an outstanding painting by one of the key European Pop artists.