Lot 6
  • 6

Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949)

200,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Joaquín Torres-García
  • Sin título
  • signed and dated 31 lower center
  • oil on canvas
  • 18 1/8 by 15 in.
  • 46 by 38 cm


Max Pellequer, France
Thence by descent to George Pellequer, France 
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1998


This work is ready to hang. It is still on its original stretcher. The canvas is unlined. Two vertical fine lines of craquelure, measuring approximately 2-inches in length, are present in the upper left quadrant of the canvas (near the fish). The paint layer is stable overall. A very light varnish is present and visible under raking light. Under ultraviolet inspection, four isolated circular spots (approximately 1/8-of-an-inch in diameter) of possible fluorescing become apparent--one is located in the lower right quadrant, one is located at the extreme lower center edge, and two are present in the lower left quadrant.
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

Considered as some of the most significant contributions to twentieth century art, the works by Joaquín Torres-García are regarded as “transformational paths for the advancement of Modern art on both sides of the Atlantic.” [1] Involved in several of the early avant-garde movements that were bourgeoning in both the United States and Europe, including Cubism and Neo-Plasticism amongst others, it was not until his experimentation with Constructivism during the latter half of the 1920s while living in Paris, and a serendipitous and fateful meeting with Piet Mondrian, that Torres-García was able to establish an unexpectedly new visual language that came to full fruition by the early 1930s: Universal Constructivism.

In his 1935 book, Estructura, Torres-García dedicates a key passage to Mondrian, where he “talks of reconciling Cubism, Surrealism, and Neo-Plasticism,” he writes, “each of these three movements, taken separately, is quite incomplete. For this reason, around 1929, I attempted to unite them…since I understood that was the only way it would be possible to attain a complete art.”[2] Torres-García’s motivation to find his own voice and an “aesthetic” reconciliation to the dominant artistic principles in Europe of the time proved pivotal: in seeking to combine the reason of geometric-abstract construction with the organic and, what he considered, the spiritual intuition of pre-Hispanic aesthetic sensibilities (universalism), Torres created a completely new plastic approach. Over a course of a year he would fully realize these foundational elements essential to shaping this aesthetic idiom ultimately known as Universal Constructivism—a simplified, architectural grid fused with the “primitive” symbols that would become signatures of his work. [3] Paris and 1931 were ground zero for Torres, both a year and a location that would stand as a cathartic point of intense productivity.

Painted in an elegant earth-colored palette inspired by the tonalities of pre-Hispanic ceramics, with hints of yellow, blue, red and even a suggestion of pink, Sin título contains the symbols and architectural model that are emblematic to Torres-García. Here we find a collection of pictograms: the anchor, the figure of man, a star, the clock, a ship, a ladder, a building, and the nautilus anchored within a temple-like structure. In a 1931 letter, Torres-García aptly describes the paintings from this year: “It’s a matter of style that I might call cathedral. Something quite strong, quite mature (a synthesis of all my work), quite proper, in a constructive sense, and even better, it’s something new because, as [Jacques] Liptchitz says, it is the most ancient prehistory.” [4] Ultimately, for Torres it was not so much about creating a rigid construct full of elusive images, these paintings were about synthesizing spirituality and humanity with painting.

A newly rediscovered painting and never before published until now, Sin título found itself at one point in the collection of Max Pellequer, the financial advisor to Pablo Picasso and also the nephew of the Parisian art collector and business man André Level (who was one of the greatest champions of the avant-garde artist such as Matisse, Léger and Modigliani amongst others).

[1] “Joaquín Torres-García. The Arcadian Modern,” (exhibition catalogue), New York, 2015
[2] Estrella de Diego, “Return to the Native Land: The Invention of Origin”, Joaquín Torres-García. The Arcadian Modern, New York, 2015, p. 98
[3] Luis Pérez-Oramas, “The Anonymous Rule: Joaquín Torres-García, The Schematic Impulse, and Arcadian Modernity”, Joaquín Torres-García. The Arcadian Modern ,  New York, 2015, p. 14
[4] Ibid, p. 29