Lot 148
  • 148

Alexander Archipenko

180,000 - 250,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Archipenko
  • Composition: Two Figures
  • Signed Archipenko and dated 1913. (lower center)
  • Brush and ink, gouache and collage on paper
  • 18 3/4 by 12 1/4 in.
  • 47.6 by 31.1 cm


Paul Citroën, Weimar (possibly)
Frances Archipenko Gray, New York (acquired by 1969 and sold to benefit the Archipenko Foundation: Sotheby's, New York, November 7, 2001, lot 15)
Acquired at the above sale


New York, Museum of Modern Art & Champaign, Illinois, Krannert Art Museum, Archipenko: The Parisian Years, 1970-71, no. 27
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Archipenko: The Paris Years / Archipenko: The American Years, 1971, no. 27
Columbus, Gallery of Fine Arts, Archipenko: The Parisian Years, 1971-72, no. 22
New York, Zabriskie Gallery & Chicago, Chicago Arts Club, Archipenko Polychrome Sculpture, 1976-77, no. 1
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Revolution: Russian Avant-garde, 1912-1930, 1978, no. 2
Sound Bend, Indiana, University of Notre Dame, Snite Art Museum; Dayton, Dayton Art Institute; College Park, University of Maryland Art Gallery & San Jose, San Jose Museum of Art, Sculptors' Drawings, 1982-83, no. 1
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute, 1987, no. 11, illustrated in color in the catalogue
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Collage: Selections from the Permanent Collection, 1988-89, no. 2 (on extended loan 1969-2001)


Katherine Janszky Michaelsen, Archipenko: A Study of the Early Works, 1908-1920, New York, 1977, no. D13, illustrated pl. D1


The work is in very good condition. Executed on cream wove paper. The sheet is slightly time darkened overall. There is a thin mat stain, a few scattered nicks and artist pinholes around the extreme perimeter. The surface appears to be coated with varnish or fixative. There are remnants of tape on the verso at upper corners. There is a small surface scratch at center of bottom edge. The colors remain bright and fresh and collage elements appear to be remarkably intact.
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

A favored motif of the artist, the multi-figural composition was a means for Archipenko to experiment with the concave and convex, vivid color, textural variety and manipulation of space. As Archipenko explains, “Through the modulation of space our consciousness participates in the creative process because that which does not exist is recreated within us in the abstract form of space, and becomes a reality in our optical memory” (quoted in Joan Marter, “Alexander Archipenko: Themes and Variations” in Archipenko: Drawings, Reliefs, and Constructions (exhibition catalogue), Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1985, p. 18).

Archipenko utilizes collage in an innovative way to depict the two figures in the present work. Collage was also used prominently by Picasso and Braque at this time to emphasize the flatness of the two-dimensional surface. For Two Figures, Archipenko adapted this technique and applied narrow strips of orange paper and hatched lines in brush and ink to define the rhythms of the composition. When meditating on his career and artistic styles, Archipenko would later reflect, “In the work of art it is knowledge and feeling that determine the choice and the effect of line, if not directly, then through association. In sculpture very often the psychological and aesthetic attraction arises from the outline where the shape of the space begins and matter is disregarded. In some cases, the opposite happens: psychological attraction is concentrated on the volume of the material surrounded by the outline and space is disregarded” (Alexander Archipenko, Archipenko, Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958, New York, 1960, p. 61).

Archipenko scholar Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen argues, “because he was a sculptor thinking in plastic terms, he shaded the flat paper shapes to suggest the volume of sculpture. Archipenko used the lessons learned from making two-dimensional collages in his three-dimensional sculpture. The result was a departure from the unified, continuous massing of traditional sculpture to a disjunctive assembly of separate parts. The first conclusive example of this important development is Archipenko’s Geometric Statuette" (Katherina Jánszky Michaelsen & Nehama Guralnik, Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. & The Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, 1987, p. 24).